What does it take to move the world?
Meet the individuals who represent a new guard of social justice, building a future grounded in equality for all.
That first expo was a success, drawing 5,000 visitors. In later years, however, Barbosa struggled to keep her vision alive. She faced racism (she was refused permits to operate in certain neighborhoods); funding issues (she had to help sweep up 30,000 feet of outdoor event space because she couldn’t afford a cleaning crew); theft (once, someone stole the money from ticket sales); and debt—all of which made her almost give up. She didn’t because she saw the pride it brought to everyone who participated and attended. She began to break even with each event. Today, Feira Preta is billed as the largest Black culture event in Latin America with 700-plus exhibitors and crowds topping 50,000.
Feira Preta now falls under PretaHub, Barbosa’s latest—and boldest—venture yet. PretaHub is an effort to build a fair and balanced entrepreneurial ecosystem and strengthen the presence of Afro-entrepreneurs on a global scale. It is an umbrella for initiatives dedicated to catalyzing Black entrepreneurship in Brazil, including AfroLab, a program that helps businesses expand; AfroHub, which helps companies leverage technology to grow; co-working space Casa Preta; and Black Codes, a methodology that tracks company diversity used by the likes of Google and Facebook. Barbosa has influenced public policies at both municipal and federal levels that promote Afro-entrepreneurship—essentially getting others to recognize what she did nearly two decades ago. And she’s taking her pioneering approach to economic empowerment to other countries with large Black populations like Colombia and Bolivia.
Barbosa once said, “When you take away the culture of a people, you kill them.” In giving people an opportunity to own and showcase their culture, she is helping them thrive.
Illustration by Agata Nowicka