Jaqueline Fernandes and Chaia Dechen, founders of the Latinidades Festival: The largest black women’s festival in Latin America
Note from BW of Brazil: Today, July 25th, we celebrate the Day of the Black Woman. Through all of the pain, disrespect and attempts to make her invisible, still, millions of black women worldwide continue to rise! The women featured in this report are two examples. Having organized the Festival Latinidades for a few years now, the program has grown into what is arguably the biggest festival devoted to black women in Latin America. As more and more black women around the world start to get the word about the event, it will surely continue to grow in the years to come; a true representation of the feminine African Diaspora! We welcome and celebrate any event that presents the black woman as she deserves to be seen: black, beautiful, proud and in all her glory with her sisters who are down with the cause! With Feira Preta in São Paulo continuously climbing to new heights in its more than a decade of existence and Festival Latinidades in Brasília, Brazil is slowly coming to center stage for celebrations of cultura negra!
Latinidades – O festival da diáspora negra (The Festival of the Black Diaspora)
Festival Latinidades was born of the nonconformity of two women: the cultural producer Jaqueline Fernandes and the video-maker Chaia Dechen. They were part of a collective from Brasilia connected to hip hop that discussed racial issues. “We are not morenas or marrom-bombom (1). We are negras (black women) and we assume ourselves as such,” says Jacqueline. Then, she continues to tell her story: “There were members who sang, played or played records. But the group was mixed and we wanted to only create a feminine one with the proposal to give visibility to July 25th, the International Day for the Latin American and Caribbean Black Women’s Day”.
Festival Latinidades 2014
It was then that the duo founded Griô Produções (Productions) and half pretentiously, organized the inaugural event in 2008. After advertising it on the social network Orkut and distributing pamphlets, they brought together about 200 people, attracted by some musical performances and two round table conversations. Despite the low attendance, the two weren’t discouraged. Dwelling on how to energize the event, and make it relevant. Until that, in 2010, the idea of proposing to the Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (Ipea or Institute of Applied Economic Research), linked to the federal government, the inclusion of the Afro theme in a conference on the development of the entity emerged. “Then we entered with debates and shows a superstructure in the Esplanada dos Ministérios (Ministries Esplanade) (2),” Jacqueline says.
Since then, the Latinidades has increasingly attracted more people. In 2013, even without partnership with the IPEA, it brought together more than 50 thousand people with a mix of lectures and artistic activities such as music and book releases. All free. To get an idea, the volume of people is twice that of what circulated for the traditional Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty (Flip or International Literary Festival of Paraty). “Our biggest return is noting that we are influencing girls to assume themselves as negras,” says Chaia.
It is expected to hit a record attendance at the 2014 edition, which takes place from July 23 to 28 this month. The arrival of the Americans Angela Davis (3), legendary member of the revolutionary group the Black Panthers, and Patricia Hill Collins, sociologist and writer, should help. Amid discussions of feminism and preservation of African oral tradition, there will be soirees, film screenings and dance performances. “Their work is crucial. There is no other event focused on women of African descent that has such national and international repercussions,” says Jurema Werneck, of the NGO Criola, in Rio de Janeiro, an exponent of the black movement (Movimento Negro) in Brazil. “With multiple languages, they amplify voices and show black women in an affirmative way.”
Source: Prêmio CLAUDIA
1. With this comment, Fernandes makes reference to the “Brazilian way” of referring to women of African descent with all sort of terms with coded meanings denying or impeding a black identity. It is also true that many would be negras in Brazil still associate blackness with all sorts of negative connotations and as such define themselves as mulatas, morenas, pardas or marrom-bomboms to avoid identifying themselves as negras. As more positive promotions of black culture continue in Brazil, this rise of black consciousness/identity is sure to continue rising.
2. The first section of the central avenue of the capital city’s design. It is known as the Esplanada dos Ministérios or Ministries Esplanade because of its many ministry buildings.
3. Angela Davis, a very important reference for many Afro-Brazilian women, has made a number of visits to Brazil over the years and connecting with black women. She has also proclaimed her support of Marcha das Mulheres Negras, or Black Women’s March of 2015.