Note from BW of Brazil: As we’ve written in numerous posts, the past few decades have seen tremendous changes in the consciousness of Brazil’s black population. The giant is waking up! Of course, Brazil has long been taunted as having the largest population of African descent outside of Africa for decades, but this figure (51% of the population) doesn’t mean that all of this population is racially/politically conscious or even accept blackness as a racial identity. In fact, one of the principle reasons for the continued oppression of Afro-Brazilians is the fact that millions within this group lack a sense of consciousness which in turn leads to a lack of understanding of the ways that racism and white supremacy affect their own lives. But things are changing.
We recently saw more evidence of this change in the southern region of the country. The state of Santa Catarina, along with the two other states making up the southern region of the country, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná make up what many consider the European region of Brazil. A region in which one notes the largest percentages of persons identifying themselves as brancas (whites) and where one sees strong cultural influences of European culture that was brought to the region by millions of European immigrants starting in the late 19th century.
Besides being vastly outnumbered numerically in this region of the country, Afro-Brazilian activists have also long complained that their historic contributions to these three states have been largely rendered non-existent. In the state of Santa Catarina, only about 12% of the population defines itself as black, while this percentage is only about 20% in the three states combined. Florianópolis, where today’s story took place, is the capital city of Santa Catarina and only 12.6% black (1). But just a few days ago, a group of Afro-Brazilian residents of the city took to the streets to remind everyone that the city is also black! (2)
In the material below, we bring you the objectives laid out by black activists who organized the march and what materialized.
The objectives of the Marcha da Negritude Catarinense
The March seeks the empowerment of blacks through access to political rights and the exercise of citizenship. Along the way, demonstrators will make stops at points of historical relevance to the black movement, with performance of readings and tributes. Cultural presentations to be featured in the march will celebrate black people and their resilience.
“The struggle for rights is the backdrop that unites various aspects of those fighting for equality in the state,” says the teacher Liliane Bernardes, member of the de Mulheres Negras Pretas Desterro (Collective of Black Women Black Exile). In an interview, she points to the lack of inclusion of affirmative action and policies aimed at black men and women who have had their rights historically evaded.
What are the main demands of the black movements currently in Santa Catarina?
Through the various sectors of policy and constitution of society they propagate the exclusion of blacks. Considering the lack of affirmative action and inclusion policies, the inertia in which we operate is a reflection of social inequality and lack of political debates and round tables for dialogue. In the cultural question, the identity of blacks is still imposed by a Euro-centered view, where there is in fact the history of syncretism and ancestry of blacks as subjects. To insert the reality of the facts in textbooks is a historical flag of the militants of black movements.
Is the black women’s movement integrated? In what way is this integration happening and what are black women demanding in this march?
Black women who support this march are from several collective movements and of entities of action in the state for defense of the woman. Black women unify our struggle and unite ourselves with this march.
How is it being black in this estado “de brancos” (state “of whites”)? Is Santa Catarina a racist state? How do black men and women feel here?
Being black in Santa Catarina is to experience a governance focused on Eurocentrism, where we black men and women, are not included in the access to public policies. The laws should include and protect us don’t in fact have application Santa Catarina is among the states that have the largest number of victims of gender and racial prejudice, which coincides with the tradition of its colonization.
Does Florianópolis allow black women and men the occupation of the downtown areas of the city, mobility and access to the arts and culture?
The lack of resources is the biggest obstacle for us to occupy these spaces. We accept crumbs and with them we survived this persistent invisibility.
What does this march seek to arouse in people? What are the expectations with this action?
The March seeks the empowerment of blacks through access to political rights and the exercise of citizenship. We march for cultural diversity, religious freedom, against the genocide of our people. We march to be seen and have our protagonism recognized in the history of the construction of this country. We march through the doors of employment that have been closed. We march in order to have the right qualify to worship our syncretism. For the quilombola (inhabitants of maroon societies) brothers and sisters who resist time and insist on not being forgotten. We march because we exist and resist.
Santa Catarina is also black! Black men and black women marched in Florianópolis
On July 16th, in Florianópolis, the first Marcha da Negritude Catarinense (March of Santa Catarina Blackness) took place. Even with the rain and the cold, the various militants of collectives of movimento negros (black movements) of Santa Catarina weren’t not discouraged and continued the event’s programming.
By Felipe Cardoso dos Santos
Passing through the streets of the state capital’s downtown, they sang songs, demanded rights and also paid tribute to black references, such as the famous Santa Catarina writer Cruz e Souza and gaúcha (native of the state of Rio Grande do Sul) Luiza Helena Bairros, former Minister of Racial Equality, who died on July 12th.
The end of the genocide of the black population, more public policies for the promotion of racial justice, an end to religious intolerance and all the negligence and government attacks on negritude were present in the demands of black men and women.
The idea of the march came about due to the invisibility of the black population in Santa Catarina state and the lack of historical recognition, also making difficult unity and dialogue of the black population, leaving them isolated. From this problematic appeared the theme for the event: Existimos e Resistimos (We exist and resist). To affirm and leave it marked that the black population is present in Santa Catarina and want to have their history recognized and included in all sectors: political, economic, cultural, educational and social.
Between tears and striking speeches, black men and women occupied the streets with their fists, showing respect and appreciation for their ancestry and their willingness to fight.
One of the highlights of the March, was the participation and involvement of black women from the organization and coordination in order for the event to happen with the large number present in the act.
Mothers of families, workers, pitched in to make the event happen. Highlights for the militants Jeruse Romão, Taty Américo, Cláudia Prado da Rosa and Liliane Santos, residents of the city of Florianópolis, were responsible for the bureaucratic, logistical and financial process, managing all the details for the march to be held.
A big step for Santa Catarina negritude present in a state that insists on hiding its African and Afro-Brazilian roots.
Check out the video from the Notícias Maruim Channel
- Joinville, another city in the state, actually claims the highest Afro-Brazilian population in Santa Catarina at 17.4%.
- We’ve seen similar actions in states such as Rio Grande do Sul where Afro-Brazilians also struggle to maintain recognition and memory. See here for example.