By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – After widespread criticism, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City has decided not to host the Brazil-United States Chamber of Commerce’s “Person of the Year Awards” dinner honoring Jair Bolsonaro.
“With mutual respect for the work and goals of our individual organizations, we jointly agreed that the Museum is not the optimal location for the Brazil-United States Chamber of Commerce gala dinner. This traditional event will go forward at another location on the original date and time,” said the AMNH in a statement earlier this week.
The museum came under fire after the Chamber announced it was hosting a gala there featuring Jair Bolsonaro as “Person of the Year.”
Activists, members of the academic community, and museum professionals quickly mobilized to get the museum to cancel the event.
“Even by just hosting, you are lending (and risking) your reputation. Please do the right thing and cancel,” wrote Adriana Abdenur, International Peace and Security Coordinator at Brazilian think tank Instituto Igarapé.
“Hey @AMNH, if this happens I will resign as a research affiliate with you and I will organize a boycott of your institution by every single person I know in anthropology. You should be ashamed,” tweeted Anthropology professor Paige West.
Action-oriented movement Decolonize This Place went even further: “Cancel the event honoring fascist Bolsonaro or we shut it down.”
Even New York mayor Bill de Blasio came publicly against the initiative, claiming that Bolsonaro is “dangerous” and urging the museum to reconsider.
AMNH employees also protested. In an open letter to AMNH president, in-house anthropologist Jacklyn Grace Lacey harshly criticized the museum.
“The Museum claims to be a champion for protecting and promoting biodiversity, which is wholly inconsistent with honoring a president who has pushed an agenda of aggressive anti-environmentalist policies, climate change denial, and extractive development in the Brazilian Amazon,” she wrote.
“Furthermore, hosting an event to honor a president who is so openly hostile to indigenous, black, women’s, and LGBTQIA causes is a stain on the Museum’s reputation which negates the nominal efforts it has recently made to grapple with its legacy of colonial violence and racism.”
The letter, published as an online petition, was closed after receiving an overwhelming number of signatures.
The Brazil-US Chamber did not issue a statement about the change of venue, stating that Bolsonaro is being honored in “recognition of his strongly stated intention of fostering closer commercial and diplomatic ties between Brazil and the United States and his firm commitment to building a strong and durable partnership between the two nations.”