The site dedicated to Brazilian women of African descent
Note from BW of Brazil: Overcoming a number of obstacles, Vera Veronika is a woman of various accomplishments. Her achievements and outlook as a black Brazilian woman represent very well the objective of this very blog. In the piece below, Vera touches on a number of issues that are a mainstay on the BW of Brazil blog, including black identity, struggle, music, challenges, growing up in ‘hood, religion, etc. Read her inspiring story below and at the end of the article be sure to check out Vera in the studio doing her song “Heroína”.
A parda or (light) brown-skinned woman talks about what it is to a preta (black) woman *
A militant in the Hip Hop movement since year 1992, Vera Veronika is a rapper, educator, speaker and producer of cultural events aimed at disadvantaged communities, young people in risk status, racial and gender issues and social projects .
Her 1st solo album titled Vera Veronika canta MPB-RAP: Música p/o Povo Brasileiro em Rítmo e Poesia (Vera Veronika sings MPB-Rap: Music for the Brazilian People in Rhythm and Poetry), a CD with 26 tracks, of interludes and songs, Raps, Sambas, Reggae and MPB, with guest participations of GOG, X, formerly of Câmbio Negro, Dino Black, DJ Raffa, R-DY, REY- Cirurgia Moral, among other names of Brazilian Rap.
Hip-hop is for the Federal District as Rock was for the Plano Piloto (1). The city disputes with São Paulo for position of leading producer of talent of the cultural movement that expresses the creative force of black youth from the periphery. In the early 1980s, while Legião Urbana (2) was blowing up in the whole country, in Ceilândia (3), which was then considered the largest favela (slum) in Brazil, appeared the first break dance groups. “At that time no one had any idea what graffiti was, rap sung in Brazil was (that of) the American. From Ceilândia came the first rap group from Brasília (4) and the third of Brazil, the Magrellos” says DJ Raffa, one of the pioneers of the Hip Hop movement in the city.
Three decades later, Rock has lost its vigor and black cultural expression of the four elements (break, graffiti, rap and DJ) renovated its beats and offers to Brazil its own musicality, engaged in the experience of blackness and periferia (periphery) (5). Owner of Griô Productions, Jaqueline Fernandes lives intensely with hip-hop. She says that Brasiliense rap (rap from Brasília) feeds the cultural diversity of the country’s capital. “MC Rapadura, for example, is from Ceará (6), the son of a repentista (7). He raps very different from anything that is made in Brazil, including São Paulo. He mixes rap with embolada (8) and the result is a way of singing that is his alone.” If before, Hip Hop production in the Federal District was concentrated in Ceilândia, the manos and manas (young men and women of Hip Hop culture) of Planaltina entered the circle. The centennial city has is home to at least 20 rap groups. “DJ Bolatribo, considered one of the best music producers in the national rap scene, lives there. His productions are inspired by the style done in Los Angeles with bits of Dirty South. The result is a sound for blowing up any dance floor.”
Gradually, women are rising to the stage. The girls of BSB-Girls came to represent the break of Brasília in “battles” all over the country and even in Europe. Battle is how Hip-Hop denominates the break championships. The most renowned girls rap group, Atitide Feminina (Feminine Attitude) have already pocketed three Hutúz awards, the most important national Hip-Hop award. They also recently won the award for the “revelação da década (revelation of the decade)”.
Four years ago, Cerrado (ecoregion of the state of Goiás) Hip-Hop brought together 15,000 young people at the Torre de Tevê (9) “without any police reports,” says DJ Raffa. “We’re going to the battalion [of the police] to request a license and they give it on time, no problem.” Brasilia is also the capital of the four elements.
My mother is an artisan in Feira da Torre, I was raised there. She is mother crecheira (10). My father is a civil servant. My parents divorced when I was 8. With the separation, we left the Núcleo Bandeirante (area) and went to live in Entorno, at Posto 7, an old prostíbulo (brothel) in Brasilia. At that time, she already had two legitimate daughters and 11 children that she was picked up on the street. As we worked at the fair, there was always a mother would always appear and ask: ‘Can you watch my child for a week’ and many never returned to pick up their children. So far she has counted 103 children who have passed through our home. It’s not a nursery, it’s our home, which we call the Recanto da Paz (Peace Corner).
As many truckers passed by Posto 7 and there was a spot for drug trafficking, my mother always said: ‘From the gate inside is our home. We will try to dismantle everything that happens around here’. Most of my colleagues either got into trafficking or prostitution. But my mother always said, ‘You’re going to study, you will not be corrupted.’ But it’s hard to not get involved with that situation. It was then that I found rap.
“You need to empower yourself”
My mother is a Kardecist (11) and always taught us: ‘What do you do for the next one that comes to you’ So, we learned to help people, but I was still little. One day, I went to a craft fair at UnB [University of Brasilia] and met a rapper named Dino Black. At the time I heard Axé, Olodum and Margareth Menezes. He told me about a singer from Brasilia named X, of (the rap group) Câmbio Negro. That music really moved me because we have always been treated as a sub-race, poor, woman, black. My single mother living in Posto 7, what did she want? In that place with a bunch of children? Either she does child trafficking or is a prostitute too or she takes care of the children of prostitutes. This is what people used to think. And we even took care of the children of prostitutes during the day so they could go to sleep and work.
Then I heard a Câmbio Negro song where it said: ‘Que sub-raça é a p.q.p.’ (What sub-race is the puta que pariu)’ (12). I thought, ‘My God, can I cuss? Can I say what I want?’ That motivated me. It was 1992. I had already written some things, but I never turned them into rap, I always turned them into Axé. I started listening to the beats and look for people in Rap. And here in Brasilia there were no women in Rap. There were two, but they did backing vocals. I began to face a lot of gender bias, being a woman and entering such a masculine universe.
My mother said: ‘Look, you will not be able to fight with all these men at the same time. You need to empower yourself first. Finish school and go to college.’ She always insisted that: ‘You have to study, you have to be someone, you have to show that women can, that the woman is powerful.’
In the family, we were always negros (blacks), I never had a doubt of my blackness. We learned with my mother listening to Samba and songs that addressed racial issues because it was our identity. I didn’t even know that it was ideology, an identity, but it was already constructed. She worked on this very well with us. As in childhood we didn’t have television, there were not commoditized by the branqueamento (embranquecimento or whitening ideology) of Xuxa. When I saw TV, I was already 14.
With the history of empowerment, I became a college professor, I took my master’s and now I’m trying (to attain) a Ph.D. I will work in a turban, African clothing, clothing that I make myself and some people ask me, ‘You are not so black, why do you wear this hair?’ And I respond: ‘My melanin is like yours, but my trajectory is negra (black) and I cannot deny my ancestors.’ Then I tell a little bit of history of when blacks came to Brazil. When they were brought from our mother land, they gave seven returns in the tree of forgetting to leave everything there, only that they didn’t leave it, they brought it. They are in the ghettos, they built the favelas (slums), they made music that people dance to. When white women burned their bras, black women were already working in their houses. It’s a whole historical process that has no denying. I know who I am and where I am.
I went to a private college with a scholarship at Valparaíso (13). But I faced a difficulty: I wanted to talk about Rap as a pedagogical tool and I didn’t have a doctoral advisor. Nobody wanted to advise me, because nobody understood it. And then I faced dissertation panel alone. I cannot let other people go through this. I did a postgraduate in teaching in higher education and specialized in scientific methodology to be able to help those who will do the work of course completion. Today, I am a professor at the Universidade Estadual de Goiás (14) (State University of Goiás) and Professor of Law 10.639/03, of African and Afro-Brazilian History and Culture in schools Luziânia (15). And I’m a professor at Unicesp (16) in Guará, in the area of diversity, inclusion and scientific methodology and I still do consulting for MEC (Ministério da Educação or Ministry of Education) in gender and sexual diversity. And if on the weekends there is some show, I’m there.
“Professor, are you a macumbeira?”
The family of my father and my mother is Catholic. Until I was 10 or 11 years old, I was baptized and had first communion. Then I went to find my own way. I am from a religion of African origin. I am the daughter of Xangô with Oxum (17). In college, students have a lot of anxiety when they see me wearing a white turban on Friday: ‘Professor, you are a macumbeira?’ (18) I am. Do you know what macumba means? When you pick up the dictionary, you will see that it is written: religion of Afro-Brazilian origin. And to it was incorporated all the beliefs and dogmas of Brazil. But there it’s written that you kill chicken, that you light candles. You need to know things and know that they deal with nature and animals and with being ‘. And then you go talking.
Until today, I live in the old Posto 7. I have a companion, Negro Dé, a Rap singer. We share this history of music and life. We have an NGO working on issues of race, gender and Hip-Hop culture. If I leave Valparaíso, I think I’ll lose a bit of my identity. When I get home around eleven thirty at night, still has a group of young people that in end up (in the world of) crack. So what? Am I going to cover my eyes? Am I going to go live somewhere else? There’s a Brazilian rapper who says: ‘You can leave the favela, but the favela does not leave you.’ The periphery will not leave me, the issues for which I fight will not leave. Why am I going to leave?
Vera Veronika – Heroína
1.The Plano Piloto of Brasília, in the Distrito Federal (Federal District) was projected by Lúcio Costa in 1957 for the urban project of the new capital city. Source: Wiki
2. Legião Urbana (Portuguese for Urban Legion) were a Brazilian rock band formed in 1982 in Brasília, Distrito Federal. The band primarily consisted of Renato Russo (vocals), Dado Villa-Lobos (guitar) and Marcelo Bonfá (drums). In its earlier days, Legião Urbana also had a bassist, Renato Rocha, but he would leave the band due to creative divergences. Legião Urbana was disestablished de facto in 1996 because of frontman Renato Russo’s death, and de jure in 1997, but even to this day it is one of the most famous Brazilian rock bands, alongside Os Paralamas do Sucesso, Titãs and Barão Vermelho. Source: Wiki
3. Ceilândia is an administrative region of the Federal District, Brazil. The city has about 398,374 inhabitants and is the administrative region of largest population in the Federal District. Source: Wiki
4. Brasília is the federal capital of Brazil and the seat of government of the Federal District. Administratively, the city is located in the Federal District which is in the Central-West Region. Physically, it is located in the Brazilian Highlands. It has a population of about 2,562,963 (3,716,996 in the metropolitan area) as of the 2008 IBGE estimate, making it the fourth largest city in Brazil. Source: Wiki
5. In Brazil the term periferia, meaning periphery, carries a pejorative meaning, since it represents an area of poverty. Unlike in the United States where outlying areas of cities are inhabited by an affluent middle class, in Brazil is inhabited predominantly by poor people, since the spatial distribution of the population in different income groups in Brazil and Latin America is reversed, with richer groups occupying the core of the city. The term subúrbio, or suburb, is also used in the same sense. Favela is a community with all the aspects of a neighborhood but the predominant aspects of the region are financial and social difficulties.
6. Ceará is one of the 27 states of Brazil, located in the northeastern part of the country, on the Atlantic coast.
7. Repentista refers generally to a popular poet in Portugal or Brazil, an improviser that, on any topic, spontaneously delivers a poem on the spot or de repente (meaning suddenly), which accounts for the name. Repentista poets fall into the tradition of oral literature and pamphlet literature of a particular region or country. Source: Wiki
8. Embolada, Coco de embolada, Coco-de-improviso or Coco de repente is a kind of art that emerged in northeastern Brazil, where it is especially popular. Consisting of a pair of “singers” that, to the energetic and “batucante” sound of the tambourine, come up with metric verses, with a quick and improvised attempt to tarnish the image of whatever the topic is with dual offensive verses, infamous for cursing and insults. Source: Wiki
9. Torre de TV is a television transmission tower constructed in Brasília and inaugurated in 1967. Source: Wiki
10. A woman who runs a day care center and takes care of children
11. Kardecist Spiritism or Kardecism is a spiritualistic doctrine created in the 19th century by Allan Kardec. Its largest body of followers is by far that of Brazil, where it is one of the main established beliefs and called just “Spiritism” (Espiritismo in Portuguese).
12. P.Q.P meaning “puta que pariu” literally means “whore/prostitute that gave birth” as is often uttered by Brazilians in situations of euphoria or frustration similar to the usage of “filho da puta”, meaning “son of a whore”. In the sense of the song, the phrase could be translated in many ways as in the previous definitions or in English “wtf (what the fuck)”.
13. Valparaíso de Goiás is a city and municipality in east-central Goiás state, Brazil. It is a suburb of Brasília. Source: Wiki
14. Goiás is a state of Brazil, located in the central part of the country. Source: Wiki
15. Luziânia is a city and municipality in the state of Goiás, Brazil.
16. ICESP – Instituto Científico de Ensino Superior e Pesquisa in Guará, an administrative region of the Federal District
17. Oxum or Oshun, in the Yoruba religion, is an Orixá/Orisha who reigns over the freshwater rivers, love, intimacy, beauty, wealth and diplomacy. Is also a deity of Candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion). Oxum/Oshun is the owner of gold and the ijexá nation. She has the title of Ìyálòdè among deities. Oxum, Iansã and Obá were wives of Xangô. Source: Wiki
Xangô, Sango or Shango, is an Orixá/Orisha of Yoruba origin. His myth tells that he was King was the city of Oyo, identified in game merindilogun by Odu Obara, ejilaxebora and represented the material and immaterial in the Candomblé religion through the sacred settlement of igba xango. Source: Wiki
18. Macumba is a word of African (Bantu) origins. Various explanations of its meaning include “a musical instrument”, the name of a Central African deity, and simply “magic”. It was the name used for all Bantu religious practices mainly in Bahia in the 19th century. In the 20th century, these practices re-aligned themselves into what are now called Umbanda, Quimbanda and Omoloko. The term “macumba” became common in some parts of Brazil and it is used by most people as a pejorative meaning “black witchcraft”.
The word “macumba” is frequently used in Brazil to refer to any ritual or religion of African origin (as slang), and although its use by non-practitioners remains largely pejorative in intent (referring to all sorts of religious (or otherwise) superstitions and luck-related rituals and beliefs), and is considered offensive, its use among actual practitioners is not viewed negatively. In Brazil one can find expressions such as “chuta que é macumba!” (“kick it, for it be witchcraft!”) to show disagreement with bad luck. Source: Wiki