Note from BW of Brazil: Well, what else can be said? The legendary singer Elza Soares just shut it down with her response to the recent photo controversy involving the director of Vogue Brasil magazine. The 81-year old Soares, who was named the BBC’s “Singer of the Millenium” back in 2000, has long been an icon for Brazil’s black women. Brazil’s Tina Turner and Celia Cruz, Soares’s career has represented the struggle of black women for representation for decades, with her 2002 song “A carne mais barata do mercado” (the cheapest meat on the market is the dark meat) becoming an anthem for black women and the struggle against racism. In a recent post from her Instagram, the living legend weighed in on the controversial photo of Donata Meirelles, director of Vogue Brasil, that many proclaimed being racist. Having witnessed many of the humiliations of Afro-Brazilians over long life and career, as well as Brazil’s attempts to deny this, Soares’s words show that she still understands, represents and is in an important position to represent ‘The Struggle’.
The powerful response of Elza Soares to the party of the director of Vogue
Courtesy of Hypeness
The racist photo on Donata Meirelles’ birthday was the most talked about subject of the weekend. The director of Vogue Brasil magazine appears sitting in a chair next to two black women dressed as baianas.
The composition of a white woman courted by two black women referred to the worst in Brazilian history, slavery. In addition to the annoyance generated by the image, the silence of celebrities like singer/musician Caetano Veloso – who played on Donata’s birthday, drew attention.
Elza Soares did not remain silent. The “mulher do fim do mundo” (woman of the end of the world) reaffirmed the role of fighting racism in a forceful posting on Instagram. “Well, I’m black and I have proudly celebrated my race since when it was not ‘elegant’ to be black in this country,” she writes.
“I protest for the rights of my race”
Seated on a throne, Elza highlighted the struggle for the right to exist of pessoas negras (black people) in a country as racist as Brazil. The artist’s decades of experience show how slave-like customs remain rooted in the society.
“When blacks didn’t use the ‘boss’s’ elevator. When black tram drivers were replaced by whites in festivities with the presence of authorities with pele branca (white skin). From the time when players from a futebol club from Rio de Janeiro put rice powder on their faces to enter the field, since it did not “take well” having dark skin. Since the waiters of a famous hotel in Rio did not serve blacks in the restaurant. We were invisible.”
Elza Soares’ own career is filled with such markers. A carioca (native of Rio) of the “planet hunger”, this way the singer was self-declared in the program of freshmen of composer, talent-show, radio and TV host Ary Barroso in the 1950s. The artist went through a lot to maintain herself to take care of her children. A common reality among black Brazilian women.
Elza spoke bluntly.
“I have celebrated my race from the time that record labels didn’t give a release cocktail to the ‘discos dos pretos’ (black records). I have celebrated my ancestral origin since “música de preto” (black music) was a definition of musical style. I screamed for my people from the time that if a famous man separated from his wife to be with a black woman, she got the ‘title’ of a slut, but it would not happen if her skin was ‘light’.”
The outburst in the form of an alert from Elza Soares shows how the exploitation of the labor and bodies of black people is still an open scar in the heart of Brazil. Either by the absence of these bodies in spaces of power and abundance of them in cemeteries and penitentiaries, or by the attitude of figures such as Donata Meirelles.
The throne for those who are entitled to it.
“I am the great-granddaughter of slaves, the granddaughter of slaves, and my mother knew in the source the stories about the scourge of the povo negro (black people). I have protested for the rights of my race since blacks didn’t enter the room of sinhás (slave master’s wife). Well, all these wounds I have carried in the soul and I bring the scars. The majority the povo negro brasileiro (black Brazilian people). Wounds that have not healed and are poked to keep them open demonstrating that “lugar de preto é nessa Senzala moderna” (place of the black is in this modern slave quarters), disguised, lurking, as if watching over our people. People descended mostly from the blacks who colonized and built our country.”