Note from BW of Brazil: It’s this sort of organizing that inspired me to create a blog about the situation of black women of Brazil in the first place. Black women have always been a strong force in the maintenance of the black community in Brazil, and this is well-documented. History reminds us that a number of black women, some recognized, others not given their fair place from the history, who fought against slavery. Then we have the black women who were developing their own financial independence selling their sweets and baked goods in the streets. It was the home of a black woman where black musicians, many of whom were facing persecution by Brazilian authorities, gathered to develop the rhythms of the musical style we now know as Samba, considered the most Brazilian of all rhythms and today a strong representation of Brazilian culture.
The numbers may have been small, but black women also made their voices heard in the halls of academia and politics and have also been an instrumental force in the organization of the modern-day black movement for social equality. There are countless black Brazilian women’s organizations spread out across the country and in 2015, the women of these organizations successfully organized the first ever national March of Black Women in the nation’s capital city of Brasília.
That march would lead to a meeting with then president Dilma Rousseff to discuss concerns, needs and desires of black Brazilian women. But that was then, this is now. Social/racial inequality doesn’t just suddenly appear, it is developed and engineered to the point that it is embedded in the system. Social and racial inequality also doesn’t just stop either, for this reason, organizing and keeping all of one’s members on the same page is always necessary.
With this in mind, the Encontro Nacional de Mulheres Negras, or the National Meeting of Black Women was planned to gather around 1,000 black women leaders, activists and influencers from all over the country to discuss three central themes: confronting urban violence that claims so many black lives every year, the guarantee of sexual and reproductive rights and the clash with academic epistemicide.
The encounter was scheduled to go down between December 6th to 9th in Goiânia, Goiás, about 130 miles from the nation’s capital. The event would mark the 30-year anniversary of the first meeting in 1988, where black women gathered to discuss strategies to face violence and oppression in the lives of women.
30 years after that initial gathering, the unity of black women is needed even more than ever as today many are concerned about the types of changes and threats that may come with the recent election of the far-right extremist Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency. Eliane Dias, of the Rede Afro LGBT (Afro LGBT Network) and the Rede de Mulheres Negras (Black Women’s Network of Minas Gerais, expressed her thoughts in the following manner:
“It will be the first major popular mobilization after the election period. Although we have not yet had the arrival of the new government, we already feel the effects. Black women, especially, already live in hostile, threatening, dangerous, but very resistant environments. In addition, from the meeting, we will have a guide for some decades of struggle, we will leave there with coping strategies,” she explained.
In Dias’s state of Minas Gerais, black women have been organizing for the event since the beginning of year with 80 delegates representing quilombolas, African-origin religions and LBTs (lesbian, bisexual, transsexual), researchers as wells as specialists in public policies. For Cris Ribeiro, another activist of the black women’s network in Minas Gerais, “The great desire of our black women in Minas Gerais is for their issues to be debated, for effective actions to be taken in the field of public policies.”
For the four-day event, the women would participate in and present cultural performances, workshops, round-tables and give lectures on pressing issues of the day such as mass incarceration and the practice of and violent attacks on Afro-Brazilian religions. A number of well-known black women, known both nationally and internationally were expected to appear, including philosopher Sueli Carneiro, writer Conceição Evaristo and a legendary figure from the black American struggle and a frequent visitor to Brazil, Angela Davis.
The report below gives a short overview of the event’s highlights.
National Meeting of Black Women: Brazilian women of struggle, standing, of faith
By Marília Noleto
With the long awaited presence of Angela Davis, of the Black Panthers, and names like Benedita da Silva and Conceição Evaristo, the event discussed urgent themes for black female movement
You could feel the emotion in the air. A warm and effusive round of applause was equally rewarded in a protocolary but sincere speech. “First of all, let me speak of the enormous honor of having been invited to participate in this National Meeting of Black Women.” It was in this atmosphere that began the long awaited participation of the acclaimed Angela Davis in the opening, on Thursday night (12/6), of the event in Goiânia that celebrated 30 years of the first edition in 1988. In the last three days, the PUC Goiás Convention Center was a meeting place for thousands of black women from Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil and the world, who participated in an intense and varied program with fairs, cultural presentations, workshops, lectures and of conversation circles. The activities continue throughout Sunday (12/9), the last day of the event.
With the slogan “Contra o Racismo e a Violência e Pelo Bem Viver – Mulheres Negras Movem o Brasil” (Against Racism and Violence and For Well-Living – Black Women Move Brazil), the meeting addressed urgent issues for black feminist activism, such as health, Afro-Brazilian religiosity, mass incarceration, and challenges and perspectives of the women’s movement. But one issue was repeatedly remembered, including Angela Davis’s opening address: the murder of councilwoman Marielle Franco in March of this year in Rio de Janeiro, which she called “brutal.” “We must keep his legacy alive, emphasizing the interconnections between racism, misogyny, poverty and homo and transphobia,” she reiterated.
The great attraction of the night, however she was not alone. The table of the opening panel of the event was composed of other great exponents of the Black Women’s movement in Brazil. Names such as federal deputy Benedita da Silva and writer Conceição Evartisto were present alongside Ieda Leal (National Executive Coordination), Iyá Sandra Lee (Renafro), Creuza Oliveira (Fenatrad), Selma Dealdina (Conaq), Bianca Pereira (Negras Jovens), Luíza Carvalho (UN Women), Cristina Almeida (state deputy), Wania Sant’Anna (Executive Commission – ENMN) and Savana Brito (ELAS Fund).
Marielle’s death was also a subject in a press conference given by Angela Davis to young black cyber-activists responsible for real-time coverage of the event on social networks. “Security comes from building a community. At the same time, you never know. We could never have predicted that Marielle would be killed that way. Whoever killed her wanted to send a message to every black community. A message to us to retroact and not do the work that is needed at this time. However, we cannot feel fear. When I was arrested, I was also frightened. I didn’t know what could happen. But the fear I felt was no more important than continuing the fight. I realized I was not alone. That’s why building a community is a better way to feel secure. I can’t give you advice, but when I was your age, we practiced self-defense. It is a means that is within reach and we must resort to all those possible, to guarantee our integrity; as individuals and as a community,” she said.
Angela Davis joined the Partido Comunista (Communist Party) of the United States and was a candidate for vice president of the Republic in 1980 and 1984. For her activism with the Black Panther Party, she was arrested in the 1970s and became known worldwide for the mobilization of the “Free Angela Davis” campaign. The activists also made it clear that the struggle of Brazilians is an inspiration for black women in the United States. “During my last visit to Brazil about a year ago, I had the opportunity to witness the growth and strength of the young black women,” she commented.
For the lawyer, plastic artist and curator of the Luiza Mahin Arts and Culture Fair, Iara Leal, one of the people responsible for the National Meeting in Goiânia, the main goal was to give visibility to the strength and presence of black women in the various segments of Brazilian society. “These women are empowering themselves more and more. Not only at home, but going to the struggle, overcoming all adversities. Today we have extremely important black women in politics, science, education and entrepreneurship. Today, as curator of the fair, I have seen women from all the States of the Country. Besides the artists, not only in the gallery, but also in music. We had a whole day of performances, from popular music to classical music,” she said. She underscored the role of the new generation in this process. “We see a very strong level of consciousness raising. A youth that takes a stand. Que sabe que é negra (that knows that she is black), her difficulties and that she struggles to reduce these barriers,” she stated.
Iara said that the engagement is even more relevant in the face of the imminence of government of presidential elect, Jair Bolsonaro. “It’s a worrying scenario for everyone. What we expect, from the bottom of our hearts, is that he can improve the conditions of the Brazilian people in a general way. But in his speech he has already shown that he doesn’t contemplate minorities. But now, as president of the country, he must watch over all of the people. And the Brazilian people have blacks, homosexuals, handicapped, indigenous, northeasterners… It doesn’t only have military personnel. Politics is much more comprehensive. He has a commitment to the nation; this nação preta (black nation) that is here and, willingly or not, constructed Brazil. The country’s historical debt to blacks is priceless and is being redeemed with blood and many tears.”
In conversation with journalists moments before the opening, the writer Conceição Evaristo stressed the importance of the historical perspective of the movimento negro (black movement). “It’s a struggle that will continue as we continue the steps of those from back then. Our actions today, without a doubt, will shape future actions,” she commented. She further stated that it is when subjects of groups made subordinate, in one form or another by society, take the word and self-represent, they come into conflict with a representation that the ruling classes or that other cultures have created about themselves. “Every person who stands up and raises her voice, exerts a political power. Because talking is also a political action,” she opined. In her solemn greeting, the black writer commented on how Angela Davis inspired her in her youth and thrilled everyone by revealing what she said to the former Black Panther when she first met her: “Muito obrigada (Thank you), my sister!”
With the collaboration of Mexican photographer Itandehuy Castañeda
Source: Jornal Opção