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May 21, 2009
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Lack of blacks on Brazil's catwalks prompts protest

By
AFP
Published
May 21, 2009

SAO PAULO, May 12, 2009 (AFP) - Brazil's top catwalk shows to be held next month could be disrupted by a rogue fashion event featuring only black models unless a perceived racial bias towards whites is overturned, a black advocacy group warned.


Afro-Brazilian women dance as they present outfits during a demonstration against discrimination of Afro-Brazilian models in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil - Photo: AFP/Mauricio Lima

"We will hold a black Sao Paulo fashion week in the street right in front of the Sao Paulo Fashion Week" unless the demand is met, David Santos, of the Educafro group, told AFP.

He was speaking at a demonstration in central Sao Paulo late Tuesday in which black children and youths paraded down a cathedral's steps in an anti-discrimination protest in front of a crowd of 500 people.

Santos said his organization, which fights to boost the number of blacks in Brazil's higher education system, wants to see "greater inclusion" of blacks in the Sao Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW), the premier fashion event for Latin America that runs June 17-22.

The Sao Paulo state prosecutor's office has threatened legal action against the SPFW's organizers unless they increase the number of black models.

In the last SPFW, in January, just eight of the 344 models were black.

The prosecutors and other groups are calling for a quota system to be implemented under which the skin color on the city's catwalks would be more representative of Brazil's population.

According to official figures, just seven percent of Brazil's famously varied population consider themselves purely black -- but another 43 percent see themselves as mixed-race, of African descent. The other 50 percent call themselves white.

A prosecutor from the neighboring state of Rio de Janeiro present at the demonstration in Sao Paulo, Augusto Henrique Pereira de Sousa Werneck Martins, told AFP he backed seeing a quota system -- and not only for blacks.

"I think we should open discussions about handicapped models also being represented," he said.

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