Note from BW of Brazil: When I decided many years ago that I wanted to learn why my city, Detroit, was a majority black city and why I always would notice blatant differences whenever I would venture into the surrounding suburbs, I sought answers in a number of bookstores. Of course, there were national book sellers such as Borders, Barnes & Noble (B & N) and the online resource, Amazon, I was also very thankful that there were bookstores that catered specifically to the black community. In Detroit, one of my favorite bookstores/cultural centers was the Shrine of the Black Madonna. Some days, I would literally spend hours in that place skimming and reading pages of the hundreds of titles of the stores shelves.
I’ve often explained that my fascination with Brazil was largely due to the 2,000 page encyclopedia titled Africana that I found in the Shrine towards the end of 1999. And luckily, there was an abundance of books available by and about black people not only in the Shrine, but also the Truth Bookstore at the old Northland shopping mall in nearby Southfield, Michigan, but also, Borders and B & N, offered entire sections of the their stores dedicated to black literature. Of course, Amazon had just about everything I was looking for and then there was a great resource that I would make sure to visit whenever I visited Baltimore, Maryland, called Everyone’s Place African Cultural Center on North Avenue.
I haven’t been about to visit Everyone’s Place since, probably, 2009, and the Shrine closed down several years ago. But there is still an urgent need for black-oriented bookstores and Brazil is an excellent example of why. Since I’ve covered the invisibility of Afro-Brazilian authors in Brazil’s top book sellers, we’ve seen a number of examples that show that Brazil’s black population is literally starving for books and authors whose works represent their realities. We know this true because black literature groups such as Quilombhoje have been around for over 40 years, Mazza Edições in the state of Minas Gerais has been publishing black books since 1981, and the new publisher Malê is also filling the thirst for black lit, and then there’s the Rio-based book seller Kitabu Livraria Negra, which I believe functions online and in book fairs these days.
It goes without saying, it’s taken a long while to start seeing black-oriented publishers, stores and literary clubs starting to pop up in some decent numbers to serve a black population that seeks representation, but they are coming. Which is why the news featured in today’s post should contribute to more excitement and hope for this movement.
Human rights specialist creates Brazil’s first anti-racist literary club
Founded by a quilombola, the aim of the project is to promote racial equality through literary production. Participants will receive titles chosen by a specialized curator
By Iron Ferreira
The specialist in Human Rights and Ethnic-Racial and Quilombola Relations, Mirts Sants, is the founder of the Pretaria BlackBooks initiative, a literary club that aims to stimulate the production of books and works that promote racial equality in Brazil. Mirts explains that the main initiative is to disseminate the publication of books written by black people, as well as to encourage a new generation of authors: “The fuse to create the project came from the fact that I was a quilombola activist and a student of racial issues, receiving many requests of reading recommendations on the subject. This demand grew throughout my career and I realized that there was a great interest in these works.”
From a subscription, participants will receive a monthly a box containing literary tips, unique gifts and a specific title that will be selected by a specialized curator. The idea, which was presented to a group of collaborators, has as an initial step to raise funds for the viability of the club. Any individual or legal entity can help by associating and contributing with the desired amount. Special contents will be available to those who encourage the cause.
Mirts Sants, the founder of the project, says the discovery of new talent in literatura negra e o antirracismo (black and anti-racism literature) are the main goals of the literary club.
Among the intellectuals responsible for selecting the works included in the club, will be black artists and women from various states of the country, such as Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, São Paulo, Bahia and Minas Gerais. The intention is for representatives from all over Brazil and even from abroad to be added to the catalog. The actress and writer Suely Bispo, the specialist in Policies for Promotion of Racial Equality at the Escola Sarita Faustino (school), the sociologist Eliane Quintiliano, the teacher and researcher in Letters and AfroLatina Literature, Aila Felício, and the activist and researcher Arielly dos Santos are some of the engaged professionals in the program.
The editions will be planned for various audiences, containing products with children’s and adult themes. Although the initiative was created by black women, the project is open to men and to all non-black writers focused on promoting racial equality and anti-racist causes. Mirts also recounts the difficulty black writers face in getting their work recognized: “We have inventories of books by black authors, writers and poets that are on the shelves and people are often unaware of this content, which is very rich and brings important debates.”
Neide Sellin, computer scientist and robot dog guide dog Lysa is a member and partner of Mirts in the literary club Pretaria BlackBooks.
Source: Heloisa Tolipan