Afro-Brazilian Activist Vilma Reis Visits CofC

Posted on August 28, 2023

Contributed by John Thomas III, PhD
Department of Political Science, College of Charleston

On March 20, 2023 the College of Charleston hosted renowned Afro-Brazilian activist and scholar Vilma Reis. Ms. Reis was visiting the United States as part of a tour of Afro-Brazilian feminists organized by Dr. Gladys Mitchell-Walthour of North Carolina Central University. Her visit was arranged by CofC Political Science Assistant Professor John Thomas III as part of his “Politics of Latin America” course. In addition to CLAW, support for Ms. Reis visit was provided by African American Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Political Science Department, the Portuguese Program and Women’s and Gender Studies.

A reception was organized for Ms. Reis with CofC students, faculty, staff, and local community representatives before the lecture. Due to weather delays, Ms. Reis arrived shortly before her talk was due to start. After a brief introduction by Political Science Chair Hollis France, Ms. Reis addressed the packed Stern Ballroom. She spoke on the topic “Race, Gender, People’s Democracy and Political Participation: Political parties and racial and gender (under)representation.” In her lecture, she highlighted the unique political environment that Afro-Brazilian women face and the challenges they face in garnering political representation. Ms. Reis also noted how Black academics and activists from the United States and Brazil have had a series of interchanges that have proven mutually beneficial and reinforcing.

Even after fielding several questions from the attendees, multiple students and faculty members engaged with Ms. Reis up until she returned to the airport to continue her tour. A group of CofC students will return the visit with Ms. Reis this summer in her home of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.