Oboi Reed in Quilombo do Remanso, Brazil. All photos courtesy of Oboi.
[This piece was contributed by Oboi Reed, founder of The Pioneers, a bike club that promotes cycling on Chicago’s South Side, and co-leader of the Southeast Side community advisory group for the city’s Streets for Cycling 2020 plan.]
In February, I embarked on a journey to live and study in Brazil for six months. With the tremendous support of many family and friends, I travelled to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil to study public health in the African-Brazilian community in Salvador and elsewhere in northeast Brazil. Throughout this nearly four month program, Brazil: Public Health, Race, & Human Rights organized by The School for International Training, colleagues and I were blessed to have unparalleled access to the people, families, organizations, institutions, and systems that make up the fabric of Brazil’s healthcare delivery system. We experienced firsthand, in sight and in sound, the contemporary successes and challenges of the public healthcare system for African-Brazilian people and all Brazilians. We engaged patients, community health agents, nurses, doctors, administrators, activists, educators, and more. We directly participated in the Candomblé spiritual tradition. We explored Candomblé traditional healing as a critically important and culturally relevant system of healthcare – in fact a viable & effective complement to the Brazilian government’s system of healthcare delivery.
We traveled throughout northeast Brazil, visiting a diverse set of communities: Itapuã, Cachoeira, Alecrim, Ilha de Maré, Feira de Santana, Santo Antonio de Jesus, Lençóis, and Luna. The exposure to different geographies, lifestyles, cultures, people, income levels, struggles, and successes was an incredibly eye-opening experience. The opportunity to achieve all of this in such a short timeframe was a divine blessing and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It served as an important chance for me to grow personally, academically, and professionally by embracing my global citizenship. My life has changed forever.