On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Consulate General organized an outdoor viewing session of the “Freedom Riders” feature documentary in São João de Meriti, a municipality within Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan region, in partnership with the International Literary Festival of the African Diaspora in São João de Meriti (FLIDAM) and the Cineclube de Guerrilha da Baixada. “Freedom Riders” is a PBS documentary about a courageous group of civil rights activists who travelled by bus through the Deep South in 1961 to protest bus segregation policies. The activists, who were motivated to challenge civil rights inequities, faced insults, extreme physical violence and incarceration. The Freedom Riders managed to attract the attention of President Kennedy’s administration and U.S. society as a whole, and their initiative was an important step towards the proclamation of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Sixty state and local government officials, artists, activists, academics and teachers from the Baixada Fluminense, including State Deputy Marcelo Simão (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party – PMDB), watched “Freedom Riders.” After the screening, Vice-Consul for Political Affairs John Callan led a Q&A session on themes related to race relations, affirmative action, civic activism, and the Civil Rights movement with the audience. The event was developed with the purpose of celebrating Afro-American History Month and the launch of the second edition (2014) of FLIDAM, the International Literary Festival of the African Diaspora in São João de Meriti, as well as advancing the U.S.- Brazil Joint Action Plan to Promote Racial and Ethnic Equality (JAPER).