Black women finding a place of speaking to discuss issues of black women on the internet, radio and YouTube
“I don’t want to know of another in our speaking place. A mulher preta (black woman) in power to be able to (have) power”. The line is from a song called “Lugar de fala”, meaning “place of speaking”, by singer/songwriter Mombaça but could be easily be considered a commentary on the place of black women. Increasingly, in recent years, more and more black women are being seen and/or heard on the radio, through the internet and on television. The progress has been slow for this parcel of the population that has been historically excluded from representation in the media, but both men and women as well as of various racial backgrounds are paying attention to black women.
For historian Angélica Ferrarez, strengthening black leading roles, representation, knowledge and ideas of povo negro (black people) is very important. And equally important is the possibility of being able to talk to the larger society, their message reaching a wider community. “The woman’s place is where she wants it to be. The black population is wherever it pleases,” says Ferrarez, who together three other black researchers, contribute to the blog “Rodadas Negras”, meaning ‘black rounds’.
Every week, one of the women posts material related to her area. Fernanda Thomaz is a professor of African History at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora. Professor Lourence Alves focuses on the cuisine experiments of African peoples of Nagô heritage, while Raquel Barreto conducts research on the 1960s/1970s African-American political organization known as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, or simply the Black Panthers (Panteras Negras in Portuguese). Angêlica in turn specializes in the role of women in the world of samba.
In the past two decades, it is true that the system of quotas has made it possible for tens of thousands of Afro-Brazilians to have access to college in numbers that were simply not possible throughout Brazil’s history. But even so, statistically speaking, the presence of non-whites in Brazil’s institutions of higher learning is still significantly less than that of whites. As such, to pass on this knowledge, it’s necessary to reach people who don’t manage to frequent federal or private universities.
“We all have an intense production that is only read inside the university, by few. This desire to expand beyond the academic universe has led people to social networks, digital platforms, YouTube,” Angélica explains.
As You Tube has been a powerful force for Afro-Brazilians who have long been basically shut out of the mainstream media in any significant numbers, the online video platform has brought visibility to those interested in issues that affect Afro-Brazilians as well as content makers who wish to get a message across that is simply not possible in traditional media. As such, “Rodadas Negras” will soon also become a web series on YouTube. With direction by Anderson Quack and Luiza Drable, the series is due to debut this month and will present an interview format that discusses relent issues with personalidades negras (black personalities).
“The purpose of the Rodadas is to attack the crux of structural racism. It’s talking to the black community, but informing and involving the society as a whole,” Angélica points out.
Filmmaker Aline Lourena is also an educator. She founded the TheLírios Agency and since 2017 she has presented the program “Na onda das pretas” (on the wave of the black women) on Rádio MEC AM. Along with writer Janine Rodrigues, teacher Lisiane Niedsberg and storyteller Sinara Rúbia, all small business women, Lourena also wants to reach the people with information that generally has no place on top TV networks such as Globo, Record and SBT.
“We put out our voices to dialogue about politics, art, culture and life projects related to the Afro-Brazilian population,” Aline reveals.
Airing at 9am, the program features music by black artists with interviews that have racial themes. Proving that there is a whole population that is starved for such programming, Aline says that for ten months, her audience has been blowing her up with numerous messages of support from women who identify with the program and feel represented by the topics addressed on the program.
“We understand that this is a huge responsibility. It is fundamental for the construction of a more just and democratic society that black women, historically invisible and silenced in this country, can tell their own stories.”
Living up the name of the program, the “wave” continues to gain momentum as the quartet envisions taking the program to the internet and eventually, television.
As the issue of racism is still not adequately addressed in Brazil, a nation that has long denied its very existence, there are still millions of people who are most likely affected by the social ill, but perhaps don’t know how to identify it or are in denial about having possibly experienced it. As we have seen, racism affects not adults, but also school aged children. As such, six years ago, four black women came together and to discuss the possibility of bringing anti-racist education to schools. With the participation of businesswomen Jaciana Melquiades and Tainá Almeida, university student Jessyca Liris and the audiovisual producer company Suzane Santos, the Meninas Black Power collective came to be. Having already earned a reputation in the blog-o-sphere, within a few years, the young women created a YouTube channel as a platform in which to discuss topics such as motherhood, entrepreneurship and culture.
“Our Youtube channel emerged from our need to talk about different topics, as well as educational themes. The main goal is to create a positive mirror for the pessoa negra (black person) to see and hear, since in mass media our presence is minimal,” said Jaciana, entrepreneur and owner of the toy factory “Era uma vez o mundo” (Once upon a time the world). Jaciana’s young son Mateus made headlines when a Star Wars actor sent him a message after the young boy was enthused at seeing an action figure doll that looked like him. In Brazil, it is still very difficult to find black dolls, which was a springboard for the creation of Jaciana’s toy company.
Striking a chord with their audience, the Meninas Black Power has more than 95,000 followers 23,000 on Instagram and 72,000 on Facebook, yet even with such popularity, the women believe they can reach an even wider audience. With black representation in Brazil being so minuscule, the sky is the limit for those who have something to offer an under-served community.
“Listening and seeing people that look like us improves our self-esteem, makes us realize that we have a lot in common and takes people from a place of solitude. We are still the exception. In a country that has a majority of black people, we should not be an exception, we feel a lack of equity on several levels.
In the month of Black Consciousness, November, the Meninas’ YouTube channel will present new videos being produced by the group.
“Soon, we’ll be able to reach a lot more people with our speech, which is not unique,” concludes the businesswoman.