Note from BW of Brazil: One has to really appreciate the power of seeing a group of prominent black women coming together. Negras Empoderadas (Empowered Black Women) has been a common phrase among many Afro-Brazilian women in recent years and I’m happy to have followed this growing movement for so long. Talk of ’empowered black women’ has found a place in numerous articles in the past few years on this blog, but I first introduced you to this specific network of Afro-Brazilian women back in March of last year and we saw yet another excellent display of this unity, bonding and common goals among successful black women at the “Women That Inspire” TED Talks São Paulo event last July (covered here last month) that featured an inspiring group of black women that shine in their various fields.
Well, today, I have the pleasure of featuring this group again! Last month in the United States saw the debut of an inspirational film, Hidden Figures, based on the true story of three African-American women mathematicians working at the 1960s NASA space program. I haven’t seen this film yet and wasn’t even sure if it would debut in Brazil. Of course, Brazil’s film industry has long been dominated by American films, but having been long disappointed with the number of American films, specifically those with black stars or primarily black casts, that never make it to Brazilian movie theaters, I wasn’t sure if this movie would make it or not. As it turns out, there are a number of Afro-Brazilian women who have also been anticipating this film’s debut in Brazil.
Back in 2014, I brought you a report on 100 black Brazilians coming together to watch the film 12 Years a Slave (12 anos de escravidão in Brazil) at an upper crust mall in Rio de Janeiro. This was newsworthy for a few reasons. 1) In recent years, we’ve seen Brazil’s more privileged classes reject the presence of lots of black and presumably poor people frequenting malls that generally attract richer shoppers. 2) Rarely do black Brazilians get to watch films in which the majority or large part of a film’s cast and/or director were black. 3) As black Brazilian stories are extremely rare in Brazilian cinema, it showed once again how Brazil’s black population identifies and sees itself in film and television productions featuring African-Americans, particularly those that mirror the Afro-Brazilian past or reality (The Help and 12 Years are but a few examples). Hate to sound like a broken record, but it never fails to astonish me how Brazil insists that the US is a more racist country than Brazil when black films or films with black protagonists are quite common there and extremely rare in Brazil. Of course only considering film representation of black people in the two countries and using it as a measure of racism would be inconclusive but considering so many other areas of Brazil in which Afro-Brazilians are extremely under-represented and we can definitely make some assessments.
The only thing I would add to today’s topic is that, while it is great seeing Afro-Brazilian women organizing to feel empowered, I DO hope that they know that the unity and ascension of the community as a whole can never be complete until this unity includes black men.
Network of empowered Afro-Brazilian women organize to attend a showing of the figure Hidden Figures; group already has membership of more 4,600 black women
Showing of the film Hidden Figures brings together empowered Brazilian women
Film tells the story of black female NASA scientists during the space race
By Juca Guimarães
Good stories of overcoming and breaking paradigms are essential in the scripts of the successful films of American cinema. They are also inspiring stories that change the lives of thousands of people, over many generations, around the world.
This is the case of the movie Hidden Figures (released as Estrela Além do Tempo in Brazil) based on the true story of three black women who were central to the American space program, in a period still marked by racial segregation and prejudice.
Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) is a powerful example of empowerment and unity for black women. Here in Brazil, a select and combative group of women also promoting their collective empowerment revolution, but with a more expressive number of participants; there are 4,657 (and growing).
Created in November 2015, in the French consulate in São Paulo, by 23 black women from different fields of activity, the network aims to create spaces for construction and transformation, according to a lawyer Mayara Silva de Souza, 24, one of the founders of the group and also the idealizer of the closed session of the movie Estrela Além do Tempo in the first meeting of the group this year, on the 7th, at Shopping Eldorado, the ticket costs R$25 and registration is done on the page of the event. About 100 places are available.
At the request of R7 (news site), Mayara drew up a list of seven films and a book on the empowerment of black women. Check out a few recommendations and chat with the lawyer.
A Cor Púrpura (The Color Purple) (Steven Spielberg)
Filhas do Vento (Joel Zito Araújo)
25 de julho – Feminismo Negro Contado em Primeira Pessoa (Avelino Regicida)
Vidas de Carolina (Jéssica Queiroz)
K’BELA (Yasmin Thayná)
Histórias Cruzadas (The Help) (Taty Taylor)
Libertem Angela Davis (Angela: Portrait of a Revolutionary) (Shola Lynch)
Sejamos todos feministas (We Should All be Feminists) (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
The event organized by Mayara takes place on the 7th
R7: How did you come up with the idea of bringing together a group of empowered black women to watch about a film about empowered women together?
Mayara: When I watched the trailer I imagined how beautiful it would be to be able to watch with other black women so we could hug and cry together. Cry of emotion, struggle, and resistance and having certainty that we are not alone, though a great part of the time we feel alone. In one day there have already been more than 100 people confirmed and more than 500 with interest. Then I saw that it was possible to bring together a time of women to see the film.
A7: Did you expect such a big response and commitment?
Mayara: I didn’t imagine there would be such a fast support, but I knew it was a collective dream, I believe that many mulheres pretas (black women) watching the trailer thought the same thing I did, the difference is that I created a Facebook event, they just affirmed “we’re together”.
R7: What is the history of the rede negras empoderadas (empowered black women network)?
Mayara: The group was born from 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 them and create spaces of construction and transformation with the help of Solange Barros and Elis Santana. That night, 23 women at the meeting, we exchanged lots of energy and filled ourselves with love. There were: Eliane Dias, Adriana Lessa, Rachel Maia, Karine Amancio, Glaucia Unal, Márcia Cabral, Anélis Assunção, Thulla Melo, among many other incredible women. I had met Alexandra that morning at an event on Restorative Justice, at the building of USP (University of São Paulo) Law School, and she invited me to the meeting, I went and we’ve been together since then.
R7: What is the group’s position on racism and feminism?
Mayara: We are a network with 4,657 connected women. We held some meaningful meetings. Last year, for example, in celebration of Dia da Mulher (Women’s Day), in March, the dear Eliane Dias [from Boogie Naipe productions] prepared for us a meeting in São Paulo. In April at the Carrefour Institute we had an empowerment coach who brought together more than 300 women organized by the former consulate Alexandra Loras. In November, we had the Café Empoweramento das Negras, organized by Patrícia Santos de Jesus. Another meeting was held in the salão de festas (party hall) of the condominium of Glaucia Unal, who is also part of our network, on that day we had the honor of listening to Juliana dos Santos and Priscila Fonseca talk about their research, it was an incredible experience.
R7: What are the plans for 2017?
Mayara: This year we are planning the 1st Reading and Debate Group: Mulheres Negras/Pretas Empoderadas (empowered black women), still in the first semester. There are many collective actions, besides the personal actions of each, whenever possible we open it to the network.
R7: How are the actions of the network articulated?
Mayara: We are a big network and we try to be together in the debates, but it is not always possible. Earlier last year, we released a repudiation note against the BBB 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 mulher negra really understands our particular issues, group identity, and representation.