Stories from Black Employees in Brazil
*The publication of this article was postponed until November 23 in solidarity and respect for the family and friends of João Alberto Silveira Freitas, killed in a supermarket on the eve of Black Awareness Day.
November is a special month for the Black community in Brazil as we celebrate Black Awareness Day. Talking about race should be an ongoing conversation but many Black Brazillians use this time to remember both the struggles and the strengths of our ancestors. It’s a time to celebrate Black lives, to discuss as a society how we can fight systemic racism, and to create more inclusive spaces for the Black population.
At Netflix, it’s also a special month for Black@ Brazil (Netflix’s employee community for Black-identifying employees and allies in São Paulo). In 2020, we’ve celebrated what it means to be Black, connected in solidarity with each other and our allies, and found new ways to keep united. We took time to discuss systemic oppression inside and outside the corporate world, and how it shows up for Afro-Brazillians. We also discussed how to create more opportunities for Black professionals and how we could support each other -- and our communities -- in healing.
In this very important time for us, we thought it would be a great opportunity to share stories from our Black employees. For this, we asked members of the Black@ Brazil employee community their perspective on Black Awareness Day, what it means to be Black in the corporate world, and how Netflix’s culture impacts their work and lives.
Here’s what they had to say:
Maria Angela de Jesus, Director, Brazilian Original Series
Only in 2003, was Black Awareness Day recognized in Brazil. It was an important achievement for Black people as a day to celebrate the activities of the Black Movement and various organized sectors, reaffirming our Black pride and power. For me, it's about being proud of my Black identity and heritage. It's about remembering my ancestors and their struggle for freedom, dignity, and equality. It's a day to recognize the legacy of Zumbi, Dandara, Maria Quitéria, Maria Felipa, Chico Rei, Luiz Gama, and many other fighters who dedicated their lives to the Black cause. It's a day to remember that the fight will not stop until we can build a true legacy of equality and respect.
Being a Black executive in Brazil means not having many pairs alongside you. When I started on Netflix, back in 2017, our office was smaller and I was the only openly declared Black employee in our São Paulo office. Today, I'm happy to see a group of Black colleagues we have on the Brazilian team. Being able to share my experiences, my pains and dilemmas with this amazing group of people is an everyday joy! It makes me feel empowered and supported. Long live to Black@ Brazil (employee community)!!
Having the opportunity to openly discuss inclusion and diversity with transparency and freedom makes me feel heard and supported inside the company. For sure we still have a long way to go, but it's remarkable to see how our culture encourages initiatives for building diversity, inclusion, and equity into all aspects of our business. All the conversations we've been having about the strength of a consistent allyship and the importance of giving awareness to the employees of systemic issues in bias and privileges are examples of how to make Black employees feel supported.
Anice Aun, Creative Assistant, Brazil Original Series
Black Awareness day is about our side of the story. It also means history needs to be written by us and those lessons need to be shared. It means that Black Brazillians still need to shout to be heard, and that we need to have a 'special day' to remind everyone that our fight isn't over. Although slavery was officially abolished on May 13, 1888 by the Brazilian government, it is not the date that the Black community recognizes. Instead, the Brazilian Black community celebrates the 20th of November, a date that makes reference to the death of Zumbi dos Palmares, a symbol of the struggle for freedom and strength of the Black people.
I feel hope, and believe things will get better. Dealing with racism throughout my life has made me stronger and also optimistic. Only when you are fighting inside the arena can you really see how strong you really are. It’s when you realize you are a survivor and no one can stop you.
There's an empowering aspect hidden between the lines of our culture memo. You feel truly safe to be who you are, you are encouraged to speak up, and in Netflix your opinion really matters. This is something you don't see in other places and when you are silenced you're being erased little by little.
Diego Moreira, Visual Effects (VFX) Coordinator, Local Language Originals Brazil
Very often, the Black people in Brazil see the Black identity building as a kind of a self-discovery journey. Personally, it is the effort of deconstructing cultural and psychological mechanisms of racism at a personal level, and what will flourish in its place. To me, Black Awareness Day means celebrating our identities as Black people and to make a self-assessment of this process.
The awareness of racism as a severe and structural issue in Brazil is still under public debate, which is outrageous to me since so many Black lives are impacted in many terrible ways. Personally, I’ve been experiencing a continuous process of self-discovery and belonging to the Black Culture. At Netflix, and through Black@ Brazil, I am able to do this self-discovery work and figure out the type of Black professional I want to be and how I show up at the office.
One thing special about Netflix is how much we [internally] share information openly, broadly, and deliberately. The ability to have full visibility of a project’s life-cycle as well as context on internal decision-making are things I’ve never experienced in my career before. It has been integral to my success in my role as a Visual Effects (VFX) Coordinator.
Paloma Sousa, Senior Tax Analyst
Being Black in Brazil requires courage and strength as we face a lot of prejudice, discrimination, and microaggressions every day. However, each day I do also feel that others are becoming more aware of our culture and Black Brazillians are empowering each other more. To me, Black Awareness Days is an important day for reflection about our history in Brazil, especially at a moment when we are facing increased levels of racism and violence.
I want to be recognized as a professional who works hard and brings results. My hope is that more people understand that racism is not a Black people issue but a societal issue. Black people don't just talk about Blackness, inclusion, and diversity. While they’re important subjects, we are also scientists, teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, HR professionals, and actors.
At Netflix, our culture works to create a positive working environment for everyone. I demonstrate Netflix's culture in my role by being curious and giving feedback. I am very happy to work in a company that allows me to have an open and honest dialogue, promoting trust and support within the company, that makes me feel very motivated to perform.
Hear from a couple of our US employees who have worked at Netflix Brazil.
Aja Byrd, Director, Business & Legal Affairs, Original Series
I see Afro-Brazilian history as my history. I see Samba, Jongo and Candomblé as extensions of my culture. For me, Black Awareness Day in Brazil is a day of empowerment. A day to acknowledge and celebrate the richness and strength of my ancestors and to harness their greatness to carry me forward.
The African blood that unites Black people in North and South America has a tremendous significance to my identity. As a child growing up in Washington, DC, USA, I attended a unique school with an African-centered curriculum because my parents understood the importance of instilling pride and appreciation for my African roots. Growing up, I learned about the vastness and richness of the African continent as well as the interconnectedness of the African diaspora. As I began to spend significant time in Brazil, that interconnectedness came to life and the distinctions drawn between Blacks in the United States and Brazil began to disintegrate for me.
In Brazil, anti-Blackness, discrimination and systemic racism are undeniably present as is the case in the United States and globally. One way in which this stained legacy manifested during my experience living and working in Brazil was that I saw that the corporate world was not representative of the country's population, which is majority Black. While working at Netflix, I, along with many others, saw this reality as a huge opportunity to shift the existing paradigm and chart a new path of diversity and inclusion within our workplace and the wider entertainment industry. I also found many safe-spaces to celebrate Blackness that not only nourished me, but also reinforced the resilience of Black people within me. Outside of work, and equally important, I found refuge at Aparelha Luzia in São Paulo, dancing Jongo with my family in Serrinha and listening to the poetic lyrics of Luedji Luna ao vivo in Salvador.
The voices of Black women are powerful and unfortunately, our voices have been historically absent, marginalized and/or ignored in society, including in corporate spaces. One aspect of Netflix's culture that can be used to shift this narrative and support Black women and Black employees generally, is the culture of feedback. I've experienced a demonstrable openness to re-examine and/or evolve the elements of the culture that may not best support Black employees. It's this flexibility that has been paramount in the gains that Netflix has made over the past few years on its journey to grow and innovate to better serve its Black employees, creative talent and customers.
Marvis Wynn, Creative Producer, Product Creative Strategy
Black Awareness Day offers an opportunity to reflect on the rich history of Afro-Brazilians, celebrate the tremendous contributions Black culture has made to Brazil, and it’s a day to educate and spread awareness of important systemic issues that impact the Black Brazilian community across the country and world.
In the summer of 2018, I was offered the opportunity to move to Brazil to lead the Publicity team in our São Paulo office temporarily. As a Black American living in Brazil for 9 months, my overall experience was positive. While there were plenty of positive reflections from my time living there, I can’t help but to reflect on some of the disheartening experiences as well. Brazil and The United States might be thousands of miles apart, but the commonalities they have with systemic racism and inequalities of marginalized communities couldn’t be any closer.
Two of our culture values are Curiosity and Inclusion. While working in Brazil, I was very Curious to find out more about our Inclusion and Diversity efforts to help add further diversity to our employee base in São Paulo, so I sought out conversations with leaders and members of our recruiting team to brainstorm ideas on how to attract a more diversified pool of candidates… Not to my surprise, these roadblocks are mirrors to the roadblocks Black people face in the US as well, so I was happy to be able to contribute with the recruiting initiatives.
The work to achieve a truly inclusive and diverse work environment will always be ongoing, not only in Brazil. Our commitment to this core value keeps me hopeful and sparks excitement for the amazing things to come.
Black Awareness Day talks about our identity, our voice and our history. Black people around the world face challenges and struggles daily, but they also create community, opportunities to grow, heal and be united. As Netflix aims to entertain the world, we hope that by sharing our perspectives about Blackness, our history, and how we live Netflix’s culture, we can also provide hope and contribute to the discussion about inclusion, support and allyship -- inside and outside of the office.
To learn more about Netflix’s culture and working at the company please visit our Jobs Site. Also, checkout Strong Black Lead on Twitter and Instagram to learn more about our content featuring Black people.