Note from BBT: There is a change underway in Brazil in terms of the black population. As someone who has followed the situation for two decades now, I can attest to this. I am seeing a type of black visibility in numerous areas that just a few decades ago simply didn’t exist. Now, don’t get me wrong, the changes I see going down right now are so visible now because back in the early 2000s, it was just a step above non-existence. And because black Brazilians were so invisible for so many areas, the advances that have been made in recent years seem like leaps and bounds.
The advertising industry is just one area that I note a marked increase in the visibility of black Brazilians. Two weeks ago, I walked around on various floors of two shopping malls located on São Paulo’s north zone and was surprised how many black faces I saw featured on enlarged photos and store billboards. Again, to be real, the black faces I saw still represented a small percentage of the standard white faces plastered in every direction, but still a noted increase from even a decade ago.
Now, I hate to be the naysayer when seeing things that appear to be positive because I will often note hidden messages or agendas that others will simply ignore or not see. I remember some years ago watching an interview with the widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Myrlie Evers. I don’t remember her exact words, but she was describing the ways she and Medgar looked at things.
She was always the type of person who liked to look at the positive sides of any given situation. So, when she saw a sunny, beautiful day, Medgar would look and note that there were some clouds starting to move in. Knowing how this corrupt system that we live in functions, my views would place me closer to Medgar than to Myrlie which, at times, causes people look to view me as a pessimistic person, which isn’t the case at all. I am simply very familiar with the depths of deception.
This is kind of how I see these subtle improvements in relation to the plight of black Brazilians. Sure, we’ve seen record numbers of black Brazilians entering and graduating from college. We see black Brazilian film directors, theater groups and assuming leadership positions in growing numbers. We also see what’s being called Afro-entrepreneurship enterprises growing at an unbelievable rate. The term Afro-entrepreneurship refers to business ventures of Brazilians of African descent.
This is all great news.
On the other hand, you still see black people being massacred by police forces as what happened in a Rio favela a few weeks ago. I still sense a very apparent lack of unity between black Brazilian men and women and movements that still haven’t learned that when black people mix their agenda with that of others, it often ends up getting left behind in the end. Maybe I’m wrong. I certainly hope I am but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not.
With that said, I’m not one to ignore accomplishments even if they may be premature celebrations. In recent years, it seems that larger companies around the world are suddenly all for supporting diversity initiatives. Just since last year, I’ve seen countless companies announce programs with the intent of opening their doors to black men and women professionals.
Last year, the head of one of Brazil’s most popular retail stores, Magazine Luiza, turned heads and provoked debate over what many people believe to be ‘reverse racism’ when she announced a management training program for only blacks. Soon after, after the co-founder of startup fintech company NuBank made a statement considered racist by many, that company declared in an investment of 20 million Brazilian reais towards the goal of diversity and racial inclusion.
Numerous other companies are following suit and what seems to be a willingness to address historic racial inequalities that have always existed in Brazil. Much of these actions have been provoked by numerous headline-making murders of black people, not only in Brazil, such as with the teenager João Pedro in Rio de Janeiro and 40-year-old João Alberto in Porto Alegre, but also in the US, where George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis a year ago today. In fact, the Carrefour supercenter chain where João Alberto was murdered is yet another large company jumping on the diversity and racial inclusion bandwagon.
In both Brazil and the United States, the murder of black people continues, signaling the fact that, in reality, nothing has really changed. So, while I do celebrate the outreach that these large companies are making in acknowledging historic racially exclusions, at the same time, I keep my eye open to the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In some ways, I see all of this diversity talk as just a new manner of smoothing over the controversy while maintaining the racist structure, which is exactly why some people see something more going on than what is being promoted.
Below, is an initiative promoted by Facebook to support black Brazilian businesses and entrepreneurs. While it is a good idea, I can only hope that such actions take on a broader scope that reaches everyday people rather than a selected few.
‘Boost with Facebook’ event held in various cities across Brazil seeks to strengthen the businesses of black Brazilian entrepreneurs
Around 14 million blacks are entrepreneurs in the country. Lower average of schooling, lack of incentive, and racism are some of the challenges faced. That’s why it’s important to strengthen the businesses of black people, as Impulsione com Facebook has been doing. The accelerators AfroHub and PretaHub, the Instituto Feira Preta, the startups Afro Business and Diaspora.Black reinforce that the event is going around the country aiming to train black entrepreneurs
By Luiz Oliveira
Encourage and strengthen black entrepreneurship in Brazil. This is an important mission, and Mark Zuckerberg’s social network has realized that. The second edition of the event Impulsione com Facebook (Boost with Facebook) and AfroHub networking is going around the country with the purpose of training Afro-entrepreneurs. The meetings in partnership with the social network focus on improving businesses using online tools. By December, 3 thousand people should be trained during 19 free meetings and workshops in eight capital cities.
Brasília, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife, and Belém received the program. The participants take part in panels focused on the decoding of tools and strategies for business growth and networking. At each meeting, a guest entrepreneur shares his or her business trajectory, ideas, and strategies with those present. The events started in June and arrived in the Federal District on September 25. Here in Brazil, the program was held at the Ulysses Guimarães Convention Center. The initiative is named after Facebook, but is also the result of a partnership between the accelerators AfroHub and PretaHub, the Instituto Feira Preta, the startups Afro Business and Diaspora.Black.
Denis Caldeira de Almeida, director of small and medium-sized companies and leader of Facebook’s black employees group, explains the various difficulties and obstacles black people face when trying to become entrepreneurs in Brazil. ‘’The prejudice, the lack of access to education and training courses arouse a feeling of discouragement in black people,’’ he says. A report that is in line with data from the 2018 Locomotiva Institute survey, in partnership with Feira Preta, which shows that 57% of the Afro-entrepreneurs interviewed suffered prejudice when trying to open a business.
The study also points out the profile of black entrepreneurs in Brazil: 29% work and have their own business. However, 82% do not have a CNPJ (National Register of Legal Entities), compared to 60% of non-blacks. The data are from the study ‘’A voz e a vez: diversity in the consumer market and entrepreneurship’’, carried out by the Locomotiva Institute, with support from Itaú bank and at the request of the Instituto Feira Preta (Feira Preta Institute).
A survey carried out by the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae), based on the National Household Sample Survey conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Pnad/IBGE), identified more than 12.8 million black business owners in Brazil. However, this number may be even higher, since the last time this survey was done was in 2016. According to the Locomotiva Institute, the country has 14 million Afro-entrepreneurs, who move, approximately, R$359 billion in the own income per year.
Despite being a considerable figure, there is potential for growth. The problem is that, to become an entrepreneur, the will or even good ideas are not enough. Support and encouragement are fundamental. The AfroHub was created with the idea of offering a solution for Afro-Brazilians who feel they have no basis to start a business. The program promotes connections between inspiring people, an exchange of experiences with other entrepreneurs, and the chance to develop and improve businesses.
The program has a partnership with Facebook and wants to help those interested in helping Afro-entrepreneurs to improve their businesses through technology. To participate, it doesn’t matter if the person has opened a business a long or short time ago or if their ideas are still on paper: what matters is the desire to learn and move forward. Antonio Pita is co-founder of Diaspora.Black, a startup present in more than 130 cities and 45 countries.
The company offers tourist services and experiences focused on the appreciation of black culture and the promotion of racial equality, and is one of the promoters of AfroHub. Antonio says that the project arose from the need to join forces between organizations with similar objectives. We were already working with Facebook, but separately, each one in a different area. However, we realized that together we could do something bigger, he explains.
About 14 million black people are entrepreneurs in the country. Lower average schooling levels, lack of incentive and racism are some of the challenges they face. That’s why it is important to strengthen the businesses of black people, as Impulsione com Facebook has been doing. The accelerators AfroHub and PretaHub, the Instituto Feira Preta, the startups Afro Business and Diaspora.Black reinforce that the event is going around the country aiming to train black entrepreneurs
AfroHub was launched in May 2018, and in the first year, it accelerated 10 businesses and trained more than 1,200 Afro-entrepreneurs, in five states. In presenting the program to the audience, Antonio stressed the importance of entrepreneurship for the black population. ‘’The economic strengthening of businesses makes it possible to build wealth for our community, always believing in the power of collectivity and in support networks,’’ he points out.
A voice of inspiration
In the Brasília edition, Impulsione com Facebook, in partnership with AfroHub, had as guest of honor Tia Má. The journalist, actress, and digital influencer Maíra Azevedo, popularly known as Tia Má, became recognized by the public after posting videos on social networks. She describes herself as a black, fat, and northeastern woman.
She talks to the public in a direct and conscious way about racism and machismo, without losing humor. And thus, she has gained more than 750 thousand followers on the social networks. ‘’It all started as a joke among friends. The first video, posted on Facebook, had no serious purpose. I posted it unpretentiously, thinking that only people close to me would see it, but I was surprised when I saw that it had 500 views,’’ she says.
From then on, she started to vlog more and realized that she could use the tool as a job. In the beginning she was afraid and had doubts about quitting her formal job. ‘’I didn’t believe in myself. Structural racism does that, it discourages.’’ Even in the networks, she was a victim of racism, and more than once she was offended by internet users for being black. However, Tia Má didn’t let herself be discouraged and, since then, has become an increasingly influential and powerful voice for several people who see her as a source of inspiration.
So much so that she was invited to join the team of consultants for the Globo TV talk show Encontro com Fátima Bernardes. For Tia Má, black people have always been entrepreneurs. ‘’It is something ancestral, perpetuated by our people in each new generation. We are always resisting, surviving all the evils. I can’t think of a better definition of what entrepreneurship is,’’ declares the Bahian from Salvador.
Young people with initiative
Monique Corrêa, 27, is a fashion and events producer who came to the Federal District when she was 17. When she arrived in Brasília, she soon noticed the differences between her new address and her old one. Coming from the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, she was amazed to notice the lack of black people in the spaces she frequented, especially when she started college to study fashion design.
During her undergraduate studies she faced several situations of racism. ‘’If they think that this is not my place, I will show that I can, yes, occupy the same spaces, I am highly capable,” she declares. After graduating, she realized that there were few opportunities in the fashion market in Brasília, and that she didn’t want to work in shopping malls. That’s when she decided to create, a year and a half ago, Chance Creative Agency, specializing in the market of fashion production and events.
One of the main works was the Festival Melanina (Melanin Festival) edition, which took place in 2018. Monique specialized through online courses, so she highlights the importance of the internet for her work. I believe that without Instagram and Facebook, I wouldn’t be able to leverage and make contacts for the agency. That’s why an event to support black entrepreneurs promoted by social networks is so important.
Like Monique, Gabriella Mendes, 22, who recently graduated in social sciences from the University of Brasília (UnB) and lives in Ceilândia, started a business venture on her own. After witnessing several situations of racism in her last internship, three years ago, she decided she no longer wanted to work in formal jobs. Therefore, she decided to transform a hobby she had into a source of income. This is how Afrogaia Cosmésticos came about.
The store specializes in skin products, such as soaps, facial tonics, lip moisturizers, and deodorants, among others. All items are vegan and natural, handmade by the owner herself. ‘’I started selling to my friends at the university, in a much smaller quantity,’’ she explains. The start on social networks was in 2018, when she understood the importance of these platforms to boost the business.
Her Instagram profile already has more than 2,878 followers. ‘’It’s my main medium of media sales, so I started to study more, understand how it works,’’ she reports. She defines the experience of participating in the Impulsione com o Facebook as a great learning and networking opportunity. Facebook itself invited Gabriella to participate in the Instamarket, an area reserved for entrepreneurs to sell products during the event in Brasília. The criteria defined were the good use of the platform, originality and the fact of being local.
Stories of overcoming
Born in Piauí, Maria das Graças Santos, 66, moved with her family to Goiás when she was 3 years old, and, in the early 1970s, arrived in the Federal District at the age of 17. In 1974, she passed the entrance exam for the University of Brasília (UnB) to study psychology.
Graças was enchanted by the educational area of psychology. However, when she came face to face with reality, she realized that it was not quite what she had expected. In this same period, she started to articulate herself in social and racial militancy groups, inaugurating, in 1978, the Centro de Estudo Afro Brasileiro (Afro-Brazilian Study Center or Ceaps), the first black entity in the Federal District. “It was a very difficult period, we were in the middle of the military dictatorship, you couldn’t talk about racism. But we faced the repression without fear, a youth person’s attitude,” she remembers.
The fight for civil rights for the black population became something present in her life. In 1981, she joined the Unified Black Movement (MNU), where she played an important role in the conquests remembered until today. She was the coordinator of the National Meeting of Mobilization of Society, which had as its argument to take proposals to the constituents of 1988, among the claims was the one that established racism as a crime. “We succeeded after a lot of struggle,” she reveals.
After leaving the MNU, due to disagreements, she received an invitation from two colleagues to open the first Afro-Brazilian salon in the Federal District, with the suggestive name of “Daralewa”, a Yoruba word that means good and beautiful things. With the proposal of provoking the traditional beauty market, which was not serving the public it didn’t know it had, the salon was inaugurated, in Conic, on March 21, 1992, the International Day for Combating Racial Discrimination. The enterprise changed its name and address. It was renamed Afro-Nzinga, in honor of the great black queen of the Bantu people from Africa, where Angola is located. Today, it is installed in Conjunto Nacional shopping center.
Graça sees entrepreneurship as another alternative that the black population found to survive. However, she doesn’t deny the difficulties. “There are several causes, but the main ones are the lack of education and training,” she points out.
She believes that her salon is an incentive for other businesses and believes in the potentiation of the black community through Afro-entrepreneurship.
A gutsy woman
The involvement of Adriana Ribeiro, 41, president of Riacho Fundo 1, with entrepreneurship started very early. ‘’Since I was a little girl, I used to accompany my mother, who is a hairdresser, in the salons where she worked, always paying attention to everything. It was from these experiences that I acquired interest in the universe of beauty,’’ she says. She was present at the Impulsione com Facebook event, mainly to attend Tia Má’s lecture. There, she shared with everyone her experiences as an Afro-entrepreneur. She opened her first salon, Madriafro, with her sister, at the age of 17, in the garage of her mother’s house, and hasn’t stopped since.
With her husband’s help, Adriana became a professional and founded Salão Afro & Cia Ponto Chic, which has 200m of space and 20 professionals. The target audience are black women who want to go through a hair transition process, restoring their hair to its natural texture. She happily discloses that most of her employees are black, emphasizing the importance of hiring them. ‘’We live in a highly racist country, which daily denies opportunities to black people. So, it is only fair that, in my company, everyone is black,’’ she argues.
Virgilio, artisan coffee producer
The journalist Virgilio Ribeiro Geraldo, 41, forgot about his original training to venture into his father’s coffee plantations. After graduating, he faced a lack of opportunities in the job market and, after finding out that he would have a child, he saw the family business as a possibility for income. “I started working with coffee production in 2018, because I understood that I could improve what my father was already doing,” he explains.
He describes Café Maé, named after the nickname his grandfather had, as a “gourmet” product. It is handcrafted by Virgilio himself, with the help of the farm’s caretaker and freelancers, who are responsible for the annual harvest.
The consumer public for the product are close friends and other small producers. From the sales, Virgilio earns from 5 to 7 thousand reais per month. The last harvest of 2019 produced 125 bags.
For him, the product goes beyond a business. “Because I am always involved with coffee, I make it a point to learn everything about the fruit. Every trip I make to Minas Gerais, I go with the goal of learning and getting to know the culture,” he reflects.
He mentions several difficulties in becoming an entrepreneur in Brazil. “Look, opening a business is very difficult. Most of them last three years at most, due to the lack of knowledge. The way is to specialize, study, and network; this will be the differential,” he recommends.
“The biggest obstacle for the black population to become entrepreneurs is that no one wants to finance a project for poor and black people, because the vision of the majority who owns the capital is that we don’t have the capacity. However, these same people who deny opportunities don’t ask themselves why and don’t reflect on how responsible they are for perpetuating this inequality. For these reasons, I believe that the alternative for black people to get out of this situation that has been imposed on them is to become entrepreneurs. The community is being pushed into poverty because of unemployment, it is the most affected. Therefore, the best way to combat this process is by reacting.’’
*Trainee under the supervision of sub-editor Ana Paula Lisboa
Source: Correio Braziliense
Updated May 25, 2021