Shopping Leblon is Rio de Janeiro’s most exclusive shopping center. While Afro-Brazilians work at the mall, they hardly ever shop there. “When we come here, we almost never see any of our people in this kind of place,” actor Lucínio Januário told The Intercept. “It’s as though the place was only meant for white people, you know what I mean?” With the release of Marvel’s Black Panther – a movie set in a fictional African country that has never dealt with the effects of colonization that features a large number of Black talent in front and behind the camera – Afro-Brazilians in Rio wanted to make a statement in one of the city’s most elite shopping centers. On Monday, they showed up in a large group, some in African garb, to watch the movie and show the mall shoppers that they belong there, too.
“We’re doing this today at Rio de Janeiro’s Shopping Leblon mall, because this is a mall where the majority of people are from the white Rio de Janeiro elite,” Reinaldo Junior, an actor, added. “So we wanted to occupy this space today to say: We’re alive.”
Coletivo Preto and Grupo Emú organized the protest, known as rolezinho preto (which roughly translates to “black stroll”). More rolezinhos took place across the country.
Though groups of Afro-Brazilians made a powerful statement with their protests, some likely couldn’t attend because the city’s designed to keep them away from these high-income areas.
Marinho, who had never visited Leblon, lives in Santa Cruz. He describes a trip from his neighborhood to the South Zone neighborhoods as a “logistical nightmare.” Because he couldn’t find a way to get home after watching Black Panther, he almost didn’t attend the event. However, a reporter from The Intercept invited him as a guest.
Learn more about the protests at The Intercept.