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13/02/2021

Foundation of Blackness

Text: Jacqueline Moreno

The slaughter of cattle in the slaughterhouse of their uncles João de Deus, Raimundo and Flaviano da Apresentação in Águas Claras, was scheduled for 4 pm. This was a funeral event paradoxically expected by adults and children as a kind of party. Maria Alice, who used to spend her summer holidays with her relatives, went to the place secretly hoping that the ox would rebel from its tragic fate, break the siege and conquer the world of the local rainforest. Freedom and escape from the condition of sacrifice imposed by human decision were the girl’s motivations when watching the unusual and surprising scene. When the escape, and not the slaughter happened, she not only vibrated but also learned vital lessons of rebelliousness and the urgent struggle for life that must always be above everything and everyone.

The resilience and transgression of the runaway ox continue to follow Maria Alice’s steps in her path. Her honey-brown eyes reveal contentment and a great deal of nonconformity since her birth on March 4, 1963 in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. A biviteline twin, she remembers her mother saying that she always complained about attention, especially because her brother Manoel Américo was born with health problems and time and care were devoted to the most fragile.

The girl grew up literally learning to take care of herself and walk on her own two legs. The memory of the neighborhood of Águas Claras, named for its clear waters where she used to swim, and to play and harvest cajás in her summer holidays in Cajazeiras, remains the reason for returning to her African roots. Her hair does not deny the most elegant irreverence and bravery. As a teenager, the daughter of “Dona” Tindu, owner of the beauty salon where fashion was “straightening” her locks, decided to assume her curly blackness. The neighborhood was surprised, her father scolded, her mother tried to dissuade her, but she was hopeless. Alice innovated, but did not succeed in winning new followers, much to the relief of her mother who kept her clientele loyal.

Another broken siege was when Alice convinced her evangelical parents, mainly Mr. Manoel, to participate in the famous carurus of Cosme and Damião that took place in the months of September in the houses of saints and families of so many other creeds. The points of persuasion that she used to succeed in such an attempt? First, be a twin like the saints and second, exercise the policy of good neighborliness. How to deny the invitation of Tia and Yalorixá Boboca, for example? The brother had to be present at the carurus, whether he wanted to or not. They were the guests of honor, by the way. The power of the word always hand in hand with the strong power of her argument.

San Martin, Curuzu, Baixa do Fiscal, Pelourinho, Piatã, Brotas, Pituba were some of the neighborhoods that Maria Alice lived (live in or experienced?) the birth of most of the Afro and Afoxés blocks in Salvador, becoming a candidate for the Ebony Goddess in the quarters of Senzala do Barro Preto . A multifaceted young woman looking for a view of the entire forest and its valleys and chasms. Why are some more equal than others? With the non-conformity always present in her questions, she decided to follow the path of Law and maybe find an answer. In addition, the deeper she got, the more inquisitive and indignant she became. Systemic structural racism, encrusted in the nation after centuries of enslavement, with bitter enduring side effects due to invisibility, violence, and glaring social injustice, remain an object of study and a means of reparation.

Already graduated from the Catholic University of Salvador, she took over the legal division of the Afro Olodum carnival block and was even part of the choir in the recording of the band’s first LP (Long Play). She worked actively in the Brazilian Bar Association OAB Bahia Section, in the area of Afro-descendant Rights and the Commission for Protection and Citizenship. Her work without borders took her to Harvard University in the United States to talk about the dream achieved collectively and which is, more and more, the great purpose of her ancestral rescue and the foundation of blackness: A Pedra do Xangô, rock formation with more than two billion years located in the vicinity of Cajazeiras was and will always be the sacred place of its childhood and also of its maturity. With bare feet of humility, Maria Alice stepped on the sacred ground of the forest, contemplating the immensity of the monument and made it the subject of her master’s dissertation and doctoral thesis by the Faculty of Architecture of the Federal University of Bahia. The national and international academic world has consecrated its object of research, which has greatly contributed to taking the right steps of consciousness with science.

The result? The creation of the Environmental Protection Area (APA Municipal of Avenida Assis Valente) and the first Rede Park in the municipality of Salvador (Rede Park in Pedra de Xangô) allowed the listing of Pedra de Xangô in the category of cultural heritage in the city of Salvador. The Geological Survey of Brazil recognizes the site for its national relevance, high cultural, touristic and scientific content. The black people, communities of terreiros and social movements paved the way for the ancient recognition of the place. The support of the Salvador Municipality, the State Prosecutor’s Office, the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), in addition to the independent company of the Military Police, was expected at the least.

Maria Alice Pereira da Silva is the foundation of blackness. Her bright eyes reveal Pedra de Xangô as the reckoning not only with her ancestry, but also with the equality of condition, appreciation of Afro-descendant religions, freedom and respect for diversity. The runaway ox from her uncle’ slaughterhouse is the symbol of the legacy of the protagonism that the girl, teenager and woman weaves in their destiny never imposed, but built with networks and connections from the past, present and future, amalgamated with eternal and ancestral possibilities.
Her parents wherever they are in heaven know the power of Maria Alice and her rebellious and freed hair wrapped in colorful turban,reaching the top of Pedra de Xangô ´rock and realizing how many challenges lie ahead and how many benefits she has to spread with her knowledge without ever losing sight of the pace of learning and the wisdom of time that compels her to overcome her own limits.

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