FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                     Date: November 3, 2000

                                                                                                            Contact: Lezli Austen

UIS professor to speak on Afro-Brazilian culture and economic development

SPRINGFIELD – Vibert White, assistant professor of African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, will give two presentations about research he conducted this summer in Brazil. He will speak on “Brazil: African Culture in South America” at a brown bag luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, November 13, in the UIS Public Affairs Center conference room H. White will also present “Economic Development Through Cultural Tourism in Bahia” from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, November 15, in PAC conference room F. Both presentations are free and open to the public.

As the recipient of a $10,000 grant from Rotary International, White spent the summer in the state of Bahia and the city of Salvador, both in Brazil, studying economic development through cultural tourism for cities that are locked out of the national political and economic spectrum of tourism. The focus of his research was to explore cultural-economic procedures among Afro-Bahianos.

Bahia and Salvador are the cultural and musical center of Brazilian society. In this region, approximately the size of Texas, the roots of Afro-Brazilian society include activities such as capoiera, the martial art and dance that slaves brought to the South American continent; the African religion of Comdomble, practiced by the majority of the people in Bahia and millions of other people throughout Brazil; the African-based celebration of carnival; the musical styles of samba; and African-Brazilian cuisine.

“Although Bahia and the city of Salvador attract millions of visitors from Europe, South America, and the United States, Afro-Bahianos benefit very little from tourist dollars,” said White.  "They live in 

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poverty-ridden and crime-infested ghettos. Children of this class are often reduced to begging and prostitution and are often forced to make their living from illegal activities, resulting in permanent underclass.”

White’s study confirmed his premise that although there are major problems with the government’s lack of investment in lower-class people, there are opportunities for American scholars, investors, and consultants to use their skills to enhance the life of Afro-Brazilian society. "The federal, state, and local governments in Brazil are anxious to find ways to transform poor communities into productive economic zones," said White.

“Not only are government officials excited about finding solutions to these problems but also the people of Bahia are encouraged by such prospects,” he said. "Thus, my work is more than an academic treatise; it is a study of how American scholars can work with the private and public sectors to revitalize third world communities."

White teaches African-American history, Latin American history, and Caribbean history at UIS. He is the author of the book Inside the Nation of Islam, scheduled for release in 2001.

For more information about White and his presentations, call 206-7426.

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