Inspiration aka An Unforeseen National Revolution

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Chelsea Hartigan ’14 is a Royce Sport for Society Fellow researching how boxing and other fighting sports are used as a tool for personal development and crime prevention among youth at the organization Luta Pela Paz (Fight for Peace) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Yesterday I marched. (Safely.) I joined over 300,000 (peaceful) Brazilians and foreigners marching down President Vargas Avenue. I painted my face, held a sign, and chanted the chants. Blue, green and yellow ran through my veins.

The beginning of my trip was not as inspiring. I only received my visa the day before I left; I missed my departing flight from NYC due to a storm, car accidents, and construction; I barely made my connecting flight due to massive disorganization at one of the biggest airports in South America; I scrambled to find a place to sleep my first night in the city; and I realized that I lost more of my language skills than I had thought.

Once settle into my apartment I took a deep breath, looked at my 30-page research plan for the summer, and thought… “What?”

I took this doubt, hid it away when I could, and pushed through. When I went to Luta Pela Paz for the first time this week I remembered why I came back to Brazil. I felt the passion of my coworkers and the energy of Maré that drove me to apply for the Royce Fellowship months ago. Right now, their fight is more important than ever. Everyone’s fight is.

Brazil is currently on fire with social movements and potential for change. People are coming to the streets to fight all types of fights. They’re fighting the current “cure gay” movement led by the President of the Commission of Human Rights. They’re fighting political corruption, the lack of state interest and investment in public health and education, and the continuous hike in cost of living here in Brazil. Brazilians across the country are posting their opinions on Facebook, draping themselves in their flag, and running to the streets as a collective effort to create the change they know they deserve.

This summer I am investigating how boxing can be used as a tool for crime prevention. I am analyzing the mechanisms that exist within this phenomenon. I’m doing this research because I want to understand and share how an unconventional method is being used to combat a conventional obstacle in any developing country – crime and violence. I thought it was going to be a microanalysis of a small community that would relate back to the universal social theories I’ve been studying. I left for Brazil with a nicely wrapped package of where to go, who to speak to, what to speak about, and how to record it. I landed in Brazil and was handed a revolution. As I marched yesterday, all the daunting roadblocks on my path to Brazil seemed irrelevant. Of course I still have doubts, and I know I’ll come across more roadblocks down the line, but the energy and passion of Brazil has once again inspired me to dig deeper than ever.

My question to the Swearer community is how, when you’re presented with something as spontaneous, relevant, and historical as these Brazilian protests, do you continue to stay focused while simultaneously trying to expand your original lens of research? I believe there could be really great connections between these protests and my work in Maré at Luta Pela Paz, but I want to avoid becoming distracted or taking on too big of a project.

Feel free to email Chelsea at Chelsea_Hartigan@brown.edu.

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