In addition to US-based veterans, we have interviewed several international peace and justice activists — from Guatemala, Thailand, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico. In several instances our international veterans have spent extended amounts of time with us — usually between two and five weeks — and have presented their work, their stories and their visions to audiences as varied as middle school children, interfaith dialogue groups, and conference participants.
We have nurtured a special relationship with a number of Brazilian organizations, communities and activists and have organized five study-tours to Brazil of US-based community organizers, educators and religious leaders. We’ve also sponsored visits to the United States of Brazilian activists, ritual leaders, scholars and artists. Like the USA, Brazil is a richly multicultural country struggling to make sense of a long legacy of colonialism, enslavement of Africans and the and displacement and genocide of Native peoples. Our strong belief is that there are lessons and wisdoms to be shared between our nations about how best to build an inclusive, compassionate democracy in the 21st century.
Our Brazilian study-tours in 2000, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012 took participants to Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Bahia for meetings with local activists, and educational and cultural organizations, with a focus on Afro-Brazilian religion, history and human rights struggles.
We also coordinated a delegation to the annual conference of the Association for the Promotion of Traditional African Medicine (PROMETRA) in Benin, West Africa. Our delegation included three Afro-Brazilian healers who are also ritual elders in the Candomblé religion. These individuals had tremendous knowledge of herbal and spiritual healing which are central elements of the African-based religious systems of which they are a part. Our group was part of a larger assembly of “American” (North and South America) representatives to the conference which included Patricia Moore Harbour, founder of Healing the Heart of Diversity, and other representatives of that organization. Our presentations and conversations centered around the work of healing the historical and social wounds of slavery as well as recognizing the enduring power of traditional medicine to address some of the world’s major health crises.
In 2000, 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2014 we hosted Brazilian activists and educators who are also leaders of Afro-Indigenous ritual communities. Our guests, who included Makota Valdina Pinto and Iyalorixá Valnizia Pereira, conducted workshops and public lectures on environmental justice organizing, religious tolerance in the context of an emerging multicultural democracy, the role of ritual and pharmacopeic healing in Candomblé, and the challenges of anti-racist community activism in Brazil.