Note from BBT: This is yet another topic that I’m happy to see more black Brazilian men and black Braziliean getting involved. The sciences are what runs our world and for some time, in Brazil, it was almost unheard of to see black men or women performing in this field. Of course, this is not to say that the field of sciences has suddenly changed its complexion, but maybe in the coming years the field will at least take on somewhat of a tan.
In past posts, I have done features on a few Afro-Brazilians who had made a name for themselçves in the sciences. A few of those names include Katemari Rosa, Joana D’Arc de Souza, Anna Maria Canavarro Benite, Sonia Guimarães, and Ernesto Batista Mané Júnior, whom I featured a few weeks ago.
As a child and a teenager, I can remember having a certain fascination with the study of the sciences, but somewhere along the way, even though it was still intriguing, I sort of lost interest in going into the area as a career. This is one of the reasons that I admire people that go into the so-called exact sciences. Black people in general need to see more people who look like them in these areas so that we can lose the idea that jobs that require white jackets also require white skin.
This is part of the reason that the new book featuring black Brazilian women in the sciences was created. Yes, black Brazilian women scientists do exist and maybe one day, when a Brazilian child opens a book of “who’s who in the sciences”, they will find a few of these women and get to know a few “Hidden Figures” of African descent.
Black Brazilian women scientists are honored in a new hobby book by “Meninas e Mulheres nas Ciências”;
On the national Day of Black Consciousness, UFPR teachers and students who are part of the Extension Project team “Girls and Women in Science” released the hobby book Cientistas Negras: Brasileiras – Volume 1” (Black Scientists: Brazilians – Volume 1), available for free here. The objective of the work is to publicize the role of black Brazilian scientists, boosting education and scientific dissemination in a decolonizing and humanizing perspective.
Illustrations by Marcelo Jean Machado
The material addresses the issues through playful activities, such as word searches, crosswords and coloring pages. In the first volume, the trajectories of 14 black Brazilian scientists from different fields of knowledge are told. On the cover, the nine illustrated scientists symbolize the broad areas of knowledge. One of them, professor Rita de Cássia dos Anjos, of the Exact and Earth Sciences, is a prominent professor and researcher at the Universidade Federal do Paraná (Federal University of Paraná) (learn more about her below).
The project coordinator, professor Camila Silveira, from the Chemistry department, emphasizes the importance of the work for the strengthening and recognition of black intellectual references in the field of Sciences. She also points out that the contributions of black scientists are present in all the productions of “Meninas e Mulheres nas Ciências”, but a work with exclusive focus on these women is an action of reverence and historical reparation.
The book’s authors are mostly black, which also contributes to the feeling of belonging, representation, self-affirmation, place of discourse and expression of the intellectuality of these women. Professor Claudemira Lopes, from Setor Litoral, considered the collective writing process as a “wonderful experience”. She also points out that the theme has affected her subjectivity. “It allowed me, a black woman, historically silenced, to be able, with my writing, to establish a symbolic struggle in the field of authorship”.
The Chemistry student and also the author of the book, Jaqueline Ramos, always knew that she was a black woman not only because of her skin color, features and hair, but also because of the various looks, comments and racist situations. “Feeling alone on an island of white men and women in the south of the country is a noxious reality and one that often does not bring prospects for the future for many girls who don’t see themselves in places of power”.
Mayara Brasil, a student of Geology and author, examines that the book produced is an advance in the expansion of positive references about black women in Brazil by highlighting the production of scientists “who are historically erased within the academic world”.
Learning that also teaches
For the professor of the Department of Physics and author Alessandra Souza Barbosa, the production of the book was a great learning experience because of the opportunity to learn more about great black women scientists. She highlights “the inspiring stories, with successes and a lot of overcoming”.
Jaqueline ponders that the writing of the book meant a new perspective, not only for her, who experiences “a white, European and content based academy”, but mainly for black girls who feel like she’s already felt. “The world is ours and we are the change”, she reflects.
For Mayara, contributing to the book was “very enriching”, as she was able to learn and broaden her knowledge about the scientists portrayed, making them personal references. In addition, it reinforces the importance of working alongside women who see education as the basis for social change.
Alessandra reaffirms the difficulty of being a black woman scientist, a place of gender and racial prejudice. “These issues need to be debated so that in the future we can have a more just world for everyone”.
The book drives the Education for Sustainable Development on the United Nations Agenda 2030, highlighting the themes of Health and Well-Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Reducing Inequalities and Peace, Justice and Effective Institutions.
In addition to the work, the project will release other online hobbies on the topic. Analog teaching materials, such as printed books and games, are also in production. Beginning in 2021, schools and individuals will be able to borrow for classroom and/or remote work.
More information about the actions and products of “Girls and Women in Science” can be accessed on the Blog (https://meninasemulheresnascienciasufpr.blogspot.com/) and on the social networks Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mulheresnasciencias.ufpr) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/mulheresnasciencias.ufpr/).
The contact email is: Mulheresnasciencias.firstname.lastname@example.org
Women on the cover in first photo
1) Neusa Santos Souza (Health Sciences)
2) Rita de Cássia dos Anjos (Exact and Earth Sciences)
3) Enedina Alves Marques (Engineering)
4) Katemari Rosa (Multidisciplinary)
5) Simone Maria Evaristo (Biological Sciences)
6) Sueli Carneiro (Human Sciences)
7) Nilma Bentes (Agrarian Sciences)
8) Luiza Bairros (Applied Social Sciences)
9) Conceição Evaristo (Linguistics, Letters and Arts).
In the hobby book, the image of professor Rita de Cássia for coloring
Rita de Cássia dos Anjos: representation that reaches the galaxies
By Amanda Miranda
Antonia was always a curious woman, opening objects that spoiled to see how to fix them. She also had an avant-garde look: a mother of eight in a city in the interior of São Paulo, she advised them on their studies and gave the opportunity to train a great scientist at home: “don’t accept things as they are”, she said to Rita by Cássia dos Anjos, professor in the Engineering and Exact department of the Pallottine Sector and one of the winners of the “Program for Women in Science 2020”, promoted by L’Oréal Brasil, Unesco Brasil and Academia Brasileira de Ciências.
Rita didn’t accept this and, today, she is one of the stars of the hobby book Cientistas Negras: Brasileiras – Volume 1 (Black Women Scientists: Brazilians – Volume 1), representing an area very much associated with male culture: the exact sciences. Her object of study is the Starburst galaxies, investigated as possible sources of cosmic rays of high energies, but her interest in Astrophysics began to be identified after graduation in Biological Physics, at Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho (Unesp). In her master’s degree, she studied Theories of Integrable Fields and Solitons. In her doctorate, propagation of extragalactic cosmic rays, both at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP) – and went to Harvard, the most prestigious university in the United States, as a Capes scholarship holder.
The scientist achieved great visibility in 2020 due to the award in which she applied for the third time and which will help her to buy cutting-edge equipment and to remunerate a scholarship for a year. All winners are women, but only she and one other are black. And this is where Rita’s academic background and biography begin to take on a critical shape – black girls and women need role models to make their dreams come true.
“Inequality destroys any black woman’s dream. We need to take major steps in public actions and policies to minimize this problem. Affirmative action needs to enhance the entry of black girls to the university, but also support their permanence and entry into the job market,”comments the professor, who reveals that she is studying the subject more and more.
The question of representation also touches you. Rita says that her biggest inspiration was her own mother, curious and inventive with a kind of “everyday science”. In the labs, however, she graduated from seeing and admiring the work of white men. “I had no references from black women scientists. For that, we really need inclusive projects.”
These projects started popping up on Rita’s desk, who is committed to contributing to black girls and women who dream of an academic career. The idea is to show that there is a way. “Recently, I made a material to present some paths and opportunities, such as scholarships and exchanges. Projects are very important, but it is even more important to require them to work – the quotas we see, but what about afterward?”. She recalls that only 10% of black women don’t drop out of courses and that this statistic further increases inequalities. “Often they need to give up a job and get a scholarship that doesn’t help to keep them at the university”, she points out.
And for those who use her as an example of meritocracy, Rita has answers that also evoke her family. Her mother encouraged her and her seven brothers to study. It’s not always a typical story – or it rarely is. Inequality also generates unstructured families, where such support and examples can be rare. “She is visionary and even today she provokes me to search for things. As a result of her encouragement, I am just now taking the Detran’s cram course,”he jokes. “There are many families with disruptions, without this example. She taught me to be strong.”
Three months after winning the “Women in Science” award, dividing her time between interviews, live chats, academic events and readings and projects to increase the participation of black girls and women in science, Rita also came to new scientific discoveries. In two articles written with groups of researchers around the world, she ensures the accuracy of the spectrum of high-energy cosmic rays, with data obtained since 2004. The collaboration involves scientists from all over the world: Argentina, Slovenia, Mexico, France. “R.C. dos Anjos” is there, facing galaxies as an object and so many other challenges as a scientist, woman, black.
“Research gave me that opportunity, but black men and women are still at the bottom of the pyramid. That’s why, when the few arrive at this position where I am, it is important that they work on inclusive projects, that help to convey the message: look, you can get to where I got’”.