With the Help of Local Organizers, Jussara Looks to Secure Housing for Her Family
The Lanceiros Negros (“Black Lancers,” in English), a social movement and coalition of mostly black women in Porto Alegre, Brazil, has been a vocal advocate for adequate public housing and services. In November 2015, fifty families began occupying the former Public Ministry’s office in central Porto Alegre as a way of drawing awareness to their struggles.
Jussara is a Black Lancer. The 59 year old grew up on a farm in the heavily-immigrant area of São Jeônimo, where her father moved “because he was African.” She moved to Porto Alegre to work as a babysitter for her father’s boss, and has lived there for 35 years. Now, Jussara lives in a unit of the Black Lancers’ building with her husband and son and daughter’s families— ten people in total.
The family has a combined monthly income of US $780. Because they occupy the apartment illegally, they do not pay rent; instead, the Black Lancers provide food, water, and electricity for the residents. Jussara pays $31 a month for train and bus tickets, and she describes their quality as “okay.”
Compared to the Demhab (Municipal Department of Housing) public housing unit Jussara’s family used to have, Jussara prefers her new space. After decades of evictions and unsafe living conditions, Jussara joined the Black Lanceiros movement. In one of her previous homes in the Menino Deus area, a man threatened Jussara’s young son at gunpoint, and a gang sacked her house soon after, leaving her family with nothing. “That’s the problem,” Jussara says, “The government just ‘throws’ people anywhere, but it doesn’t protect us.”
Safety and affordability are important for Jussara, and she hopes to someday have the opportunity to move further downtown for the job opportunities and proximity to entertainment and city life. These opportunities, she says, are not available in small cities; small cities “haven’t evolved” like central Porto Alegre.