Note from BBT: My experiences academia always left me wondering, why is it that we rarely hear about accomplishments of black people in the sciences? The funny thing is that, because the entire education system in the western world is based on theories and developments of mostly white people, in my early school years, I was so accustomed to seeing only white faces that it didn’t even occur to me that I hadn’t learned anything about black people in these areas. Science and history were white domains. No teacher or professor ever said this verbally, but they didn’t need to. It was a sort of unspoken reality.
It wasn’t until I started doing my own research outside of the official education atmosphere that I started to discover that there was an entire history being deliberately covered up. The reason is very simple. If you create a world in which an entire race of people doesn’t see itself as being important in world history, science and knowledge, those same people will continue to move forward remaining and seeing themselves in a place of inferiority. This same logic applies to the very concept of god, gods or supreme beings. Why were we taught so much about Jesus Christ, and Zeus but nothing about Ogun and Xango?
Such questions and ideas could never truly be explored until black people began to get access to educational opportunity and positions of leadership. Some time back in the early 90s, I became aware of the works of master teachers such as Yosef Ben-Jochannan, Cheikh Anta Diop, Ivan Van Sertima and others who presented a world of inventions, sciences, agricultural developments and spiritual beliefs that had never been presented in all of my years in the education system, even at the academic level.
When our education system begins black history in slavery and nothing more, it successfully undermines the contributions of people of African descent in very development of the world in which we live. It is often said that the Ancient Greeks learned everything they knew by studying at the feet of the influential Ancient Egyptians. As domination of knowledge and the sciences is promoted as a white domain at the service of of white supremacy, it cannot be known that the original Egyptians were jet black people, thus in popular Hollywood productions that portray this period in history, these people are portrayed as Europeans.
Fast forward a couple of thousand years and ever since European exploration and colonization, Africans have been portrayed as savages, a backward people, and a people with no history. For Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, ‘’Europeans had to invent an Africa as a place of emptiness and barrenness and backwardness in order to justify the enslavement of 12.5 million human beings’’, an image that still haunts persons of African descent to this day.
With such stereotypes, who would believe that these same black people are responsible for constructing the building blocks upon which modern civilization is based? Of course, many people will belittle this idea as ‘’that black stuff’’ that has no merit, but the fact is, the wall of silence and invisibility is slowly coming down and once that truth is established, there will no turning back. After decades of not having access to higher learning, in Brazil today, we have a number of scholars who are pushing this information forward. In the piece below, get to know a little about Kananda Eller.
Who is the Scientist Goddess of the Suburbs
By Laura Fernandes
While most people imagine a Bahian woman frying acarajé and get blinded by the irresistible delicacy, the influencer Kananda Eller, 25, sees beyond that: “That is science,” says proudly the resident of Plataforma, a suburb of Salvador, Bahia. With a degree in chemistry, Kananda is known as Goddess Scientist, defends the so-called Ciência Preta, meaning Black Science, and tries to make this universe accessible to everyone on social networks.
With over 28 thousand followers on Instagram (@deusacientista), present on Tik Tok and YouTube, the young woman from Bahia shared some of this successful formula at the invitation of Itaú Cultural back in july when she participated in a chat within the online and free project Cena Agora – Arte & Ciência (Scene Now – Art & Science), which had as a theme “Reactive bodies, existences in crisis”.
The theme of the table was “Artistic experiences, scientific works – a debate on the friction between art and science”, with guests who have an important trajectory in the field of science and scientific dissemination. Kananda is one of them. She uses her performance to try to demystify taboos. “We have the perception that chemistry is difficult, but when you bring the harmony between art and science, this changes”, she believes.
With a Master’s degree in Science Teaching from the University of São Paulo (USP), the influencer highlights that the process is a challenge, after all music is an art form that “reaches much more in the slums”, for example, while “science doesn’t”. “There’s a lot of science in our daily lives, but it’s not so obvious,” points out the Scientist Goddess. That’s why she cites the example of the Bahian acarajé.
“That palm oil is extracted by a separation method. Many buy it ready-made, but there are women who produce their own oil: that’s science. Our daily life has a lot of chemistry”, she reinforces. In the networks, besides talking about this presence in everyday life, Kananda highlights the importance of black scientists like, for example, Onyema Ogbuagu: a Nigerian doctor who led the research studies for the Pfizer vaccine.
The justification is on the tip of her tongue. “My ancestors produced knowledge and my history doesn’t start in slavery. I also have a history of being a winner. Not this subjectivity that they are trying to instill in us all the time,” defends the influencer who took a while to see herself as “someone powerful who had her subjectivity and self-esteem denied.
Preta, sim (Black, yes)
The choice of the name Scientist Goddess goes through this, explains Kananda. It comes from the candomblé religion- which understands the gods as “normal human beings who inhabited the Earth” -, recognizes the social obstacles, and launches itself into the world.
“When black and indigenous people enter the academic space, we have no reference. We are learning another culture, a white culture,” she warns.
To strengthen oneself in that space and to identify oneself as a producer of scientific content, therefore, “is very difficult”. “I didn’t identify myself with this construction of ‘I am a scientist’. But when I graduated, I understood why that was happening. So, being a black woman in a white academic space, I say: ‘No! There is a black scientist, yes,'” she proudly defends.
It was because she saw herself in the space of another culture that Kananda sought refuge in art. “When I connected with art, it was in a process of refuge,” she reveals. “Being in a so-called exact science and connecting with other areas is very powerful. This information needs to be disseminated and art is a welcoming way to connect people. Arming black people with knowledge through art is fundamental,” she argues.
That’s why, after going through an educational quilombo in Plataforma and entering the Federal University of Bahia (Ufba) in 2015, Kananda founded her own quilombo: the pre-college entrance exame prep Social, which operates to this day in the neighborhood. “It was me, a friend, a neighborhood full of dreams, and a university needing to be blackened,” she recalls.
It was in the quilombo that Kananda understood herself as a chemistry teacher and as a political being. Armed with the ideas of the American writer bell hooks, she says that when she thinks of producing content, she thinks of dressing “a generous character that equips black people.”
“But how do you talk about confronting racism, in the classroom, being a chemistry teacher?” she questioned.
Realizing that there was a lot of information about black science and that teachers were not getting through with their teaching practice, the influencer decided to look into a survey: “Who will come first: the bullet or the science? The difficulties and potentialities that chemistry teachers have in relating the teaching of chemistry and ethno-racial relations”.
“We are working with scientific dissemination. It is a racially focused work that approaches black people – the majority of the population. Racism is a rule and our contact with science is distanced. The black population needs to understand what is happening in the world, so that we can overcome the things that are put forward,” she argues.
Kananda points out that there are many things in the world that discourage black people and that references are removed “on purpose”. “When you think of a scientist, it’s probably going to be hard to find a black man, a black woman. We are very much associated with the manual labor jobs that place us as inferior. We have to be bold enough to pursue what we want. Science is something possible,” she concludes.
Five scientists admired by Kananda
– Bárbara Carine: Chemistry professor at UFBA. Author of the book História Preta das Coisas meaning Black History of Things
– Sônia Guimarães: First black PhD in Physics in Brazil. Professor at Itaú
– Marian Croak: inventor of the Internet connection
– Shirley Ann Jackson: created caller ID and call waiting
– Onyema Ogbuagu: Nigerian physician who led research studies of the Pfizer vaccine
Source: Correio 24 Horas