SOLEDAD: A LOT OF HISTORY
LESSONS ABOUT SLAVERY FOCUS ON
THE EXPERIENCE OF AFRICAN SLAVES
SHIPPED TO THE UNITED STATES. BUT AN ESTIMATED 4.5 MILLION
AFRICAN SLAVES WERE SOLD TO
BRAZIL. THAT IS 10 TIMES THE
NUMBER THAT WENT TO NORTH
AMERICA. TODAY, MORE THAN 80% OF THE
POPULATION OF THE NORTHEASTERN
STATE OF BAHIA IS DESCENDED FROM
AFRICAN SLAVES. AND THE AFRICAN CULTURE IS
THRIVING. IT’S BECOMING A POPULAR
DESTINATION FOR AFRICAN
AMERICANS LOOKING TO CONNECT
WITH THEIR ROOTS. OUR CORRESPONDENT, LEONE
LAKHANI, TAKES US INSIDE ROMA
NEGRA OR “BLACK ROME.”
LEONE: IT’S GAME DAY. DANCE, MUSIC, AND CELEBRATION. A WAY OF LIFE FOR BRAZILIANS. LOCALS LINE THE STREETS OF
SALVADOR IN THE NORTHEASTERN
STATE OF BAHIA TO SUPPORT THE
COUNTRY’S SOCCER HEROE
MANY OF THE LOCALS HERE ARE
ACTUALLY AMERICAN. LIKE RENEE ADOLPHE, BORN IN
BROOKLYN, NOW A RESIDENT IN
SALVADOR SINCE 2011. RENEE: I HAD A FRIEND OF MINE
WHO WAS AMERICAN. SHE WOULD COME HERE EVERY YEAR
FOR 10 YEARS. SHE WAS COMING TO SALVADOR AND
SO SHE SAID TO ME, “RENEE,
YOU HAVE TO COME TO SALVADOR.”
WHEN SHE TOLD ME SHE WAS COMING
HERE, I THOUGHT I HAD TO COME
AND SEE WHAT IT WAS LIKE AND WHY SHE KEEPS COMING BACK. AND INSTANTLY, I FELL IN LOVE
WITH SALVADOR. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TWO WEEKS. SHE LEFT AND I STAYED. LEONE: RENEE’S NOT THE ONLY ONE. RENEE: WHEN I WAS THERE AT
OLODUM, I MET SOME SISTERS FROM
THE U.S. YOU KNOW, I SAW THEM TAKING
PICTURES AND I HEARD ONE TALKING
AND I WAS LIKE, “AMERICAN!”
LEONE: THERE ARE NO DEFINITIVE
NUMBERS OF HOW MANY AMERICANS
ARE HERE. BUT THERE’S SELDOM A PLACE RENEE
GOES WHERE SHE DOESN’T MEET
OTHER COUNTRYMEN AND WOMEN. RENEE: AND SO, THIS IS USUALLY
HOW IT STARTS RIGHT. YOU MIGHT HEAR SOMEONE TALKING
OR YOU MIGHT SEE A T-SHIRT OR
SOMETHING THAT THEY’RE WEARING
THAT KIND OF IS A DEAD GIVEAWAY
THAT THEY’RE AMERICAN. YOU KNOW, YOU START TO TALK AND
THEN YOU FORM AN INSTANT BOND. AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT
HAPPENED WITH THESE LADIES. LEONE: FOR THESE WOMEN, BRAZIL
BROUGHT THEM CLOSER TO THEIR
AFRICAN ROOTS. IT’S HOME TO THE SECOND-LARGEST
AFRICAN POPULATION IN THE WORLD
AFTER NIGERIA. 90% OF THE RESIDENTS HERE IN
SALVADOR CLAIM AFRICAN HERITAGE. AND THAT’S WHAT DREW RENEE HERE,
GIVING UP A SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN
WASHINGTON, D.C. RENEE: WHEN I LIVED IN THE U.S.,
I HAD MY OWN HOME. I HAD A TOWNHOUSE. I HAD A CONDO THAT I WAS RENTING
OUT. I HAD TWO CARS. YOU KNOW, I WAS SUCCESSFUL. I HAD A PRIVATE PRACTICE. I WORKED PART-TIME IN A
PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL. AND I GAVE IT UP. I GAVE IT ALL UP. LEONE: GAVE IT UP TO MOVE HERE. THIS FAVELA, A LOW-INCOME SHANTY
AREA IN THE CITY. RENEE LIVED HERE FOR TWO YEARS. SHE SAYS WHAT SHE LACKED IN
MATERIAL COMFORTS, SHE GAINED IN
JOY. RENEE: IN SALVADOR, THEY HAVE
THIS HAPPINESS, THIS ALEGRIA,
THIS HAPPINESS THAT IS INTERNAL
WHICH I THINK IS PART OF THEIR
RESILIENCE. THERE ARE A LOT OF ISSUES. THERE IS POVERTY. THEY DON’T KNOW WHERE THEIR NEXT
MEAL WILL COME FROM SOMETIMES. SO FOR THEM, TO BE ABLE TO SAY,
OK, I’M FACING THIS DESPAIR, I
DON’T HAVE FOOD, I DON’T HAVE
WATER. BUT THEY ARE GOING TO GO TO THE
BEACH AND HAVE FUN. THEY ARE GOING TO DANCE. THEY ARE NOT GOING TO LET
ANYTHIN GET THEM DOWN. I HAVE LEARNED A LOT FROM THAT. LEONE: WITHIN THE FIRST COUPLE
OF MONTHS OF LIVING HERE, SHE
DECIDED SHE WANTED TO GIVE BACK
TO THE COMMUNITY AND OPENED A
FREE CLINIC. RENEE: I WOULD DO THERAPY. I WOULD DO REIKI, ENERGY
HEALING. I WOULD DO MASSAGES. NOW, BEGIN TO BREATHE IN THE
SAME PATTERN. I WORK WITH ALL POPULATIONS. BUT PARTICULARLY, I LIKE TO WORK
WITH THE AFRO POPULATION BECAUSE
WE HAVE A LOT OF TRAUMA. LEONE: SHE ALSO HOPES TO LURE
MORE AMERICANS HERE. RENEE: I’M BRINGING WOMEN,
AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN, WOMEN OF
COLOR, FROM THE STATES TO
EXPLORE BAHIA, TO RECEIVE THE
HEALING THAT BAHIA HAS. HOW YOU FEELING? WE’RE ABOUT TO GET DOWN AND
PARTY IN SALVADOR! LEONE: FOR NOW, SHE’S SHARING
THAT HEALING WITH HER NEWFOUND
FRIENDS IN TOWN. SHAKING OFF HARDSHIPS THEY MAY
FACE BACK AT HOME, FREE TO JUST
BE, AS ANOTHER NIGHT PASSES IN
SALVADOR DA BAHIA. SOLEDAD: WHAT COULD IMPACT
AFRICAN AMERICANS’ TRAVEL TO
BRAZIL? THE COUNTRY’S NEWLY-ELECTED
FAR-RIGHT PRESIDENT HAS JUST
ISSUED A SERIES OF EXECUTIVE
ORDERS TARGETING BRAZIL’S
INDIGENOUS GROUPS, DESCENDANTS
OF SLAVES, AND THE LGBTQ