Generation Next: Batekoo

If there was ever a group who embodied the "work hard, play harder" maxim, it would be the Brazilian LGBTQ+ collective Batekoo. Back in 2014, friends and DJs Maurício Sacramento and Wesley Miranda noticed that the African diaspora was underrepresented in their local cultural scene in Salvador, Brazil, despite the city's predominantly Afro-Brazilian population. In response, they created Batekoo, an underground party that not only showcased the rhythms of African communities but also offered a safe space for Black and LGBTQ+ youth in a country that was named the "world's deadliest place for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people" by the New York Times in 2016. Batekoo, which cheekily means "to shake or slap that ass," was "a place where our culture, æsthetics, and behavior were exalted," says Sacramento, "and where we could exercise the freedom to be who we are."

Eight years later, the group's impact has reached far beyond their roots in the nightclub scene. Their rebellious parties, pulsing with funk, carioca, hip hop, trap, kuduro, and more, have taken them from Afropunk in Brooklyn and SummerStage in Central Park to the first festival hosted by Boiler Room in Peckham in 2019. "We have always seen our work as a platform for connecting Afro-diasporic Black cultures," Sacramento says. "To be able to amplify our work in other places of the world and to see the connection between Black musicalities up close was something that we wanted a lot."

In 2020 in 2021, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the opportunities didn't cease completely. As creatives, Sacramento says, he and the rest of the Batekoo crew are used to adapting and responding to changes in the world around them. Though their work had already expanded to include Batekoo Records, a label supporting emerging artists from Black and marginalized communities, and Escola B, a job training program for marginalized youth, the pandemic gave them the chance to build these platforms out. Drawing on a legacy of Afro-Brazilian organizations using culture and education to stimulate social change, they also turned their social media accounts into sources of information about Black and LGBTQ+ youth creatives, activists, and issues in Brazil.

The past two years have been especially tough for the Brazilian LGBTQ+ community, with unemployment rates almost twice the national average. More ominously, the number of recorded murders in the transgender community has surged by seventy percent. But Batekoo's timing has been prescient, and the collective has proven itself to be a cultural force to reckon with. Last summer, Sacramento, Miranda, and other collective members Artur Santoro, Juju ZL, Rafa Balera, and Kiara Felippe will grace advertisements in Brazil as the faces of both Tommy Jeans and Icy Park, the latest collaboration between Adidas and Beyoncé's Ivy Park. In defiance of the dangers and threats to their civil liberties that have been growing ever since far-right president Jair Bolsonaro started his term in 2019, all of Brazil will come face to face with them, literally. As Brazilians who are Black, trans, or gay, they are proving they are here to stay.

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Generation Next: Batekoo

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