Note from BW of Brazil: Today, July 25th, is a day to celebrate the unique experiences of black women in Latin America and Caribbean. Although International Women’s Day is celebrated every March 8th, this celebration of black women speaks to issue that while women of African ancestry are of course women, their experiences as black contribute to an entirely different understanding of what it means to be a woman. As this blog has consistently given examples of the invisibility of black women in the Brazilian media, it should come as no surprise that three of the country’s major TV networks, Globo, Record and SBT were pretty silent about today. Globo posted something on the commemoration of the day in the city of Belém (in the northern state of Pará) on its G1 news website yesterday and last week, Record featured an article about festivities in the capital city of Brasília through its R7 news site, but besides that, it was business as usual: TV stars, tragedies, sports and, oh, the visit of Pope Francisco. In reality, why would anyone expect that this would change anyway? BW of Brazil certainly didn’t. But that’s why BW of Brazil exists in the first place: to present news and images about the parcel of the population that the mainstream doesn’t concern itself with. With all that said, Happy International Afro-Latina/Afro-Caribbean Women’s Day to the millions of women of African descent from Mexico on down. A Luta Continua (The struggle continues)!
July 25: Black Women of Latin America and the Caribbean Day
by Fátima Oliveira (1)
In 1992, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was held the 1st Meeting of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women, in which two decisions were made: the creation of the Rede de Mulheres Afro-latino-americanas e Afro-caribenhas (Network of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women) and the establishment of July 25 as Afro-Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Day. The day aims to be a center of international assemblage of black resistance to second-class citizenship in the region in which they live, under the aegis of gender and racial-ethnic oppression, and thus “broaden and strengthen organizations and identity of black women, building strategies for combating racism and sexism.”
In 2009, it was estimated that in the region (Latin American and the Caribbean) there were around 75 million black women – citizens dispossessed of full citizenship, lacking efforts within government for the realization of our human rights. Although participants in the struggles of women in general, including the celebrations of the International Women’s on March 8th, we, the black feminists, know that a whole day is necessary from our understanding that there is no one universal woman. Among women there are class and racial-ethnic trenches, and the “sisterhood” among women is something that does not exist. So we have to be in the fight for our own account.
I discussed two topics on the lives of black Brazilian women. The first is the recent meeting of President Dilma Rousseff, on the 19th, with representatives from 19 organizations of the Movimento Negro (black movement), with the presence of ministers Gilberto Carvalho, the Secretariat General of the Presidency, Aloizio Mercadante, of Education, Luiza Bairros, of the Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality (Seppir), and the head of the Special Adviser of the Secretary General of the Presidency, Diogo Sant’ana. “According to the Minister Luiza Bairros, topics that are on the agenda of the movement were discussed, as a reaffirmation of the federal government’s commitment to combating racial discrimination, and recognizing institutional racism and strengthening the teaching of African culture in schools to promote equality.”
If I’m not mistaken, it’s the first time that the president listened to us in person. From what I’ve read so far, I considered it to be a good meeting, wait … (Minister of Health Alexandre) Padilha was missing! And it seems that no one opened their mouth to speak on the health of the black population, a serious gap at a time when SUS is involved in a heated debate. For the researcher Marcelo Paixão (2), 80% of blacks are interned through SUS (3). Everyone complains that the Rede Cegonha doesn’t care the least about the racial/ethnic profile and there is no saint who moves this (issue) forward. And we lost the chance to tell the speaker that the Política Nacional de Saúde Integral da População Negra (National Policy of Comprehensive Health of the Black Population) is buried with a skull in some corner of the Ministry of Health, a neglect that I know it doesn’t know! It’s elementary: either order Padilha to cross reference the racial/ethnic issue in all health actions, or admit the omission.
If the commitments soon acquire materiality, it’s a good start, beyond that there is something very simple that an anti-racist government need to do, which was not assumed, but the political will is sufficient: understand that “only fighting poverty does little to tackle racism” (O Tempo, 4.26.2011), because poverty is one thing, racism is another, and although they can be together, they have different dynamics! In a way that urges that the Dilma government be more anti-racist in their acts.
Black Woman’s Day has an agenda in the Casa da Cultura (House of Culture)
Today, the Instituto da Mulher Negra do Piauí (Black Women’s Institute of Piauí) (Ayabás) celebrates the International Black Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Day.
The Black Women’s Institute of Piauí (Ayabás) will feature an agenda today (25) at the Casa da Cultura (House of Culture) in Teresina (state of Piauí), starting at 5pm, in recognition of the International Black Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Day.
The 25th of July was established by the UN as the International Day of Black Women in Latin America and the Caribbean during the 1st Meeting of Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women, in the Dominican Republic, in 1992. The date was chosen as the international framework of struggle and resistance of black women. Since then, various sectors of society act to consolidate and give visibility to this date, taking into account the condition of oppression of gender, race and ethnicity experienced by black women.
The purpose of the celebration of July 25 is to expand and strengthen black women’s organizations, build strategies for the inclusion of themes for the purpose of combating racism, sexism, discrimination, prejudice and other social and racial inequalities. It is a day to expand partnerships, give visibility to the fight, actions, promotion, enhancement and debate about the identity of the black Brazilian woman.
In this sense, black women of the state of Piauí through Ayabás also organize and discuss their specific problems, seeking to act primarily in the formation of black young women, aiming towards a greater consciousness of their reality, their rights and strategies needed to overcome inequalities.
Studies show that women in Brazil are in the majority and represent 51.2% of the population, 46% of them preta (black) and parda (brown). According to Professor Halda Regina, president of Ayabás, the black woman is at the base of the social pyramid, with the lowest wages, the least prestigious placements, suffering violence of all kinds, including physical and sexual, and the state of Piauí this situation is no different. In the capitalist world where the rule is to accumulate profits by exploiting workers, improving the lives of black women only happens through their struggle and organization.
Yet according to surveys, although black women study more than the black man, they have lower wages. The combination of sexism and racism victimizes, daily, the woman who earns less than white women and less than the black man.
It is because of all of these data, that the Black Women’s Institute of Piauí, realizes a program to bring together black women and the general public, to expand these discussions and visualize the struggle of black women in Piauí, through dialogues and round table discussions with the theme “Mulheres Negras: Visibilidade e Empoderamento (Black Women: Visibility and Empowerment)”, attended by scholars of the subject. The activity is also a tribute to 10 years of the death of Congresswoman, Francisca Trindade as a great reference of black women of Piauí and Brazil. The program also has two exhibitions: “Zuhri – Images and Resistance (Imagens e Resistência)” and “Trindade Vive (Trindade Lives)” and other cultural activities.
The event has the support of the Casa da Cultura (House of Culture) of Teresina, through its coordinator Josy Brito, of the Directorate of Policies for Women – DUPM/ SASC, from the Office of Councilwoman Rosário Bezerra and various black organizations of the state.
Invitation to Collective Blogging for July 25th, the International Black Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Day
by Fernanda Sousa
On July 25th, black women from all corners of Brazil, celebrate Afro-Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Day. From the enslaved to the domestic, from enslaved to the “mulata tipo exportação (mulatto woman, the exportation type)” we suffered and still continue suffering a severe case of invisibility – and visibility often only occurs from the hyper-sexualization of our bodies – erasure of our existence, insofar as that, before being remembered, heard and valued, we are always the first to be forgotten and despised, in reality every day, even in some feminist spaces. If we are remembered, it’s first by the body than by what we are, it is first by our supposed “inferiority” than for our struggle and resistance, it is first because of our ugly, cabelo “duro” (hard hair) than for our relentless pursuit of consolidating our identity; it is first because of what people say than for what we, black women, say.
We have a space reserved for us in society: we need to occupy all of them. From an affirmation of afro hair to pride of our color, we are not just women, but black women who struggle and resist everyday sexism and racism that oppresses us together, makes us invisible and tries to silence us. It tries, because in reality, it fails.
It is against this process of invisibility and this attempt of silencing that I, as a black woman and in the name of Blogueiras Negras (Black Women Bloggers), call all black women of this country to raise your voice, on the 25th of July, our day, to more than ever, stand up and emphasize our experiences, our demands and especially our tireless struggle for respect, for dignity and for affirmation of an identity that should not, in any way, be raped, torn apart and diminished. It is because we are black women warriors and proud of our afrodescendência (African ancestry), our color, our hair, our features, that we should raise our voice against sexist and racist oppression that daily tries to finish our self-esteem, our desires, our lives, but that actually make us stronger and more resilient, because we don’t lower our heads, we do not ask for “permission” to fill the space, and especially not in remaining silent, because our struggle is every day. We, black women, we must always speak of it, because if it’s not us and not now, who will and when? For these reasons, we ask the following questions:
What is being a black woman for you? What do we have to say about us, about our our day, our lives, our experience, our struggle?
Pretas (black women) of this Brazil, unite! All are invited to respond by participating in the Collective Blogging of the International Afro-Latina and Caribbean Women’s Day on the 25th of July!
In closing, I quote Sueli Carneiro, a citation that, I believe, reveals the deepest desire of most of us:
“The utopia we now pursue is to seek a shortcut between reductive blackness of the human dimension and Western hegemonic universality which cancels diversity. Being black without being only black, being a woman without being only a woman, being a black woman without being only a black woman. Achieving equal rights is to become a full human being, full of possibilities and opportunities beyond its condition of race and gender. This is the ultimate meaning of this struggle.” (In: “Enegrecer o feminismo: A situação da mulher negra na América Latina a partir de uma perspectiva de gênero – Blackening Feminism: The situation of black women in Latin America from a gender perspective).”
1. The first black woman to lead a feminist organization in Brazil, Fátima Oliveira is currently Director of the Rede Feminista de Saúde (Rede Feminista Brasileira de Saúde e Direitos Reprodutivos or Feminist Health Network – Brazilian Feminist Network for Health and Reproductive Rights), a coalition of 182 politically influential advocacy groups, health care providers, research organizations and non-governmental organizations covering 20 states. A doctor with a degree in bioethics and a pioneer in Afro-Brazilian women’s health, she joined other organizations to publish the first book on this subject entitled Workshops, Mulheres Negras e Saúde (Workshops, Black Women and Health), during her tenure as special advisor of the Feminist Health Network Health for Afro-Brazilian women. She is also the author of several books on gender, genetics and technology and was a member of the Comissão Nacional do Ministério da Saúde (National Commission of the Ministry of Health) for the formulation of new national guidelines on research in 1997. As the only woman Afro-Brazilian women on this Commission, she has ensured that all subsequent medical research would include black men and women.
2. Professor of Economics at UFRJ (Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro) is featured in a number of posts on this blog. See articles here.
3. The Sistema Único de Saúde or Unified Health System is Brazil’s publicly funded health care system. SUS was created after the Brazilian Constitution of 1988, which assured that health care is a “right of all and an obligation of the State”. See a discussion on health care and racism in the medical industry here.