Note from BW of Brazil: All I can say is “rock, rock on sistas!” Mad love to the efforts of so many black women throughout Brazil who have fought anti-African, racist sentiments of a Brazilian society that has always defined Afro-textured kinks, naps and curls as ugly or “cabelo ruim”, meaning “bad hair”. The last decade or so has seen a growing revolution wherever one finds people of African descent in Brazil (1). Across the country, women (and men) are saying, “it is not my hair that is bad; it is your racism!”
This is not to say that the Euro-centric aesthetic doesn’t still dominate the minds of millions of afrodescendente women, but this dictatorship and imposition of only straight hair being acceptable has in recent years been challenged as it never has been before in Brazil’s history. If you’ve read any number of the articles on this blog exposing racist sentiments about natural black hair then you know that this struggle continues. But on one day in this Month of Black Consciousness, Afro-Brazilian women rocked their “black powers”, meaning “afros”, and let Rio de Janeiro and world know how beautiful they really are!
With a childhood marked by racism Bahia woman is 1st Miss Black Power in Rio de Janeiro
“I never participated in a runway (competition),” says Priscilla Maria dos Santos. National competition took place on November 8th in Rio de Janeiro.
By Cássia Bandeira, Danutta Rodrigues and São Francisco do Conde government site
Maria Priscila dos Santos, 31 years old and a possessing a Master’s in Education. This is the name of the baiana (Bahia woman), standing 1.55 m (5’1”), who won the 1st Miss Black Power of Brazil contest, in Rio de Janeiro (RJ). From the neighborhood of Rua Nova in Feira de Santana, Maria Priscila talks about her trajectory marked by racial prejudice and how she had to assert her identity in society. “It was a bad experience,” she reveals.
Living in Rio since June of this year, the Rua Nova neighborhood is recurrent in her memory. “I make sure to register my place of birth and growth; a neighborhood that has always been considered predominant with the black population and called ‘the bairro dos pretos (neighborhood of the blacks)’. During this period, I studied in a downtown high school where that had almost no blacks and there was a greater prejudice on the part of teachers, who said the name ‘bairro dos pretos’ in a derogatory manner,” she recalls.
However, Maria Priscila comments on the education provided by her parents. “I was born in a cradle where my father who was part of a youth group helped found the Afoxé Pomba Dê Malê, in the 1980s. My mother was a queen of the afoxé bloco (2). I lived this experience in this black cradle, in which, with all this cultural effervescence, favored my evolution. I had a privilege that other girls didn’t have,” she says.
According to the educator, she and three more sisters lived in a family that taught them not to be ashamed of their color and accept with pride their identity source. “My father always told me that we had to be proud of our color and not to feel inferior. We didn’t understand this very well. We didn’t experience this issue of racial prejudice. When I studied outside of the neighborhood is when I went through this negative experience. It was there that I understood all that my father talked about racism. He prepared us so well,” she says.
After graduating in Education from the State University of Feira de Santana (UEFS) where she was coordinator of the Núcleo de Estudante Negros e Negras da UEFS (NENNUEFS or Student Center of Black men and women of UEFS (NENNUEFS), and was approved in 2007 in the quota system for blacks along with the rectory of the university, the baiana completed her master’s degree at the State University of Bahia (UNEB).
On June 11 this year, Maria Priscila was living in Rio de Janeiro, with her husband. On September 30th, she was invited to participate in the event, promoted by black women, which earned her the title of Miss Back Power Brasil 2014.
“In October I received a share on Facebook from a friend. She sent: ‘You can win this contest.’ I had already heard about it [the competition] It was black women and entrepreneurs who organized the Mercado Di Preta (Market of the Black Woman). I signed up and was a little discouraged. The invitation was made on September 30 and I knew that the end was on October 25. I sent photos and the video I made from my husband’s cell phone and this video was viewed and shared by multiple people in social networks,” she says.
According by Maria Priscilla, in this vote she was second and another Bahian woman took first. In the competition that lasted from September 7 to 9, workshops and dance were part of the program along with the parade. “It was mandatory and would be the first runway presentation to the public on Friday. I came to walk with two ball gowns, one with the theme “sou uma rainha” (I am a queen) in which I had to wear a turban and the other was a dress with African inspiration. The result came out on November 8th with Maria Priscila coming in1st place.
The city of São Francisco do Conde was represented by Luciana Bispo. Luciana is a resident of Caípe. She was selected from 200 candidates from across the country to parade in the Teatro dos Oprimidos in the Lapa region of Rio, showing the beauty and compassion of black women.
“My hair is my identity and I am happy with my color and my origin. I am black, lesbian and a militant,” said the candidate. Luciana’s companion, Ana Bispo, explained that the contest was actually not directed at the coronation of a candidate, but the enhancement of beauty of the black Brazilian woman. The runway didn’t follow a standard of beauty, so women of all heights and measures could compete.
After participating in the Miss Black Power, Luciana will help in divulging of the Look Black brand. She is also part of the campaign EMUNDE – Encontro Mundial de Empreendedorismo Étnico e da Rede de Mulheres Negras da Bahia (World Meeting of Ethnic Entrepreneurship and of the Black Women’s Network of Bahia). Also, she will participate in the 16 Days of Activism in the Combat of Violence Against Women (Ativismo no Combate a Violência Contra a Mulher).
1. Thanks to a growing consciousness and the work of groups such as Meninas Black Power, black women who blog about hair care, events celebrating “cabelo crespo” such as Encrespa and activism against the denigration of black hair,
2. The Afoxé (bloco), also called the Candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion) of the street and is a street procession coming out during Carnival. It is an Afro-Brazilian manifestation rooted in the Yoruba people. Generally, its members are connected to a terreiro (temple) of Candomblé. Source