Note from BW of Brazil: We all know how important a mother’s love and guidance is in the physical, emotional and psychological development of any child. It could be argued that this love and guidance is also essential in the development of a positive view of self and self-esteem. This is many more times important in the lives of black children as they will one day be confronted with the ideology that society values them less because their skin is darker and hair curlier. Others have detailed how it is often from a parent or adult that a child can learn the idea that they are not beautiful as they are or the closer to the European standard the better. Although it is true that there are more black Brazilian parents who are passing racial consciousness on to their children, centuries of anti-black racism continues to be intricately connected to the Brazilian experience, which in turn often leads to the difficulty of many children identifying themselves as black. With all of this in mind, it’s great to read like the one below by Hanayrá Negreiros honoring her mother for the development of her identity, blackness and self-esteem.
The importance of the mother in the self-esteem of black women
By Hanayrá Negreiros, courtesy of Blogueiras Negras
Lately I’ve started to think about the importance that mothers have on the way children will think one day. I thought of my mother, as she was important in my formation as a black woman.
Our relationship can be defined in one word: difference. We are completely different, my mother, Regina, is super talkative, funny, striking and super vain. I, as her daughter, have some of those characteristics, but without the “super.” We fight a lot, but we like each other a lot. My mother was very important in the question of self-esteem for me, one of the people who most told me how beautiful I am! She always repeated that and repeats it still today. I remember now the speech that Lupita Nyong’o made about the beauty of the black woman and how her mother also made her believe she was beautiful. Since I was a baby, my mother adorned me like a doll, a black doll! The identity formation of a black child runs a very large path, when children, we black girls we always come across the desire to have the long, straight hair of our classmate, for example, and having a doll or toy that in fact looks like the child makes a huge difference!
The first black doll I that got when I was still a baby and even today I have was given to me by my mother, I hope to show it to my daughter, if I have one one day! My mother was always very careful with it, in showing me black references so that I would identify with them and with that, I would create my own identity.
I wore braids since I started to have hair growing in that kinky way, until age 18, she says that when I was a baby, she braided my hair in her lap! We spent 8 or 10 hours braiding my hair, or even days! And she was always there, making one trancinha (little braid) at a time, the way that I wanted, long, thin, thick, short. I think that besides difference, another word that can define our relationship is “cabelo (hair)”. During my entire adolescence, I never went to the hairdresser, it was always my mother who took care of my hair, always! And this having the custom of braiding the cabelo crespo (kinky/curly hair) and the whole ritual that involves black women certainly didn’t happen only to me. I know so many stories of mothers, aunts and grandmothers who donated a bit of knowledge to take care of their girls’ hair. The black girls will know what I mean.
For my mother, hair is very important, she’s always in search of the perfect crespo (kinky curl), always coming to me with some new cream, or some different hydration and we spent hours talking about hair. Incidentally, while I was writing this text, she came to show me how her hair had “liked” the new hydration she found. And whenever I did something different with my hair, she was there. It was she who shaved my head when I decided to go bald, cutting each strand with scissors. It was also she who gave me strength, in fact I only found the courage of which I needed seeing old photos of her, that one day she had already been bald too. Because my mother is not a simple mother, she is very beautiful and full of pomp, she’s always full of colors, always with her turbans, necklaces and earrings. If she was not the daughter of Iansã, she would be the daughter of Oxum!
I think that the next black children to come, will have mothers more conscious of their blackness and we will see more crespa children, with their black dolls, like my mother did for me 22 years ago. We have a duty to show our children how beautiful they are, I think black mothers should do this with their little black children and white mothers who come to have black children begin also, to start to form a black identity.
The photo I chose to illustrate this text is a picture that is more or less 19 years old, my mother and I, you can see her playing with her braids and me smiling underneath her, a little one, but that already knew of my beauty. Thanks Dona Regina, for making me the black woman I am today! (She, when reading this text, will complain a lot just because of “Dona”) (1).
Hanayrá Negreiros has a degree in Fashion, loves writing about the aesthetics of black women, sewing and making illustrations. She can’t live without sweets, preferably chocolate!
Source: Blogueiras Negras, Black Women of Brazil
1. “Dona” is a title preceding the first name of any adult woman as a show of honor, courtesy or respect from the speaker.