In mid-December of 2002, leadership from the Congressional Black
Caucus Foundation (CBCF) signed a memorandum of understanding
at the offices of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington
D.C. The signing formalized a working relationship with Black
business leaders from Brazil, which were represented at the
signing by Maria Hyeronides Barros de Lima. The CBCF hailed
the agreement as "a victory" for CBCF, for the Black
communities in the United States and Brazil, and for native
Brazilians and disabled entrepreneurs. "It is definitely
a global victory!"
highlighted the transformation of a once exclusively Brazilian
entity, the Center for the Integration of Businesses Belonging
to Groups Historically Excluded from the Economic Process (CIEPEGHEPE),
into Integrare, an organization linking business and cultural
interests in the United States with counterparts in the Southern
The original entity, and
by extension Integrare, was patterned after the U.S. National Minority Supplier
Development Council (NMSDC). Louisiana Democratic Congressman William J. Jefferson
led a 10 day fact-finding journey throughout Brazil just prior to the agreement.
He said that the pact would "encourage the expansion of trade between
African American and Afro-Brazilian businesses".
While in Brazil he met
with key government, business and non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives,
and added: "It is important for us to recognize the tremendous benefits
of connecting (Brazilian) goods and services providers to American outlets
and exposing African American businesses to their consumers". I recently
discovered that those benefits are being realized today.
The basic concept of CIEPEGHEPE
was the brainchild of visionary Brazilian businessman César Nascimento.
With Nascimento's encouragement, CIEPEGHEPE was incepted in October of 1999
by a group of Brazilian businessmen, together with several Brazilian NGOs
and Xerox of Brazil.
Additionally, the undertaking
was supported by American executives like Steve Sims and Ms Harriet Michel
of the NMSDC, D. Olandan Davenport of Olandan Davenport and Associates, and
Nancy Jones from Honda America Inc.
By more recently focusing
on encouraging the participation of African-American business and political
interests to expand the initiative's influence, Nascimento played a key role
in facilitating the founding of Integrare.
In 2001, de Lima assumed
the role of Executive President of CIEPEGHEPE (now Integrare) from Nascimento
and helped "the organization to more clearly define its focus as working
for social groups representing people of color and
and disabled entrepreneurs".
That same year, according
to Integrare-Brazil, "Henrique H. Ubrig, president of Dupont of Brazil,
assumed leadership of the organization's new (advisory) deliberative council".
In addition to Xerox and Dupont, Budai, Honda, United Technologies Corporation
(UTC) and Delta Airlines each provided critical early support as the organization
Black Is Economically
In an October 2003 visit
to the United States, Nascimento acknowledged (at an event dubbed "Brazil
on Hill" held at Capitol Hill): "Official statistics demonstrate
that the black population in Brazil is much more concentrated at the base
of the socio-economic pyramid".
But "Our objective
today is not to spend all of our time (dwelling on) the shameful social and
economic situation that the African-descendants in Brazil have faced since
the end of slavery," he added. "In the last few years, Brazilian
government officials have recognized (the existence of color-based) discrimination
in Brazil, so
now it is possible to start treating the disease."
"The best way to
approach the challenge," asserted Nascimento, "is by tackling the
economic (issues) associated with being black in Brazil. If we (accept) that
almost 40 percent of Brazil's population is African-descended, and that they
are at the base of the socio-economic pyramid, then we must conclude that
they represent (great) economic potential".
Brazilian journalist Pedro
Bial has previously said basically the same thing, pointing out that the larger
issue of so much poverty in Brazil is not the burden of the impoverished on
society, but rather the lost benefit from so many potential contributors.
"If you create economic
conditions in Brazil to enrich the poor," says Nascimento, "you
will by definition enrich the black population". So, he concludes, to
improve the Brazilian economy "we need to work with its black population.
The middle class moves the economy, and in Brazil increasing the number of
people in the middle class means enriching Afro-Brazilians".
That view seems to be
shared by many in the United States. USA Today recently quoted 47-year-old
Tyrone Miller of the Bronx as saying that "Minorities are pulling the
American economy, so if you really want to make money and get ahead, it's
not profitable to be racist".
Encounter in Bahia
I recently sat down with
Nascimento at the offices of PromoBahia, in the trendy Iguatemi shopping district
of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. He was accompanied by Ira Moseley and Euzébio
Cardoso, senior vice president and associate producer, respectively, for You
Moseley, who studied Brazilian
cinema at NYU and is on the board of directors for the prestigious New York
African Film Festival, came to You Entertainment from one of the major air
carriers. Cardoso served for more than a decade as the International Director
for the world-renowned Brazilian drum corps, Olodum, which backed up Paul
Simon on Rhythm of the Saints.
Nascimento served for
more than four years as a member of the Black Community Development and Participation
Advisory Board of São Paulo State, an agency charged with advising
the state governor in matters related to the black community. As a business
professional he's worked with such well known enterprises as PricewaterhouseCoopers,
J. Walter Thompson and Microsoft.
He's currently president
of the São Paulo accounting firm, On Controller, and is the Brazil
general manager for Avocet Travel and Entertainment. Both Avocet Travel and
Entertainment and You Entertainment were founded by media mogul Clarence Smith,
whose rise to prominence was, like Nascimento's, not strictly tied to a money-motive.
Following the assassination
of Dr. Martin Luther King, Smith re-examined his life and left a lucrative
position in the insurance industry to found Essence Magazine. Smith's
focus became black women, whom he credits with being the driving force behind
black culture in the United States. Avocet T&E and You Entertainment share
Park Avenue offices in New York. Moseley is a longtime friend of Smith.
The recent confluences
of North and South American black entrepreneurs, visionaries and creative
geniuses symbolizes the about to be realized potential that was seeded by
Nascimento in 1999. This particular group is about to implement the first
major organized relationship initiative between the African-American community
at large and African-Brazilian Bahia.
The long-term view of
their project is that Clarence, Ira, César, and company are setting
out to establish regularly scheduled flights, beginning in October of 2004,
from selected cities in the United States to Salvador and, possibly, elsewhere
in Northern Brazil.
The flights will bring
African-Americans to Brazil for essentially two reasons: To establish and
maintain cultural-tourism and to establish and maintain business relationships
while encouraging the importation of Brazilian products
visa versa. "But we also want to move beyond that," noted Ira, "to
capture a fair share of the general market as well".
The Diasporic dream of
connecting African-American communities with the African-Brazilian cultural
epicenter of Bahia appears to be as passionately ingrained in Ira Moseley
as it is in César Nascimento. In fact he played a pivotal, if subtle,
role in Clarence Smith's eventual decision to redirect energies in that direction.
"I fell dumb-struck
in love with Brazil in 1963, at the age of eight in Philadelphia. I was just
walking down a street minding my own business when I heard the Brazilian bossa
nova lyrics "...quero a vida sempre assim, com você perto
de mim, até o apagar da velha chama ..." through an open door".
"I immediately fell
in love with bossa nova, and since that time I've been on a quest to
learn all I can about Brazil and Brazilian music," he said, "and
to use music as a way to generate interest in Brazil. I pursued a college
degree, went on to video production, and eventually studied Brazilian cinema
at New York University".
By 1998, Ira was working
in the airlines industry, which provided him with plentiful travel-to-Brazil
opportunities. He eagerly took advantage. But after coming to Brazil for several
years he lamented that there was no direct access to northern Brazil from
the United States.
"Salvador, for example,
was (and still is) only accessible to travelers from the U.S. through Rio
or São Paulo" he said. "You had (have) to lose a full day
of flight time and vacation time to get there". His then current employer
didn't seem to share Ira's enthusiasm for establishing direct air access to
Bahia and northern Brazil.
Rerouting the Thought
"Clarence Smith called
me in December of 2002," offered Moseley, "not long after his retirement
(from Essence). He wanted to start up an air charter system focusing
on the Caribbean, but I realized that the Caribbean market was already over-served.
There was too much competition, and there were no differentiating advantages
associated with serving that market relative to northern Brazil".
Ira already understood
that there was at least one differentiating factor that made northern Brazil
the more attractive market for African-Brazilian consumers, culture. A running
dialogue with Smith ensued over time. "Then on January 1st
of 2003," he said, "I saw an article in the New York Times about
a Shangri-la-like hotel complex in Sauípe, about 85 kilometers north
The hotel was having trouble
filling rooms, in spite of its paradise-like atmosphere. "When I next
spoke with Clarence I said `look, this is describing the opportunity that
you and I know is there'. So I proposed the idea of offering flights originating
in New York with Salvador, rather than the Caribbean, for a destination. I
knew there was no competition. We had no direct access to the northern tier
of Brazil from any city in North America".
Clarence Smith embraced
the idea. "So that was the nexus that created the seed for this current
project?" I asked, meaning Ira's conversation with Clarence Smith in
early 2003. "Clarence realized that there was this great under-served,
untapped market," he responded. "And, in particular, he realized
that African-American have an insatiable need to find out who they are. Black
Americans have all this disposable income and discretionary time, and this
great curiosity about their heritage. It's a great mixture".
Generators of Cultural
Moseley asserted, "are really generators of cultural flow and movement
in the United States. Many of our cultural innovations are picked up by the
general population and become main-stream. African-American cultural influence
has cascaded up and down society in the United States.
´Just think about
what has happened with jazz, soul, R&B and hip-hop. Every aspect of jazz
has found its way upstream. It's about as mainstream now as a music form can
be. We know that kind of ebb and flow can be created here, and one of our
main goals is to light-up the north-south African cultural axis and to try
to take advantage of that in terms of building business opportunities".
An energized Ira continued:
"This place (Brazil) has so much to offer African-Americans. Much more
than anyplace on the continent of Africa. The environment here is stable;
there is no civil war here. There are no famines on the scale of what a visitor
would encounter in Africa. Brazil offers access to state of the art telecommunications,
reliable banking systems, good roads and health facilities".
And who, specifically,
would the project appeal to within the African-American community? "Our
target market," he said, "is African-American females between the
ages of 25 and 55. They are the cultural generators in African-American society.
It's a market that we (thanks largely to Clarence Smith) know and understand
A Supportive Benedita
Nascimento indicated that
he and Moseley met back in 1997 while "trying to encourage BET (the premiere
U.S. African-American television network) to invest in Brazil in association
with D. Olandan Davenport" and others pursuing closer relations between
African-American and African-Brazilian businesses.
Da Silva, Smith and
then," he added, "we've become good friends".
Moseley said, "For many years we tried to identify a good
Brazil related business opportunity. Our focus had been mainly
in communications and entertainment, television, film and music.
The two of us and Asfilófio de Oliveira Filho (Filó),
an associate in Rio, constantly brainstormed to come up with
something. One day when Clarence was in Brazil, and after he
had embraced the idea of establishing direct flights to Salvador,
we went to him and offered our services".
Smith was initially slow
to respond to the offer acknowledged Moseley: "He already had an established
working relationship with Benedita da Silva (by virtue of his earlier activity
involving the Essence Travel Club) to generate African-American interest in
tourism". Da Silva though was initially more encouraging. "She's
been like a mother to me," said Ira, "She has been very supportive
of the initiative from the outset, but has no direct and/or indirect connection
with our project".
No "Trial Run"
"Is all this sort
of a trial run?" I asked. "Oh no," said Ira. "This is
game-time and we're in it to win". "Exactly!" added Cesar "we're
here for a lifetime of business, and our idea is to institutionalize that.
The first (phase) of the program is to establish direct charter flights from
New York, Washington and Chicago, all cities with large Black populations,
"But, as Ira mentioned,
we are not only looking at this constituency, we're looking beyond that. We
know that the African-American community is one that makes new waves in lifestyles.
Based on that, our strategy is to go further into the American market, the
general market, using Salvador as a gateway. And (locally) from Salvador we
intend to go into the countryside of Bahia and elsewhere in northeastern Brazil".
Assuming success, the
venture plans to progressively initiate weekly direct flights to northeastern
Brazil from other U.S. cities, like Detroit and Atlanta. "When people
come from North America they generally stay seven to maybe nine days"
replied Ira "regardless of race or ethnic origin. The few Black North
Americans who have already discovered Brazil spend a lot of time and money
here. By offering direct flights, we'll be providing travelers from the U.S.
with an extra day here, and that's a day of leisure".
Some for Favelados?
Moseley made it clear
that "Right now we need to focus on and develop the business itself".
But Nascimento noted: "We're working with a local tourist agency that
specializes in arranging tours for people of African ancestry, and otherwise
serves their needs. They're considering possible agendas in Salvador, and
we will be working very closely with Afro-centric community groups".
in fact," noted Moseley, "is a leader in the African community in
Salvador, particularly with Olodum". "We suspect," said Nascimento,
"that workshops with some of the African-Brazilian community groups are
something that our customers will be interested in".
"Our strategic plan
includes trying to find ways to involve the local community in all aspects
of our operations," said Nascimento. "We want to leverage our business
position in ways that will benefit the residents of Salvador. We are not looking
just to make charity. It may be that some of our customers will be interested
in making direct donations to worthy causes here, and we will reinforce that
kind of motivation.
"But Avocet and You
Entertainment will be focused on business opportunities for the underprivileged,
because we believe that through business opportunities we can help them improve
their own lives. That's what we're thinking to do".
Culture and Entetainment
Moseley has produced a
video, in association with You Entertainment and TV Bahia, based on an African-Brazilian
community festival called "Zambiapunga". This documentary covers
the festival from preparation through celebration, and its history. It also
provides a look into some of the region's quilombos.
Quilombos are communities
that were originally established by escaped African-slaves centuries ago and
which have maintained many of their original African cultural influences.
"Strategically" said Nascimento "our focus is the travel business.
But around that we're looking at entertainment because we want to create an
`experience' for our customers.
"Somehow we want
to begin to educate our clientele about Brazil, about Bahia. We're considering
TV content, special events that we might put together that would generate
some of that content, and the full range of other media for getting it out
to our target audience: DVD, CD, film, etc."
I asked, "there has to be a special place for music, doesn't there?"
"We're putting together a new record label," he responded, "You
Records, with Clarence Smith as CEO. We want to create a new sound, a fusion
of Brazilian and American styles, just as reggae-samba became a fusion of
Caribbean and Brazilian music.
"We're already in
the process of recording CDs with Brazilian and American artists and music
producers. Our main office is in New York, but our creative genius Asfilófio
de Oliveira Filho (Filó) will be working out of Rio, where he lives".
Filó was a marketing
strategist for Benedita da Silva and recently, according to Moseley and Nascimento,
"he found an unpolished gem" in Bahia. "We were trying to put
together a strategy for promoting talent from Bahia," said Nascimento,
"when Filó found Fernanda Noronha and her partner Jair Luz. Keep
them in mind because this Fernanda will become one of the new divas. We are
finalizing a CD that will be released both in Brazil and in the United States".
said Nascimento "we're looking toward providing a total package. We want
to offer our customers an opportunity to fully experience Brazil. Our expectation
is that when he or she comes here, it won't be just for one time. We're not
targeting the person that will want to come here just for the sun and the
"Ok, we'll be happy
to serve those individuals, but they aren't part of our market focus. Our
intention is to serve the needs of the people who are seeking an experience
somehow related to the discovery, or rediscovery, of African heritage in the
"We want to share
with them the beauty that you see in this society. It's something that can
only be appreciated through experience". "Right" Said Moseley
"It's an integrated strategy involving travel, tourism, and entertainment
1) The Brazilian NGOs
that participated in the formation of CIEPEGHEPE were SEBRAE-SP, Nossa Caixa,
the Council of Black Communities, and Getúlio Vargas Foundation of
2) The song
that the young Ira Moseley heard through an open door in Philadelphia
in 1963 was titled "Corcovado". The lyrics and music
were provided by Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, the same
team which produced Brazil's Bossa anthem "The Girl from
Ipanema". Corcovado is the mountain (hill) from which the
statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooks Rio de Janeiro. The
lyrics for "Corcovado" follow:
Num cantinho um violão
Este amor, uma canção
Prá fazer feliz a quem se ama
Muita calma pra pensar
E ter tempo pra sonhar
Da janela vê-se o Corcovado
O Redentor, que lindo!
Quero a vida sempre assim
Com você perto de mim
Até o apagar da velha chama
E eu que era triste
Descrente deste mundo
Ao encontrar você eu conheci
O que é felicidade
3) The remainder of the
Avocet/You Entertainment team:
Kwevi Quaye, Avocet President;
J.Gordon James, Avocet Aviation COO; Yla Eason, Avocet USA Marketing VP; Scott
Folks, You Entertainment USA Marketing VP; Ruth Morrison, You Entertainment
US Television VP
Phillip Wagner is a frequent contributor to Brazzil
magazine. His current focus is preparing to pursue graduate
studies at Indiana University in September of 2004, with a
regional focus on Brazil. He is currently in Brazil improving
his Portuguese and continuing to work with social programs
in Bahia. Phillip maintains an extensive Brazil-focused website
and can be reached at email@example.com.