This post was written on August 31st from Santa Marta, Botofogo, Rio de Janeiro. Enjoy!
When I first came to Rio back in 2015, the common sentiments I either read or heard were...
"oooh...be careful, its violent there"
"you're going to get Zika!"
"OMG...stay away from the favelas.."
Of course, at the other end was the disgusting sexualization and fetishization of Brazilian women.
In sum, all I heard was crime, corruption, sex and disease. That's it. Mostly from uniformed people who meant well, but whose only reference was news and other forms of media.
I went to Rio in December 2015, then again in February 2016 for Carnival. After my second trip, I was totally enamored with this amazing city.
I didn't find crime or violence. I didn't get Zika. I found amazing warm people. A vibrant city. Resilient people who are proud of their city and country. I'm not saying there aren't problems, I'm saying show me a major city without them....I'll wait...
I found amazing entrepreneurs, some social entrepreneurs who were intent on writing their own destiny. Intervening where the government either wouldn't or couldn't, seeking to make life better for themselves and their communities.
I could go on and on about the people I met, the things they do, but this post would be even longer.
So, I asked myself, why I am seeing a different Rio...a different Brazil than what I was told?
Why don't people know more about the good that is happening here? Why are we intent on telling a story that is false and one-sided?
It was my third visit in the summer of 2016 to Rio that sealed the deal. There was too much awesomeness gone unnoticed, and too many stories untold. I decided its time to tell a new story. It's time to shift the narrative. It's time we bridge the connection and show and tell what the media is not willing to do. And, I do this through commerce, I do it by supporting the very people I am so inspired by. I'd do it by bringing their amazing unique products to the U.S. market.
And its not just Brazil that suffers from this false narrative, it is usually any place with larger black and brown populations. Why is that? Who is telling us these stories? And why are they so intent on spreading fear and lies?
It's long past due that we begin dismantle the false narratives shared and accepted about places that are foreign to us. Because the more you open your eyes, the more you realize that we are not at all dissimilar. We are more alike than we are not. We share the same challenges. What if we supported and connected with each other instead of stereotyping? And perhaps, if we stop othering people, perhaps if we stop deeming places far from us dangerous we could see the common thread we have and work together to alleviate issues that affect us all.
Soul and Story is a collective of amazing goods, many handmade, most by women around the world who are seeking to be the change they want to see. I will support them. I will enable them.
I say to you, don't believe the false narratives. I write this to you from Rio, totally safe, sitting in a favela, Zika free :)
Together, we can combat false narratives and tell a new story, a true story. We can get to know the soul of a place through the products of people who are using their creativity to make a difference.