Black Power in Brazil Means Natural Hair

The pride in blackness that migrated from African Americans in the U.S. brought big Afros and a natural style that has become a movement in Brazil.

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The message of black pride circulated at the parties, often with translations that emphasized “the commonalities of struggle among various African-descended populations, despite linguistic, cultural and regional differences,” writes Michael G. Hanchard, a professor of Africana studies at Johns Hopkins University, in a blog for Northwestern University’s Institute for Diasporic Studies.

In an interview with The Root, Hanchard further describes some of the impact of the black power style during its early years.

“It was seen as something threatening, Afro-Brazilians donning styles and attitudes that didn’t fit Brazil, or the white elites’ image of what a black Brazilian should look like,” he says. “It should be clear, it wasn’t an attempt to mimic Americans. It was simply a way of expressing their own identification with blackness in their own way.”

Black power’s popularity is beginning to challenge the Brazilian notion that ‘straight is beautiful.’

For Cipriane, who has been wearing her hair with frizz and curls for four years now and running her blog since 2012, it’s a paradigm shift. She says that black power’s popularity is beginning to challenge the Brazilian notion that “straight is beautiful.”

“Contrary to the rules of society and straightening crazes, relaxing and stretching, many black women are discovering the beauty, the charm and femininity of black power, with or without accessory, with or without comb cream,” she says. “The texture and volume of curly hair is conquering those who are tired of chemical alteration.”

While today’s Brazilian black power is more a hairstyle than a political movement, it seems that the ideals that came to define black power in its heyday, during the 1960s and 1970s—themes of black consciousness, unity, pride and political cooperation—are in full effect.

Dion Rabouin is a freelance writer currently based in Rio de Janeiro. Follow him on Twitter.

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