Hospital Advises Straightening Children's Hair?

The natural hair community is getting stronger by the day here in the U.S., but that isn't the case for the rest of the world. In Brazil, the home of the Brazilian Blow Out treatment that uses formaldehyde to straighten tight curls and coils, the pressure to straighten begins very young.

Much like the stories that comes from those in the natural hair community today, who remember long, painful hours of having their hair straightened before they even stepped into an elementary school, women with tight curls in Brazil are encouraged to straighten their hair as well as that of their daughters. And, that encouragement doesn't just come from the media and culture -- it has also been supported by medical professionals in hospitals.

Read On>>>

A Brazilian Woman's Observations About Hair in U.S.

by Marques Travae of Black Women of Brazil 

Note from Black Women of Brazil: Today’s post is really part of the reason for the Black Women of Brazil blog in the first place – the exchange of black experiences across the African Diaspora.   It comes courtesy of Amanda Gil of the Belo Crespo Facebook page and the Afrokut blog where it was also posted. Amanda was actually featured in a previous post about the increasing numbers of black Brazilian women going natural. The actual post comes from a friend of hers named Tata Lopes who sent a message describing her hair experiences in the United States with African-American women. Very intriguing insight that Tata shared here. Tata also seems to be taken a bit by surprise to discover that the Brazilian term “cabelo bom” (“good hair”) is also used in the black American community where black pride is supposed to be the standard. Before moving on to the post, I DO feel it necessary to state that Tata’s experience in NO WAY represents ALL Black American women. It simply expresses her personal experiences with a select group of women. The dialogue should be welcomed.


Race & Hair in Brazil: "No Cadiveu, Yes Natural"

by Marques Travae of Black Women of Brazil 

Sign: “eu preciso de Cadiveu (I need Cadiveu)”

In several of our blog posts over the past 14 months, we have given consistent examples of how the aesthetic and image of the black woman is overwhelmingly devalued in Brazil. From outrageous song lyrics that denigrate physical attributes of black women, media ads that play on centuries long stereotypical images of black women’s sexuality, to the consistent racial insults such as “macaca (monkey)” and job discrimination, there is simply no way to deny the deep seated racist, sexist tendencies that regularly attempt to denigrate the very existence of black women in Brazilian society. But what’s amazing is that these insults and forms of disrespect don’t cease and always evolve into new methods of updating these attacks. So, in reality, this latest scandal should come as no surprise. But still…

“Eu preciso de Cadiveu (I need Cadiveu)”
Recently, it seems that the Cadiveu Brasil line of hair products saw it fit to use the example of natural, afro textured, curly/kinky hair to promote the necessity of women with this type of hair to use their product. In an ad campaign, various people were photographed using huge afro wigs and holding a sign that says “eu preciso de Cadiveu (I need Cadiveu)” clearly provoking the idea that this type of hair needs to be “treated” or “fixed” with Cadiveu’s products. As we have shown in previous examples, hair texture is a HUGE issue in Brazil for women who don’t possess the type of hair (straight) that fits into Brazil’s very Eurocentric ideal of beauty. Over the years, countless campaigns, seminars, lectures, essays and books have been addressed the self-esteem issues of persons of African descent that don’t have long, flowing hair. And along comes Cadiveu, like other brands before them, demonstrating EXACTLY why these issues exist.

Black Brazilian women were quick and straight to the point in denouncing this latest attack on their image. Below are a piece and an excerpt of a piece by Winnie Bueno and the group Meninas Black Power.  Between Winnie's and Meninas Black Power's pieces, are a few of the photos posted in the “I don’t need Cadiveu” mobilization drive.

No Cadiveu, I don’t need you.
By Winnie Bueno*

Caption: "No Cadiveu, Yes Natural"

"When I was little, quite a little girl, I wore my hair braided. Tied down. I would always panic going to school without my hair being braided, although my mother always worked a lot on the construction of my identity as a black woman, I had a lot of trouble with my cabelo afro (African textured hair). As a teenager I started to wear my hair loose at the cost of a lot of chemicals (sodium hydroxides, guanidine hydrochloride and so on) and I lost a lot of hair, until finally I understood that I could only change my history, that of my cousins ​​and my future daughters when I freed myself, when I was free of the “dictatorship of straight hair.”

Black hair in Brazil: A Revolution in the Making

by Marques of BlackWomenOfBrazil

Gone are days when kinky/curly hair was synonymous with mistreated and laborious hair. Nowadays in Brazil, kinky/curly hair is increasingly associated with self-assertion, self-esteem, behavior and femininity.

Mirella Santos

Globalization and democratization of the media has greatly increased the speed of information. This is not just a fad, but trends and intervals increasingly shorter. A black woman can explore all this democratization of fashion, mixing with curly hair with braids, weaves, straight and permanent afros.

Erica Barbosa

The dancing rhythm of the Disco Era was a turning point for the black woman, with her naturally curly hair, ethnic ornaments and bell-bottom pants. The lacquer was a product often used to maintain the volume. It originated from a change of behavior in a changing society.

The revival of culture and the appreciation of black people has come along with their aesthetic, and one of the most relevant in this respect is the hair. In the not too distant past, the kinky/curly tresses were seen as a fragile part of black men and women, so much so that the shaving of the hair during the era of slavery was common. For the slaves, however, this act was tantamount to mutilation, since the hair was a hallmark of their identity. And talking about kinky/curly hair is certainly going through the social, cultural and political aspect of the history of black people worldwide. It was with these references that the hairdresser Luciana Maia, author of Força negra - a luta pela autoestima de um povo (Black Power - The Struggle for the Self-Esteem of a People) held a showcase in Taboão da Serra, São Paulo, with the region's youth, and presented a retrospective of hairstyles permeated by the musical rhythms of each era. The idea of a hairdresser (this article features young people from Sierra Taboão) was to show that, regardless of prevailing fashion, kinky/curly hair can adapt to any style. Just use creativity and good taste! “It was like remembering the good times when we liked the “Bailes Black”(1). The ritual was never the same, we were in our style, we had our clothes and shoes, and the hairstyles represented everything that was hot,” says Luciana.

Hair stylist Luciana Maia, author of Força negra - a luta pela autoestima de um povo

In the era of the 70s that Luciana speaks, it is important to remember that black Brazilians were in a struggle for their very acceptance in a country that their African slave ancestors had built. The dominant ideology in Brazil was to strive to be white or as close to white as possible. African features (hair, dark skin, thick lips, etc) were not considered "acceptable" and if one could not "fix" these features, they should try to marry with a white or lighter-skinned partner so that their offspring were not also "cursed". In the second half of the 20th century, it was still common for black Brazilians to be told something to the affect of "we don't do THAT type of hair here" when going to salons in search of hair care. Because of the shame that accompanied having "that" type of hair, it was common for black men to shave their heads extremely close rather than facing certain discrimination because of having "cabelo ruim (bad hair)". Because of these dominant ideals in Brazil, the global visibility of black American entertainers was extremely important in the development of black pride in Brazil. 

When international black singers began to have success in Brazil, the "bailes black" began to spring up everywhere and there were several event organizers that helped to disseminate, besides the music, the aesthetics of black people. Everybody waited anxiously for the great dances of the event organizers known as Chic Show, held once a month with the presence of black Brazilian artists like Jorge Ben Jor, Sandra de Sá, Tim Maia, Djavan, Bebeto and Claudio Zolli, while the big screen played videoclips of international stars like the Jackson Five, Michael Jackson, Jimmy “Bo” Horne, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Johnny Rivers ...“I am very proud to tell my daughters that I was part of this story,” emphasizes the hairdresser (2).

Elinelma Rosa da Silva

Besides the style known in Brazil as “Black Power (afro)”, women wear different types of braids. The diversity allows black women to create classic hairstyles that can be used in any environment and occasion, showing elegance and creativity.

Cássia da Silva

The Black Power movement was a watershed moment in relation to the appreciation of black culture and, consequently, its fashion and aesthetics, which combined the concept of beauty to a political and social struggle. The dances served as meeting places, where the language and expressions, born in salons, began to gain ground in the consumer society. “Those were hard times, in spite of  blacks starting to show their identity, Brazilian society was not used to that kind of behavior. It was very common for police officers to ram their hands into our hair thinking they could find drugs,” recalls Durval. In this era, Brazilian elites were very concerned with the idea that black Brazilians would begin to adapt the posture, attitude and revolutionary spirit of their black American counterparts. Brazilian Soul singer Tony Tornado (who had visited the US in the 1960s and recorded music with a strong James Brown influence) remembers being at parties where the police would often interrupt the festivities because there were no white people present!

But over time, the "black power (afro)" hair style was becoming a trend and it began to be copied by the white population that searched the salons specializing in black hair in search of the afro permanente (3), all so that they could have curly or fluffy hair. “Today things are different, everything is very mixed, before it was only at the dances and black salons where we felt strengthened. The media did not show the great black icons, we had no references, and what brought us together and dictated our fashion were the parties.”

Kinky/Curly in every way!

With the appreciation of black beauty and its natural texture, kinky/curly tresses were taking the streets and today are displayed in everyday life in different ways by men and women, thanks to a series of products specially designed for this type of hair and even more adapted to the Brazilian population. It was not always so. “Before the 1970s, we had no option to treat our hair, unless straightening and in a extremely primitive way. We used products that had caustic soda as an ingredient and this caused burns. The professionals didn’t have too many techniques. I remember a friend made a pick out of a bicycle rim! I liked the idea so much that I decided to make one for myself, and this is how I entered the world of black power (afro),” says Durval, a hair stylist that has specialized in black hair for 30 years.

With the achievements of blacks in society, the aesthetic industry has evolved and there are now many options for black hair like creams to make the hair more manageable whether curly or straight. Now, the black woman especially has options! “A woman executive can safely wear an afro on a daily basis, adjusting the look with a plethora of available accessories, in addition to buns and various other styles that, besides letting her be stylish and trendy, shows a genuine attitude and self-appreciation”, says Luciana Maia.

Mara Campos

The Mohawk hairstyle was widely used in the ‘70s, representing a time of Rock n’ Roll rebellion combined with the Samba. Thus was born the mixture of the Samba-Rock. The style has become fashionable again.

"Today it’s common for my clients to come to the salon to recover their natural locks. Many are opting for extensions in an attempt to rehabilitate their hair and stop straightening."

Victoria Regina

The accessories were the big thing of the hippie era. The lack of commitment to society ran contrary to the personalized hairstyles. Long hair, usually parted in the middle, were often used for generating peace and love, and adorned with banners and hangers, whose symbols of flowers and butterflies represented respect for nature.

“The use of chemicals is just one of the options, not a necessity as it was thought of in the past. With a lot of research, I developed a line of products in accordance with the needs of kinky/curly hair.”

Fabio Santos, Cauan Almeida, Ismael nascimento, Marcos Leonardo and Ricardo Xeba

Hair, Roots and Culture

And it was in the early 90s that American products invaded the shelves of the Brazilian market, bringing the promise of perfect straightening. The demand for these products was huge. Until then, the afro permanente was the great outlet for many women who complained about the work needed to take care of kinky/curly hair. Many opted for miraculous formulas to 'work something out with their hair.' But even with imported products, hair loss and permanent damage to the scalp often happened because of the inadequacy of the products being used for the hair texture of black Brazilians. Even so, when one visits large Brazilians cities where there are large concentrations of African descendants, the number of ethnic salons sprouting up is impressive quite. Thus, whether you happen to be in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo or Brasília, it's nice to know that you can find places that know how to take care of "that" kind of hair. 

1. "Bailes Black" or Black Dances are parties or dances that cater to a specifically black Brazilian audience where black style, fashion and music are the dominant aesthetic.
2. For more on the importance of music and dance in the development of a black pride in Brazil, see this article on singer Negra Li
3. Somewhat reminiscent of the Jheri Curl hairstyle

Based on an article by Claudia Canto in Raça Brasil magazine

Brazilian Rapper Nega Gizza on Black Hair & Identity

by Marques Travae of Black Women of Brazil

Nega Gizza, the Hip Hop moniker of Gisele Gomes de Souza, is a rapper from Rio de Janeiro. The child of a maid, at seven years old, she sold beer and pop with her siblings in downtown Rio. She dropped out of school in the 7th grade and while she dreamed of becoming a journalist, she identified with Hip Hop. After her brother was killed by the police, famed rapper/social activist MV Bill adopted her as his “sister” and she began contributing background vocals to his songs in his band. In 2001, she won a Prêmio Hutúz award, the most recognized award for Rap music in all of Latin America, in the category of “Best Rap Demo”. In 2002, she released the CD Na Humilde. With her strong vocals and lyrical content, she showed that women could hold their own in a genre dominated by men and blazed paths and opened opportunities for a new generation of female MCs.

In her video for the song "Prostituta", she denounced the cruel realities of women who work as prostitutes and has also spoken out about complex issues like sexual violence, abortion, child abuse and the position of the church in regards to these issues. Along with MV Bill and cultural/Hip Hop producer/author Celso Athayde, she is also the co-founder of the organization CUFA (Central Única das Favelas), an NGO that promotes education and cultural production in poor neighborhoods of Brazil using primarily Hip Hop and sports. Through this organization, young people learn to produce videos and documentaries and participate in workshops that focus on aspects of culture.

In this short essay, Gizza approaches an issue that is a constant issue amongst black Brazilian women in regards to self-esteem and racial identity: hair. Gizza’s piece speaks volumes to the question of hair texture as a prevalent issue in the lives and experiences of the vast majority of black Brazilian men, relating her own history and memories as a snapshot of the Afro-Brazilian experience. Read on!

Kinky/curly hair yes, hard hair no!

by Nega Gizza
March 16, 2012

When I was little, I was called “moreninha (little brown girl)” by my playmates in the neighborhood. I didn’t like this because I knew I was negra (black), or preta (black) as some prefer. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t become enraged about it because at that moment I didn’t even know the reason for being black and much less arguments that I could use to “defend” myself. when they called me moreninha, marrom bombom (brown candy) or cor de chocolate (chocolate-colored)*. Basically, I didn’t think of it as something bad, it was just the way my girlfriends, many of them also black, thought of so that they didn’t offend me, after all, being called and recognized as black could be seen as offensive.

I come from a family marked by miscegenation, the same thing that characterizes the Brazilian people. In my mother's family, my grandfather was Portuguese and my grandmother was of Indian descent, my father has family in (the state of) Bahia that were descendants of slaves. But for me what matters most is what I see when I look in the mirror. I assume that it was to understand and know more about my race and history as a black person, when I was a teenager, I read books, saw movies and listened to music. All of this information made me a wiser woman in relation to my blackness.

Today I realize that the question of blackness is tied to many factors. Among these factors are our physical traits and also, why not, this thing of black hair. Speaking of hair always generates adverse discussions, because Brazilian mixing has given us people with very diverse faces and features, the black and the white, the Indian and the white, the Portuguese and the black, that have mixed race children who have light or dark skin but that are born with cabelos crepos (kinky/curly hair).

Today it has become the style, there are a lot of people who adopted a hair style that stands up or "Black Power" (afro). I also recognize that many from this new generation have been taken by the tide of “black is beautiful”, without even knowing why they adopted such a stance. Even so, I think it's valid. Recognizing beauty in the hair that previously people only straightened is a great victory.

I've always been proud to be able to have resistant hair strong and why not say it’s different, I can cut, color, braid, stretch, leave it natural and create a great visual mixture, but I am very disturbed to learn that today, at a time in which we proceed to the evolution of recognition of our racial identity, there are still those who try to strike down the power of black people's knowledge, and try to define our hair as duro (hard), giving our hair every kind of negative connotation possible.

In my childhood, prejudice was much more veiled and the oppression was so great that some black girls looked in the mirror and saw themselves as straight-haired white girls. As in the film “Precious”, in which the character Claireece suffers from her condition of being black, poor and obese.

Currently I realize that the discussion has grown with ideas that speak of kinky/curly hair in a positive way, like the book Cabelo Ruim (Bad Hair)? by the journalist Neusa Baptista Pinto, that tells the story of three girls learning to recognize themselves as beautiful and how the Projeto Pixaim (Nappy Project) of the CUFA Matogrosso institution values ​​the kinky/curly hair of men and women. I consider it essential to have references to make kinky/curly hair go beyond style and become a tool to change the self-esteem of the black Brazilian, so it is important to disseminate works that speak to and bring the issue to collaborate. While this is going on, I’m humming along and changing like a chameleon, “my head of hair is thus, kinky/curly hair, it is nappy.”

* - For a brief introduction into Brazilian color and racial terminology and classification, see the article Racial classification and terminology in Brazil

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