The Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange of Sacramento (Brazilian Center) has been dealing with its own dilemmas since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saara Burga, right, from the Brazilian Center hands out food to a homeless individual in midtown Sacramento. Burga and other members of the center just started the program on July 23, and will perform it every Wednesday. (photo by Antonio)

But the members of the performance art center in midtown Sacramento have not forgotten how to express acts of kindness and compassion.

Last week, a few members of the Brazilian Center distributed free food packages to a homeless encampment under the Highway 50 overpass near 21st and X streets.

The scene was emotional as the members were greeted by individuals occupying the area. Tents, recreational vehicles, and hollowed out automobiles are used for shelter and any donations are beneficial.

“What we are trying to do is help out as much as we can,” said Archie Kelly, President of the Brazilian Center. “We really don’t have the resources. But we have a licensed kitchen and people like the Brazilians can help out tremendously.”

There were only 25 food packages handed out that day but Kelly said that he hopes those numbers expand in the coming weeks. The members of the Brazilian Center want to hand out food every Wednesday and they will reach out to the sick and shut-ins on the journey.

The targeted locations are between 10th streets to the west to Alhambra to the east. Cesar Chavez Park is also on the agenda. Other necessities such as water, hand sanitizers, and toiletry will be handed out as well.

“We still need donations of hand sanitizers, gloves, and masks,” said Blue Brown, one of the Brazilian Center’s members who volunteered to distribute food. “It’s the things they need that we don’t think about normally. These people don’t have access to that out here. They need help.”
A Sacramento Superior Court judge on July 16 issued a Writ of Mandate requiring the City of Sacramento to prohibit homeless sweeps and clearing of homeless encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The encampments have swelled up in downtown Sacramento, including in neighborhoods such as Oak Park. Kelly said that’s when the members of the Brazilian Center activated their humanitarian plan to support the homeless.
The locations along X, W, and parts of U streets are not the most favorable spots for the homeless. But they are serving a purpose. Homeless people tend to be transients and they move frequently.

Still, more can be done about their situation, Kelly said.

“Basically, this is good for them because they don’t have to worry about the elements and no one really bothers them down here,” Kelly said. “It’s a good location but it’s also sad where people have to live under a bridge in a country like ours.”

The mission of the Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange of Sacramento is to serve and enrich Sacramento by fostering a thriving and inclusive multicultural community. The center shares art, food, music, dance, and performing arts to create cultural awareness, peace, tolerance, and a better world.

The center also focuses on promoting the appreciation of vibrant Latin American cultures by bringing global cultural experiences and fun to the local community through immersive arts, culinary, and musical events, as well as education.

Somba, Capoeira martial arts, the Portuguese language, yoga, youth programming, and educational opportunities are all offered at the Brazilian Center. But since the coronavirus took over normal living in Sacramento, the center’s activities have been suspended.

“We can’t do anything because we can’t have large groups,” Ms. Brown said. “Right now, we’re just trying our best to support our communities because they supported us.”

Saara Burga, who conducts many programs at the center, said her husband and child were reaching out to the homeless for the last three years in downtown Sacramento, specifically Richards Boulevard.

Ms. Burga said she has seen the changes.

“It’s shocking. We see that COVID-19 has crept out on us,” Ms. Burga said.

But now we really see the necessities to help here and in South Sacramento. It’s overwhelming. Everyone needs a little help.”

The Brazilian Center for Cultural Exchange of Sacramento is at 2420 N Street. The center is closed due to the COVID-19 crisis but the kitchen is open and prepares Brazilian food for pickup, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

For more information about donations for the homeless, call (916) 387-7344.

By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer