Tonight, Salvador-based cultural entity Ilê Aiyê is promoting its Black Beauty’s Contest. As it have been carried out since the decade of 1970, when the Ilê Aiyê arose, as a form of guarantee that black people of Salvador were able to amuse themselves in the Carnival. To that moment, the groups that were formed for parade in the avenue were exclusively joined by white people. The black could participate barely doing the semi-slave work of hold the strings that prevent people that had not bought the uniform to join the group.
This is how the Ilê arose, formed only by black people. As it prohibited explicitly the participation of people of other colors, and not dissembling it as in the white ones, the Ilê Aiyê was accused of racism in an editorial of A TARDE, at that time the main newspaper of a city where over 80% of the population are black.
At that time, the black people were absent not just of the parades of Carnival. In order to appear in the TV, a black person should assume subordinate roles, as the employees. No black person appeared like a member of the consumer society. Few years after creating the Ilê Aiyê, Antonio Carlos dos Santos, best known as Vovô (Grandpa) do Ilê, perceived that beyond guarantee the fun for that population was necessary to show that there was beauty also among the black people.
This way was created Ebony’s Goddess. A contest that recently arrived to the alternative circuit of movies of the United States through the hands of the director Carolina Moraes-Liu. Born in Salvador and a California resident over the last 15 years, Carolina accompanied the routine of three black girls of the neighborhood of the Liberdade (which means Liberty), the same of the Ilê, that dedicated considerable part of his energies to the dream of go to parade in the Carnival of the Bahia with the title of queen of the beauty. The history was registered in Ebony’s Goddess: The Queen of Ilê Aiyê, a touching tale about, blackness, beauty and the girly world.
“The Night of the Black Beauty is one of the prettiest parties of Salvador. In the film, I tried to document not just the event, but show to his importance for assertion of the black awareness and pride of the candidates”, affirms Carolina (photo), that produced an exciting and sincere relate about the meaning of being pretty for three black teenagers. The documentary won the prizes of Best Film of African Diaspora in the 2010 San Diego Festival Film and the Corazon Award in the San Diego Latin Film Festival. And it has a sucessfully agenda of exhibitions in the United States. Finalist of the 2010 HBO NALIP Documentary Award it is going to be exhibited for the second time in the Lincoln Center of Performing Arts during the first week of April
Each year, on girl among dozens obtains her desired prize. But to be chosen the queen of the black beauty is enough? In an article published in the prestigious Huffington Post, in the last month of October,Imani Perry, professor at Center for African American Studies in Princeton University, confessed she had never paid attention to Universal Pageant, classified by her as “embarrasing and absurd”.
Until she figured out someday that Latin countries such Honduras and Ecuador were sending to the pageant darky skinned women, that were also constant in their national TV shows, while in United States indian, black women were still almost invisible in the pop culture.
It’s interesting to note that before people like Spike Lee and Chris Rock, among others, black actors used to have specifical rolesin Hollywood. To be funny, a black guy should be strange, histrionic. The audience could laugh at him even without a joke.
In Brazil, slowly but continually black people are becoming more visible. Thanks not only the enforcement of the law and the affirmative actions, but specially to the laws of the market. In the last 10 years, as more black families have earned enough to buy a car or make a plan trip, companies are making a effort to gain their attention as consumers.
But although the racist expressions may diminish in Brazil, race persists. Now even with the clear annuence of black actvists. If have always been usual hear someone say that blacks are more leaned to play soccer, dance or make any body-based activity, now there are soaps produced for skinny colors (I’m pretty OK with Unilever), black oriented fairs of enterpreneurs and black christian churches, yet there were no official segregation in the first ones.
Perry stated in the article that, after her excitment for seeing Latin countries represented in Universe Pageant by Black women, she felt somehow compelled to ask any woman to do not worry over beauty, “which seems to be the central marketing device of most cosmetic companies”, but recognizes she is happy to see the images of gourgeous girls wih hair, skin and lips like hers.
So why not think only terms of beauty instead of black beauty? As british sociologist Paul Gilroy stated, we should fight against racism withou reinforcing race. Perry created in her article some good images about it. If is not good to think about black people as uggly, undesirable. Is not either considere a black person a sex machine. People get excited for different reasons, but the fact that a pysichal aspect fo someone feeds the other’s fantasy should not allow that people were labeled.
After all, for those girls that are running tonight for Ebony’s Goddess prize, good luck. And that they and the uggly ones that cannot even dream about this night can grow up filled with respect for everyone around.