This man is a scholar by day, street-sweeper by night

By day, Felipe Luther studies at one of Brazil’s top universities above Rio de Janeiro's wealthy beachside neighborhood of Leblon.

By night, he hauls trash in the affluent communities below.

"For me, in the beginning, I would think it was not going to work out. Those thoughts that I had that this is not my place, that this is not for me, that the highest point has happened."

Luther received a full scholarship in 2017 to study social sciences at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio.

But his daily routine points to the vast inequalities in Brazil.

A police raid killing dozens last month stirred fresh debate about the dangers and disadvantages facing Black men like him.

Almost 9,000 people have been killed by police in Brazil over the last decade.

More than three quarters were Black men, according to Human Rights Watch.

"After having lost so many colleagues and running away from crime and everything, you know, being out, not being a prisoner, you know. Not being an incarcerated Black body, a dead Black body or trafficking or doing something bad. For me to be studying is something that, in the beginning, I could not imagine going back to study in this university."

54% of Brazilians have African ancestry.

But there is an overwhelmingly white elite.

In 2000, the national census found white Brazilians were five times more likely to have attended university than their Black, mixed race and indigenous peers.

Educational inequalities have only grown during the pandemic with remote schooling relying on resources at home.

Luther reads at night by candlelight in his student residence, which has been without power for months.

He charges his phone and laptop at work and uses them to study until his street-sweeping shift from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Once he graduates, Luther wants to teach college prep courses in low-income communities, opening the door for the next generation of aspiring students.

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