Note from BW of Brazil: Black Brazilian women continue to demand a change in the stereotypical ways in which they are viewed by society and the group we feature in today’s piece is yet another example of a desire for this change. The idea of black women being ’empoderadas’ or empowered is a basic goal of this very blog and the word came up in a recent post detailing a web video series created with the intention of presenting a diverse array of successful black Brazilian women doing their thing. The group we present today was idealized by two women who know a little something about being empowered. The first is Alexandra Loras, Consul of France in Brazil, who was featured in a post back in December in which she defined Brazil as ‘one of the most racist countries in the world’ (1). The other woman is Eliane Dias, a lawyer perhaps better known as the manager Brazil’s greatest Hip Hop group Racionais MCs and wife of lead rapper Mano Brown. As more groups like this continue to appear, we look forward to a future in which black women of Brazil are not seen as simply maids or mulatas!
‘Negras Empoderadas’ (Empowered Black Women): successful women create group to combat discrimination
Initiative of rap group Racionais MCs manager Eliane Dias and consul of France has 50 participants
By Juca Guimarães
Living in Brazil for three years, the French Consul Alexandra Loras realized how much racism and lack of opportunities impact on the lives of black women. Often covertly, sometimes explicit and violent, manifestations of contempt for black women in Brazil shocked the diplomat, who decided to create a discussion group with successful black women and formers of opinion to discuss the matter, denounce acts of racism and redeem black pride. The group was called “Negras Empoderadas” (empowered black women) and the proposal is to gather arguments and information to serve as a counterpoint to the Eurocentric narrative and common stereotypes in society.
“The refrigerator was invented by a black man, the pacemaker was also invented by a black man, the satellite dish and the cell phone also, many important and high-tech things were invented by black people. We have to share this information with our children. Because the absence, in the media, of our presence in positions of leadership and prominence makes 85% of black children under five years old identify the white doll as beautiful and good and the black doll as ugly and bad,” said the Consul Alexandra during the meeting of the group on Saturday to commemorate International Women’s Day.
The group was created in November, when the consul met with lawyer and businesswoman Eliane Dias, president of producer Boogie Naipe and wife of rapper Mano Brown of the Racionais MCs. Eliane has already worked as a lecturer and activist in defense of women in neighborhoods throughout the country. Together, they invited other women.
“We discussed all issues related to black women. We have lawyers, teachers, journalists, entrepreneurs, all contributing and sharing experiences. We discussed the issue of pregnancy of the young black woman, violence against women, the lack of references for blacks, the motives that lead the black woman to criminality,” she said. One of the issues discussed in the group and had a great impact on social networks was the image of the mulata, as an exotic sex object in the media during Carnival. For the first time, the stereotype was questioned in a straight-forward manner.
For Eliane, the emergence of more groups like hers, in defense of women’s rights, is related to access to the university. “With ProUni, more black women are attending college, are studying, are discussing and empowering themselves. We come in with one a head in college and go out with another. Most freshmen students in universities are women, mostly black. From now to four years, we will have an even greater generation of mulheres negras empoderadas (empowered black women),” she said.
For now, the group is closed and new participants are invited by recommendation of those who are already on the list. There is, however, a set number of participants. The focus is the quality of the shared and multiplied content.
The group “negras empoderadas” is made up of successful and independent professionals
- Speaking more of her experiences living in Brazil, Loras detailed having been an invited guest at Clube Pinheiros in São Paulo (35,000 members, valued at R$350 million) and denied entrance because she was mistaken for a nanny. She went to describe how whenever she lands in Guarulhos airport (suburb of São Paulo), she always has her bags searched at customs even after presenting her diplomatic passport. As she saw it, “They think that I am a ‘mula’ carrying drugs,” he said. ‘Mula’ is the term used to define persons who clandestinely deliver drugs. The consul revealed that she’s lost count of how many times she’s been mistaken for a maid and concluded that “In general, the rich Brazilians are accustomed to seeing black people as employees. In this case, they look at me and already think I’m providing some service.”