So as I am sitting here in the São Paulo international airport taking advantage of the free wifi, I decided that a quick post before I head out of the country is so necessary! So today as I was doing my last minute interviews for my project here in Sampa (as São Paulo is affectionately known) I decided that I needed a little lesson in natural hair terminology.
One of the things that I have loved since traveling to all these different places has been the different terminology used for hair styles that include hair extensions. I think I know about 20 different ways to describe a weave now, but one thing that I have not paid much attention to, mainly because it hasn’t really been the real focus of my project, has been the terms for pretty standard natural hair styles. However, since Brazil never ceases to amaze me, one term that I have been specifically interested and obsessed with learning more about, is the style commonly referred to in the states as the Afro, but here, it is known exclusively as the “Black Power”. Or, if you really want to pronounce it like a true Brazilian “Blackie Power”!
The first time I heard this term used I was in Salvador, and my good friend André asked if I knew what an afro was called in Brazil. I looked t him, and said, “an afro, right?” Then in true loving André style, he said, “no mininah, it’s a Black Power!” and we both proceeded to giggle! I loved it! I had never realized that the iconic afro, that was such a heated and political symbol back in the 60’s and 70’s still held onto it’s political meaning here in Brazil, even though wearing an afro in 2012 in the states is just another hairstyle in the arsenal of a natural hairista!
After learning what a “Black Power” really was that day with André, I began to hear the term all over the place in Salvador, Bahía (arguably the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture in Brazil) and see “Blackie Power’s” spring up every where I went. I saw women, men, and children sporting short twa’s big Angela Davis ‘fro’s and every size in between! I loved it! After leaving Salvador, my “Blackie Power” sightingd have been few and far between, however, today my luck changed.
Now I should have known that if the name of the salon is Primo’s Black Power I would be innundated with the sights of TONS of “Blackie Powers'” however, being in the less afro-centric city of São Paulo, I didn’t think I would. Man was I wrong! Maybe I wasn’t inundated with the 60’s throwback enshrining the Afro, and complete with bell bottom jeans, and free angela t-shirts, but there were one or two Afro’s hanging out in the salon. Chatting and filming that ladies and gentlemen at this hair salon, I felt that I had finally found the place to ask, why is the “Black Power” called the “Black Power” here in Brazil!
While I though this questions would be an easy one, I mean, Primo, (the co-owner Patricia’s uncle and business partner) has been sporting an “Black Power” since the 70’s and he has won countless awards for his ability to convert straight hair into cabelo afro (Black hair), no one knew the answer to my question! There were lots of great conjectures and theories about where the “Black Power” got it’s name, but at the same time no one knew the real answer. Patricia and Primo finally decided that the “Blackie Power” is the “Blackie Power” because the style that came from the USA was used to user in a wave of love for blackness, and for the black asthetic. the “Black Power” is the Brazilian equivalent of stating with lots and lots of pride that Black is Beautiful!
Patricia even noted that within the last 7 years, more and more Afro-Brazilian woman have been sporting “Black Power” hairstyles. She credits this with the fact that Brazil has become more culturally aware and accepting of their Black roots. Even though here in Brazil, the Black Power is a few decades off, there is definitely a huge pride and love for being Black and having Black hair, and even though we still have 9 year old little girls like Joyce disliking their hair because it doesn’t look like her Barbies, things are definitely changing.
So to all you out there, I recommend, in the words of James Brown, “Say it loud! I’m Black and I’m Proud!”