April 3, 2017
Representation and diversity are two terms that are becoming increasingly important in various environments today. Yohanna Reis understands this need firsthand. Reis, a 2016 alumna of the Nicholson School of Communication, created a multimedia project that showcases a demographic many people do not know about – Afro-Brazilians.
“I believe a true difference needs to be made since being black in Brazil is not a positive trait to the Brazilian society,” Reis said. “If others recognize and appreciate it, maybe they will begin to love themselves more.”
In October 2014, Reis was invited to participate in a panel for a doctoral class titled “Diversity in Higher Education.” When describing her background, she used the term “Afro-Brazilian,” referring to Brazilian people of African ancestry. Born in Rio de Janerio, Reis was stunned to find that no one was familiar with the term. She realized how few people know of the African roots and influence in Brazil. She began thinking of ways to challenge that issue. “Black in Brazil,” her multimedia project, started with a vision of educating outside cultures about the diversity and African influence in Brazil. The multimedia project includes a website, blog, magazine and social media accounts.
Initially, Reis developed this project for a showcase for the Orlando chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts back in April 2016. Since then, she has received such positive feedback, which motivated her to expand the project. In August 2016, a photographer from Essence.com reached out to feature her project on its site.
“I was so glad that I was able to get noticed by such a wonderful outlet,” Reis said. “I’m going to the Essence Festival in New Orleans this summer and would like to have a more developed online presence for the project so that I can possibly get more people aware. I truly hope to continue growing this idea and to get more and more people aware.”
Originally, Reis was inspired to create a magazine that displays real stories and educates others about what it’s like to be black in Brazil. As a former graduate assistant and current communication coordinator for UCF Academic Affairs, she said her UCF experience has helped her tremendously.
“Being here is what gave me the opportunity to sit on that panel and get inspired. As a student, I learned writing skills that helped me develop the magazine and made necessary connections to get the project up and running,” Reis said. “Dr. Melissa Dodd encouraged me to move forward with my project and I learned a lot about taking the project to online platforms from taking her social media class.”
Of her former pupil, Dodd, NSC assistant professor of advertising-public relations, said, “Yohanna is a passionate and entrepreneurial young woman of immense character,” said Dodd. “I am so proud that she has effectively pursued this important work. Her future is bright!”
Reis remains very passionate about this project and what it can do for others. She plans to re-release the first issue with more content as well as update the website, blog and social accounts.
“I’ve been gathering ideas and potential changes to re-release the first edition with more stories, actual interviews, and at least one article that discusses the history of black Brazilians; I’d love more and more people to know about it and potentially get involved,” Reis said.