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Holding Hands for a Better World

Brazilian woman, Daniela F. Gomez da Silva, student at University of Texas, Austin, won the Margaret W. Wong & Associates $500 scholarship through entry in the International Student Voice Magazine (ISVMag) Fall 2014 Essay Contest. Daniela's winning essay was selected in August 2014, and posted on the ISV Mag website.

We have the honor of presenting the essay here for you:

As an activist in the fight against racism and for equality in my home country, the American struggle for Civil Rights was always an inspiration for me. At an early age, I started to learn about the mission of people like Dr. Martin Luther King and the Freedom Fighters. It was the motivation to start my own battle to change the reality around me. Matriculating in an American University is a continuation of this mission and an opportunity to deepen my knowledge.

A beautiful country, known for its friendly people and for the diversity of its culture, Brazil has one hundred million African Descents (that represents 51% of the population), and is considered the second largest Black country in the world; the first one outside the African continent. However, these numbers are not enough to guarantee equality for all its citizens. The country still has a huge disparity and many lacks of opportunities.

While I was growing up, contact with African American culture and history was fundamental to construct my identity. When I started my professional life, it was this passion that worked as a guide to my career. Especially working as a journalist in the first Brazilian black college, I was able to create a network of African American friends and colleagues which facilitated the building of bridges and alliances in the fight against racism and oppression. In a journey that is not always easy, every challenge was fundamental to make me persist and keep following in the goal. This was especially hard when most aspects that would reflect the contribution of Afro Brazilians to the construction of the country have been erased from history.

As part of this learning process, I became interested in to know what type of influence African American culture and history had on other people in my community and that directed me to an academic journey; where I started to research the cultural aspects of this topic. I was really surprised by the fact that this proximity that I felt during my whole life was a common factor to other young Afro Brazilians who, like me, found in the African American community examples to construct their identity. This discovery motivated me in to learn more about people in the African Diaspora, our commonalities and how our past could work as a link while we are following a journey for a better future.

How sad I became when I realized that my country could not offer me the type of development that I was looking for and that there was not any academic program that I could take to have access to the content that would help me to construct my research. In a crucial moment of what would be the next step on my career, I received the information about a course administered by the University of Texas, in Brazil. It looked like a perfect answer to my search. As I took the course it not only fit my expectations, but also introduced me to a program where I could continue with my research and have access to the information that was missing in my home country.

Two years later, I was moving to Austin, Texas, to start my life as a PHD student in the first cohort in the program of African and African Diaspora Studies, offered by the University of Texas at Austin. This program offers more than the possibility of deepening my research; it actually has content that looks like it was created for me. Particularly because it includes an activist perspective with the composition of intellectual thought. At this moment when I am preparing myself to start my second academic year at UT, I am convinced more each day that my participation in this program is an essential tool in the development of better possibilities not only in my own country, but also around the world.

More than improve my career, my academic experience in the U.S. helps me to create the bridges that I was looking for and is enabling me to build the type of world I want to live in, which is a better world, not only for Afro Brazilians or African Americans, but for all those who want to live in a world with freedom and equality for all human beings.



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