In search of identity, entrepreneurs embark on ethnic market and move R$2.7 million in São Paulo’s Feira Preta (Black Expo)
In 2001, when Adriana Barbosa was unemployed, she had no idea what was coming. Without any opportunities in the job market, the 23 year old turned to the streets to earn a living. She sold her own clothes on a roadside stall, set up a marketplace, and sold pastries until she saw, in her own skin, an opportunity. Noting the absence of blacks participating in market expos, Adriana decided, along with a friend, to start a fair theme. Born there, in Praça Benedito Calixto, in the west zone of São Paulo, was the Feira Preta. Nine years later, the fair has become a major event and has moved approximately R$2.7 million (US$1.35 million), with more than 85,000 visitors and hundreds of exhibitors. In its ninth edition, Feira Preta was held in one of the pavilions of the Centro de Exposições Imigrantes, one of the largest in the state capital.
“It’s a highly promising segment. Today, people declare themselves black, and thus there is entrepreneurial opportunity”, says Adriana Barbosa. “The market needs to see this population. There are few companies with the development of specific products for blacks”, she adds.
Along the corridors of Feira Preta, hundreds of exhibitors display their various products, from traditional Afro hairstyles to English courses focusing on black culture. “We have a very rich cultural heritage. Black culture is much more than the clothes and hair”, says Fernanda Felisberto, which owns Kabatu bookstore in Rio de Janeiro specializing in black literature.
Fernanda’s bookstore, that she runs with a partner, also black, has more than a thousand titles. The best sellers are the children’s books. “Parents are concerned about the self-esteem of their children”, she says. But are there white fathers buying black children’s literature for their children? “There are, yes”, replies Fernanda. “It’s the father who wants to show his children diversity”, she adds.
Fernanda Felisberto of the Kitabu bookstore in Rio de Janeiro
And it is this diversity that made the retiree Vera Lúcia Pedroso begin her craft work. In search of “black identity”, the artisan and small business woman wanted to dispel the myths established by white culture. “We always see a white, blond and blue-eyed Jesus. I made a black boy Jesus.” With pieces ranging from R$8 to R$180, Vera Lúcia complains about the lack of black heroes. “The artist does not have color, sex, or race. He/she only put outs what he/she feels”, she says, holding in her hands one of her her works: a black skinned Santa Claus.
The sisters Alice and Edna dos Santos found in the segmentation of their craft a business opportunity. Focusing on black dolls, the sisters from Praia Grande on the coast of São Paulostate, already planned to open a shop to sell their pieces. “The black doll was one of our creations. It is very important because it is a way of appreciating our origins”, said Anna Maria.
With an eye also on the culture of his origins, Saul Alexandre dos Santos, an employee of São Paulo’s subway system, leaves the hustle and bustle of maintaining the Yellow Line track of the system, in his spare time, to dedicate himself to braiding afro textured hair. “To me, it’s therapy. No matter the value. The cool thing is seeing my work in people’s heads”, he says, while braiding the hair of model Cindy Gabryella.
Hair stylist Tiago Pereira makes a living doing the hair of blacks in his salon in Cohab Raposo Tavares on the outskirts of the state capital. “In the Vila, we deal with the black public,” he says. Tiago argues that customers are leaving the straightening iron behind. “The natural is more beautiful. Blacks assuming their style brings this prejudice to an end.”
Yes, we can
Between the stands of the Feira Preta, a poster with the picture of U.S. President, Barack Obama, offering the public a different kind of English course. “Our school has a focus on black culture,” explains Rodrigo Faustino, director of Ebony English. With a focus on Brazil’s C and D economic classes, the courses are more affordable than in traditional schools: R$120 (about US$60) per month. “Obama raised the identification of blacks and strengthened our self-esteem. Any black can go anywhere they wish if they study. They can even be president of the United States”, says Faustino.
Emerson Teodoro, of the 20th of November Course (name that coincides with the date of the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, Brazil’s most celebrated black leader in 1695), prides himself for having the highest approval rating among college entrance exam students of Fatec*. For more than half of its black students, the Fatec Afro course offers grants of 30% to 80% for students. Teodoro says there are elements of black culture during classes, but not as much as he would like. “Our focus is to get the student approved (for college),” he says.
From black to black
As evidence of this movement, Santander Bank has set up a booth at the fair to offer lectures directed to microcredit to exhibitors and to the public of Feira Preta. Adriano Santos, commercial bank analyst, who came to the institution through a program for blacks, says that the lines of credit range from R$500 (US$250) to $40,000 (US$20,000). For entrepreneurs, you must have the business for at least six months.
“The granting of credit is through the solidarity group, where a person endorses another,” said Santos, who says that 99% of clients are physical individuals and 62% are women. The default rate of the portfolio is 3.8%, lower than the market average.
Exhibition of black Barbies has 85 dolls
Another attraction for visitors to the Feira Preta is an exhibition of Black Barbies. With over 85 black dolls on display, the collector Carlos Keffer says that the models “celebrate black beauty and the 30 years of the first Black Barbie.”
The first Barbie doll black line was established in 1967. Franci was a black cousin of the main character. Two years later, the doll Cristie was created, that appeared as the best friend of Barbie. Keffer says that in the ’80s, there was a great diversity of Barbie and the black line was created. “Barbie was getting a more rounded nose and plumper lips. We see that the elements of black culture are present”, he says. Clearly, a Barbie with afro textured hair could not be left out.
In Keffer’s collection, the most expensive Black Barbie is the Barbie Goddess of Africa, which is valued at R$3,000 (US$1,500). “There were 20 thousand copies worldwide, handmade.” Details of the dress, designed by fashion designer Bob Mackie, who dressed great Hollywood actresses, are the main asset of black doll.
* – FATEC is an acronym for São Paulo State Technological Colleges or FATECs (Faculdades de Tecnologia do Estado de São Paulo). They are public institutions of higher education belonging to CEETEPS (State Center of Technological Education), governmental maintainer. The FATECs are important Brazilian institutions of higher education, being pioneers in the graduation of technologists. They are located in several cities of the São Paulo state, with three campuses in the capital (Bom Retiro, East Zone and South Zone), and several other units in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, countryside and seashore. Source: Wikipedia
Feira Preta 2011
Feira Preta 2011 – Baile Black
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