Note from BW of Brazil: This is such a cool story and the kind that we love to share on this blog. As recent as the 80s and 90s, it was quite common that Afro-Brazilians bow their heads in shame, attempt to escape being classified as black and using straightening irons and perms to alter a facet of their appearance that connected them to African ancestry: their hair. After all, in Brazil, persons of African descent were long taught, both by the society and often in their own homes, to deny their blackness. This shame and denial often led to self-rejection and confusion about their identities. Think of it. How is it that my family teaches one that they are not black but then said person is constantly the target of racist jokes and racially-insensitive comments associated with black people?
Quiet as its kept, this environment this exists in Brazil today as racist jokes are as Brazilian as feijoada and one still finds many persons of visible African ancestry who choose not to define themselves as black. But fortunately, today, after decades of consciousness-raising, pride in blackness is far more common today than it was just a few decades ago. And stories such as the one we feature today show that this pride is being instilled in black children from an early age, something that was pretty rare just a short time ago.
Check out the story, photos and great videos below, one of which the youngster featured in today’s story is compared to one of her inspirations; a certain ‘Queen B’ from the United States!
Little girl is a hit on the internet expressing pride in her hair: “It’s not a wig; I’m black!”
By Pedro Willmersdorf
A little girl of only 4 years of age has been finding major most success on Facebook with a video in which she displays all of her pride in the black power (afro) that she rocks, sending a message to all who ask little clueless questions about her tresses.
Elis Cantanhede is the daughter of Rio producer Renata Morais and, last Tuesday, she asked her mother to record a video for her to clarify a few things.
In the recording, Elis shoots, quite cute and didactically: “Hi, guys, how ya doin’? This is not a wig, it’s my hair. It was already born like this, I only use cream use to make it stay up high. I don’t have straight hair, I was already born like this. E eu sou preta (And I’m black) (see video below).
In her profile on Facebook, where the video already has 14,000 likes and more than 25,000 shares, her mother Renata describes her daughter’s pride, full of personality: People it’s not a wig!!! Everybody has stopped us on the street to talk about hair and especially her color. Elis Cantanhede comes from a mãe preta (black mother) and a pai preto (black father), it would be very strange her being white. She is 4 years old and the certain of her color, but the mirror always shows the difference. I think it’s mega important that she has this consciousness and be proud of this. She has asked me why she is lighter (skinned) and I explained. Period. Today she asked for a video and to my surprise she talked about it. I’m really certain that we are not prepared for her. Thank you for all the love.”
To Extra (website), Renata comments on the strength and the power demonstrated by her child.
“When Elis was 3, we returned to Brasília (capital city) when, at the airport, she heard another girl of the same age (say), ‘Nossa, que cabelo feio!’ (‘Wow, such ugly hair!’) (1). She was very shaken. So, seeing her demonstrating this ability to empower herself makes me very happy,” says her mother, full of pride.
According to Renata, the motivation for Elis wanting to record the video that has been blowing up on Facebook came about from an incident involving the little one at an event which Renata participated acting as producer.
“I didn’t witness the scene, but someone must have questioned the fact of Elis be lighter than my husband and me. We are tired of hearing questions about her hair, if we make some intervention to leave it crespo (kinky/curly), as she’s not ‘tão negra’ (so black).
Renata, who is also mother of Luiza, 15, believes the little Elis will have a smoother future than the present experienced by her older daughter.
“Luiza is more reserved, likes to write, wants to be a journalist. Elis can’t see a cell phone of someone’s mother without wanting to show herself. I often say that the first is cult, the second is pop,” defines the mom, who still punctuates the Movimento Negro (black movement) experiencing a great moment – “Racism, of course, is still present in society, but we are experiencing a phase where people are assuming themselves, blacks are ceasing from being co-stars in order to also be the protagonist of history.”
And beyond all the personality in her discourse, Elis blows people away with her passinho (dance steps).
“It’s not a wig. And I’m black”
At 4 years old, mini Beyoncé receives a challenge after finding success on the internet
- It’s always intriguing to note how Brazilians vehemently deny being racists but yet even black children can be and often are targets of racist ridicule.