The Iconic Moment Activist Angela Davis Visited Black Brazilian Women
It’s been her mission to commune with other changemakers and address global issues
When esteemed activist Angela Davis arrived in São Paulo, Brazil, in October to promote the Portuguese translation of her autobiography, she had one request — to meet Janice Ferreira da Silva, known as “Preta” (Black woman) Ferreira. Preta, 35, a housing rights activist and musician, had just been released after spending 109 days in prison. She was charged with extortion for engaging in the routine practice of charging a low condominium fee of $50/month to resident squatters — 20 times lower than average rent prices in downtown São Paulo. While she was imprisoned, PRETA LIVRE!—Free Preta! became the rallying cry for her supporters. “I was imprisoned for fighting for my constitutional rights and for giving information to Black people who don’t have access to these rights,” Ferreira says.
After Preta’s mother migrated to São Paulo from Bahia to escape an abusive marriage, she ended up homeless. Preta joined her five years later and quickly took up the cause of Movimento Sem Teto do Centro (MSTC) — São Paulo’s downtown homeless movement. The movement helps vulnerable people acquire housing by leading occupations of abandoned buildings in São Paulo. Her work to guarantee disadvantaged people safe, affordable, centrally located housing — though a constitutional right in Brazil — had been criminalized by local political actors. When Preta left prison, she continued her activism. The slogan of her movement evolved from Preta Livre! — Free Preta to Pretas Livres! — Free All Black Women.
“Angela Davis became an international icon almost 50 years ago, but Brazilians only gained access to her translated written work in the last few years. Her visit to Brazil this past October seemed as if she was coming to bask in the glory put upon her by Black Brazilian women.”
Angela Davis yearned so much to meet her that she carried a photo of Preta in her black bag while she attended her packed schedule of conferences, speeches, and book…