Politics, beauty, sisterhood, friendship, black community. Those are key words to understand the big chop that Afro-Brazilian women are making in the country known for its injustice and masked prejudice. From rap to entrepreneurship, black women and men are trying to rethink and re-do the ways in which blackness is showned, viewed and interpreted in Brazilian society. The “big chop” is the act of cutting off all of your relaxed hair, leaving only the natural hair. It is viewed today as political option that many women and men do to take a stand on beauty standards and to reaffirm themselves.Two recents events singled out this new position of black women.
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Photos by Leonardo Coelho for the Groundtruth project
The rapper Yasmin Werneck, 24, does a final rehearsal before going live. Even though she says she is careless about her appearance, Yas changes her hair every so often. “I hated straightening when I was younger. So I took a more natural course.”
Yas Werneck shows the braid with her name moments before going on stage to release her next EP, called Haxagonal. Yas returned to stage after years of intermission. “I was yet to find the right beat and label for me”
The second event was called Encrespando (getting natural), and was organized by the Black Power Girls collective. Composed of 8 Afro-Brazilian women, they tackle important questions for the black community by giving talks in schools, organizing events and generally helping young black women to love their hair in a society that teaches them to hate it.
Luciane Dom poses next to hand-crafted dolls made by the couple Leandro and Jaciana. Their goal is to create dolls that afro-brazilian children and adults can see themselves in.
Matias, 5, uses the “Super Black Power” cape. This and other representative toys and dolls are part of the small toy company created by his parents, Leandro and Jaciana Melquiades. Matias became internet famous after an Instagram photo of him happily holding a John Boyega Star Wars toy (the black actor who played the character Finn) trended. The actor himself reposted the photo.
Jessyca, 22, a producer who is a member of the Black Power Ladies. “This tattoo helps to bring my ancestry to the surface.” The ink represents Nãnã, an old orisha godess that represents experience
The Singer Luciane Dom and her boyfriend, the drumer Davidson, show their affection during the “Black Power Girls” event. Luciane feels there still is a stigma against black couples in Brazilian society. “I once heard that I should date white people in order to ´improve´ my hair and also of my future offspring.”
The Web of Communities against violence is an independent social movement that was originated in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in order to tackle the daily issues of violence in the city, which occurr mainly in poor and forgotten areas. The mothers of young men and women killed violently is a strong voice within this human rights group. They, with the help of NGOs like Humans Rights Watch and Amnesty International, are continually tackling the urgency of discussing police violence against black youth. They are the voices of the forgotten and the silenced, be it their sons or not.
Marielle Franco is a recently elected representative of Rio de Janeiro citizens. She is a black single mother who lived most of her life in the favela. Even though there are millions just like her, is pretty much rare that this profile is politically represented.Photos by Leonardo Coelho/GroundTruth