BrazilFoundation president, Leona Forman, delivers speech about the importance of the Foundation’s partnership with Amazônia Brasil (Saude e Alegria Project), and its creation of the “Amazon Communities Fund,” in response to region’s pressing social and economic needs.

Leona Forman, President of BrazilFoundation

On the balmy spring evening of April 22nd, about 200 hundred New Yorkers and tourists congregated at the city’s South Street Seaport in celebration of opening night of Amazônia Brasil – a three month series of events designed to raise awareness and support for the indigenous peoples and resources of the Amazon. True to advance billing, the jungles of the Amazon really seemed to come alive in the “concrete jungle”!

Amazonian life – its various flora and fauna – was everywhere in evidence, all exquisitely arranged throughout the massive indoor venue. Audio of the Amazon world of birds and insects and assorted primates literally filled the air, and visitors could traipse through replicas of the wood and straw village huts, as well as get close-up views of tools and handicrafts strewn about as though only temporarily abandoned by Amazonian inhabitants.

Diretor Geral da Amazônia Brasil, Eugenio Scannavino Netto

Messages on giant placards urging action and containing stark facts about deforestation, dwindling indigenous communities or reduced biodiversity confronted the visitors at every turn. Ceiling-high movies of forest life animated the scene, as did a number of flat-screen TV’s poking out from the greenery with informational videos.

The speeches at the ceremony itself were a testament to the timeliness of the Amazônia Brasil exhibit – offering city-dwellers, for whom “Amazon” and “Rainforest” and “climate change” might only be trendy buzzwords, a distinctly experiential grasp of Amazon life as well as a “deep dive” into the issues confronting the Amazon that now so urgently warrant people’s attention, and more importantly, their support in developing sustainable solutions.

All the speakers – from Amazônia Brasil Director Eugenio Scannavino Netto to Manhattan Borough President, Scott Springer, to Mariza Graça Lima (wife of Brazilian Ambassador, Graça Lima), “brought home” this point. BrazilFoundation’s President, Leona Forman spoke about the vital importance of the Foundation’s partnership with Saude e Alegria Project, Amazônia Brasil’s organizers, noting that funds raised and deposited in the Foundation’s “Amazon Communities Fund” would be channeled to Amazônia Brasil-selected projects in order to respond to the region’s pressing social and economic needs.

Mariza Graça Lima, esposa do Embaixador Graça Lima

The ceremony ended on a sober but inspiring note. Members of the indigenous Amazonian Tribes, Guajajara, Manchineri, Tukano and Surui sang and offered prayers that all in attendance at the ceremony and at upcoming Amazônia Brasil events would find the necessary wisdom and heart to participate in the stewardship of Amazonian life, its indigenous peoples and its extraordinary natural wonders.
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Amazonia Brasil Opening Reception

Sônia Guajajara, Sabá Manchineri, Miquelina Turkano and Almir Suruí

Gaetano Scannavino Filho, General Coordinator of PSA (Projeto Saude e Alegria) and Leona Forman

Flanklin L. Feder, President, Alcoa América Latina, with Leona Forman

Bernt Reitan, Executive Vice-President Alcoa Inc.

Stephan Schartzman, Anthropologist & Program Co-Director, International Program, Environmental Defense Fund

Manhattan Borough President, Scott Springer