James Meredith is better known in many other countries of the world than he is in his own. One of those nations that he has been praised as a great bastion of Black potential is Brazil. And on Tuesday, April 25, Meredith claimed that a meeting in Jackson with his good friend and sponsor from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jader Nicolau Jr., was “one of the greatest days of his life.”
“He’s the second most important person in my structure in the world,” Meredith said of Jader during lunch at Bully’s Restaurant in Jackson, “because he brought me to Brazil in 2003, and I have long considered Brazil to be the second or third most important nation for Black people after the United States.
“Jader showed me the real Brazil because he was the real Brazil. He lived in an area similar to West Jackson called Atibaia. He showed me the regular Black neighborhoods in Brazil. And he showed me the middle-class areas there also. And you can’t be in Brazil without noticing some of the same things you see in Mississippi. There is the Black thing and the white thing.”
Jader, however, says “the universe” was responsible for bringing James Meredith to Brazil. “He was the right man for the right cause at the right time. And so, it happened,” he said.
Jader, now 65, is the founder-director of the Brazilian NGO Portal-Afro based in Sao Paulo and Atibaia.
Meredith’s second trip to Brazil, in 2005, was sponsored by the United States Department of State. But the U. S. Embassy in Sao Paulo severed its connection with Meredith when he spoke on Brazilian national television about the repression of Black people and the white supremacy he witnessed in Brazil.
“The American government not only sponsored my trip,” Meredith said, “they took me all over Brazil. But they suddenly discontinued their association with me because I did an interview with the same newspaper that Jader had read about me in and had seen the picture of me from the New York Times. I used the words ‘white supremacy.’ And the ambassador to Brazil called me and said I should not ever use those words, or they would have to cut off our relationship. And they did because I would not agree to not use that term.
“I understand the significance of it because for fifty years in America the only person who used that term was James Meredith – white supremacy. Everybody else, white or Black, was afraid to use the term. Presidents were scared to use it. I had to get back to the U.S. on my own. I want to give Jader credit, though I’m not sure about what he did to get me back home. I was there two or three weeks, but I only saw him two or three times. It was because of him that the American government had sponsored me. They had also sponsored me on other occasions to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to talk about race relations in the United States. I knew that most people didn’t know anything about that.”
Jader said he also recalled Meredith’s predicament after losing the support of the U. S. Embassy in Brazil.
“The government wasn’t comfortable about his speaking out about white supremacy,” Jader said. “I have an important program, a talk show on television, called ‘Just Life.’ The consulate called about the program with James discussing the white supremacy issue in Brazil. They didn’t like his speaking out about the really oppressive conditions of many Black people in my country, so they cut off his funds.”
Accompanying Meredith and Jader at Bully’s Tuesday was freelance photographer Suzi Altman. She said she is compiling a photo-biography of Meredith expected to be published in the next year or two. Her famous 2002 picture of Meredith brought him in contact with Jader.
“Ms. Altman took a picture of me 40 years ago and that picture appeared on the front page of the New York Times, and because of that, just about every major newspaper in the world put it on the front page of their papers,” Meredith said. “Jader lives in the suburbs of Sao Paulo and is a strong advocate of Black business development and ownership in Brazil.”
Meredith explained the important connection between Bully’s Restaurant and his guest from Brazil, Jader Nicolau.
“Ms. Bully’s role was that back in 1960, 90 percent of businesses in Mississippi’s Black communities were owned by Blacks. Today, there are extremely few. But Bully’s has survived and just recently the Clarion Ledger reported that Bully’s was one of the best-known restaurants in Mississippi. Maybe some people can’t see the Brazilian connection. But my idea was to promote Black business all over the world. And Jader’s hopes and dreams were in alignment with my own. I want people to understand that.
“That remains my goal to this day: To promote Black business worldwide. The present owner of Bully’s is named Tyrone Bully. And his mother was one of only three business owners who identified with me when I became the first Black to enroll at Ole Miss. Ms. Bully’s support was the most important of all in my view, because she fully supported me outright. She was younger then than her son is now. And he is still operating the best-known Black business in Mississippi. And my gratitude for their support continues after 60 years.”
Meredith and Jader plan to continue to cement their relationship. Jader is looking forward to obtaining his green card to continue his work in the United States.