Shaking up minds, souls and favelas

Third in a series of conversational nuggets about the transformation of cultural life in the marvelous city. In this case, a slightly larger nugget…

Para Uma chacoalhada em mentes, almas e favelas, clique aqui

If Agência Redes Para a Juventude works, the entire city may feel its impact

During the presentation described in this post, eons ago (less than a year back, but so much has happened!), RioRealblog asked then-state coordinator of the Social UPP program (a followup to the police pacification units), Ricardo Henriques, about unemployed youth in the favelas where the pacification units were going in. The soldiers of the drug traffic, given the pressure on their business, might not have anything to do. Would there be training programs?

Henriques turned the question’s basic assumption upside down. Many of the youth involved in drug trafficking are entrepreneurs, he explained. They’ve got initiative.

Marcus Faustini, creator of the Agência

Re-shuffling

“I had the idea for a stipend because a lot of young people give up halfway along the path. There’s no incentive, they abandon the dream because they have to work,” says Marcus Faustini. A cultural multitasker, Faustini dreamed up the Agência, which currently works in six pacified favelas in a pilot phase with 300 young people (chosen from 900 candidates), graced with a generous US$ 1.3 million equivalent budget from Petrobras, Brazil’s oil giant.

Half of this goes directly to participants. The kids get a monthly stipend of US$ 67, equivalent. The monitors make  US$ 800 equivalent a month, and each member of a 50-person team of college students receives  US$ 400 a month to work in study groups during the week, in between the Saturday marathons that are the heart of the program. At the end, each candidate presents his or her full idea before a panel made up of public agency administrators and representatives of socially-oriented institutions such as Fundação Itaú Social, O Instituto, C & A, SESC, and local NGOs.

In each community, five ideas are selected for implementation, with the aid of a US$ 6,667 equivalent prize . The Agência helps the kids to manage their money. After the panel is over, there’s a “disincubation” or incubation phase, depending on a project’s maturity; even those not selected get this followup attention.

Warming up for the panel presentations

Participants must live in the communities where the Agência works, be between 14 and 29 years of age, and have an idea. You can change ideas up to four times, and form a group around one idea. Thirty “doctors”, professors from the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, consult.

The Agência negotiates and intermediates the process of a young person becoming “an operator in the world”, says Faustini. The program’s four months involve the participant in a kind of live videogame, by way of which he starts to understand himself in a larger context, working up and creating cultural references to lay the foundation for his initial idea and help him to develop it– and perhaps make it happen.

One could use the word entrepreneurship here, but it’s a skimpy fit.

Fourteen-year-old Vasco fan wants to recycle plastic soft drink bottles

City of God on the screen

Peaceful revolution?

“We’ve always had an integrated [city],” explains Faustini. “The city was never divided. The poor were always included, in a subordinate role. I think everything has to change.”

He talks about a reshuffling of urban players. And, on a recent morning at the City of God favela, while the kids rehearse their final presentations, a few aces pop up in the deck.

A group of six proposes online community TV. They’ll do a film festival, they’ll cover parties and events, it’ll be financially sustainable.

“What kind of equipment will you use?” asks a member of the rehearsal panel, Écio Salles, Culture and Education Coordinator at the state Secretariat of Culture.”Who knows how to video? Who will create the site?”

Faustini’s on the panel, too. He calls for more focus. “You’re promising too much,” he comments, suggesting they do live coverage of community events. “You don’t always have to edit.”

This is normally a lot of detail for a RioRealblog post, but the teaching methodology is so daring that it merits the extra space. Faustini’s life experience inspired it. He grew up in a housing project in the West Zone, read nonstop when he had tuberculosis, threaded his way through the city as a teen, grooved on a range of jobs and public transportation, as well as funk music, punk culture, and liberation theology– and studied theater.

“It was all an exception,” he says. “But it shouldn’t be an exception, it has to be the rule.”

So the youth selected to participate in the Agência go through stages:

  • Inventory. They learn a variety of meanings and uses, and build one. What are the available tools?
  • Maps. They research all kinds of maps and map their territories.
  • Curiosity cabinet. They learn about oldtime explorers who collected rare objects, and do the same.
  • Alphabet. They think about their projects alphabetically, as a way of beginning to create an oral defense of it.
  • Bestiary. Reflections  on monsters– solutions outside normal standards, such as favela motorcycle-taxis. One participant imagined a “militant sex shop for sexual diversity”.

At each meeting, the young person takes on a different role, or avatar: pioneer, happy person, collaborator, questioner, achiever. They all are supposed to create and feed blogs; with this and other participatory tasks they earn points that can be used to “buy” help from magic godfathers, adult specialists who help develop the projects. The kids also present their projects to their parents and other community members.

Would all of this been possible years back, before pacification and the recognition of favelas as legitimate parts of the city– deserving of government attention?

Pacification opens doors–  to exchanges, and for the creation of networks,  both virtual and real. “It allows us to start thinking about poor youth as protagonists,” says Faustini. “The problem is that pacification is limited to part of the city and that it also serves to control the poor. The jury is still out on pacification.”

This visionary has so much faith in the favela that he says that in the future, everyone will want to be there, that it ought to become an urban protagonist. Who knows what favela he’s talking about, though. The open-air sewage, trash and rats, noise and steep alleyways of today’s favela are not everyone’s ideal environment. However, given that about a million cariocas, or 17% of Rio de Janeiro proper’s population currently live in favelas, chances are enormous that leaders and a good dose of creativity exist amongst them.

Which is what Ricardo Henriques, currently president of the Instituto Pereira Passos, responsible for the Social UPP program at the city level, was talking about.

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About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro almost 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Shaking up minds, souls and favelas

  1. Kate Lyra says:

    Ricardo is DYNAMITE! Fabulous job! Glad to hear Ecio is also involved. what a team!
    Where is Silvia Ramos now? still working with Ricardo?

  2. Rio real says:

    She’s back at CeSEC

  3. kinrio says:

    Marcus Faustini is amazing..I used to attend several of his events with Ecio Salles @ Escola Livre da Palavra in Lapa. What he and Ecio did for the youth in Nova Iguaçu should be taken as an example in other municipios..

    Saudades!!

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