Where are the black professionals of Brazil? Two projects seek to combat the invisibility of blacks in the media and in the job market



Note from BW of Brazil: It’s a topic that is constantly discussed on this blog. Where are Afro-Brazilians in numerous areas of Brazilian society? In recent decades, black Brazilians have made great strides in finding success in positions that have been previously reserved for only those with white skin. Let’s be clear, they are still far from having a representation that reflects their percentage in the overall population. But today it is far more possible to know a black journalistblack doctor, black university professor,  or black executive than it was just as recently as the 1990s. But even with this success, Brazil’s typical reaction to the inclusion of black people in whatever endeavor has been, “Well, I don’t have prejudice, but I simply don’t know any black _________” (fill in the blank for whatever occupation). Well, even though they exist, Afro-Brazilian numbers in certain areas are still quite small so perhaps that is sometimes true. But ALL THE TIME? I doubt it. With this in mind, two great projects seek to present and give black professionals more exposure.

Where are the black intellectuals of Brazil?

Discover two projects that want to combat the invisibility of blacks in the media and in the job market.

By Amauri Terto

Historians, engineers, anthropologists, businesswomen, professors, lawyers, filmmakers, journalists. 181 women. All black. That is what the Intelectuais Negras Visíveis (Visible Black Women Intellectuals) catalog is about, developed by the Intelectuais Negras UFRJ (Black Women Intellectual) Studies group of UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) and organized by the historian and activist Giovana Xavier.

As the name makes one suspect, the work aims to combat the invisibility of black women in Brazil by presenting the production of professionals from the five regions of the country in 12 areas of action that go beyond academic production.

“Academia is a fundamental, strategic and important place, but it is not the only one where we practice our intellectuality. We work with the perspective that all black women are intellectuals in the common knowledge they produce,” says Giovana to HuffPost Brasil.

Giovana Xavier, organizer of the catalog  ‘Intelectuais Negras Visíveis’.

The organizer explains that the women were listed from a horizontal perspective. There is no hierarchy between the areas of action. The group also sought to create areas that reflect the history of black women in Brazil as a group of race and gender.

An example of this effort is the area of Basic Education, in which teachers and other education professionals are listed. According to Giovana, there is in this scenario a very strong protagonism of black women that is historically invisible. “In general, teachers are thought of as mere transmitters of knowledge. This field of basic education is a differential in a reading of black intelligentsia.”

In this sense of intellectuality that manifests itself outside the academy, the catalog also presents two other specific fields: Public Intellectuality and Afro-Entrepreneurship which, according to the organizer, are linked to the transformations that the black population has experienced in the last two decades in Brazil. For Giovana, the set of public policies and social programs developed in the country contributed in a decisive way to the visibility and protagonism of black women.

The Intelectuais Negras Visíveis catalog brings together the profiles of 181 professional black women in various fields

“The academy is a fundamental, strategic and important place, but it is not the only place where we practice our intellectuality.”

The catalog was launched in July in the parallel programming of the 15th edition of Flip (Paraty Literary Festival), which this year was marked by intense debates about the racial issue and its reflections in the literature produced in Brazil, in neighboring countries, and beyond the sea.

Without any institutional support, the work was made available free on the Internet with the help of black personalities such as philosopher Djamila Ribeiro and journalist Flavia Oliveira. According to Giovana, there were over a thousand downloads made only on the release day. An expanded second edition of the catalog will be launched later this year with a total of 500 black intellectuals.

The organizer emphasizes that the catalog is not a biographical work but a strategic material. For Giovana, denunciations are important within black activism, but must be accompanied by proposals. That said, the catalog is also intended to serve as reference material for hiring in the labor market.

“We know that one of the main arguments at the time of a hiring is: ‘Oh, I would love to hire a black filmmaker, but I don’t know any,” she exemplifies. “Therefore, the catalog aims to inform of who these women are, but also to make a disclosure that is reversed in visibility for their work, inspiring the search for other women,” she concludes.

‘Ah, but I do not know a black specialist’

It was also thinking of breaking with the invisibility of the black population, this time in the media, that the journalist Helaine Martins created Entreviste um Negro (Interview a black person) two years, a bank of sources directed to journalists and communication professionals that brings together data of more than 100 black specialists, men and women, from the most diverse areas – from medicine to engineering, through administration and the beauty market.

Helaine says the project was born of an ancient nuisance. “When I was paying attention to TV news coverage, especially those dealing with racial issues, I realized that the specialist was always white. It bothered me because I thought that somehow made the agenda a little skewed.”

In 2015, the journalist approached the feminist NGO Think Olga, responsible for the Entreviste uma Mulher (Interview a Woman) project, which in turn is a source bank with only women specialists. Helaine liked the idea. Such a platform from a racial perspective could facilitate and encourage the contact of journalists with black specialists.

Bothered by the news coverage that conceals the voices of black experts, journalist Helaine Martins has created the Entreviste um Negro project.

Like the Mulheres Negras Visíveis catalog, Entreviste um  Negro gathers information from professionals outside of academia. That is where one of the two obstacles of the project lives. According to Helaine, black professionals still find it difficult to see themselves as a journalistic source. “As good as they are, they still can’t see themselves as capable. Low self-esteem,” she says.

Alone in charge of the project, she does an ant job. The process includes searching for names, sending e-mails and requesting authorization for inclusion in the online document. Helaine also receives emails with suggestions of new expert profiles.

The journalist says that another obstacle to the success of the project is the lack of interest of communication professionals. This problem also causes her work to be doubled. “There still aren’t a lot of hits on the part of the journalists, so besides getting in touch with the sources, I’m going after the reporters,” she says.

If there is an excuse in the labor market for not hiring black people because of a supposed absence of qualified professionals, there is a very similar excuse in the press. “Ah, I don’t interview blacks because I haven’t found a black specialist,” exemplifies Helaine.

In order to combat this justification even more assertively in the journalistic environment, she intends to enlarge the project by turning it into a website. The idea is to facilitate both the specialist registration experience and the journalist’s access.

For the future, she has even more ambitious plans.

Entreviste um Negro will not only be a source bank, but also a content agency specializing in race issues. Helaine also wants to develop a project linked to education focused on journalistic work. “It will explain, for example, the difference between racismo e injúria racial (racism and racial injury/slur), terms that we often see being misused in the press,” she explains.

“The intention is to qualify this coverage in the journalistic (realm) on the subjects related to the black population,” she finalizes.

Source: HuffPost Brasil

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. it is nice to see black women are able express in english so people all over the world can understand their feelings. there are similar issues in south asia( india,bangladesh and srilanka) were black women are discriminated too. south asian region is home to as much as 1billion black people.

  2. The struggle for equal human rights for Brazilians and Americans of African Heritage must become [one] Struggle. We must connect, enjoined one another; but, include all of our North Americans Africans peoples. Our leaders and peoples should unite through all means available; our leaders at the highest levels for Social Change; academia, political, economic, business, religious must do this struggle together and keep All Abreast, informed of every obstacle and every triumph. For this is a Generational Struggle. We must form a Division of Labor, Economic ventures, trade, create Small Business international trade, travel. The entire South and North Americas we need to be connected politically. Hold a Congress of our leaders and Peoples in different countries to strategies. And while we are struggling we need too also support efforts to Unite the Mother/Fatherland and compel/persuade leaders of African States to Invest in the People; Improve Sanitation/Health Services; improve Industrialization….Produce, Produce…Educational systems to train your people to be doctors, engineers, builders of Armies, Navies, businesses and improve substantially the Agricultural system so the people can be feed/nourished and cultivating the land so it can yield in abundance. African States need to unite as One.

    • why there are no forums to unite black people of the north and south americas ? is it because of language alone! or is it because economic disparities between the two?

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