Note from BW of Brazil: The struggle of black Brazilian women is one that has been steadily building momentum for the past few decades. Through various organizations, organizing efforts, activists, seminars and movements (see note 1), the voices and demands of black women are now capturing the attention of the media, academia, politicians and society at large. Just since the beginning of this blog, we’ve seen a number of efforts of activism on the part of black women’s groups that the media simply couldn’t ignore. We’ve seen social network activism shut down or demand responses for images and messages about black women that were deemed offensive or disrespectful to this parcel of the population (see note 2). We’ve seen a rise an impressive rise in the number of black women who have adapted an attitude of “there’s nothing wrong with/I love my hair” prompting thousands of Afro-Brazilian women to stop straightening their hair and proudly walking the streets with the hair they were born with. We’ve seen numerous black women take to YouTube to discuss issues that specifically affect their lives after seeing that the mainstream media simply weren’t paying attention to them. Perhaps the culmination of all of this activism was the historic first March of Black Women that took place in the nation’s capital in November of 2015. Among numerous marches (see note 3) and expos for the valorization of cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair), Brazil’s women of African ancestry have found other methods for connecting with others and saying that the lives and experiences of black Brazilian women matter.
Another event that signaled this voice that demands to be heard took place exactly six months ago in a plush hotel in São Paulo. There, on July 23rd, was held the first ever TEDxSão Paulo event featuring the voices of almost exclusively black women. I’m sure many of you have seen a few Ted Talks over the past few years. TED, meaning “technology, entertainment and design” (as well as scientific, cultural, and academic topics) feature lectures by speakers who are prominent in their fields sharing “ideas worth sharing”. And what I find particularly rewarding is that the majority of these women been featured on this blog at one time or another.
On the stage that night were social scientists, singers, musicians, businesswomen, judges, filmmakers, students and journalists all telling personal, inspiring stories about the paths that led them to their calling in life and indeed to the stage that night at the Hotel Unique. Today, I wanted to re-visit that magical night and share with our readers the photos and stories of some of the incredible women that graced the stage that night. Needless to say, whether they were onstage, in the audience or even not there that night, these women are the very reason for the existence of a blog like Black Women of Brazil! I only regret not having been there or having featured that important night here before! But below, I share with you the thoughts on that night from two sources that did witness it live!
Black Women in TEDxSão Paulo reaffirm struggle for empowerment and visibility
By Claudia Alexandre
An event, licensed by the largest platform for sharing ideas in the world, brought together for the first time inspiring black women specialists to celebrate a new moment for Brazilian feminism.
It was seven hours of excitement and empowerment! The event promoted by TEDxSão Paulo, on Saturday, July 23rd, at the Hotel Unique could be called “Mulheres Negras” (Black Women), but it didn’t fail to live up to the title that was widely affirmed during the whole afternoon: “Mulheres que Inspiram” (Women who inspire) . It was the first time that TEDxSãoPaulo, an organization that has a TED license, brought together in one single event the thoughts of so many black women. TED is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote ideas. TED Talks, or TEDTalks, are a world reference and seen by millions of people worldwide.
On the stage, there were 18 voices – just two white women – with great power to touch, another 300 people, mostly black women, with their stories, who occupied the audience and vibrated with each of the lectures. Between tears, laughter and demonstrations of support, all were given standing ovations. As guests, they spoke to intellectuals, militants and newcomers willing to fight for empowerment, openly exposing, in an unprecedented opportunity, stories about dreams, frustrations, domestic violence, sexism, machismo, homophobia, prejudice, racism and, above all, overcoming. The inspiring women were: Angela Domingos Peres (anthropologist and actress); Daniela Gomes (journalist and activist); Eliane Dias (lawyer); Gláucia Costa (Bachelor of Science in Computer Science); Kênia Maria (actress and founder of the web series Tá Bom Pra Você); Lia Vainer Schuman (psychologist and specialist in race relations); Mariana Barros (Master in International Relations); Mayara Silva Souza (lawyer and manager of the Plano de Meninas – Girls’ Plan – Project); Mel Duarte (communicologist, poet and cultural producer); Marta Celestino (manager in Education and documentary maker); Monique Evelle (Humanities student at UFBA and founder of Desabafo Social); Mylene Ramos (Labor Judge); Nadja Pereira (Brand content specialist); Nátaly Neri (student of Social Sciences and Youtuber of the Afros and Afins channel); Nina Oliveira (singer and songwriter); Patrícia Santos de Jesus (pedagogue and specialist in Personnel Management); Stephanie Ribeiro (student of Architecture and Urbanism at PUC-Campinas and writer); Viviane Duarte (journalist and founder of the Plano Feminino – Women’s Plan – Project).
The idea of gathering so many black women in a TEDxSão Paulo was born of the uneasiness of the French consul in Brazil, Alexandra Baldeh Loras, who made it a point to present the proposal to the organization and to follow closely the preparation of each one of those invited. The consulate has been campaigning for the empowerment of black women in Brazil. It was Alexandra who convinced the director of the charming Hotel Unique to support the realization of the event and personally participated in the negotiation with the company Avon, who also supported TEDxSão Paulo, who has as a licensee and curator the social entrepreneur Elena Crescia. “They are very important partnerships, which fill me with pride, giving the quality they are giving to the event. Everything is impeccable, the height that these empowered ones deserve. It’s another victory,” the consulate said proudly in assessing the structure of the event.
Like other events, the “Women Who Inspire” event was attended by dozens of volunteers, including several black women who worked in assembly, attendance, reception and production. “It was as if it was more than a support,” observed Marta Celestino, about the performance of the “irmãs” negras (black “sisters”) in the organization.
15 phrases and ideas from TEDxSão Paulo Women that Inspire
By Camila Luz, Diana Assennato and Livia Deodato
Women who inspired were the protagonists of the last edition of TEDxSãoPaulo. On the 23rd of July, black women shared ideas, feelings, songs, poems, empathy and strength with the audience. The presenters of TV Cultura Roberta Estrela D’alva and Adriana Couto were the masters of ceremony of the event, which had the assistance of Alexandra Loras, a French consulate in São Paulo. In the audience, women, principally black women, were also the majority.
The Best Phrases and Ideas of TEDxSãoPaulo Women Who Inspire
The Free the Essence team recorded striking phrases spoken by guests and speakers:
“Representativeness is important for society and good for business”
Black people are more than 50% of the Brazilian population. If they stopped consuming, they would cause a huge gap in the market. However, have you ever seen any margarine commercial starring blacks? Or a toothpaste commercial?
In Tá bom para você? (is it good to you?), a Youtube channel created by Kênia Maria Dias, she and her family star in commercials to show how representation is deficient in Brazilian society.
“We have to have the courage to say ‘I want!'” – Eliane Dias
Eliane Dias lived on the street with her mother and had to face numerous challenges because of her social condition. As an adult, already married and with children, she was prevented by her husband from going to Germany on a free trip. At that moment, she decided she wanted to be a lawyer.
Eliane studied for six years, without taking time to have fun or take care of her own body. Today, she is a law school graduate and owns the production company Boogie Naipe alongside husband (rapper) Mano Brown. She says it takes courage to take on the size of our choices and make dreams come true.
“Racism spills in my mouth while kissing me” – Nátaly Nery
Nátaly Nery was considered an ugly child by all but a few grown men who said that when she grew up, she would become a very beautiful woman. After all, she would be a beautiful “mulata curvilinear” (curvaceous mulatta).
However, such a mulata never arrived for Nátaly, who has always been a thin girl. As a teenager, she even hated her own body, which fits the standard of beauty that values the thin. The social science student and owner of the YouTube channel Afros and Afins explained that she had difficulty accepting herself because of the racism that is rooted in society on levels that many may not see.
“I am not to blame for the rape, the stone, for my blood that leaks, for my skin that splits, for being sexualized, for being commercialized” – Nina Oliveira
The phrase is part of the song “Disk Denúncia”, by 19 year old singer Nina Oliveira. With a soft voice and still that of a girl, she sings about sexual violence, racism, prejudice, slavery, poverty and o lugar da mulher negra na sociedade (the place of the black woman in society)
“Never compare your beginning with anyone else’s means” – Monique Evelle
The Bahian Monique Evelle is only 21 years old and a trajectory of struggle, mainly through social networks. She is a UFBA (Federal University of Bahia) Humanities student. When she was only 16 years old, she founded Desabafo Social, a project that wants to transform the reality of children, adolescents and young people through alternative education and communication practices.
The girl spoke at TEDxSãoPaulo about what it means to be an entrepreneur on the periphery. “What we call entrepreneurship is survival on the periphery,” she said. Monique reminds us that the greatest entrepreneurs are those vendors of candy, sweets and salgadinhos (friend snacks), who face rain and sun through the streets of several Brazilian cities and “still take a smile from your face while you wait for the bus.”
According to her, in the periphery you learn fast to undertake, after all everything depends on how many mouths you have to feed at home. Undoubtedly, the main tools of the entrepreneurs of the periphery are the waist game allied to creativity. At the end of her talk, the baiana reiterated the importance of not comparing herself with others during her career, since each one carries different talents and difficulties, so the paths will necessarily be different.
“Racism plays tricks on all of us” – Lia Vainer Schucman
Lia Vainer Schucman was one of the few white people invited to lecture at TEDxSãoPaulo dedicated to black women. There was a good reason for this: the doctor in social psychology at USP studies the system of oppression and white domination called “branquitude”, meaning ‘whiteness’.
She began her talk about an interracial couple who, when walking along the beach, was approached by a white couple. Seeing that the white woman was pregnant with her black husband they asked dozens of questions about the baby and its birth. At the end, one of them exclaimed, “I hope it has green eyes like yours!” to which the pregnant woman agreed. This pregnant woman, Lia revealed at the end of the talk, was her and made her wonder why she had agreed with the woman’s desire. “That observation was limited to a phenotype. When did green eyes become prettier than the others? Where did that come from?”
Since then, her questioning has been guiding her research (she is currently working on postdoctoral studies on interracial families). “Whiteness is a way of seeing the world. Humanity is considered white and the blacks, Indians and other types of races are considered parts of a particular humanity,” she said. “Racism plays tricks on all of us.”
“The sound goes through cosmic immensities. The voice is a force of nature” – Xênia França
The only woman in the group Aláfia, Xênia França, 28, was the first singer to perform at the TEDx which celebrated black women. The baiana born in Candeias impressed with her powerful and sexy voice in Hotel Unique, where the event was held. She sang lyrics that celebrated the origin of at least 90% of those present. “Sound goes through cosmic immensities. The voice is a force of nature,” said Xênia, touched by that meeting of so many black women who are making a difference in Brazil.
“Seeing the other saves lives” – Angela Domingos Peres
Angela holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology and a Bachelor in Social Sciences from Unesp. In her talk she spoke about how each privilege acquired by a portion of society creates an immediate inequality: “in this cycle, one day the bill comes”.
What she proposes is to generate deviations, where each one can separate from him/herself and seek other perspectives to inhabit the “fissures of freedom,” as she calls it. “We have to shake the certainties and expand the possibilities.”
“The issue with my dreams is that they are usually so much bigger than me” – Daniela Gomes
Daniela Gomes took the stage in a colorful and well-cut suit, a black top and a few rhymes that left the audience breathless. She explains that whenever she can, she doesn’t stop declaring her love publicly to Hip Hop: according to her, the musical style saved her life and showed her another way to see the world.
“When I first met Hip Hop, it’s like all the answers came at the same time,” Daniela said. A journalist and Movimento Negro (black movement) activist, she is a doctoral student at the University of Texas where she researches how the style of music can be a tool for empowering young blacks.
“86% of the judges in Brazil are white, when 53% of the country’s population is black.” – Mylene Ramos
Mylene Pereira Ramos is a black woman and a judge, an absolute minority in the Brazilian judicial system. A graduate of Law, with a Master’s and Ph.D from Columbia and Stanford, the judge has been a stand out in acting in causes that involve minorities, discrimination and slave labor. For her, the judicial system deficient of diversity is a disfavor for the rights of the Brazilian and with her work she struggles to spread this cause.
“Society tells me that I have to be strong. I want to be able to be weak, so I write.” – Stephanie Ribeiro
The audience expected a controversial and incendiary Stephanie Ribeiro on stage, as she usually is in he social networks and in her daily struggle for the black feminist movement. But Stephanie showed another side: the writing side that uses the word as medicine.
Stephanie is a student of Architecture and Urbanism at PUC-Campinas. She is the first in her family to attend college and knows the impact of this on her story. She discovered in writing a tool to expose vulnerabilities and cure hidden pains. Her grandmother, her grandfather’s widow for decades, is her great inspiration: “Every day she opens a notebook and tells him how her day was,” she said.
“Having a plan is the first step to having a leading role in life.” – Viviane Duarte
Every time Viviane asked her mother for a new doll, a party outfit, or a ticket to a show, she would help her plan the achievement. “She told me ‘Let’s see what you can do with what you have to achieve this goal,’ and from an early age I understood the importance of having a plan,” Viviane told TEDxSãoPaulo’s audience.
Viviane is a journalist, with postgrad in Consumer Marketing and MBA in Strategic Communication. She has worked in large multinationals, but today she is at the forefront of the Plano Feminino (Feminine Plan) and Plano de Menina (Girl’s Plan) project, an ecosystem of education, coaching and empowerment to empower in the future women the capability of women to be whatever they want be in the future and to plan for it.
“I’m tired of seeing my people in statistics” – Mariana Barros
A woman, black and handicapped, Yzalú started by explaining that probably none of the women in the audience knew about the discrimination she has already gone through, but that the fight is only one.
Yzalú is a singer, grew up listening to songs of protest and throughout her life understood that Hip Hop and Bossa Nova mingled in her heart. He recently recorded her first CD Minha Bossa é Treta, where she surprises with the strength of the poetry of her rhyme and the softness of her guitar.
“Let us all be troubled by the invisible” – Patricia Santos de Jesus
As a young woman, Patricia wanted to be a doctor, but was soon informed by her parents that blacks in this profession are rare. She grew up noting the lack of black people in companies and qualified positions. Today she practices the “medicine of the invisible.” She attends the most diverse institutions pointing out and questioning the absence of afrodescendentes (African descendants) in the staff.
“Ubuntu: I exist through you” – Marta Celestino
Marta Celestino has developed a research on the “African diaspora” that shows where the peoples of the 54 countries of the continent were and how they preserved their essence and culture.
According to the researcher, in African ancestral cultures, concepts such as sustainability and the notion of collective/collaborative have been applied for centuries. In the West, these values have begun to gain real strength in recent years and are still under development. The African people are also open to diversity and pluralism. There are 11 official languages in South Africa, for example. Marta attributes these characteristics to the survival capacity of Africans through the centuries.
She states that the dispersion of blacks was the first globalization movement in the world. “It also showed how dominant and non-recessive we are.” Marta also highlighted the “non-primitive” and ancestral wisdom of the 54 countries of the African continent, such as the meeting to share Ethiopian food and the use of the term “ubuntu”, a kind of African “namastê”, who welcomes the existence of each of us in all of us. It is about the ability to understand and accept the other, as he/she is, and to celebrate life together.
- Just a few such events, expos, etc. that are focused on black women or created by black women include Encrespa Geral, Festival Latinidades, Feira Preta and Afro Sabará Award.
- For a few examples, see protests against the TV series Sexo e as Negas, against a racist Cadiveu hair product campaign or a group of black women who invaded a class at Brazil’s top university to challenge ideas about affirmative action.
- See Marcha do Orgulho Crespo here and the Movimento das Mulheres Negras Capixabas here.