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Musician Empowerment Creating Lasting Community Impact In Recife, Brazil

By May 5, 2015August 26th, 2022Blog

Recife, Brazil (May 2015)

3In the early days of PeaceTones®, our president was introduced to the incomparable Kurt Shaw and “Shine A Light.” Shine a Light teaches the digital arts to marginalized children all over Latin America, so that their communities can come to see themselves — and show themselves — in a new light. With PeaceTones’ dreams of musician empowerment and strengthening the rule of law in tow, it quickly became clear that this was a perfect place to start the PeaceTones® journey. For the last decade, Shine a Light has worked to use culture as a tool for peacemaking in the favelas of Recife, often supported by PeaceTones®. Their initial music, dance, and video projects developed a group of young leaders committed to make a difference. This laid the foundation for the development of a news channel called FavelaNews which has inspired real structural change in Recife and beyond. As Kurt, their Director, describes,

“In a 2011 research project we published as the Cartography of the Favela, we found two major reasons cited by young men and women for joining gangs: the desire to be respected and rage at an unjust world.  Crime provided a way to be recognized as powerful and important, while guns offered one of the few ways to express rage into action. With a local news channel that recognized young people for the good things that they do, and offers a productive way to express their rage when the police or another gang kills their family or friends, FavelaNews has diffused two important motivations for violence. In addition to other channels to recognize young men and to express rage, FavelaNews has also created new role models. Passing through the streets of the favelas with the reporters, one hears little kids say, ‘Isn’t that such-and-such, the reporter?’  Previously, one had heard such hushed, reverent tones only in reference to gang leaders.  Community leaders and small business people also feel themselves admired, and feel that their work is worthwhile.”4PeaceTones® and Shine a Light have long worked to show that culture and law can make important contributions to peacemaking. FavelaNews is proof of concept, showing that this model truly works, especially when we expand the idea of “law” to include the many formal procedures that people in marginalized communities use to express, think through, and resolve their problems. The goal of sustainable, lasting community development adds an even more depth to our partnership. Over time PeaceTones®, in its capacity as a fair trade music label, has sold and distributed Shine A Light music and DVDs in the 90-10 split model we pioneered. The proceeds of this collaborative endeavor were to be dedicated a community development project of the musicians choosing, demonstrating yet another way music and musicians can be positive agents for social change.

2Last weekend, this vision came to life. Our original artists that we worked with years ago- Okado, Detefon, and Jonas- organized the first day of a series of events designed for positive and lasting community development. They hosted a breakdance competition for almost 50 dancers, then opened the stage for anyone else who wanted to participate with an audience of a cool 500 community members. Okado, Detefon, and Jonas will next meet with some of the most interested participants. Their plan is to run a series of dance workshops, rap workshops, as well as hire a professional silk-screener to train people in designing their own logos and shirts. The latter is a significant moment as there exist several big apparel makers whose expensive clothes stimulate young men to deal drugs so they can have the money to buy them. With cool local brands, they hope to undermine that logic and that hegemony, not to mention generate income and develop rule of law in the favela (contracts, SalesForce, taxes, etc)

The power of fair trade music at work!For more information on Shine A Light, visit

By Molly Dow
PeaceTones Program Director

(Photos provided by Kurt Shaw)