Note from BW of Brazil: Raquel Trindade is a personality that this blog has been wanting to present to its audience for some time! If Raquel was recognized as only the daughter of the legendary Afro-Brazilian cultural figure Solano Trindade, her legacy would already be secured enough. But Raquel Trindade is a talented carrier of the torch in her own right and has well earned her own place as an ambassador of Afro Brazilian culture. Below, we present an interview with Raquel that was originally recorded for the past November Month of Black Consciousness festivities. Interestingly, although February is not the Month of Black Consciousness in Brazil, it is Black History Month in the United States! So, in the spirit of the African Diaspora, we bring you Raquel Trindade!
My parents told me to be proud of being black, says Raquel Trindade, daughter of Brazil’s greatest black poet
By Adilson Oliveira
Raquel overflows with gratitude to the great poet Solano Trindade, her father, and the choreographer and therapist Maria Margarida Trindade, her mother, in addition to her grandparents, who taught her she should be proud being black, from whom she received a solid education and a kind of “transfusion” of Afro-Brazilian culture, conditions that she points to for overcoming prejudice against black. “The Day of Black Consciousness is necessary because there is racial discrimination,” says the artist, folklorist, writer and black activist born in Pernambuco, but rooted in Embu das Artes (1) since 1961.
Rachel, 77, who now ministers a training course of Afro-Brazilian cultural identity in the public schools of Embu das Artes – with incursions into nine schools – talks about the reality of blacks in the country, teaching experience and resistance professors in the São Paulo university and the discrimination that she suffered on the part of the Secretary of Tourism in 2001, in the government of Mayor Geraldo Cruz (PT), today a state deputy. She received the VERBO (website) in her house downtown, for this “Interview of the Week”, the Day of Black Consciousness, celebrated on Wednesday (November 20th).
VERBO ONLINE – For you, what is the meaning of the Day of Black Consciousness?
Raquel Trindade – It’s very important. We re-read the entire history of blacks not only in Brazil, but from Africa, the struggle for us, the black entities, the struggle of blacks to survive in a country where discrimination is very big, and it seems that every day gets bigger. The holiday is necessary, so that all of Brazil reflects on this day. But the Day of Black Consciousness is every day.
VERBO – There are those that say that the Day of Black Consciousness is distorted by much of the Brazilian population, which takes advantage of the holiday [where it is decreed] for activities that are not for the appreciation of black culture.
Rachel – There are many black movements that in this week are working hard on the issue. Of course in a country where discrimination increases more…Take the case of Paraná, in Curitiba they didn’t allow the holiday because of commercial preoccupation, the money, but it’s because of discrimination; other holidays are not prohibited, why only that of Black Consciousness? So, like the Law 10.639 [establishing the compulsory teaching of Afro-Brazilian history and culture in primary and secondary education in the country], to make the population wake up to a concern of knowing blacks and increasing the self-esteem of blacks, there is not such discrimination on the part of the whites. And it’s not only with blacks, it’s with the Indian, Jew, Arab, with all ethnic groups. I think it’s a joke that a país mestiço (mixed race country) like ours has so much discrimination of all kinds.
VERBO – I’m sorry to insist, but most people, on the holiday, go to the beach, where, ironically, there are people working, in an informal situation, in which blacks are the majority. How do you see this situation?
Raquel – Brazil is a very complex country, where few still earn much and many others don’t earn anything. These people that are on the beach selling (things), precariously, it’s because there’s a necessity, and this is part of the problems of blacks, in general, whose purchasing power is less, education is weaker – now that is improving. Now, some go to the beach to greet Iemanjá, and others go to have fun, to enjoy the holiday. But for consciousness of about blacks to increase it’s necessary, for example, that the Embu City Government is doing, we signed an agreement with them to [promote] the Afro-Brazilian cultural identity.
VERBO – What’s the importance of the initiative?
Raquel – Promoting self-esteem of blacks and ending white discrimination against all ethnic groups, including blacks. We talk with teachers, saying that today is scientifically proven that the first man was born in Africa, about the great African civilizations, that Egypt already did brain surgery, had already written, the hieroglyphics, already built the great pyramids; that Ghana had already written; that Kenya has already done cesarean sections, had already forged iron; Zimbabwe already had large buildings…So we are not a primitive people, we had a civilization, which was crudely taken way, and we were made slaves. We were not slaves, we were enslaved. All this is very complex, but it is necessary for teachers to know…We had great black leaders, the great sculptors of colonial Brazil as Mestre Valentim [Valentim da Fonseca e Silva (1745-1813)], Aleijadinho [Antônio Francisco Lisboa (1730-1814)] himself. There were the revolts, [of] Zumbi [in Palmares, in the state of Alagoas], but not only that one, that of the Malês [blacks of Muslim origin in 1835 in Salvador, Bahia], and in 1910 the Revolta da Chibata (revolt against the Whip) [against the whipping of sailors] with João Cândido [black admiral who reacted to the punishment], which will be celebrated on the 22nd. The history of black is very strong, very beautiful, we have much to tell.
VERBO – What are the classes like?
Rachel – I give the theory together with my son, [the composer] Vitor da Trindade. He [percussionist] Manuel Trindade, [rapper] Zinho Trindade, my grandchildren, the babalorixá [priest of Candomblé] Adailson Jacobina, Carla Magalhães, Cícera França and Camilo Borba give the practical part of dance, and the paperwork [administration, who takes care of it] is Marcelo Tomé [circus artist], my grandson [foster]. I passed on everything I know to them so that help me in this work, first going to the teachers and then to students, going from school to school. We had the unanimous approval in the França (House of Reps), and the mayor [Chico Brito] and the Department of Education have given us all the support.
VERBO – What does this project [training course of Afro-Brazilian identity] represent for the Trindade family?
Rachel – Oh, it’s very good. The history of my family comes from my grandparents. I had a wonderful grandfather, Manoel Abílio Pompilho da Trindade in Pernambuco. He came home from work, picked up the guitar, would put the grandchildren around and tell African stories, endless stories. My paternal grandmother, Emerenciana de Jesus Trindade, was a mixture of Indian and black. My maternal, Damázia Maria do Nascimento, danced maracatus. My father, poet, actor, playwright, painter, Francisco Solano Trindade. Besides art, he talked to me – as a child – about politics, took me to watch the shows, at the Municipal. [Theatre]. He told me: “You have to know black culture and white culture, in order to have general knowledge.”
Maracatu Unicamp – Apresentação no Embu SP – Raquel Trindade, Avelino Bezerra
My mother, Maria Margarida da Trindade, who was an occupational therapist and worked with Dr. Nise da Silveira [psychiatrist] the Museu da Imagem do Inconsciente (Museum of Image of the Unconscious) [in Rio], taught me all the dances, with the exception of that of the Candomblé, it was [Christian] Presbyterian – Dad was a communist, at home there was always the Bible and Capital by Karl Marx, together. She said [about the biblical figures] that Míria played tambourine, David, harp, Solomon did poetry. She could teach me maracatu, coco, lundu, jogo, Bumba-meu-boi, it was she who taught me everything. And also taught me not to drink, not to smoke, no swearing, I had a very strong guidance, and all of this I passed down to my children and grandchildren – there are three children and ten grandchildren, and I already have two great-grandchildren, and another is on the way.
VERBO – The Trindade family left roots …
Raquel My father created, with my mother and [sociologist] Édison Carneiro, the Teatro Popular Brasileiro (Brazilian Popular Theater) [in 1950, in Duque de Caxias, Rio de Janeiro]. We went to Europe, to Eastern Europe to dance. After he died, at 74, I created, a year later [in Embu], the Teatro Popular Solano Trindade (Solando Trindade Popular Theatre), which covers the entire national folklore. The theater will be 39 years old.
VERBO – When did you all arrive in Embu?
Rachel – My father and I and another 30 artists arrived in Embu in 1961. We had come to Sao Paulo do a show, and Embu had Sakai [sculptor Tadakiyo Sakai, know as Mestre Sakai (1914-1981)], the Cássio M’Boy [painter and sculptor (1903-1986)], Assis [Claudionor Assis, known as Mestre Assis, painter and sculptor (1931-2006)] and Azteca [painter Josefina Azteca]. Sakai said to Assis to go to São Paulo to meet Solano so that he could portray black culture in sculpture, and Assis invited us to come. When we arrived, Embu was the most beautiful thing, Santa Luzia, Sílvia [neighborhoods in the downtown area] were all woods, the river that passes here [on the other side of the sidewalk] took up the whole street and was very clean, Lagoa square was the lake itself. And daddy and Assis began to have parties that lasted three days, we danced and we painted the street. In the beginning there was racial discrimination, we were a group of 30 blacks, but then they were more accepting.
VERBO – How was it teaching at Unicamp? Did you suffer resistance. Was it racial?
Rachel – The problem there was not racial. I had been invited by Antônio Nóbrega to [the department] to dance, to do Candomblé, the dance of the orixás (deities). The [then director] Celso Nunes liked it and invited me to the performing arts, and I went on to give a [class] on folklore, black theater in Brazil and religious syncretism in graduation, and it was very successful. I’m not a college graduate, I have a high school education. I joined as technically-taught and went on to be associate professor, and many teachers didn’t like it, all with master’s (mestrado), Ph.D’s (doutorado), and me with no “ado” (no degree), it created a (bad) climate. A professor, to whom I taught everything about folklore, after being there ten years, at the time we did a report, put everything as if it were his work, the director at the time the papers drop, and saw that he had taken me from my work. I was very sad. I had cancer, and was very upset, I resigned.
VERBO – But you said that the experience was a success…
Raquel – From 1987 to 1992 I taught at undergraduate, and I saw that it only had one black in the performing arts. So I asked to open an extension course to cover other people, black, white, Japanese…People came from another graduation (course), and black employees and the black community of Campinas, the course had a huge number of students. In 1988, we had the idea of creating a group, the Urucungos, Puítas and Quinjengues, instruments of Bantu origin that came [brought by the slaves] to São Paulo. Urucungo is a berimbau with a large gourd, puíta, a wooden cuíca (opossum), and quinjengue, a tapered atabaque. The group turned 25 years old, now the community itself continues the work. Occasionally, they come to me to clarify some point or talk about other dances that they are doing, but they are already researching themselves. That’s my interest. Unicamp sent me a very nice letter talking about my work.
VERBO – Has Raquel Trindade suffered racial discrimination?
Rachel – The black in general suffer everything that is prejudice. There are many stories, but discrimination [among the most serious] that I suffered was here in Embu itself, at the time that Geraldo Cruz invited me to work – along with Assis, [artist] Gileno Bahia – in Tourism, which had as secretary Jean Gillon [died in 2007, aged 87]. Geraldo had asked me to meet the staff and do a beautiful Carnival, and he [Secretary] turned to me and said, ‘I will put a little table in the street you meet the little people out there’. I said, “You’re crazy, that’s apartheid, I won’t do that!” When he entered [in the office], I saw him comment to a person: “Blacks don’t think, have no brain, and doesn’t make art, they do monkey business.” He was Romanian, I found it strange for a Jew to have racial prejudice, but it happens. I looked for Gerard, who at the time didn’t say anything. He held a meeting with all Tourism and said, “Rachel, this meeting is for you to apologize to Jean Gillon.” I said, “To this big ‘fascist’ I’m going to apologize? You don’t know me, I prefer to resign and beat him.” That’s what I did.
VERBO – How did it happen?
Rachel – A friend who had the newspaper Conexão interviewed him, and he repeated everything, for being blonde, he thought she was not going to call. And at the time, (former President) Lula came here [Embu], and they sent a girl to have lunch with me here, at the same time that he came. They were afraid that I would tell Lula, who knew me. I was told by my grandson and I went to the city hall, which was still in the building that today is the cultural center [Mestre Assisi]. He was at the top [balcony], and I called him, “Lula, want to talk to you.” When Lula came down, everyone came down after him. He said, “What is it?” I said, “Discrimination in tourism…” He said: “Geraldo, how do you allow such a thing, did you forget Solano’s and Rachel’s work?” Gerard said, “No, I will find a way.” But he didn’t. We needed to go to the House, where the secretary would speak. He didn’t repeat the same words, but said that my group lied, invaded Tourism, and vandalized, but my group was very educated people, that would never do that. We put the tape [of the interview] with all that he had said, it was rolling. There was no way, Geraldo fired him. I made a complaint against him at the police station and called two lawyers. When they saw that I would win [the cause], they wanted me to take money from Jean Gillon. I’ve always been poor, only having enough to live. I said, “You don’t understand me, I’m not interested in money, I just want that he doesn’t do this again with any black or Indian. But discrimination is constant, from the security not going after anyone and going after blacks when entering a store.
VERB – Are you speaking in relation to yourself…
Raquel – Yes, myself. Here in the center of Embu when I went into a restaurant, a woman started screaming, “You stole my purse!” It’s been a year. I said, “You’re crazy, I’m going in now, how could I have stolen your purse?”; everyone (was) watching. The owner of the restaurant, that knows me, said, “Impossible, Rachel would not do that.” The waitress found the bag under the table. I gave it to her, I wanted them to call the police, as no one called, it gave her a slap that was worth it. It’s crazy, discrimination is so strong that they don’t think.
Documentary – The Art of Raquel Trindade: Afro-Brazilian Cultural Resistance (in Portuguese)
VERBO – How is it to fight racial discrimination today?
Raquel – First, blacks themselves have to be proud of being black.
VERBO – Is it the great drama the black himself having the feeling of inferiority?
Rachel – It is. It turns out that the media shows that everything that is good is white, all that is bad is black. Black women begin to straighten their hair because they think they are only beautiful if they have the characteristics of whites, black boys begin to imitate everything that is white because it is thrown upon them that everything white is superior and all that is of blacks is inferior. And not all were lucky enough to have parents like I had, who sat with me and said that I had to have pride of being black. And not every white is racist too, doing racism in reverse. There are many whites that are conscious [of racial equality], friends of blacks. Then, the fight against racism is done with education, to know your culture, your history, so you know that [equality or racial inequality] depends on the means in which you are raised, and unfortunately most blacks are in a very degrading environment.
VERBO – Will the Day of Black Consciousness always be necessary in Brazil?
Rachel – It’s like the quota [reserve places in educational institutions to groups classified by ethnicity, such as blacks]. It is needed because there is racial discrimination. The Day of Black Consciousness is necessary because racial discrimination exists.
Source: Verbo Online
1 Embu das Artes, previously and commonly known simply as Embu, is a Brazilian municipality in the State of São Paulo. It is a suburb of the capital. The population in 2006 was 245,855 inhabitants. Source