The black entrepreneurial spirit: 18th annual Feira Preta (Brazil’s black expo)
Note from BW of Brazil: Well, another edition of Feira Preta has come and gone, and I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to attend this event for the 11th time in 12 years. Needless to say, I LOVE going to the event for a number of reasons. São Paulo is such a large city and in order to see so many black people gathered together in one spot, it’s necessary to participate in such outings. Besides the various booths and tents selling their own products connected to black culture, I love just seeing the colorful clothes, inventive earrings, afros, braids, naps and curls on full display. Feira Preta never disappoints and its great to see that it’s now beginning to go international, attracting vendors from the African continent. My only regret is that, with family obligations, I simply don’t have the same amount of time to fully enjoy the festivities.
This year, as I discovered from the folks over at the Todos Negros do Mundo website, there were a number of personalities that came out for the 2019 edition of FP that I would have definitely liked to have chatted with had I had the time. One highlight of this year’s FP was the fact that I did have the opportunity to meet and converse with one of Afro Brazil’s most important writers, the one and only Conceição Evaristo. I’ve featured Evaristo in a number of posts over the years because I think it’s a travesty that this woman has had to wait until her 70s to begin to garner the attention she has long deserved for her contributions to the Afro-Brazilian story through her literature. To say it was a pleasure to meet her live and in person is a huge understatement. This woman’s work needs translation.
Another thing that I always appreciate at these sorts of events is meeting various people from the Diaspora that you’ll find mingling in the crowds or at the vendor tables. This year’s was no different as I connected with a sista from Cuba, a couple from the United States and a brotha from Nigeria by way of Philly, Penn. Often times when you meet our people, wherever they are, you’ll never know that they’re from another country until you to stop to talk to them. That’s what you gotta love about the family. Can’t wait to next year’s FP. Until then, check out a few photos and a short write-up about this year’s edition.
18th annual Feira Preta attracted 35 thousand people and turned earns BRL 1.5 million;
On Saturday and Sunday, December 7, 8, the 18th edition of the annual black expo known as Feira Preta, the largest black culture and entrepreneurship event in Latin America, brought in over 35 thousand people in just two days of a celebration that focuses on the black population in São Paulo at the Memorial da América Latina (Latin American Memorial). The event also earned BRL 1.5 million reais. The events sales more than doubled its tallies for last year which brought in BRL 700 thousand.
The event whose creator is entrepreneur Adriana Barbosa helped to generate more than 300 jobs, representing 130 black entrepreneurs from ten states across Brazil, as well as entrepreneurs from African countries such as Ghana and Senegal. Featuring more than 50 cultural attractions such as well-known and up and coming artists such as Samba/MPB legend Elza Soares, Larissa Luz, Quebrada Linn, Africa em Nós, Fanta Konate, Drik Barbosa and bloco afro Ilu Obá, Ilu Iná kept the crowds hype. In addition, the expo featured debates on finance, black aesthetics and gender issues, book releases and workshops.
The Afro-Brazilian focused media group/website Todos Negros do Mundo – TNM was also a highlight of the expo offering the real time coverage of the event, recording interviews and taking photos of participants. The website, created by Anderson de Jesus, is one of many independent Afro-Brazilian media outlets bringing representation to black culture, issues and people online. Todos Negros do Mundo is Portuguese for All Blacks of the World.
As popular as the yearly even has gotten in the past few decades, there are still people who are experiencing it for the first time, like university student Beatriz Meneses.
“What motivated me to come to the Feira for the first time was the desire to know a space specifically dedicated to the dissemination of the work of black artists. I’m also looking to buy more things produced by black professionals and the event provides that,” Beatriz said.
One of the dozens of entrepreneurs participating this year’s Feira Preta was Eliane Lira, founder and creator of the brand that takes her name. The Caricoa, meaning a native of the city of Rio de Janeiro, the “Lira” brand has existed since 2017 and sales a lines of clothing and accessories that Eliane creates with the assistance of of her family.
Finding a creative way to make something new out of something old, some of the earrings and necklaces are made manually by reusing the fabric leftover from the garments. “We try to take advantage of the materials and we believe that the products are also an ideology because fashion is also art,” says Eliane.
Having now participated in the Feira twice, Eliane understands not just the financial part of the event, but also the importance of seeing black people working.
“It’s great to see black people working and they all identify with us. I am also amazed at how people like to produce themselves here and dress well. They don’t just come for a walk and it’s really nice to see the whole crowd,” she adds.
At the event, there is also space for people mixing business with the area of health and wellness. Flávia Barbosa, creator of “Cabins da Terra”, is one such person. Creating her brand in 2018, Barbosa is focusing on the self-care of a black population that oftentimes doesn’t have this choice. Her natural/herbal products were used by African and indigenous peoples.
“I combined our ancestral knowledge with my sommelier teas course. The products are herbal teas, energetic bath herbs, foot baths and massage balls”, explains Flávia.
According to Flávia’s research and knowledge of the topic, the health and natural well-being market is one that is still little explored by the black population. Feira Preta provided the identification of possible clients with this area through professionals with similar backgrounds.
“We black people don’t have this market and when we get it we realize that everything is very embranquecido (whitened). The person sees my brand and can see herself within this medium. It’s important that we make this path of reconnection with the customs of our people, which is that of natural self-care and the feira (fair) has this energy. It’s a beautiful thing,” she adds.
The one area that I would say that I preferred in the 2018 edition of FP was the children’s area. Being a father myself, we always have to consider the kids’ space as out little ones usually aren’t interested in the same things as the adults. In 2019, the fair featured Espaço Erê, which brought caregivers with afro-referenced activities for our little tykes.
“We think of our future, bringing ancestral care. It was a family place, hosted during the event. The idea was that no child would be alone. It was collective care so that parents could enjoy the fair,” says Rosyane Silwa, curator and producer of the activities. Considering how our children rarely see references in the cartoon and children’s world in the media in which they can see images that look like them, I always appreciate efforts made to reach our children. The reason I preferred last year’s children’s space was that the building in the Paissandu area downtown offered a much large space for the kids to run around and enjoy themselves in comparison to the little tent in the Memorial this year.
For the 18th Feira Preta, this year the theme was “Past, Present and Future”, with a goal of reflecting upon where they came from, where they are at this moment and the future for black art, culture and entrepreneurship.
Although the main part of Feira Preta 2019 took place last weekend, other events were held in November as well throughout São Paulo.
What started off as a small venture for creator Adriana Barbosa in 2002 has gone on to become the largest event of black culture and enterprise in Latin America. A project focused on products of Afro Brazilian entrepreneurs, the events shines a spotlight on black cultural elements that have long been undervalued and ignored in the country. Although black entreprenuers have existed for centuries in Brazil, Feira Preta is clearly the reference for a social entrepreneurship, the explosion of black businesses and the call for the practice of ‘‘black money’‘ in recent years.
In 2002, the first edition of the fair brought 40 exhibitors together attracting an audience of 5,000 people in São Paulo’s west zone. By 2017 edition, 15 years later, Feira was regularly bringing in 10-20 thousand participants. In 2018, that audience surpassed 50 thousand people.
The success of the 2019 Feira Preta comes with perfect timing and is perhaps the biggest prize for its founder. But just weeks before, on November 4th, Barbosa, 42, won an award in the Troféu Grão category of the Prêmio Empreendedor Social (Social Entrepreneur Award). The event took place at the Teatro Porto Seguro in São Paulo.
Besides Feira Preta, Barbosa is also responsible for PretaHub, a business accelerator created by black entrepreneurs that was founded in 2019 with over 2,000 ideas positively impacting the curriculum.
The Prêmio Empreendedor Social award is a partnership between Brazil’s most important newspaper, Folha de S.Paulo and the Schwab Foundation, a sister organization of the World Economic Forum. Created in 2018, the Troféu Grão category awards small initiatives that are judged as having great social impact.
In this, the 15th edition of the Prêmio Empreendedor Social, Adriana was the only black woman among the finalists and also the only professional that has been at it for more than two decades.
This is not Barbosa’s only accomplishment and recognition. Among numerous other awards, in 2017, the pioneer of 21st century Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurialism, she took her place on a list of the 51 most influential black people in the world. This unique recognition is is awarded by the Most Influential People of African Descent, MIPAD, a body that recognizes people with creative initiatives that have the potential to change the world.