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Regional Rainbow PUSH Director Joe Beasley Works for Social Change in Brazil

by Amanda Smith


Rainbow PUSH Southern Regional Director Joe Beasley has been working to affect social change in Brazil for the past 15 years, particularly in the areas of education and employment opportunities for the more than 100 million Africans that make up half of the country’s citizens.

Born in Inman, Georgia near Peachtree City, Beasley graduated from Park College in Kansas City, Kansas with a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice. He has also pursued advanced studies in the field at Clark Atlanta University. He was married to the late Sandra Beasley and the union produced one daughter and two sons. Beasley served as Police Superintendent at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, retiring after 21 years.

Beasley joined the Rainbow PUSH Coalition in 1978 and served as Executive Director of the Kansas City, Missouri chapter until 1982. He was an active member for human civil rights while in the Air Force and has served as a member of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), the NAACP and various other civil rights organizations for more than four decades.

"As an African American growing up as a sharecropper's son, I was always acutely aware of the particular challenges of the African American community -not just in the United States, but all over the world," said Beasley. "I became interested in social change when I read about the Haitian revolution (1791-1804). It gave me a sense that it was possible to change these conditions. I knew that most of the slaves from Africa went to Brazil (5 million) during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade from 1538 until 1888," he said, "so I became interested in the conditions of Africans in Brazil."

After Brazilians had come to the United States to look at best practices upon an invite from the US State Department, Beasley was invited to Brazil and began traveling there on a regular basis. "I go two times a year," he said, "for Emancipation Day on May 13th and Black Pride Day on November 20th. I learned that voting in Brazil is mandatory for everyone of legal age and that blacks have such a low opinion of themselves that they vote for whites," he continued. "They have been told that they are not ready to govern themselves and have accepted this attitude. For example, in the capitol city of Salvador, which is 80% African, there has never been elected an African governor or mayor," he continued. "We are working hard to help Africans see their worth and become ready for elected office -we will come alongside them and help make it happen."

An additional area that concerned Beasley was the almost nonexistent college graduation rate for blacks in Brazil due to an inability to pass the college entrance exam. "In January of this year, I traveled to Brazil with the head of the Coca Cola International Foundation because I had learned that 53% of their product is consumed by Africans in Brazil, but that Coca Cola was not supporting this segment of the population," he said. "Finally, the company made a donation of $2.1 million to five educational institutions in Brazil that I designated. A little over a million dollars went to Zumbi Dos Palmares, a college in Sao Paulo, Brazil (named for a runaway slave who refused to be a slave), and half a million went to the Steve Biko Institution, an educational establishment that has been tutoring blacks to pass the college entrance exam," he continued. "As a result of these efforts, the African college graduation rate has risen from 2% fifteen years ago to 16% today." Zumbi Dos Palmares began operation with only 200 students, but now has 2,000 and because Beasley was one of the founders and was instrumental in garnering funding from BellSouth and IBM for its start-up, the library is named for him.

Beasley is also concentrating his efforts on equal opportunity in employment for the Africans in Brazil. "I visited a Ford Motor plant in Salvador with the Secretary of Racial Inclusion of Brazil and two members of his staff," he said. "We got a very chilly reception because I asked about the demographic makeup of Ford’s employees -we were stonewalled, but I was able to point out that every member of the upper echelons of the company are white; blacks have been relegated to the positions of security and janitorial," he continued. "This is typical in Brazil. More than half of all products are consumed by Africans, but they hold no executive positions. With over 100 million Africans in the country, not a single car dealership is owned by blacks."

Beasley's future plans include continued trips to Brazil to affect widespread social change. "I believe that educating our people everywhere, not just in the United States, is the key to helping our brothers and sisters and cousins that came on the same boats, but went to different destinations," he said. "With our civil rights movement and the money we have, we should be helping them to enjoy the same rights that we have fought for and won for ourselves."

Beasley is a member of and serves as Human Services Director at the Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta where the Rev. Dr. Cameron Alexander serves as Pastor.

For more information about how you can help the Brazilians and others who are oppressed, email Joe Beasley at joebeasley1@gmail.com or give him a call at (404) 218-3997.

 

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Gwenette Westbrooks
Joe Beasley