Note from BW of Brazil: One of the main problems one finds when discussing issues affecting the Afro-Brazilian community is the lack of representation. Throughout the entire 20th century and on into the 21st century, Brazil has done an excellent job of making sure its black citizens don’t recognize themselves and their history. This practice of making an entire people invisible is a form of symbolic death and the symbolic death, in the case of Brazil, is often re-enforced with the promotion of a slow physical death that we see happening in so many ways across the country.
In order to reverse this ideology, black people must be able to recognize themselves, their importance and value as a people. The media has proven time and again that it will continue this standard of invisibility, and as such, one of the most important avenues of self-discovery is literature, another area where Afro-Brazilians have been basically shut out, both as authors and as characters in books. And even when Afro-Brazilian writers manage to release books, they are often very hard to find in the large booksellers. Which is why the initiative created today’s subject needs all of the support it can get!
Ketty Valêncio creates bookstore focused on Afro-Brazilian authors
The Africanidades bookstore, founded by entrepreneur Ketty Valêncio, has a collection of more than 60 books written only by Afro-Brazilian writers
By Anna Laura Moura
Racial prejudice manifests itself in many ways. Although public and aggressive demonstrations of racism are less and less frequent, subtle undercover discrimination – the one disguised as suspicious attitudes and phrases – still exists and is everywhere, in large institutions and spaces.
To help combat this lack of representativeness, the librarian Ketty Valêncio, 34, founded Livraria Africanidades. It has a little something in it: books on black feminism, comics, poetry and religion, all written by black women and men. In all, there are more than 60 copies.
Ketty holds a degree in Library Science from the School of Sociology and Politics of São Paulo Foundation (FESPSP) and founded the bookstore in order to promote black representativeness in Literature, which was absent in both her undergraduate and in other programs.
In an interview with CLAUDIA magazine, Ketty says that her first contact with Literatura Afro-Brasileira (Afro-Brazilian Literature) began very early. “I discovered it from the time of high school to undergrad. For me, it healed me and saved me. I saw myself in those books, and I felt that I could do anything I wanted,” she says.
The librarian says that racism in college is very present, but in a simple way. “Everything I studied had nothing to represent me. All made by white men, just like the students.” For her, blacks are missing in every space. “Undergrad is white,” she says.
Livraria Africanidades arose from Ketty’s desire to make black people see themselves in the books they read, and used her course as a basis. “Through the librarian’s eyes, we transform lives, we manage to direct subjects and visions. It is from there that Africanidades (Africanities) takes place ” Then, in 2014, her project would emerge.
But of course, to create your own business, you need to have a little knowledge in entrepreneurship. The librarian prepared herself sufficiently. “I did an MBA at FGV (Fundação Getulio Vargas), where I was able to create a business plan. After I finished this course, I went to run the bookstore in the face and with courage,” she says.
The bookstore is not the main source of profit for Ketty, who has a fixed job as a librarian. For her, her project represents a black and resilient militancy in a Euro-centred society. “We fight in all spaces. Being a black woman, I am questioned, invisible and silenced. So just my presence is already a great resistance,” she says.
The books of the collection are purchased by consignments or negotiated directly with the author or publisher. One of the criteria for the material to be part of the bookstore is to be little known, since the idea is to give visibility to alternative works with little prominence. “The more unfamiliar to me, the better. Especially if it’s for black women,” she explains.
In addition to Africanities and fixed employment, Ketty has other activities in the area of militancy: she has participated in feminist groups and currently works in partnership with Eparrei and Heroicas no Mercado (heroes in the black market) – an Afro culture fair where black women can promote their company and sell their products.
The bookstore does not yet have a physical location, only digital. However, it works in person in the event stands of Afro culture and at a point of service in the Paola Afro Hair salon, located in district of República, in downtown São Paulo.
The entrepreneur says that the physical store is still a dream, but is on the way. “Every black woman has a wonderful story to tell and to offer. When we invest in it, we give her the possibility to continue fighting, living in the world,” she says. We’re cheering for you, Ketty!