LATINO VOICES

24 Photos That Show What It Means To Be A Black Woman In Brazil

"I'm proud of my skin."

A new photo project is redefining both how Afro-Latinas in Brazil are seen and the way they see themselves. 

Race in Brazil has always been complicated. The country, which has the largest population of black people outside of Africa, has prided itself as a "racial democracy," a country wherein racism does not exist because race itself does not exist. But for the millions of black people who actually live in Brazil, disenfranchisement and discrimination are very real parts of every day life that are rarely acknowledged. 

And for Somer Nowak, a Fulbright Scholar from Milwaukee, W.I. teaching and studying in Minas Gerais, Brazil, racism in the country manifested itself early on. 

"I'm biracial, black and white, but I consider myself black, which seemed incomprehensible to some Brazilians," Nowak told The Huffington Post.

"When I told people I was black, I would be met with opposition: 'You're not black, you're light-skinned, you're beautiful, you can't be black.'" 

After seeing the realities of colorism in her country firsthand and then joining a black student feminist collective on campus called Coletiva Feminista Bonecas de Pixe, Nowak decided she wanted to help bring more visibility to the black experience in Brazil. Her contribution was the brilliant photo series Como é Ser Uma Mulher Negra, a photo project designed to let black women in Brazil tell their own stories.

Nowak photographed Brazilian women in the campus collective and throughout Minas Gerais, asking them each to write on a piece of dry board something simple, yet complex, “What it’s like to be a black woman in Brazil?" 

The result: a series of captivating portraits that reveal the struggles and the joys that these women face on a daily basis. 

"It's to be beautiful and maraviwonderful no matter what they say!"
"It's to be beautiful and maraviwonderful no matter what they say!"

"Many women had never reflected on what it meant to navigate the world as a woman and as being black," Nowak says.

"When I'd hand them the board and marker, they would pause because they realized no one had ever even asked them... Some women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s revealed that they had just began identifying themselves as black."  

The women featured in the photo series exemplify the beauty and diversity of Afro-Latinas, but even more powerful are the signs they hold, which further distill the black experience in Brazil. For one of the women in the series, pictured above, to be a black woman in Brazil is to be "beautiful and maraviwonderful no matter what they say!"

“The black woman has to have faith, she's a warrior. I'm proud of my skin."
“The black woman has to have faith, she's a warrior. I'm proud of my skin."

The project, which features over 30 Brazilian women, reveals not only the diversity but the commonality amongst black Brazilian women. For Nowak, that universality of experiences amongs black women across the Americas was the biggest takeaway. 

"Anti-blackness and patriarchal society had adversely affected us all, even though we were from different countries. That's one thing I wanted to stress with this project, community and support for black women across the Americas."   

Nowak says that her dream "is to create radical spaces where black girls are taught to love themselves, lead and resist." ComoéSerUmaMulherNegra is, without a doubt, a vital step in realizing that dream. 

View the rest of the photo series below, and learn more about Somer Nowak's work here.  

  • 1
    "Being a black woman is to strive three times harder than white people to achieve the same result. That's because of rac
    "Being a black woman is to strive three times harder than white people to achieve the same result. That's because of racism, sexism, and class oppression."
  • 2
    "Being a black woman is to be complete!"
    "Being a black woman is to be complete!"
  • 3
    “Being a black woman means to resist, in order to exist."
    “Being a black woman means to resist, in order to exist."
  • 4
    "Being a black woman is being a woman."
    "Being a black woman is being a woman."
  • 5
    "My hair and my features are political acts. I carry in my skin and in my soul the pride of being black."
    "My hair and my features are political acts. I carry in my skin and in my soul the pride of being black."
  • 6
    "Being a black woman is to be proud of what is natural!"
    "Being a black woman is to be proud of what is natural!"
  • 7
    "Being a black woman is my essence!"
    "Being a black woman is my essence!"
  • 8
    "Being a black woman is to be targeted with prejudice and to find out you are strong."
    "Being a black woman is to be targeted with prejudice and to find out you are strong."
  • 9
    "Being a black woman <strong>​</strong>means not talking<strong>&nbsp;</strong>about how we feel as black women."
    "Being a black woman means not talking about how we feel as black women."
  • 10
    "Being a black woman is being original, each black woman is unique."
    "Being a black woman is being original, each black woman is unique."
  • 11
    "Being black is to have attitude."
    "Being black is to have attitude."
  • 12
    "Black women don't get used to offensive words."
    "Black women don't get used to offensive words."
  • 13
    "Being a black woman is to be powerful and beautiful."
    "Being a black woman is to be powerful and beautiful."
  • 14
    "Being a black woman is to overcome standards."
    "Being a black woman is to overcome standards."
  • 15
    "Being a black woman is to feel the sun every day."
    "Being a black woman is to feel the sun every day."
  • 16
    "Being a black woman is to resist."
    "Being a black woman is to resist."
  • 17
    "Trying to live by 'white' standards in order to be accepted!"
    "Trying to live by 'white' standards in order to be accepted!"
  • 18
    "Being a black woman is love, resistance, strength. A fight against the system."
    "Being a black woman is love, resistance, strength. A fight against the system."
  • 19
    "It is not better to have straight hair and a slim nose."
    "It is not better to have straight hair and a slim nose."
  • 20
    "My own existence is a challenge."
    "My own existence is a challenge."
  • 21
    "Being a black woman is to be the sister of everyone, except the racist."
    "Being a black woman is to be the sister of everyone, except the racist."
  • 22
    "I exist to resist!"
    "I exist to resist!"

 

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