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Elizabeth Calvet was a prominent leader and activist in the lesbian, women's, feminist and black movements in Brazil. She had a unique talent for making what we now call "intersectionality" - that is, the interplay of multiple discriminations- visible. She spoke as a lesbian to the black movement, and made them understand that black women could also be lesbians. She spoke as black and poor to the lesbian and feminist movements, shattering many of their misconceptions about who the lesbians are. Thanks to her endless effort, the black movement in Brazil became more aware of sexual diversity, and the lesbian and feminist movements became more race and class conscious.
Ms. Calvet was a founder member of COLERJ - Coletivo de Lesbicas de Rio de Janeiro- and of CEDOICOM - a documentation center for and about black women. In both collectives, she worked mostly with those lesbians with whom no other groups were working: black, poor women living in favelas (shantytowns). She led support groups; struggled with the government to get legal counsel, jobs, and food for the women and their children; worked with doctors and teachers to sensitize them and make their skills accessible to the women in need.
Nationally, Ms. Calvet was known for creating and organizing the now very successful "Seminarios Lesbicos." The Seminarios are gatherings of lesbian groups from all Brazilian states that take place once a year, always in a different town, funded by the national government. Participants are selected by their organizations and get full scholarships. The Seminarios are unique events, where lesbians share skills, plan future actions and evaluate their work.
Ms. Calvet died in September 2001. Brazilian lesbian organizations Grupo Lesbico de Bahia, Um Outro Olhar, Movimento D'Ellas and Associação Lésbica de Minas, have nominated her for the Felipa de Souza Posthumous Award.
The organizations that nominated Ms. Calvet pointed out other exemplary features of her life as an activist. In a heavily centralized country, where Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo concentrate all the attention, the Minas Lesbian Association stated that Ms. Calvet "did not mind travelling to Minas whenever needed; on the contrary, she enjoyed it, because she was contributing something". And Um Outro Olhar adds that Ms. Calvet "knew how to overcome past disagreements (among lesbian groups) and keep in mind what common interests the lesbian communities have."
The Brazilian lesbian movement loses a warrior.
41 year-old, Elizabeth Calvet, died (September 2001) due to a cerebral aneurism. She was an untiring fighter of the cause: brave, bold and one who was never silent.
According to IGLHRC, Calvet spoke out consistently in her life about the interplay of multiple discriminations. Among black activists, she was a pioneer in discussing the existence of black lesbians. As a poor black woman, Calvet reached out to the lesbian and feminist movements, shattering many of their misconceptions about the types of women in Brazil who made up the lesbian community.
Calvet’s most unique contribution came in working with lesbians with whom no other groups was working: black, poor women living in shantytowns or favelas. She organized and led support groups, struggled with government authorities to see that these women and their children got legal counsel, jobs, and food and worked to sensitize doctors, teachers, and other care and service providers to the plight of poor women and children of color.
IGLHRC post-humously honor Elizabeth Calvet, a prominent Brazilian activist and lesbian of color, at its 2002 Felipa Award ceremonies. Calvet, raised issues of sexual diversity within the black movement in Brazil and helped the lesbian and feminist movements become more conscious about race and class. Calvet died in September 2001.