Sunday, January 21, 2007

Essay 1596

From The Chicago Tribune…


Rapper not content to play society’s ills

MV Bill has channeled his wealth and fame into bettering the lives of youths trapped in Brazil’s favelas, symbolizing the street activism taking hold across Latin America’s developing democracies.

By Colin McMahon

RIO DE JANEIRO -- The Brazilian rapper, writer and social activist MV Bill worries about protection.

Arranging an interview is complicated. Security checks are run. Calls are made. A meeting is set up with Bill’s people a couple of miles from the community center he started to give the young people of City of God a safe place to play and learn, a haven where kids can be kids.

Finally, an escort is assigned to bring a reporter to Bill.

Only it’s not Bill’s safety that concerns him. It’s his visitor's.

MV Bill does not surround himself with the bodyguards or posses of his hip-hop brethren in America. But outsiders to City of God, the Rio slum that Bill calls home, are wise to arrange safe passage before paying the man a visit.

Alex Ferreira is Bill’s real name. His “official name,” as he puts it. And though music brought Bill money and fame, his real work has become something else too: Building bridges. Helping kids. Combating the violence and other social ills that plague City of God and the other poor communities known as favelas.

“I learned with hip-hop how to move between the two Brazils, how to bring together two worlds that are very different,” Bill said. “A Brazil where people speak Portuguese, and a Brazil where people speak Favelese.”

Bill, 31, is an increasingly important figure in Brazil, and not just for the CDs he sells, the stands he takes or the activities his center organizes for young people in City of God.

Bill is a symbol of the kind of activism--street level, independent of political parties, skeptical of authority--that is taking hold not just in Brazil but across Latin America as democracy develops in the region.

[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]

No comments: