Note from BW of Brazil: The struggle for black representation in Brazil is a difficult one. Especially in the literary world. Besides the fact that Brazil’s market is overwhelmingly represented by white authors and characters of Brazilian novels being mostly white, the work of black academics has also been, for the most part, ignored. Which then leads to the near complete absence of black Brazilian writers at international book fairs. Besides all of this, imagine the difficult journey of a black writer who wants to enter the book market and insists on writing from the racial perspective in a country that is trained to deny the very existence of racial discrimination but also has no interest in exploring or understanding the Afro-Brazilian experience. This is why today’s story is so important. Over the years, I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to get numerous books focused on Afro-Brazilian themes, with a great number of them having been publihed by Mazza Edições. I always noticed that all of the books I read from this publisher had something to do with the racial theme but I never knew anything about its history and founder. Which is why it’s great to bring you her story today!
Mazza: “I want to die fighting for my people”
Mazza says her goal has always been to fight racism through books that discuss racial issues. Minas Gerais woman founded publishing house dedicated to the issue of race in 1981.
By LUCAS BUZATTI
InaLivros, a bookstore led by Luciana Bento and her husband, Leo, acquire titles from several Brazilian publishers. One of them, highlighted by the creator of the project “100 Meninas Negras” (100 Black Girls) is from Mazza Edições, based in Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais. In the market for almost 35 years, the publisher always devoted about 80% of her archive to ethno-racial themes. First of all, the company is the result of the determination and persistence of Maria Mazarello Rodrigues, who left her hometown, Ponte Nova, to pursue her dream in Belo Horizonte. Today, the publisher is proud to have already published more than 500 titles aimed at the enhancement and representation of black people.
Maria Mazarello, or Mazza, argues that Brazilian publishers only began to give prominence to blacks in its publications after Law 10.639 of 2003, which made compulsory the teaching of racial issues and Africanities in Brazilian public and private schools. “After 2003, all the major publishers opened a black label. Now, you imagine, from 1981 to 2003, how it was. We had it rough. I entered the school through the back door to try to sell material,” says the publisher, today 74 years old.
“It happened, and still happens, because Brazil does not recognize itself as a black country. Worse, it says it’s a racial democracy, which it never was. So, this hypocrisy remains, that there is no prejudice, that blacks complain too much, while police pursue and kill young black men every day,” reflects Mazza, who says she praises affirmative actions such as the project “100 Meninas Negras” (100 black girls). “Every project working seriously to combat racism is important because it is a much needed front,” added the publisher.
Mazza emphasizes discourses such as that of MC Sofia, an 11 year old rapper who addresses racism in her lyrics. “The moçada (young people) listen to her music and become interested. She stimulates the black child, who suffers too much, to like herself,” she says. “Today, the reality of black children in Brazil is still very painful. Many don’t even want to go to school, because they know that prejudice ‘comes with difficult situations’ and that the school turns a blind eye. The child is a target of jokes, and becomes marked. And the private school is even worse, because the number of black children is much lower,” she says.
Mazza says her goal has always been to fight racism through books that discuss racial issues. “My dream is to take this material to more and more people, encouraging black authors, or those committed to the race issue, to write”, she stresses. “I have, for example, a collection called ‘De Lá Pra Cá’ (From There To Here). She recounts the universal children’s stories, but with black characters. Fairies, princes and princesses, kings and queens. The first booklet is Rapunzel, which is a character always represented as white. ‘Rapunzel, throw your blond braids to me’, this already limits the character to being white. Then the prince is also white and so on. We do the opposite. All are black, that child is recognized and works on his/her self-esteem,” she said.
For Mazza, Brazil is experiencing a period of setbacks and advances in race. “When you see people saying that (Globo TV journalist) Maju is ugly, that the player is a ‘macaco’ (monkey) is because success bothers (people). It is because they still want blacks in a place of subaltern,” she reflects. “What we can not do is give up. I’ve worked from the (age of) four, it’s already been time for me to have hung up my boots for some time. But then I open the newspaper and see: ‘Police kill five young black men after mistaking them for bandits’. How do I stop? There’s no way. I will not rest. I want to die fighting for my people, doing my part, leaving my contribution.”
Source: O Tempo