Note from BW of Brazil: Represent. Representation. This is what came to my mind when I first learned of the pint-sized rapper known as MC Soffia. Represent because she’s represents where she’s coming as a little black girl growing up in a society that definitively anti-black girl. Representation because she’s bringing to other little black girls someone to look up to and identify with in a world that wishes to make them invisible. For as we have seen in the world of adults, white children are also the preference in the infantile world as we have seen on the covers of parenting magazines featuring babies, television commercials featuring children and in adoption preferences.
MC Soffia, who we briefly introduced to you several weeks ago, is yet another example of a rising number of black artists, performers and cultural producers who are taking it upon themselves to do something about the lack of black representation in the media and telling their own stories and reaching other people affected by this under-representation, which, in the case of children, can have a devastating effect. We look forward to hearing more from the talented MC Soffia and hopefully she influences others like her to tell their stories. Each one, teach one! Be sure to check out the video short about her below, with English subtitles.
The little black princess of Hip Hop
Text by Camila Eiroa with photos by Andre Michiles
MC Soffia has sung about empowering black girls since the age of six. It was her mother who introduced her to hip hop and today runs side by side with her daughter’s career
Soffia is 11 years old and, like every normal girl goes to school, likes to study and even more to play. She carries in her look all the clever curiosity of one who is discovering the world. But since she was six years old, she’s been MC Soffia and has had a longer career than many grown men of hip hop that are coming up around here. She sings about her own reality of a black girl, that she needs to love and affirm herself every day.
Along with his mother, Kamilah Pimentel received Tpm (magazine) in the apartment they live in Cohab Rap Tavares. Very energetic, Soffia showed us her room and her dolls, handmade by her grandmother. She revealed when she started singing. “I participated in the Futuro do Hip Hop (Future of Hip Hop) [children’s organization] and there were several workshops; DJ, MC, graffiti and break dancing. I liked the MC very much and started doing my songs that talk about racism.”
Kamilah was the one responsible for presenting Soffia to the culture. She became pregnant at 18 and, a single mother full time, her devotion to her daughter has been a priority since she was born. “I always thought what to do so that she wouldn’t suffer all that I suffered. I even came to be radical in some points to strengthen the question of identity, in order that she accept herself and be strong when she had to deal head-on with racism,” says the cultural producer.
Today at age 29, she recalls her career in activism and hip hop. “When I found the movement, I fell in love even more and never left. It’s a very male environment and was very sexist. But nowadays, women are very empowered. If the guy is sexist, the woman comes up with a rhyme. I also raised Soffia thinking about the gender issue, so all her songs empower girls.”
Soffia’s first shows were in regional rap events, but she’s already been in heavier presentation alongside the Racionais MCs and Flora Matos. She also performed in the Vale de Anhangabaú on the anniversary of the city of São Paulo. “I was about seven years. There were a lot of people! I was nervous, but as a child I didn’t care. I sang and danced a lot. It was really cool,” she says, and ensures that she deals with the response, but doesn’t sing at night because it’s sleeping time.
“I was very sad, and they made fun of me so much, I told my mother I wanted to be white”
The pint-sized MC knows her own discourse by heart: “I sing about the black girl accepting her hair because I’ve already been through this. I know she is called names at school and will straighten her hair. I’ve already straightened it, but have to accept it natural, it’s much more beautiful.” She remembers all the episodes of racism she faced in school, including having told her mother that she wanted to be white.
That’s when Kamilah took her to learn about the world of hip hop. Together, they went to various events, marches and fairs with black women who had “beautiful hair and those big guys.” There wasn’t much time before the rapper dove into her own universe. Today, she says she doesn’t suffer as she did before. “Now that I’m famous …I’m not famous, right? But I sing…So they don’t make fun of me anymore.”
What she wants is that all girls can accept themselves through her music. “I want to be one of those queens who helped blacks. I want a show with everyone swinging their blacks (afros) with me. Sometimes children insult each other and the teacher just says to apologize. She should stop the class and begin to explain everything, all the history of blacks,” she believes.
Kamilah argues that the first contact with racism happened in school. To make her daughter as strong as possible, she stopped straightening her own hair. Afterwards giving her only black dolls. “I sought to be a reference for her. If she plays and the dolls are family, they have to look like us. The child needs to recognize herself while playing. As she was growing, I started to push in her the question of reading,” she reveals.
Today it offers hip hop workshops at Soffia’s school, who speaks proudly about the discussion groups on racism in which she participates. The little one believes that there should be a rule in every school: “There is a law that says it is mandatory to speak of black culture in classes. Where I study there are these groups, but they should be in other schools too. They have to speak of African culture from day care through college, so that children come out knowing how to appreciate their color and origin.”
Her favorite subject is history and, encouraged by her mother and grandmother, likes researching very much. In her song “Africa”, several women are mentioned, findings from her research. Among them, Carolina Maria de Jesus, Chica da Silva, and Dandara. The mother said that “the problem of the suburbs is that they lack access to culture. So, I try to do this for her. We went on an exhibition of Frida Kahlo and she found Frida strange. She went, researched her and deconstructed that thought.”
“She suffers because, watching a TV, she sees a bloodbath and knows exactly what happened”
When asked if she thinks that her daughter suffers more from understanding the evil of the world, Kamilah babbles and has no right answer. “She suffers because watching a TV, she see a bloodbath and knows exactly what happened. But a person who doesn’t have this consciousness, that sees herself in another standard of beauty and doesn’t appropriate herself to her own history, also suffers.”
On the other hand, she ensures that Soffia only has time to be a child. “Life for her is fun. In the concentration of the show she does somersaults, running, skateboarding … Breaks her face. She’s terrible!! Once she asked me: Mom, do you guarantee that I’ll always play? Of course, I guarantee you will play and study as well. That’s our agreement since she decided to sing,” she says.
“I’m singing to pass on the message and not just to receive money”
The MC does not deny: “it has to be fun, but also a job. I’m singing to pass on the message and not just to receive money. My dream is to be famous, giving several interviews. When I grow up I want to be a doctor, singer, actress… a little bit of modeling and a futebol player. I don’t know if it will work out, but I that this way because when we are kids we say a bunch of things!”
With her increasingly busy schedule of concerts and a career walking a mile a minute, the two are finding that is indeed possible to transform the reality of many people with this work. “Raising a child alone is not easy, I had to change my whole life. To this day I wonder if that’s what she wants. My dream is that she achieves her dream, because of this I will go after what it was,” Soffia’s mother finishes.
Source: Revista TPM