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Black Woman, Activist and Intellectual

Photo: Januario Garcia

Gonzalez in Dacar (Senegal), on 1979. Personal archive

Lélia de Almeida Gonzalez was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (1935 - 1994). She studied history and philosophy, completing her masters degree in social communication in Rio De Janeiro and her doctorate in politics & social studies in São Paulo. She was dedicated to the research of gender and ethnicity.

Gonzalez considered her time at the academy a watershed moment due to her awareness of elitism and institutional racism. The contradictions started to become intertwined with Lélia's consciousness, and from that time onwards her speech, posture and life choices started to change.

At her home in Cosme Velho (Rio de Janeiro), Lélia held many meetings as an activist. Her brother says at the age of 15 he already felt racism and the debates they participated in with his sister helped him to overcome many situations.

In 1964, she married her Spanish college friend Luiz Carlos Gonzalez. Her husband's white family did not accept the relationship. "There, then, what was repressed, a whole process of internalizing a 'racial democratic' discourse came up, and it was a direct contact with a very harsh reality," she reported.

Lelia served in the leadership and pioneering of the black movement in Brazil, participated in important research on black culture and founded the MNU (Black Unified Movement). She was the first black woman to leave the country as a representative of the black movement, in 1979, to debate the situation of Brazilian black women. She also visited Angola and Senegal.

Gonzalez wrote many articles, essays and published two books: Festas popular, from 1989, and O lugar de negro, from 1982 (co-authored with the Argentine sociologist Carlos Hasenbalg). She explored themes such as Afrocentrism, existentialism and Marxism, and used them to develop her own concepts.

Gonzalez influenced black women in raising awareness of the fight against racism and sexism, fought against the dictatorship. She had relevant actions in politics, making speeches and elaborating proposals of the black movement, promoting policies against gender discrimination. Her production still reflects the place of black people in Brazilian culture, breaking the colonizer vs colonized dichotomy.

“We are not born black, we become black. It is a hard, cruel achievement and one that develops throughout people's lives. There comes the question of identity that you build. This black identity is not a finished, finished thing. So, for me, a black person who is aware of her blackness is in the fight against racism. The others are mulattos, browns, browns, etc. ”

This excerpt is in a statement by Lélia de Almeida Gonzalez, published in 1988.

Photos Lélia Gonzalez Archive.


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