An empowered black woman bothers many people

Black women in rally during International Women's Day on March 8, 1988
Black women in rally during International Women’s Day on March 8, 1988.

Note from BW of Brazil: We all make use of the internet these days. This technological advancement has made life easier in numerous ways and make things that used to require putting in quite a bit of effort to accomplish as simple as typing a few words and tapping the search button. No need to get into a long dialogue on how our lives are different these days because of the convenience of the internet, but suffice it to say, for those of us old enough to remember life without it, it is a drastic change for the better in many ways even if there are certain things we don’t like about it.

This tool has been utilized to make some things much easier and accomplishing other things that may not have been have possible just 20 years ago. I’m often amazed at some of the great things people can do with the internet. One can sell products overseas. Easily make friends across borders. Learn to do things that just a generation ago were problematic or extremely expensive. The tool also easily provides space for like-minded people to connect and share their joy and pain in times when one feels they are the one person on the planet that thinks in a certain manner. In a society such as Brazil where, even with a rising militancy among the black population, millions of people still refuse to admit/believe the everyday bouts with racism that Afro-Brazilians face on a regular basis. Having consciousness of these daily incidents can probably drive one mad when such a person is surrounded by an endless stream of people who are in denial about these occurrences and how damaging they can be to one’s self-esteem, emotional and psychological well-being. 

Enter the internet. As more and more black Brazilian women come to terms with the fact that their country is not the racial democracy it paints itself to be, many of these women are finding solace, camaraderie and sisterhood with other women of African descent who feel the pain, disrespect and invisibility that the society wants to pretend doesn’t even exist. These women express themselves in social network groups, individual and collective blogs that help to construct a sort of empowerment that would taken a lot of time, energy and organizing skills just a short time ago. For black women, the parcel of Brazil’s population that is most often disrespected and disregarded, these sort of online dialogues often double as support groups that give a voice to a group that has historically been ignored. Here at BW of Brazil we’re glad to see it happening and hope these dialogues continue to be the springboard for the unity of black women throughout Brazil!

An empowered black woman bothers many people

by Viviana Santiago

Originally posted on the Blogueiras Negras blog

I am a night owl. I’ve always been one. I had as a teenager a phase of spending late nights watching those boy-meets-girl movies, I’ve had the staying awake until sunrise phase studying for the vestibular (college entrance exam), then finding myself calming a newborn down, or crying alone for a lost love, a humiliation suffered or a dream that had to be forgotten, and finally I found myself at a time in which I was awaken studying to manage to be apt to respond to the newest challenge at work. And I kept staying up for so long and until today, that being awake during the early morning became a habit.

The stillness, the silence of the night makes me more productive, more attentive, more interested I would say, the whole night coats itself with more contour, more clarity for me …

It was one of those mornings a while ago, while I involved myself he wrapped me in doubt-studies-concerns, that I received an invitation to a virtual group of black women.

I accepted the invitation and immediately joined the group. In the midst of curiosity I started reading all the content and the more I read, the more I wanted to read. When I got to the contents of that night, suddenly someone posted an outburst: “I was sad, feeling disrespected in my job, I read the racism in the attitude of the people and didn’t know how to react …”. As I read I could feel every word of that report reverberating inside me, I knew what she was talking about, I could have been me talking there, it seemed like she was telling one of my experiences in the world of work.

After this post at about one o’clock in the morning, I read a post by a young black woman who felt humiliated by her white-skinned cousins and couldn’t defend herself because when she revealed what happened to aunts, she became a laughingstock. And all the time that I was there, I read new posts that brought out a little of each one of those black women, but it seems that they also spoke of me.

The Facebook group was more than women who could not get to sleep early: it was a space to talk and put out this energy and this destruction that a racist and sexist society imposes, it was breaking the silencing and opening new and positive energies that won’t make our bodies sick. Everything I read sounded strangely familiar, and this had a reason: We, black women have a singular existence and an existence as a collective that survived, that resists. The experience of being Viviana is singular and the at the same time plural, because the Black Women Viviana experiences and/or experienced many very similar experiences and very present in the life of each and every one of those black women there in the group because Viviane is a Black Woman.

In the following mornings I returned to the Group and each morning I was perceiving that many other women, black like me, were also awake, alert and in full production; and so this discovery owed itself to the encounter and from the encounter were born the shares, the listens, the re-inventions, re-discoveries, the organization of strategies of resistance and struggles …

We black women, we feel very empowered, the shares help us to give a name to all this pain that for so long we felt, the certainty of the presence of the other serves as a lap, in that day in which the more that we recognize and know about all pain that racism provokes in us, it doesn’t change the fact that it hurts a lot when we are hurt by it.

Recognizing the pain, denaturalizing it, naming it, facing it is more than a Discussion Group: It is sisterhood, it is empowerment. And empowerment scares.

As women we are socialized for competition. One of the biggest successes of the patriarchal machismo is the false notion taught and internalized by each of us that we are competitors. We learn that women are not friends, that women are disloyal, that women gossip, lie, outwit and steal men from each other. The absence of women in spaces, job posts, and significant hierarchical levels reinforces another notion: “There’s no room for all of us!” And we black women feel it more intensely, because our absence is much higher, as such, if we already grow up learning to detest ourselves in adulthood it’s not rare that we also begin to boycott ourselves, because we are sure (sometimes conscious, sometimes not) that only one or at most two of us will be able to be there.

Given this, what would a racist and sexist society think when a group of black women, subverts this logic and transforms the virtual space previously used only for research, readings, videos, chat-to-kill-time into a kind of place of comfort, the place where we constitute and recognize ourselves as friends and sisters.

It wouldn’t take long before we would begin to be ridiculed, to be called radicals, insane, that it was all a “inferiority complex”. Many of us go through being ridiculed behind our backs in our workplaces, they nickname us intellectuals (because it is so difficult for racism to recognize our potential, that calling a black woman an intellectual could only be a joke), they try to make a mockery of our writings and readings of reality calling us sophisticates that want to attend art sessions … why yes it’s true: an empowered black presence makes some very uncomfortable because it deconstructs all the certainties that whiteness operates in our respect, it subverts the standard and unbalances the game and so it must be silenced and erased.

Viviana Santiago: Black, woman, Northeasterner, educator, mother of João Marcos.
Viviana Santiago: Black, woman, Northeasterner, educator, mother of João Marcos.

The bad news for those who are bothered with that empowerment is that these groups are growing, together we are thousands of black women taking back the power to control our lives, together we are resisting the violence, together we are saying we no longer accept the measure of “at the least”. Together we want and we will always be more.

I have to say that this space is our new Quilombo (1). Our dawns will be even more productive and even now, during the day many are already there making of the virtual space the concrete confronting of violence.

And if so, the night owl as I am, I’ll make a cup of tea and wait for the sisters to share an idea, I bid farewell per hour and: good morning for those who are for a good morning, good night for those who are for a good night and we keep on bothering. Because an empowered black woman bothers many people, when they come together they bother, bother and bother much more…

Source: Blogueiras Negras


1. A quilombo (from the Kimbundu word kilombo) is a Brazilian hinterland settlement founded by people of African origin including the Quilombolas, or Maroons. Most of the inhabitants of quilombos (called quilombolas) were escaped slaves and, in some cases, later these escaped African slaves would help provide shelter and homes to other minorities of marginalised Portuguese, Brazilian aboriginals, Jews and Arabs, and/or other non-black, non-slave Brazilians who experienced oppression during colonization. However, the documentation on runaway slave communities typically uses the term mocambo to describe the settlements. “Mocambo” is an Ambundu word that means “hideout”, and is typically much smaller than a quilombo. Quilombo was not used until the 1670s and then primarily in more southerly parts of Brazil. A similar settlement exists in other Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America, and is called a palenque. Its inhabitants are palenqueros who speak various Spanish-African-based creole languages. Source. Many articles on this blog deal with quilombos and its residents, called quilombolas. See here.

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. It’s obvious, isn’t it? An organized group of Black women taking back their lives threatened the powers that be. Any time a Black woman tell true stories of discrimination and humiliation by nonblack and black folk alike, people want to deny deny and deny, then mock us for doing so. All we’re doing is our lives and sanity back and to improve the lives of those around us. That’s all.


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