Thousands of people have taken part in celebrations and protests in Brazil to mark Black Consciousness day.

Two of Brazil’s biggest cities – Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro – shut down for the day. Events were also held in towns and municipalities across Brazil. The government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva designated 20 November as Black Consciousness day in 2003. It commemorates the 17th Century slave leader Zumbi dos Palmares, who was beheaded by the Portuguese.

‘Respect and equality’
In Sao Paulo, where organisers said 30,000 people attended the festivities, rappers and other black musicians performed outside the Se Cathedral. Inside the cathedral, a Catholic Mass was celebrated that incorporated Afro-Brazilian religious rituals, reported Globo Online. The state governor, Jose Serra, spoke of the “necessity for respect and equality”.

Brazil has more people with black ancestry than any other country outside Africa. But there are very few black people in the higher echelons of society, including government, Congress and top posts in the civil service and armed forces, say correspondents. Studies point to a huge economic gulf between the country’s black and white population.

[Source: BBC News]

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