Note from BW of Brazil: Since I had the idea of creating this blog several years, I’ve received countless messages on this blog and the social network profiles connected it from people who have always sought to know a little more about the issue of race and the black experience in Brazil. For those who have followed this blog or its social networks for any amount of time, I hope you’ve gotten some good insight on the Afro-Brazilian experience.
On the other hand, a few days ago, someone at one the social networks wrote that they would be unsubscribing, apparently because he disagreed with something in a recent article. Oh well…It’s not possible to please all of the people all of the time. There will always be differences of opinions and I have no problem with that. If one never receives some shade from time to time due to a certain position they take, then perhaps they’re simply playing it too safe. Whatever. Today’s piece presents much of what this blog is all about: black Brazilian revealing what it means to be a black woman in Brazil. Hope you enjoy.
Empowerment and Black Feminism: Three Women Share Life Stories
Posted by Thamires Tancredi
How likely is it that three interviewees to know each other? For this reporter, the surprise came as soon as they entered the studio where they were waiting to begin the photographic session you’ll see in the next pages. Designer Ana Langone, who also acts as DJ, had already accompanied Negra Jaque in one of her shows. The rapper, in turn, was invited by journalist Carol Anchieta to participate in the programming of Octo, where she works. What seems, at first glance, mere chance, to Ana it translates exactly the feeling of collective and exchange that permeates this new phase of the movement that unites and gives more and more voice to black women.
“Here, one pulls the other,” she says.
It is by adding up knowledge and sharing experiences that they have reinforced their own identity while claiming space. Even a talk about hair or beauty, as we witnessed during the photo shoot, is the starting point for a larger discussion of self-esteem and black pride. While they tell what tricks they use to care for their hair, they encourage other women to assume their curls as well. Between one knot and another of the turban, a symbolic piece of African matrix that Ana uses and produces, they debate black culture. They rediscover their roots by sharing and finding new references – be they fashion, art, or work.
It was precisely to help other black women to find their own style that the journalist Luiza Brasil initiated the Mequetrefismos, a blog that today also speaks of self-esteem and empowerment.
“I saw the need to speak of the black woman, of her representativeness,” she explains. “It was a question of mission because I really understood how much we lacked references.
No wonder virtual spaces like Mequetrefismos itself, Mama Moura’s blog and Nátaly Neri‘s Afros and Afins YouTube channel have gained so much relevance. It is in this same footprint of recovery and appreciation of the roots that brands like Xongani, which sells accessories like necklaces, bands, earrings, and turbans, get more and more fans. Ana Langone herself, a designer you know throughout this article, has turned her finishing work into a project that mixes African fashion and imprints.
In addition to style, the internet also helped give voice to black women. While the so-called feminist spring has rekindled the discussion on broader issues such as machismo, wage equality, and gender violence, black feminism is responsible for debating what it means to be a minority within a minority. In a text published by the group Blogueiras Negras, one of the most active online platforms on the subject, activist Mara Gomes explains the need for a specific struggle:
“The black woman suffers a double oppression, one for being black, and another for being a woman. Gender and race are transgressed as well as social class, since by remnants left to us from times of slavery most of the black population is poor, lives in places of low structure and has the lowest level of education (…) The oppression of mulheres negras (black women) is no more important than the oppression of the white woman, but the black woman carries other issues that do not directly affect the white woman. These issues transcend us beyond gender and should be discussed with a different slant.”
For rapper Negra Jaque (photo above), it is precisely the trajectory full of singularities of the black woman over the years that justifies the need to discuss their own agendas and demand rights:
“While white women were burning their bra to be able to work, we had been working for a long time. They fought to work outside and those who took care of their children were negras. This goes much further, it’s a historical issue. The experiences and violence are different.
Although extreme episodes of racism are not routine in the life of every black woman, the host Carol Anchieta (photo below) believes that it is fundamental to know that this happens with other women and to understand why. It is that of sorority, a word that has fallen in the vocabulary of those who debate feminism.
“Even if it is not your reality, the other goes through this, and you have to be aware to help it, even if it does not happen to you, too,” she explains. “Feminism is not a flag, it’s a state of knowing your value as a woman. It should be a state of consciousness, not a flag you carry. It is important that you know your value as a woman within your reality, but that doesn’t ignore the other.
Donna (magazine) tells three inspiring life stories that have as a link the struggle to see and be seen – and valued – from the identity they bring in the skin.
Rap is the voice of Negra Jaque
“With melanin, pride in the chest.[…] A voice that comes from within, in the ginga (flavor/swag) and in the way.” When the rapper Negra Jaque wrote the lyrics of “Negona”, she practically self-described herself. No wonder, she perpetuated a microphone on his skin, a symbol of the voice she gained when he discovered Hip Hop.
“It fortified my identity and gave me a place in the world. Hip Hop told me “guria, vai”(girl, go). That’s when I found myself as a mother and a woman.
A resident of Morro da Cruz and mother of Erick, eight years old, Jaque grew up in a family led by women. And learned early on the meaning of being black and woman. It was common to hear that her nose was ugly and that she had to straighten her hair to “lower the volume down.” She was even advised not to wear lipstick so as not to emphasize her thick lips.
Jaqueline Trindade Pereira began to transform into Negra Jaque when she joined the Instituto de Educação (Institute of Education) to study Magisterium. As she herself says, she stopped being a guria negra (black girl) of the community to become one of the few black girls in a white majority school. Along with another “four or five” black colleagues, he suffered one of those episodes of racism disguised as a joke. In a physics class, he heard from the professor that “the person was shocked and became very negrinha.” It was at this time that Hip Hop began to enter into the life of the student, who was preparing to study Pedagogy – a course that she has just concluded via EAD (ensino a distância or distance learning). In the classes on campus, it’s impossible not to look at being one of the three black people in a class of 60 students. But a teacher inspired her:
“Going into a university and finding a teacher who is black changes your learning glance entirely. It’s still small, everything is very little. We are not talking about equality, because there is no equality in Brazil, but to equate some things.”
Jaque has embraced her blackness and now turns her struggle against the oppression of women and prejudice in music.
“I usually say that Negra Jaque was fundamental in this process. Jaqueline is just my record name. Being in Hip Hop, looking for women who sing, who say that our aesthetic is beautiful, is queen and king, coming from a millenarian generation, from another continent, was very important. Knowledge is fundamental for this to happen. It comes from the outside in, and then it comes out from the inside out, and not everyone has access.”
And, if it depends on “Negona” sung by Negra Jaque in her first music video, the fight “will not stop. Turn on the engines to keep up.”
The print of Ana Langone
The woman with loose hair, who wears colors and symbols of her ancestors in pieces created with her own hands, for a long time wished she had not been born black. At 10 days of life, Ana Paula Langone was adopted by a white couple. She spent her early years listening to the questions of her high school classmates about her family, that came before even noticing her curly hair. At age nine, the parents separated – which, in a way, even helped the girl in the mission to hide from herself who she was.
“When I was with my father, I used to say that my mother was black, or vice versa. I omitted everything from myself,” she recalls. “It was traumatizing, because I wanted to be white and I was not, and I was in a família branca (white family). I lacked references to understand myself as black.
It was precisely these roots that Ana, 35, discovered in the afternoons that she spent in the library of the Faculty of Design of the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel). Between one book and another of art, she asked the librarian to also separate what she found in the archive of blacks in the city. The desire to know more and more about who she was and where she came from also appeared in the choice of the theme of the monograph: African prints. A decade after delivering her completion work, she would return to the theme of where she had stopped.
Dubbed Kuntu – which in the aesthetics of the Bantu people means beauty, joy, appreciation -, the project has become the designer’s new love. After facing being fired in July of last year, she began to create prints with prints made by herself from materials such as wood and trimmed EVA, a technique learned in her research on Afro culture.
“No one thought it would work. The prints look beautiful,” she says.
The same Adinkras African symbols that give life to dresses and turbans – named after great black women, like Nina Simone – became the subject of the workshops that Ana minister. Perhaps the most memorable was in September in one of the meetings of the Women’s March in Santana do Livramento. In a meeting, he shared with the other militants the prints he was creating. There was no other: soon the organizers got an auditorium at the local college so Ana could teach the technique to other women. To the artisan’s surprise, the place filled up – and made her not stop anymore.
Currently, Ana lives in Caxias do Sul and is divided between Kuntu, workshops and feminist militancy, as well as gigs as DJ.
The identity of Carol Anchieta
Carolina Anchieta, 36, was fortunate to “growing up empowered,” as she herself defines in the first minutes of the interview. The daughter of a physical education teacher who studied Afro culture, in a very natural way, the girl went to Candomble terreiros as well as dance class and patinação (skating), typical of the middle-class girl routine. But very early on, Carol also saw herself as the only black child in the class at the private school where she studied, the only black girl in the group of friends. Years later, she faced the surprise of the guests of Unisinos TV, where she worked while studying journalism, when she met a black host.
“Here in the South everything is very veiled, so often you do not perceive prejudice,” she ponders.
At age 17, he began to get involved with the Hip-Hop movement, skateboarding, and urban culture. In addition to seeing her circle of friends increase, she realized that her worldview was also gaining new frontiers.
“I identified with it a lot and found out where I wanted to be. The urban culture became part of my life and my essence,” she affirms. “But I still did not have all the empowerment as a black woman and I could not see the machismo within Hip Hop itself. Something bothered me, but I did not quite know what it was.”
Carol was, in fact, only to discover why some everyday situations made her so uncomfortable when she moved to Rio de Janeiro. There she made friends that began to scare from her eyes the cloud that would not allow the journalist to see the little big prejudices of everyday life, like the time when she was asked if her hair was wet.
In the case of Octo (TV program) hostess, hair and skin have always been a source of pride. Perhaps her greatest self-assertion is in relation to the shape of her body. Accustomed to comparing herself with her thin friends, it took time to accept that her biotype of black woman also gave her thicker thighs, for example:
“I’m never going to have Gisele’s body because I’m black.” In Rio, I was able to accept this better and demystify the clothes I could wear. That was liberating for me.
Source: Revista Donna