Note from BW of Brazil: What a pleasant surprise! Sometimes things just work out so perfectly that they seem to be planned. That is the case with today’s post featuring actor Érico Brás and wife Kênia Dias as it follows yesterday’s post in which a photo of the couple, as well as a discussion on African-centered relationships, were highlights. Kudos to Silvia Nascimento over at the Mundo Negro site for the wonderful interview. Of course, in discussing African-centered relationships, most Brazilians are familiar with the power couple of actor Lázaro Ramos and his wife actress Taís Araújo, after all, they are most visible black couple in Brazil’s media as well as one of the few. But after reading today’s interview, I’m an even bigger fan of this couple who had already been featured in a number of posts on this blog. Kênia Maria has some very intriguing things to say as to why she believes it is so rare to see prominent black Brazilian men in long-term relationships with black women. Perfect timing for today, which was Brazil’s Valentine’s Day (Dia dos Namorados). Her words aren’t really surprising, but her observations are very telling for those who continue to believe that people just happen to “fall in love” with certain types of people. Can we be real for a minute? If not, perhaps you should stop reading this interview right now!
Dia dos Namorados, Brazil’s Valentine’s Day: Kenia and Brás “Marriage between blacks is a political act”
By Silvia Nascimento
Kênia Maria is a young militant of old. At age 41 and knowing how to use the Internet to promote her ideas and work, she proudly says that her militancy comes before the hashtags and feminism magazine cover. Her struggle was body to body, in the day to day of the community. For an actress and businesswoman, loving black men has always been natural because of her education.
Beautiful from head to toe, Kênia feels like a queen, for living a “noble” love next to Érico Brás for 5 years. She celebrates love, because Brás understands her as a black woman, the texture of her hair, the generous body, the pains in common.
In this exclusive interview for the Mundo Negro site, she talks about her relationship with her husband, black boleiros (futebol players) who love loiras (blondes), her work with her family and, of course, her new position as Defender of the Rights of Black Women in ONU Mulheres Brasil (UN Women Brazil). Brás also talks to us about his muse.
Mundo Negro: In the song “Ponta de Lança”, rapper Rico Sapiência speaks of the pretos e pretas (black men and women) who are loving each other. Have you noticed an increase in the number of black couples? When we love our blackness, is it natural to look for someone like us?
Kênia Maria: Art is a great instrument of transformation, consciousness-raising, and manipulation. All authoritarian systems that intended to subject one ethnicity to another, used art to manipulate it, as in Nazism. In Brazil Casa Grande e Senzala (Masters and the Slaves) (Gilberto Freire/1933) speaks very well of what the affective relationship of blacks and whites should be. In art, the idea of not being together has always been strengthened. From the time of slavery, from Africa they separated us, by languages, tribes, so that we would not recognize each other, not liking each other, because liking ourselves would be very strong. A família negra (black family) that appears in a TV commercial, in the movies, on the walls of São Paulo or any place of artistic manifestation, has an incredible power of transformation. A friend of mine was saying that in the favela preto casa com preta (black men marry black women), but we know that coming out of there things change, because that was taught. We have to show that we love each other, it’s a struggle, and this doesn’t cease from being political, marriage between blacks is a political act. People often wonder when I’m with Érico. They think I’m his sister, nanny, spokesperson, a good advisor I am, (laughs), they think everything, but when I say I’m his woman, it’s a shock.
Mundo Negro: Érico, what made you realize that Kenia was the woman for you? Was the color just a detail or was blackness “inside the package”?
Érico Brás: We met in downtown of Rio de Janeiro and at first her beauty caught my attention. She floated lightly as she crossed Ouvidor street to Buenos Aires (street). Her color was already a prerogative to attract my look. Where I come from the black woman has a differential. But Kenia had a passionate freshness in the look that got me immediately. Over time I realized that her qualities went beyond physical attraction. She is intelligent, loving and alive.
You can see in our social networks – Facebook and Instagram – that love is an ingredient of our daily life. Discovering that she was my best and only companion when we declared to another: EU TE AMO (I LOVE YOU). It was fatal. This love is alive in our endeavors, moments of leisure and with the family. It is the engine of our relationship. Our love heals us from the wounds of life.
Mundo Negro: Kenia when your black hand is in the black hand of Brás, how you feel your ancestry. You together look like rei e rainha (king and queen), do you feel that way, treat each other like that?
Kênia Maria: Our relationship began with an attraction. I was raised by a black, feminist and militant family and where there are few interracial relationships. Then I learned to admire black men. My first marriage was also with a black man and I have always dated black men. Like all the women in our country, I had a hard time being a girl from the suburbs, the community. But I always had that preference. And Érico, because of being raised in the black neighborhood of Curuzu, in Bahia, in a theater group where politics is the rule, where you cannot think of yourself as an actor, without seeing yourself as black. Then we met, we made a partnership that later became marriage and that is a political act. We are aware of this when we come together in magazines, people are shocked. A lot of people find our relationship odd because my work has always been militancy in a time when it was not the cover of major magazines like Vogue and Marie Clarie, so people didn’t know me. I feel like a queen, because the relationship with a conscious black man is very different. A black man who likes a black woman, who understands hair, texture, is not afraid to put a hand in that hair and understands that the body of the black woman will never be the same as a white woman. I’m a woman with a hip, I’m a big woman. I’m not better or worse, but I’m different, sou uma mulher negra (I’m a black woman). When we meet someone who understands and accepts us in that way it’s noble, I feel like a queen.
At the head of the Defense of Black Women’s Rights at the UN, your reflections on us (black women) intensified. Is the solitude of the black woman in your vision a reality?
I’m from a family of militants. My mother in the 70’s already had a black power (afro) with my father, who was friends with (singer/actor) Tony Tornado. In my family there is Mestre Celso who is the founder of the Engenho da Rainha, an important movement of capoeira. In the ’90s in the time of Xuxa, paquitas and “angélicas”, my mother placed me to do Afro dance and I took up with Afro groups in Bahia, Orumilá, which led me to dance and militancy. Living outside made me wake up more to this political side in me, I was a mother out of the country in Venezuela, where racism was not a crime at the time and my daughter Gabriela suffered a lot. When I went back to Brazil, my daughter and I created Tá Bom Pra Você? (YouTube series) when she was 13, today she is 18. Today I feel Brazil experiencing a new moment of the Movimento Negro (Black Movement), information and technology has left the thing more democratic, but the internet is still not, otherwise we would have black YouTubers earning money with advertising and with thousands of followers like what happens with the brancas (white women). The question of the UN arriving is due to this militancy. Of things I gave up doing, because of my roots. Even my name is a tribute that my mother made to an African country. I’m reinforcing a choir and I always go back to my sisters, Sueli Carneiro, Vilma Reis, Djamila Ribeiro, Lélia Gonzales and many others, to see what I’m talking about. It will only work if it is collective. The increase in violence against black women increased 54% after Maria da Penha’s law and against white women it dropped 10%. We cannot think about these issues without a racial slant.
Mundo Negro: How do you explain this preference of successful black men for white women?
Kênia Maria: I was married from the age of 20 to 33 with a black man from the same community as me and when we moved to Venezuela, he was a first division team player, he realized that there was something strange and that something strange was me. I was the only black woman in an environment full of Barbie-like women. Those that were not, would quickly lighten their hair and put in silicone. I was always mistaken as my children’s nanny, or team nurse. And I could see in him the moment he had this confusion, and his colleagues questioned him. The strangest thing was that when I returned to Brazil on vacation, after the separation, these players sent presents, money to hand over to their ex-women who were in Brazil, and when I met them, the surprise, they were all black. All of them. You saw the replacement is automatic. As I said before, this is taught and stimulated in the family, that to lighten is to show that you are successful. My husband even said that his father talked a lot about “mulher de presence” (woman of presence), who is the woman of Aryan phenotype. The black is the one who has no presence to be in certain places, will create scandal. Machismo is also connected to that, the good house, the good car, and the good woman, that is the white woman.
Mundo Negro: You share the stage together and a YouTube channel together. Does being married to someone with the same craft have more advantages or disadvantages?
I always say that the black woman walks with two suitcases. While men carry that of racism we carry that of machismo and racism. I will always be more demanded, I am highly praised because I take care of his career, because he is in a big company for 5 years. He pays me for it, because I’m not a good, modest woman of the home, I’ve done a job for over 20 years, before athletes, now artists, so I don’t like that title. “Tá Bom Pra Você?” is a creation of two black women. As Érico was an actor, many didn’t believe that the idea and the script were mine. So there’s this downside, this trap. Until my discourse as militancy, there are people who think I learned from Eric. My family has thousands of people from axé, my mother is feminist and suddenly it seems that everything I know came from him, it seems he even gave birth to me (laughs).
He is a great companion, but I come from a militancy long before hashtags, it was body to body, and it’s painful to be defined as someone’s wife. We need to be alert so that we don’t lose our merit, creation and authorship, for the simple fact of having a male, even if he is black.
First Brazilian black web series and play with husband
The “Tá Bom Pra Você?” is four years old this year and it is an idea of Gabriela that was to make a web series of a black family that lives in the south zone and the conflicts that occurs when the black leaves the place that was denominated to him. We created scripts based on our experience and discovered that we are the first black Brazilian web-series, carried out by blacks and I owe Gabriela, her ideas and questions. And now we’re off the Internet and going straight to the stage. This time, I and Érico go because Matheus, my son who is one of the actors of the project is studying medicine and Gabriela is dedicating herself to her art and becoming a singer in the next semester.
We had the idea of creating Double Black that is a stand up, a musical and also our history, a romantic comedy and as Érico says, is “a mix of Brazil and Egypt” (laughs). We talked in a fun way about how we met and other issues we talked about on the channel. The show was released in Salvador at the Jorge Amado Theater on June 2 and 4 and we are now closing an agenda that depends a lot on Érico, my stage companion. Soon we will be on stages in Brazil, perhaps in the world.
Source: Mundo Negro