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Conducting Research in Brazil and Beyond
Sarah Brokenborough is majoring in comparative women’s studies at Spelman College. In 2014, she studied on SIT’s Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development program. Below, she talks about the program and what she’s been doing since.
I chose to study with SIT’s Social Justice and Sustainable Development program in Fortaleza because I thought it would provide a meaningful experience that could positively affect my research and activism. Also, the Portuguese professor at Spelman College is from Fortaleza and spoke highly of the city, region, and country. This specific program offered an opportunity to create an Independent Study Project (ISP), and I chose to research the socio-political consciousness of Afro-Brazilians in Salvador, Brazil, for my ISP. Brazil is often regarded as a mecca within the African diaspora that many researchers and Afro-descendants should visit at least once. I now regard Salvador as a second home and am extremely grateful for everyone that has helped me with my research and their eagerness to talk about how the tourism industry, race formations, and education policy affect the lives of Brazilians.
After Brazil, I went on to work in South Africa as a Residential Fellow at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy. I then went on to Berlin, Germany, for the summer (2015) in order to visit the Audre Lorde Archives at the John F. Kennedy Institute Library at the Free University of Berlin.
I recently attended the 3rd Annual Black Doctoral Network Conference where I presented my research from my time in Brazil. The conference was incredible and I was able to meet several doctoral candidates and doctorate holders that are interested in Diaspora studies, cultural history, sociology, and law; all of which I’m also interested in.
The SIT program often sent us on visits to other parts of the Northeast region (Merouca, Salvador) to meet, learn, and talk with other Brazilians. My favorite trips were to Salvador and to the indigenous Pataxó community where we discussed the possibility of transnational coalition to eliminate injustice and discrimination, specifically police brutality, and how knowledge is spread to exclude the voices and wisdom of the marginalized.
My plans for the future are to work in a career that allows me to research the experiences and resistance of women of African descent. I want to be involved in so many fields: law (so that I can affect public policy), sociology (so I can continue my research and share my findings), education (I love to teach and mentor and am currently working as an after-school instructor at one of the charter schools in the Metropolitan Atlanta Area, Alpharetta. I was also able to volunteer at one of the schools in Fortaleza with CUFA). My future holds a career that will allow me to teach, research, travel, and create change within my communities (as an American and a global citizen).
The program’s research component put me in contact with other devoted social justice activists privy to research and working to create change within public policy, immigration reform, education reform, and the State’s treatment of “minorities”.
The program’s research component put me in contact with other devoted social justice activists privy to research and working to create change within public policy, immigration reform, education reform, and the State’s treatment of “minorities”. I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet and work with so many amazing scholars and activists. And my host family, whom I love dearly and my host mom (whom I share a birthday with). I can’t wait to come back to Brazil.