Anderson Sa

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Anderson Sa

"In 1993 Vigario Geral was one of Rio de Janiero’s most violent favelas (slums). It was also the home of what is called the city’s most powerful drug cartel, the Red Command. For the thousands of poor youth living in Vigaria Geral, a career in the cartel’s drug army was their only option.

"Like many before him, Anderson Sa hoped to join the army and at age 13 his indoctrination had begun. Soon he found himself rolling marijuana cigarettes, embedding weapons and drugs, collecting money and attacking other favelas and rival dealers. He also found his circle of friends quickly disappearing with 6 murdered and 7 arrested. The uncertainty of a drug dealer’s life and the struggle to survive was becoming too much for him.

"In August of 1993, after four members of the military police were murdered the police retaliated by targeting and massacring 21 individuals, not members of the Red Command’s cartel but innocent residents of the favela. All of Rio, Brazil and the entire world were shocked by this blatant act of brutality by the military police’s “death squad.” Anderson was affected deeply and instead of joining the drug army’s retaliation against the police, he quit and vowed to change things, somehow. But how?

"At this same time, Jose Junior, a DJ in Rio’s funk scene, was forming the Afro Reggae Cultural Group, a community-based organization dedicated to offering a cultural and artistic formation for the youth living in the favelas as a means for them to create their own citizenship and have access to alternatives to narco-trafficking and menial jobs, and to transform themselves and empower other youths along the way.

"Anderson was initially drawn to the Afro Reggae Cultural Group and its capoeira workshop (capoeira is a form of martial arts). He was also drawn to reggae music and soon was asked to join the Afro Reggae band (Banda) as a founding member. Anderson chose to learn the basic instruments of the Jamaican rhythm, the bass guitar and drums. He also found himself writing songs and singing. Anderson continued writing songs and taught kids in the favela how to play instruments. His songs and music urged all favela youth to shun the path of violence by offering them cultural alternatives. The messages were socially mindful and politically charged and their performances not only entertained, but also informed others about favela life – their experiences, frustrations, and outrage. It is Banda that is Afro Reggae’s most public face and the group’s flagship music group.

"Today Afro Reggae has grown into the Community Culture Center with Anderson Sa as its president. Anderson has devoted his musical talent, energy and faith in people and their potential to change. He feels deeply that it is his duty to set an example and has worked in conjunction with various international organizations and foundations spreading Afro Reggae’s message around the world. Both Anderson and Banda Afro Reggae have inspired and formed eight other music groups in the favela.

"In 2006, Afro Reggae offered training and workshops to 2,000 youth in over 60 programs and began touring internationally. Afro-Reggae has grown into a successful example of a community-based organization dedicated to promoting Afro-Brazilian cultural traditions while working to develop the self-esteem, alternative life projects and sense of citizenship among youth." [1]

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  1. Iryna Toustsik, , accessed January 21, 2008.