#ComoéSerUmaMulherNegra Photo Campaign by Somer Nowak
MINAS GERAIS, Brazil-
All of my life I have been raised by my white family, in privileged white spaces, where I was taught to believe myself white. However, navigating these spaces, self identifying, then as “biracial”, and at times having the privilege to pass, I was exposed to more racism from classrooms to my own family room. I’ve been told my whole life that the oppression that I face doesn’t exist, while simultaneously being forced to conform to a negative narrative about my identity that already been written and reproduced through different facets of our society. In experiencing these things, I never had a space to come home to understand what it exactly means to navigate this world as a black woman, nor to decompress and heal from external and internalized racism.
It wasn’t until I was able to engage with Afro-Latinas in Argentina and in Brazil that I began to understand myself as black and understand that the experiences of being hypersexualized, invisibilized and dehumanized is universal throughout the Americas. Interesting enough the first place I was able to create community and come into consciousness was far from home.
I’ve been privileged enough to return to Brazil with a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship, to teach English at a federal university. Upon beginning this experience I was in search of some community and it was definitely needed in a university environment where there is very little visibility of black students, despite the fact that 60% of Brazil’s population self-identifies as preto or pardo, black or mixed race. I was fortunate enough to be welcomed to join a black feminist student organization, Coletiva Feminista Bonecas de Pixe at the Federal University of Uberlândia, which has been a source of community for me. The organization was just still forming as I joined, where our first meetings touched on what the collectives name would be, instances of racism on campus and how to confront them, texts, and debates surrounding black feminism, racism, and sexuality.
As a means to capture this reality, I proposed carrying out a photo campaign that could create a space for black women to be empowered through sharing their experience and reclaim their identities while simultaneously bringing awareness to that fact that the challenges black women face in Brazil are much in the same as the ones black women face in the U.S.
With this photo project, my goal was to create and occupy spaces that we’ve been denied such as the university and then recreate spaces in marches, on public grounds that fund our disembodiment, in parks, in nature, where we can be the protagonists of our own narratives, reflect on what it means to navigate this world through the intersections of our identities as black women. This is creating space, creating spaces to feel our own pain again, to grow, to heal, to empower and to build solidarity upon our shared experiences of oppression.
The photo campaign #ComoESerUmaMulherNegra aims to generate visibility around the diverse and intersectional identities and experiences of black women in Brazil. It asks, “What it’s like to be a black woman”, with aims of garnering a response/promoting dialogue that brings awareness to both the beauty and the struggle of being a black woman in Brazil. The photo campaign challenges the images that are portrayed of black women in Brazilian society while creating a space where these women are able rewrite their personal narratives, reclaim spaces, their bodies, their identities, and heal and empower each other. My ultimate aspiration of this photo project is to highlight the fact that our experiences as black women of the Americas and to generate a dialogue which promotes solidarity among black women from the U.S. to Brazil.
For the full photo gallery, check out below:
More on Somer:
My name is Somer Nowak and I’m from Milwaukee, WI. I spent the past year living in Minas Gerais, Brazil, teaching English through a Fulbright Scholarship. I have a background in International Affairs and Africana Studies. My personal identity, self-identifying as a black woman, along with my interest of international issues has come to shape my interesting understanding of blackness and the varied experiences of navigating this world through a black body from a transnational perspective. My dream is to create radical spaces where black girls are taught to love themselves, lead and resist.