Culture Is Our Weapon
Making Music and Changing Lives in Rio de Janeiro
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
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An inspiring mission to rescue young people from drugs and violence with music
At a time when interest in Brazilian culture has reached an all-time high, and the stories of one person's ability to improve the lives of others has captured so many hearts, this unique book takes readers to the frontlines of a battle raging over control of the nation's poorest areas. Culture Is Our Weapon tells the story of Grupo Cultural AfroReggae, a Rio-based organization employing music and an appreciation for black culture to inspire residents of the favelas, or shantytowns, to resist the drugs that are ruining their neighborhoods. This is an inspiring look at an artistic explosion and the best and worst of Brazilian society.
"Examines the music and cultural tumult of the Brazilian favelas with a clear eye. ... Neate and Platt bring a deeply curious outsider's perspective to Rio, and the book moves easily from cocktails on elite balconies to government offices to the dangerous favela streets. ... [They] tackle complex political issues without it ever feeling like they're delivering a lecture, partly because they weave in the voices of people involved."
-Los Angeles Times
"What makes the AfroReggae story compelling is the blend of idealism and realism that Jose Junior, the founder, must have to work in his environment: the idealist view that culture can actually provide the first rung or two on a ladder that will help kids escape the violence and poverty of these slums, and the realistic assessment of what needs to be done to make that happen."
-John Schaefer, WNYC Music Hub
"The stories depicted here are suspenseful and horrifying, but more importantly, inspirational, as one group strives to bring peace to what is otherwise a war zone."
-Weekly Dig (Boston)
"Neate and Platt do an excellent job of capturing the captivating energy and many conflicting emotions of the favela communities through first-person accounts."
"As the book weaves through both the culturally rich and violent realities of Brazil, the reader in turn oscillates between admiration and absolute horror. ... [Culture Is Our Weapon] offers a rich background on the corrupt, political reality in the country-it explores the way in which music in general has played a role in Brazilian's lives and delves into the individual lives of favela residents, giving a unique perspective on the way social classes function."
"Platt and Neate ask people internationally to think about the images and stories we hear about Brazil, not just the poverty and oppression, but the stories that are often hidden beneath the surface. Those stories are of the social revolutions that the people of these communities are creating, and the ways they are finding success."
"The work of AfroReggae of changing a community through the arts is inspirational. ... When I finished this book there is no doubt in my mind that the arts can save a community."
-Reading in Color
"An inspiring book about the good things happening through Grupo Cultural AfreReggae. ... [A] tale of the people of Rio and the power of music to celebrate ethnic diversity, level social inequality, and provide hope for the oppressed community."
-Mom Most Traveled
More than 150 writers from 40 events will gather in New York City for PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 28 – May 4, 2014.
For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org