On March 9, 2017, Catalytic Communities’ Executive Director Theresa Williamson was quoted on the world-famous Humans of New York Facebook and Instagram feeds, which received 96,000 likes and 1,100 comments in just four hours:
“Rio was the biggest slave port in world history. Two million slaves arrived in this city—five times more than the entire American South. Favelas were built because the government didn’t want to provide basic services to the descendants of slaves. So these descendants were forced to build their own communities. Favelas are unregulated. They’re poorly serviced. But don’t call them ‘slums.’ That’s a lazy translation and it’s unfair to the people who live here. The word ‘slum’ implies that all favelas are the same. The word ‘slum’ ignores 120 years of improvement that these residents have made to their communities. And the word ‘slum’ makes it easier to ignore these communities. That’s exactly what the government wants. Because if favelas aren’t viewed as real neighborhoods, then their residents don’t deserve real services. So please don’t use the word ‘slum.’ Because it only helps to encourage that narrative.”
(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Learn more about Theresa, and read more about CatComm’s views on Why We Should Call Them Favelas and Translating Favela: The Problem of Translation. Theresa also gives regular talks on university campuses, so please consider helping us organize one near you. Finally, sign up and read the latest on Rio’s favelas through RioOnWatch, our award-winning favela news channel. And follow us on Facebook at CatComm or RioOnWatch.