In the commercial flight industry in Brazil, racial inequality is the norm, and Black flight attendants represent only 5%. When it comes to pilots, the percentage is even lower.

This data was brought to light by the group Quilombo Aéreo (Air Quilombo), a collective created in 2016 that aims to bring airlines in Brazil more diversity.

Quilombo Aereo was created by two Black women flight attendants, Kenia Aquino and Laiara Amorim. Quilombo is the term for communities of black slaves who resisted the regime that prevailed in Brazil for over 300 years.
Laiara Amorim (left) and Kênia Aquino (right)

“It’s not fair that we are so few in this sector, and we want to change that,” Kenia Aquino told Travel Noire. She said that she was inspired by OBAP ( Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of minorities in all aviation and aerospace careers.

Quilombo Aéreo’s plan is to make Black people see the aviation industry as a professional option, by providing the necessary tools for those Afro-Brazilians who want to become flight attendants or pilots.

Information is scarce in Black communities in Brazil, so one of the priorities of “Pretos Que Voam” is to visit those communities, so that young Black Brazilians can understand that aviation can be their reality.

“It’s my life purpose, to make it happen.”

The two Black flight attendants launched a project called ‘Pretos Que Voam’ (Blacks Who Fly), which offers full scholarships for Black people to take flight attendant training courses and thus include more Afro-Brazilians in the industry.

“I want other Afro-Brazilians to experience it,” said the commissioner.

Initially, the project had not received any support from airline companies. However, the project had financial support from several non-governmental organizations, in addition to collective funding that raised around $18,000. The course was completed this month, and ten students graduated— all of them received scholarships.

Next year, the Quilombo Aéreo fundraising campaign wants to make the Pretos Que Voam project even bigger, consolidating its goals and bringing more and more opportunities to Black Brazilians.

“We intend to become a civil aviation school, being that this is the first Brazilian civil aviation center. With the goal reached from the year 2021, the scholarships will already be distributed in Black communities of Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul’s capital), and extended to all of Brazil in the following years,” Kênia Aquino said.