Can grassroots organizations build power during a global pandemic? If it depends on the Brazilian youth, the answer is a resounding yes!
The Youth Uprising Movement, Levante Popular da Juventude – a youth-led social movement – has been setting up mutual aid networks in 21 states led by youth in favelas (slums), schools and rural villages. Levante’s campaign “Youth-led Solidarity: Building Beyond COVID-19” is bringing together youth, families, unions and social movements and shaping the narrative around the pandemic.
Created in 2012, the Popular Youth Uprising Movement (Levante) is formed by three major groups: rural youth from other social movements, university and high school students, and low-income youth. Currently, Levante is represented in all 27 states in Brazil and it is organized in local, state and national collectives.
COVID-19, a catastrophe
Globally, the numbers of COVID-19 cases and human losses keep growing every day and it is hard to see the end of it. In countries like Brazil, where the President tries to sweep the human disaster under the rug, the COVID crisis is claiming hundreds of lives each day. Brazil has currently one of the highest rates of death by the number of cases. The steep increase in cases has yet to include the number of people in rural areas and slums that will not have access to tests and much less medical support.
The emergence of widespread diseases, combined with the dismantling of social networks and privatization of essential services, risks the lives of millions of working families, mostly Black, Indigenous, Latinos and undocumented workers.
Levante’s youth have organized themselves in local collectives bringing information on how to prevent contagion and identify those who are affected by COVID, as well as food and hygiene and medical supplies.
Building power on the existing resources
In comparison to other Brazilian social movements, Levante is as young as its members. Nevertheless, it has spread throughout Brazil like a wildfire becoming a well-established mass movement showing that young people are reclaiming their right to a future. For over six years now, Levante has been organizing youth from different backgrounds and like a powerhouse, they are building on the experience and knowledge of other social movements.
Two initiatives by Levante are bringing together young people of color in Brazilian favelas to dream with a new life, fueling the youth protagonism in the country’s grassroots organizing. The “We Can Do More” (Podemos+) preparatory courses is offering classes free of charge for low-income and mostly Afro-Brazilian youth so they can improve their chances in admission tests for public universities, the best schools in the country. Without that support, very few young people from favelas would have a chance to gain a degree. Levante has set an ambitious goal of recruiting 1,500 teacher volunteers and registering 500 students in the “We Can Do More” course. The second action is “Us for Us” (Nos por Nos), a six year-old initiative that combines solidarity actions with grassroots organizing in poor communities, seeking to strengthen the youth protagonism in their communities. Through the “Us for Us” initiative, Levante has built deeper connections in slums and other low-income neighborhoods in major cities in Brazil, building self-esteem among youth and their families. It embodies the spirit of self-reliance and an organizing strategy that is connecting young people throughout the country.
Both the “Us for Us” initiative and “We Can do More” courses are the basis for the Youth-Led Solidarity Campaign (COVID-19) which is being built with a long-term view of strengthening the youth organization in the different areas and communities in Brazil. This campaign’s goals are to show youth solidarity in local communities and the health of the general public, build unity among young people and other social actors in Brazil and globally, in this moment when mutual help and solidarity are extremely necessary and to strengthen the organization of working people.
Levante has also started working with other sister organizations – such as the Landless Workers Movement to coordinate the logistics for distribution of supplies. The products to be distributed are purchased or donated by unions and social movements and Levante members coordinate the cleaning of the products, assembling of baskets, and distribution to local families. For example, in the city of Rio de Janeiro alone, Levante’s goal is to support 500 families in communities where they have already been working. In addition to the distribution of food, the youth are also organizing to clean their neighborhoods, improve the self-esteem of residents and reduce the spread of diseases. They are also checking in with families periodically to make sure people receive the needed medical attention.
The youth energy and power of Levante gives us hope that many lives will be saved, and the pain of uncertainty will be mitigated for thousands in Brazil. Levante plans to prioritize the state capitals of Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Fortaleza, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and São Paulo. The inspiring work of Levante deserves our attention and solidarity. Please make a donation to Levante here. WhyHunger is committed to direct 100% of the received donations towards Levante’s COVID-19 response initiatives.