Bamidelê: Black feminist organization in the battle against racism and sexism and development of black identity

Women of the organization Bamidelê
Women of the organization Bamidelê

Note from BW of Brazil: Today the blog brings you yet another organization involved in the struggle racial equality, the development of black identity and visibility of the black population in Brazil. The NGO, Bamidelê, working out of northeastern Brazil, like Geledés, Estimativa and the Articulation of Brazilian Black Women’s Organizations (AMNB), are putting the voice of black Brazilian women on a national agenda in the fight against negative images and the invisibility of this important parcel of the population. Recently, BW of Brazil brought you a “first person” story by one of the group’s activists, Dandara Correia, who shared her personal history and highlighted many of the same issues covered regularly on this blog. Learn more about the important work of the women of the NGO Bamidelê below. 

Launch of the Campaign for Racial Equality and affirmation of black identity was organized by Bamidelê in 2009

The Fundo Elas (They, referring to women Fund) Institution makes social investments catering exclusively to women’s groups throughout Brazil. Believing in the transformative potential of women, the fund has benefited 274 groups in its ten years of operation. The NGO Bamidelê is an example of these women’s organizations that promote social change with their work and have the support of the fund to ensure the maintenance of their actions.

Launch of the Campaign for Racial Equality in 2009
Launch of the Campaign for Racial Equality in 2009

Founded in 2001, the organization, composed of black feminists from the northeastern state of Paraíba, it was born of the desire and need to fight in an integrated manner against racism and sexism. The name Bamidelê, of African origin, is similar to the meaning of the verb “to hope”. According Terlúcia Silva, current executive coordinator of the organization, the name was chosen for conveying the spirit of these women activists who are always on the move looking for new conquests.

Bamidelê (4)

Terlúcia explains that the organization has several fields of action to combat racial and gender prejudice. The formative and educative work focused on the issue of black identity characterizes itself as one of the fields of emphasis in the organization. “We do not compromise this approach because we believe that a person is able to go far when he or she affirms what they are. From the findings it is possible to make significant strides,” says the coordinator. The educational and formative actions are put into practice in the form of seminars, training, roundtable dialogues, workshops, and other activities that promote the exchange of knowledge among women.

Bamidelê general assembly
Bamidelê general assembly

Another example of action developed by Bamidelê are the Community Organizations. According Terlúcia, the work is developed by a group that conducts surveys of the main problems of a particular community from the perspective of the women who live there. From this survey, the organization selects 5 questions that will be taken to the city council. The proposal is to promote dialogue between the community and public power with the intention of encouraging local improvements.

Bamidelê: Organization of Black Women in Paraíba
Bamidelê: Organization of Black Women in Paraíba

In addition to promoting various social actions, the Bamidelê has a fundamental axis of political action. The social control of public policies is touted by Terlúcia as an action relevant in ensuring the rights of black women. The organization is currently a member of the municipal council of women’s rights in João Pessoa, the capital of Paraíba. “Even today, our presence on the board is essential so that the black woman is contemplated,” she says.

Currently, the support the Fundo Elas is applied to projects involving media and communications. One example of these actions are the workshops with communicators, developed in order to insert a discussion and reflection about race in the media. Terlúcia says that from analysis of media content and the deconstruction of stereotypes, Bamidelê intends to educate communicators and “enegrecer (blacken)” the media. The coordinator of the organization, which has only 4 employees in their daily work, says the fund support is essential to make work Bamidelê broader and recognized. “They are with us, literally. The support was and still is very important to give more visibility to our actions,” she says.

Campaign for the affirmation of black identity

2009 Campaign focused on black identity: "Morena, no. I am black."
2009 Campaign focused on black identity: “Morena, no. I am black.”

“Morena no. I’m black!” – This was the theme of the Campaign for the Promotion of Black Identity in Paraíba, launched by the Organization of Black Women – Bamidelê, in 2009.

The campaign had a great impact in the state and is being re-launched on March of 2012 by the entity within the seminar “Cotas e cidadania – um direito seu (Quotas and citizenship – your right)”, an event held in partnership with the Núcleo de Estudos Afro Brasileiros e Indígenas (NEABI or Center for African Studies and Indigenous Brazilians) in the CCHLA auditorium at the Federal University of Paraíba. The campaign “Morena, no! I’m black!” has among its objectives to contribute to the appreciation of the black race in Paraíba, through the affirmation of the identity of negros (black men) and negras (black women), as well as broaden the debate in society about race relations and the need for public policies that promote racial equality.

Banner for March 21 International Day Against Racial Discrimination: "Eu sou negra (I am black)"
Banner for March 21 International Day Against Racial Discrimination: “Eu sou negra (I am black)”

According to the Mapa da População Preta e Parda no Brasil (Map of the Black and Brown/Mulatto Population in Brazil), based on indicators of the IBGE Census from 2010, the number of households in municipalities where there is a majority of blacks and mulattos/browns went from 49.2% to 56.8%, an increase of 7.6 percentage points.

In the North and Northeast, respectively, 97.1% and 96.1% of the municipalities are formed by mostly black and brown/mulatto. In the capital of Paraíba, 53.9% of the population is composed of black and brown/mulatto, but the presence of blacks in areas such as universities, parliaments, and public agencies, does not reflect this reality.

Seminar: "Enegrecendo (blackening) journalism in Paraíba
Seminar: “Enegrecendo (blackening) journalism in Paraíba

For the coordinator of Bamidelê, Terlúcia Silva, research shows that the campaign “Morena, no! I’m black!”, promoted by the organization in 2009, may have contributed to the population of Paraíba responding to the IBGE Census 2010 asserting its black identity (1).

Lead researcher Mapa da População Preta e Parda no Brasil, Marcelo Paixão, re-enforces Terlúcia Silva’s comments. For him, the indicators based on the 2010 Census were influenced by the process of the appreciation of the afrodescendente (African descendant) presence in Brazilian society and by the adoption of affirmative action policies.

Note from BW of Brazil: Below are a series of videos created for the Promotion of Black Identity in Paraíba, launched by Bamidelê back in in 2009. The videos are in Portuguese with transcriptions in English below each video. 

Campaign for the Promotion of Black Identity in Paraíba videoclips

“It’s fundamental to discuss this existence of racism, in the prayers, in the songs. It doesn’t make sense for people to think of Brazil without thinking of black people. Morena, no. I’m black” – Sociologist Ivonildes da Silva

“Through education we need to change the attitude, the racist, prejudicial practices that still exist in our country. Morena, no. I’m black.” – Maria do Socorro Pimentel, Educational Psychologist

“What we have today is very serious in Brazil and that is the question of the mestiço (person of mixed race), that question of the moreno. We are Afro-Brazilians. Discussing identity is of fundamental importance to bring out the beautiful part that we have. Moreno, no. I’m black.” – José Antônio Novaes, university professor

“Affirming oneself as black is my struggle, this attitude, right, on the daily saying that you are black…Society doesn’t see me as black but as a morena. You, young black man, young black woman, don’t stop identifying yourself as such, as a black man and black woman. Morena, no. You can call me black.” – Dandara Batista, college student

Source: Rede Globo, Negras Bamidelê


1. As has been covered in many previous articles on this blog, the question of “who is black”, black identity, racial classification and color-coded terms can be a very complex issue in Brazil as in other Latin American countries where persons of visible African ancestry are taught to deny or avoid blackness at all cost. In Brazil and other Latin American countries, persons of African ancestry often define themselves with a wide array of color/racial terms such as morena, mulato, pardo, indio or many others to accentuate racial admixture (whether recent or distant) or simply to avoid calling themselves negro or negra, meaning black. In the United States, this question of identity often leads to confusion among African-Americans who become perplexed with persons from these countries who live in the US and define themselves as Latinas. Recently, Elaine Vilorio, a Latina high school student, shared her story of “coming out” as black on National Public Radio in the US (based on her original piece in Huffington Post). Her transition or “coming out” as black is similar to many Brazilians who make this transition from pardo/mulato/moreno/mestiço to negro or afrodescendente. For more on this topic, see the articles below.

Related articles

“When I discovered I was black”, by Bianca Santana
Brazil: The ideology of “whitening” and the struggle for a black identity
Nádia Maria Rodrigues: “Everything changed in my life after I became black”. Teacher reveals how consciousness and bell hooks influenced her identity
Number of Brazilians declaring themselves preta (black) increases to 16 million
Brazilians don’t recognize their racial identity

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

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