Note from BW of Brazil: I can’t stress enough how important the internet has been for black Brazilians who have long been denied access to their own history and a better understanding of the deceptions that have been a part of race relations in Brazil, arguably, for centuries. With broader access to higher education as well as information, many Brazilians who formerly saw themselves as pardos (browns/mixed race), mulatos, morenos (light or dark brown, or racially ambiguous) or mestiços (persons of mixed race) have begun to understand that regardless of their families and friends having ensured them that they were not preto or negro (both meaning black), Brazil treats them like they are black. Countless socioeconomic studies have proven this throughout the years.
Today, outlets such as social networks, YouTube, websites and blogs have opened up not only the access to information, but also dialogue with other people who have gone through the same challenges of experiencing racism and confusion about their racial identity. These outlets have provided the education that Brazil’s school system refuses to divulge, even with the existence of a law that mandates this be taught. With this education, would be black Brazilians are learning to love the skin they born in, seeing the beauty in having cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair), understanding that Brazil shares a history of racial discrimination equal to the so-called land of “equal opportunity” and even that the promotion of interracial unions is a form of social engineering.
In the piece below, we meet several other black Brazilian women who are using the online video sharing platform of YouTube to not only share their own struggles, but also to help others on their journeys into “becoming black“, a process that Brazil has long impeded in a huge population that descends from enslaved Africans. The resistance continues.
Black resistance shows the strength of its culture on YouTube
Young people take up space on the internet to talk about the daily confrontation of prejudice and discrimination
November 20, 1695, was marked by the assassination of the character who became a symbol of the struggle and resistance of the black people for freedom and justice in the history of the country: Zumbi, the leader of Quilombo dos Palmares. More than 300 years later, the date of his death is revived as an instrument of reflection on the causes surrounding black consciousness. The day became a holiday in various cities and municipalities. But it’s not enough. The struggle goes on and tools like social networks give voice and space to strengthen it. This is the case with YouTube channels.
At the head of the Jô Gomes channel, journalist and dancer Joceline Gomes, 30, didn’t recognize herself as a black woman until she was 22 years old. Recently graduated, she got her first job, and felt the weight of discrimination there. A co-worker started alerting her about the problem. “It happened because you’re a black woman from the favela (slum), this friend of mine said, every time he did something. I was startled and thought: ‘Okay, from the favela. But black?’” recalls Joceline.
In 2010, during the Afro-Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Festival (Latinidades), she began to strengthen contacts with other black women and to better understand the racial issues and prejudices she suffered in her professional life. Five years later, she joined the Grupo Cultural Obará (Obará Cultural Group), that works with Afro-Brazilian cultural events. From that plunge into black culture to creating her own YouTube channel was a step.
“The channel came without any pretense. And it was growing. Today, I use it as a professional collection. Of presentations and classes”, says Jô, who shares classes of specific dances of afro culture – such as kuduro, afro house, azonto and dancehall -, and of urban culture, such as hip-hop and street dance. “The channel is a kind of virtual portfolio for my work. Dance is very visual and the channel makes it easier in that sense,” she explains.
Because it is a fast and accessible language, Internet tools such as YouTube are crucial for promoting the self-esteem of the black population, especially youth, Jô believes. “Before, whoever made videos was whoever had an excellent camera and ‘high speed’ internet service. Now with a cell phone you have contact with all this.”
For Marizete Gouveia Damasceno, 60, coordinator of the Special Committee of Psychology and Ethnic-Racial Relations of the Regional Council of Psychology of the DF (CRP/DF), it is very important that the internet brings representation to blacks. A doctoral student in clinical psychology and culture, she emphasizes that this is necessary, especially for young people, who need references in order not to assume the identity of the white-skinned person as the holder of all that is known to be positive.
“The black person is not represented in the various sectors of life. She goes to the doctor, the doctor is white; goes to the dentist, he/she is also white; at school, so is the professor; your colleagues, too; in the media, too, they only show people of this characteristic; and so on. Their peers (black people), the child, or the teenager, only see in more subordinate services,” compares the psychologist.
In the process of accepting the individual as a black person, Marizete emphasizes the ease of communication in social networks. There you can find inspiring personalities who serve as role models for children and young people. “These people could otherwise be invisible due to the difficulty of black access to traditional media and, therefore, the lack of representation,” says the psychologist.
Brazil was the last country to leave the slave system. And only 29 years ago, in the 1988 Constitution, it typified the crimes of prejudice and racial discrimination, making racism a felony. Joelma Rodrigues da Silva, professor of education in the field of UnB field in Planaltina, however, says that much remains to be done. “It’s a felony, but how many are in prison for this?” she asks.
Online marketing manager Chayene Rafaela Alves da Rocha, 26, is the digital influencer for the Girafa de Estimação (meaning ‘pet giraffe’) channel. When few black women left their hair natural, Chayene heard jokes from the people who were bothered about it. She says that her move was not deliberate. After an accident with a chemical product that almost corroded her scalp, she, traumatized, never straightened it again.
“The early days were ‘tense’. She walked in the street and heard screams from people, ordering her to comb her hair. They looked at me with an ugly face, laughed. My mother got very stressed. Once, we went to a store and the clerk was laughing and whispering about me. My mother couldn’t stand it and fought a lot. It was a difficult process,” she recalls. Although the acceptance of her hair happened because of the accident, Chayene says she had thought about changing since she started reading about empoderamento negro (black empowerment).
In the curious name of the channel, Girafa de estimação, she draws attention to racial issues. It all started with a blog of the same name, which she chose because she liked the animal that inhabits the African savannas. “In the beginning, it’s unusual. Everyone found it a bit weird.” Gradually, she expanded communication, creating a YouTube channel, Instagram profile and Facebook page.
To honor the slave Anastácia, who didn’t accept the lack of freedom, violence and injustice to which she was subjected and fought against oppression, YouTubers Veronica Pereira dos Santos Gomes, Nonny, and Jacira Andréia Doce Teixeira, 28, decided to create a resistance channel. “We wanted that name – Anastacias – to be a reverse bias. In order to be a voice, to speak to those who are in the same situation as us,” says Veronica.
Believing in the strength of women’s collectives, she and Jacira teamed up with Amanda Alves Guimarães Alves, 22, and Sophia Costa Serra, 23, to strengthen the cause. “I feel that through our unity, we can help other black women go through what we have been through less painfully,” says Jacira.
On the channel, created in July this year, they talk casually about the daily confrontation with prejudice and discrimination and ways to value black identity and cultures.
“Several times we tell some stories that no one among us knew,” says Sophia. “It’s always in that venting tone, and our reactions are all very real. We make a point of letting things be told with the camera on to pass on this veracity.”
And there’s still more
Rosa Luz is a black transsexual from the periphery. In 2016, the Barraco da Rosa channel was created, which has more than 15 thousand subscribers. Among the themes, Barraco’s experiences as a transsexual, black and Afro-Latina are revealed.
One of the few male reps in the city’s YouTubers scene, Saulo, from the Mamba Maluca channel, invests in humor.
With 65,000 subscribers, Lorena Monique is one of the examples of attitude in facing racial issues. With a chameleon look, she addresses female empowerment.