Campanha politica em Minnesota

Desde que eu me graduei em maio da Universidade de Minnesota com um bacharel em Ciências Políticas, e Francês, eu tenho trabalhado na campanha do partido Democrata (Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party). Eu sou o Organizador Comunitário para os latinos no meu distrito e no resto do estado.

O sistema político-partidário atual dos Estados Unidos é bipartidário, que consiste dos partidos Democrata e Republicano – o primeiro é liberal socialmente e economicamente, ex: Barack Obama, enquanto o segundo é conservador nas mesmas áreas, ex: George Bush.

Enquanto no Brasil o voto é obrigatório, aqui o voto é eletivo – ou seja, vota quem quer. Mas as comunidades marginalizadas não votam e não tem devida representação nos governos. Comunidades latinas, asiáticas, negras, indígenas não entendem que cada voto conta, e não votam. Se você não se sentar à mesa, estará no cardápio. E aqui, quanto mais gente vota, mais gente vota democrata. Há seis anos o Senador Al Franken ganhou por 312 votos no estado inteiro. E o governador Dayton ganhou por 0.4% dos votos. Imagina se cada voto não conta?

De Junho até o dia das eleições em Novembro nós temos que mobilizar a comunidade latina, registrar novos votantes, ajudar com que mais cidadãos participem do processo cívico, que entendam as diferenças entre partidos, e que votem. Eu passo todos os dias recrutando voluntarios e estagiaros que falam espanhol, e que possam me ajudar a sacar o voto latino. Eu represento a campanha em eventos politicos e crio conexões entre os eleitores e os candidatos. Através de um plano para engajar eleitores e criar poder na comunidade latina, eu toco portas, faço chamadas, e me reuno com membros da comunidade local todos os dias. Durante a semana estamos no escritorio das 9:30 as 21:30, de 10 as 20 nos sabados, e de 11:30 as 21:30 nos domingos.

As eleições são em uma semana, no dia 4 de Novembro, e com a ajuda dos meus voluntarios, nós tocamos 7500 portas, fizemos 19800 chamadas, registramos 360 novos eleitores, e ajudamos outros 370 a votar mais cedo.  Nós focamos em distritos onde a comundidade latina grande o suficiente para decidir o resultado das eleições.

Eu estou trabalhando 80 horas por semana porque eu acredito que responsabilidade civil é fundamental para o sucesso da democracia. Mas acredito que também ser um participante ativo em sua comunidade e no governo pode parecer mais como um privilégio do que um direito. E estou trabalhando para mudar isso. Eu quero que a juventude Latino tenha a mesma representação e oportunidades que um jovem de uma comunidade mais privilegiada. Como muitos deles, eu não posso votar, mas isso não significa que a minha voz que não pode ser ouvida. Eu aceitei este trabalho porque eu queria fazer barulho, registrando eleitores para votar e lhes ensinando sobre o precesso civico de Minnesota.

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Graduation Party



After 1364 days, 25 international flights, 14 transcontinental flights, 7 host families, 4 colleges I am finally graduating from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors degree in Political Science.

Only 7,9% of Brazilians graduated college. Come celebrate this overrated occasion with me and my Brazilian family!

Half the people I invited are not even in this continent. But I wanted them to know I am thinking of them. If you fly in for this, you will be redirected to the open bar area.

If you speak Portuguese, please come entertain my family. I don’t wanna be the only person they talk to for two weeks.

BYOB! JK, I heard caipirinhas will be provided for those with fake IDs.

The Brazilian



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Tamkharit, the simple life and the discrimination

I’ll warn you up front that the ten following days weren’t nearly as exciting as the first ten.

November 7 | Day 10 in the village: When I walked into my room to go to bed, I saw this huge spider on the corner, next to my opened suitcase. I thought it was a prank; it looked like a sticker or a rubber spider from far away, I’m not sure. It was simply too big to be real. I have seen tarantulas before, and I know they aren’t dangerous. But when you are in the middle of the freaking sub-Saharan Africa, you can’t tell apart what kills you from what makes you stronger. I do have a mosquito net, but that doesn’t keep even bloodsuckers from getting to me. So, I didn’t take my chances. I killed her. Even if that meant having even more mosquitoes flying around! Chasing crickets before going to bed, while the power is out is another current issue.

November 8 | Day 11 in the village: Before leaving Brazil I bought dozens and dozens of bonbons to give my host families and friends. I finally ran out, and I hadn’t even started giving them out yet. I did eat my feelings though.

On a more important note, during my time in the village gender gaps became even more obvious, and I observed a lot about attitudes toward workplace equality or lack thereof. My host brothers don’t help around the house and I was told they couldn’t even prepare a meal if they had to, because that is the women’s job. While visiting schools, my host mother told me that in most religious cities, the number of girls in school is a lot smaller, because they have to stay in the house and work. The idea that through education you can achieve a better life is not inherent to the human being, and it definitely doesn’t rule in Senegal.

November 9 | Day 12 in the village: I just found out that my host mom had 24 host siblings growing up. Her father had four wives and they all lived in the same house, with some of their relatives as well. And I thought growing up with two older sisters and living across the hall from a 15 year old American boy was tough enough.

November 10 | Day 13 in the village: In Sokone sheep are like dogs, and pigs are like cats; people raise them just for the sake of raising them. They are pets – they don’t go on walks or get funny names like Bear or Kodiak but they are pets. And donkey carts are like SUVs, you can fit just as many people in/on, and it is cleaner for the environment.

November 11 | Day 14 in the village: Yes! The City Hall of Sokone finally has Internet and air conditioning in some offices (not mine). No! The village still doesn’t have paved roads or enough electricity power to supply for everyone, not every child is in school and there is garbage everywhere. Can you say PRIORITIES?

November 12 | Day 15 in the village: Every day when I walk to work I hear people yell “toubab,” followed by an awkward silence, as I walk pass them. I understand I am one of the few outsiders and non-Negros in town, but to be honest, I always get a little upset whenever I hear that. I don’t understand what the need is in singling out someone based on their skin color, grounded on your personal prejudices, and racism. What? Is that not discriminatory? So, it would be okay if I replied “Yes, darkie?”

As if the racist slang didn’t suffice, “toubab” is also often followed by “donne-moi de l’argent” (“give me some money”), based on the misconstrued assumption that we are all rich, and come bearing gifts. So, every time I hear someone say “toubab” on the street I urge to go all Race and Culture Studies 101 on them. But I take a deep breath, and keep on walking. They aren’t challenging me to a dual. It’s our fault as toubabs – for reproducing this vice of giving locals money and handouts when visiting. I also understand that they don’t say it with bad intentions. But here is what I have learned; it’s not because they mean no harm, means they do no harm.

I have stated several times my disapproval to the term “toubab,” and I tell them that my name is “Babou Lakhas”, but they insist on the Wolof term.

November 13 | Day 16 in the village: Every country and culture has its own way of celebrating New Years. While the ball drops in New York, and people dress in white and drink Champagne in Brazil, Senegalese kids cross-dress and go from house to house asking for candy and playing the drums. Yet, all that matters is that to celebrate the Muslim New Years, I stuffed myself with chicken, and hung out on the rooftop – away from all the children. It really doesn’t take a lot to make me happy here. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more about what this holiday is, but they explained it in Wolof and I couldn’t understand a thing besides “[lek]” (to eat) and “[guina]” (chicken).

November 14 | Day 17 in the village: I waited until sundown, put on my shortest shorts, my leather shoes and went out for a run. As I passed the city hall, I realized they had left the Wi-Fi on, so I went online to make sure the outside world was still okay. Half an hour later I forgot what I was initially doing and walked back home.

November 15 | Day 18 in the village: I have been doing the no shave November thing all along and hadn’t noticed. I might as well keep it up until the end of the month. Plus, my host brighter says it’s cool. People here can’t grow beards at all. However, I might shave it all soon; the whole beard thing makes my cheeks look bigger. Or maybe it is all that bread.

November 16| Day 19 in the village: My friends and I decided to go to Touba, the holy city of Mouridism and the burial place of its founder, Shaikh Aamadu Bàmba Mbàkke. To get there, we could either take a bus or a taxi. So, when I was told to look for a seven-place car, I imagined a minivan, or an SUV – something spacious and roomy. What I got instead was this old Fiat with the trunk ripped out to make place for three more people. There you go, now you have a seven place vehicle. They sure are industrious!

November 17 | Day 20 in the village: Living in Sokone has showed me how much I disliked Dakar. Yes, it had great burger joints and beautiful beaches, but it was also chaotic, dirty, and neither welcoming nor friendly. I always felt as if I were just renting a room with the family in Mermoz. They didn’t know how to talk to students, they weren’t kind to my friends, and they weren’t honest. It didn’t take too long for me to realize they were taking advantage of me.

In the meanwhile, my host family in Sokone is loving, sharing and caring. My host mom has hosted several students before, and she understands my needs and concerns in the village. She is patient with my language skills and feeds me well. I lucked out here, and I will miss it when I’m back in the big city.

The Women of Senegal – Part 3

For those women who work their butts off in the kitchen, while their men watch TV. For those girls who work all they in the fields, while their fathers sit in the shade. For those who slave away in an overtly sexist, die-hard misogynist country.

Para aquelas mulheres que trabalham duro na cozinha, enquanto os homens assistem TV. Para aquelas meninas que trabalham o dia inteiro no campo, enquanto seus pais descansam na sombra. Para aquelas que são escravizadas em um país abertamente sexista, e extremamente misógino. Continue reading

The Women of Senegal – Part 2

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World Bank once published that “There is no investment more effective for achieving development goals than educating girls.” And as much as I think that it’s a no brainer: educating girls is primordial; I have run into people who disagree.

During my first week with the organization, I had the opportunity to accompany Adji Sanghor in her traveling, and together we visited over twenty schools in the area – where we met with the young girls sponsored by the program “Nos Soeurs à l’école” (“Our Sisters in school”). We spent entire days on the road. The trip was tough, and the roads were awful. It’s not even fair to say there were potholes in the asphalt. Instead, there were some asphalt chunks on the dirt roads. But that is not what I want to talk about. Continue reading

The Women of Senegal – Part 1

Sokone, Fatick, Senegal | Mercredi 6 Septembre 2013

Women’s Global Education Project is a ten-year-old organization founded on the belief that a society thrives when there is universal education, gender equity, and women who are empowered to be independent. Started in 2003 by a former Peace Corps volunteer (who lived in Sokone in the 1990s with the same family I’m living with now), WGEP partners with local organizations in Senegal and Kenya to increase the educational outcomes of young women. UNICEF estimates that worldwide, some 117 million school-aged children do not attend school, 62 million of them girls. Attendance rates are lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 57 percent of girls are in school, and just 15 percent of these go on to secondary school. Continue reading

The locals, the tea and the quality time

Hi, I’ve updated the post with photos from each day and a Portuguese translation :D

October 28 | Day 1 in the village: My host family’s house is still under construction. After losing everything they owned in last years flooding, they had to start from scratch. So today, as I moved in, so did my host brother, sister and her brother in law who were all living elsewhere. We are starting our new lives together. Here, time really is people, and on my first night alone, I hung out with my host family for seven hours straight! We were together the second I arrived, at 19 o’clock, until the moment I went to bed at 2 in the morning. We hung out as they prepared dinner in the living room, and on the rooftop afterwards as they made me ataaya tea. We talked for hours, which made me feel included from the get go, and the host siblings made sure I had everything I needed before going to bed. Continue reading

The second half

Sur le chemin de Sokone, Senegal | Lundi 28 Octobre 2013

I didn’t come to Senegal solely for the academics. What drew me to this program more than anything else was the opportunity to do an internship during part of my stay in West Africa. The idea of spending seven weeks in a classroom in Dakar leaning French, a new language (Wolof) as well as taking country analyses, public health and sustainability and environment courses was great, but spending six extra weeks simply working and experience the pace of life in a small village is what made me sign up for the Minnesota Studies in International Development. Continue reading

We are here to study the ocean

Plage de Mermoz, Dakar, Senegal | Samedi 7 Septembre 2013

Continue reading

The sheep, the Boubous and the Tabaski

Mermoz, Dakar, Senegal | Mercredi 16 Octobre 2013

What a beautiful, cultural and satisfying day! I probably shouldn’t have gone to bed as late as I did yesterday, the little sleep I got did not suffice for the intense Tabaski marathon. In Senegal the feast of Eid al-Adha, know as “Tabaski” in the west African country, is a busy and expensive time for families. Tradition demands that Muslims celebrate the holiday with a freshly slaughtered sheep. It wasn’t pretty, but it was so yummy! Everyone purchases new, flashy, fancy tailor-made outfits in advance and reserve their sacrifice even months before – people can pay between $40.000 FCFA ($85 USD) for a baby sheep 150.000 FCFA ($310 USD)  for an adult male. And you get to feed it, pet it and play with it until Tabaski morning. Continue reading


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