Were it not for a brave 17 year old and her cell phone, the world would likely have accepted the official line and never learned the horror of George Floyd’s death: That is the power of grassroots media. Mídia Ninja, a Brazilian media collective with 10 million followers strong across its various channels, are aware of the need to let everyone bear witness to raw reality. Since COP26 in Glasgow, they have been traveling Europe to join forces with groups pushing diverse social and environmental justice perspectives to the forefront.
Mídia Ninjas were created in 2013 when protests against Brazil’s transportation fare hike flashed over into nationwide demonstrations by a young generation fighting for further rights in Brazil. Members of the Fora do Eixo, an activist and cultural collective movement founded a decade earlier, hit the streets with their cell phones to live-stream the reality that mainstream media – controlled largely by six families – was not showing.
The media activists insist on bringing the stories of social movements to light; they focus on those who are fighting big battles – people from the Indigenous, or Black rights, or feminist movements, the movements to end homelessness and landlessness, and to protect LGBT communities. Culture is in their DNA, and they connect people from deeper Brazil, places not afforded space in Brazilian corporate media.
The Ninja media activists arrived at COP26 in Glasgow with a huge delegation of Brazilian civil society, including 60 Indigenous leaders from Brazil, quickly joined by Indigenous leaders from Guatemala, and a mighty crowd of people on the streets.
Devoted to cultural diversity and democratic communication as a human right, the Mídia Ninjas now wish to connect on a broader scale, to build a vast network of activists and leaders, and develop a more diverse narrative. Four members, including founder Marielle Ramires, have been traveling through Scotland, England, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal and Spain, speaking with representatives of Extinction Rebellion, environmental activist Greta Thunberg, and social activist Assa Traoré. But they are not listening only to what activists have to say; they have met also with political foundations in Germany, parliamentarians in Scotland, Sweden, Portugal and Spain, and with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in Brussels.
So many of modern society’s fights are similar – climate change, racism, misogyny, environmental destruction and the violation of vulnerable peoples’ rights, rising extremism. The most important thing would be to connect our battles, to face down problems with a super-international collective.
Conversely, defeating a national figure such as Bolsonaro is not just a mission for Brazil, but for humanity, as illustrated by his ongoing investigation in the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity (FW 267). Indeed, global political extremism that derives power from stoking fears of ‘loss of identity’ and hatred must be countered with more human stories and shared vision.
The whole idea is to listen to everyone, to understand what is happening in Europe, what is happening in the global South. We are all confronting the same crises, and often the people most affected have ideas for solving them, but insufficient resources. Why not connect the solutions?
Fern met the media activists a couple of years ago through common support for Brazilian Indigenous leaders then on an information-gathering visit to Brussels. Fern and the Ninjas have worked on hiring a new “EU correspondent” in Brussels who will send regular information about EU processes that could have relevance for the environment and rights in Brazil.
For the Ninjas, the next steps are to decide where in Europe to open a collective house/work space, and to kick off dialogue. Follow the evolution at https://midianinja.org/, and if you have ideas to share, contact midianinja[at]gmail.com.