Note from BW of Brazil: They did it!! I first brought you the organizing of this event a few weeks back. A growing network of professional black Brazilian women connecting with each other for support and to build a sense of empowerment planned to come together in celebration of a film featuring black American women overcoming similar struggles of racism and sexism to prove that they are just as capable as anyone else. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again; Brazilians always want to speak of how racist the United States is, but where are similar, inspiring stories about black Brazilians overcoming obstacles and being told on the big screen, or even the small screen for that matter? Afro-Brazilians have long looked to images, stories and representations of African-Americans because, in all honesty, not only does Brazil make it so that such stories are few, but it also has very little interest in presenting such stories as important pieces of its history. For this reason, we celebrate two things here. A little told, but important story about three African-American women and the 300 Afro-Brazilian women who came together to participate in a success story of their “sisters” from the north!
300 black women in a movie theater make a big difference against racism
“Juntas somos mais fortes”, meaning ‘Together we are stronger’ was the inspiration of the get together in a SP movie theater
By Juca Guimarães; all photos by Gisa Senna
A group of 300 black women went to see the movie Hidden Figures (released as Estrelas além do tempo in Brazil) about the fundamental participation of African-American women scientists at NASA during the space race earlier this month in a movie theater in the western region of the capital.
The get together, planned and carried out by attorney Mayara Souza, 24, was part of the activities and events of the group “Negras Empoderadas” (Empowered Black Women)”, which began as a small gathering of friends and became, in very short time, an important and inflamed forum of social and political debates and articulations.
The story of the film, about the visibility of black women in American society, establishes a very expressive parallel with the daily struggles and challenges of these independent, brave and vibrant Brazilian women willing to change the world, knocking down prejudices and barriers.
The exchange of ideas and experiences in the group is very enriching because, despite the common points, they are women of different profiles and life histories. Each one contributing as she can to collective growth and personal victories.
The group brings together lawyers, doctors, TV hosts, artists, businesswomen, executives, entrepreneurs and students. Many of them didn’t know each other personally until the day of the film showing, but through the internet and the messages on cell phones, they created strong bonds of friendship and solidarity.
“The idea of uniting black women was fantastic, because it made me see that there are other women who go through the same things that I go through daily,” said executive secretary Ana Lúcia Bernardes, who has to face prejudiced looks when she is walking in a shopping mall in the city’s south zone or driving her imported car.
“This is an important moment for the mulher negra (black woman), especially for the Brazilian woman. It’s time to show your value. A woman can and should take everything she wants. It was spectacular the idea of gathering 300 black women to see this movie. Militants or not, it was possible to see that they all left with an additional burden of motivation,” said maquiladora (makeup artist) Taís Estáquio, 33, who found the film’s critical approach to racism and machismo interesting. “It has its Hollywood commercial weight, however, it successfully dealt with these issues,” she added.
“The group helps all of us, women from different parts of Brazil, to know that we are not alone, that there are black women fighting, growing and reaching great achievements. Black women also hold prominent positions in society, unlike the image that is imposed, always in conditions of inferiority,” said Lilian Machado, company administrator, who went to see the film with her mother.
Psychiatrist Telma Nascimento thought the film was wonderful. “Education and intelligence can break down barriers. They were sensational women who fought for their goals. They are examples that must be known and followed,” said the doctor, who took her sister (an engineer) and her 81-year-old mother who is a plastic artist. “We love to see so many mulheres negras, beautiful, marvelous, with their cabelos crespos naturais (natural kinky/curly hair) and heads held high. Together we are stronger,” she said.
The organizer of the gathering, Mayara Souza, considered the meeting very positive. It was an opportunity to discuss and analyze some specific points that reinforce racism in society, for example, the translation of the title of the film into Portuguese. From the original title, the literal translation would be “figuras escondidas.”
“In my opinion the title in Portuguese romanticizes racism, in an attempt to silence our cry, something that unfortunately is recurrent when the subject is racism here in Brazil. We have no doubt about the historical difficulty in talking about racism, “Figuras escondidas” (meaning ‘hidden figures’) would lead anyone to a reflection on the theme, ‘Estrelas além do tempo’ (meaning ‘stars beyond time’) no longer allows such objective and quick reflection if you are not part of any movement or participating in groups that are open to racial issues, hardly only with the reading of the title will you be able to perceive the intensity of the message passed on,” said Mayara. The issue of adapting the political discourse of the film was one of the reasons for the gathering.
The question of the adaptation of political discourse of the film was one of the reasons for the realization of the gathering. “I thought it was important to watch the movie with other black women so as not to leave any annoying noises in the messages in the movie,” said Mayara.
Created in November 2015, at the French consulate in São Paulo by 23 black women from different areas of activity, the Negras Empoderadas network aims to create spaces for construction and transformation. Currently, the group has almost five thousand members.
‘When I watched the film’s trailer I imagined how beautiful it would be to be able to watch it alongside other black women so we could hug and cry together. A cry of emotion, struggle and resistance and having certainty that we are not alone, although most of the time we feel alone,” recalled Mayara.
Mayara also tells how the group emerged. ‘It was born of a conversation on November 24, 2015, at the French consulate. Alexandra Loras, at the time consulate, invited a group of black women to create a network to strengthen us and create spaces of construction and transformation with the help of Solange Barros and Elis Santana. That night, 23 women were at the meeting, we exchanged a lot of energy and filled each other with love. There, were: Eliane Dias, Adriana Lessa, Rachel Maia, Karine Amancio, Glaucia Unal, Márcia Cabral, Anelis Assunção, Thulla Melo, among many other incredible women. I had met Alexandra that morning at an event about Restorative Justice at the University of São Paulo Law School building and she invited me to the meeting, I went and since then we have been together.
The group is also a protagonist in actions to combat racism. “Last year, we released a repudiation note against the BBB (Big Brother Brasil reality show) 2016 steel sponge [which depicted a black woman]. Daily we have news of violence, racism and machismo, unfortunately we can’t act in all cases, but we are together and this is very important because often the black woman is alone even if she has a serious relationship and a busy social life, only another black woman really understands our particular issues, identity of groups and representation,” said Mayara.