Marielle Franco (Photo: Property of Midia Ninja)
In solidarity with our brothers and sisters who were spread out all through the Americas, we aim to build a stronger bridge between African Americans in North America to African Americans in Latin America, the deeper south. Thus, to officially close out this Black History Month, Good Black News presents… Marielle Franco.
Marielle Franco was an African American from Brazil who fought for human rights in a country that has never had a Martin Luther King, Jr.
During three centuries of international slave trade, over ten times as many Africans were enslaved and trafficked to Brazil than the U.S. Marielle Franco proudly served as the rising hope and promise for a better future for these descendants of enslaved Africans in a country where blackface is currently accepted as “normal” entertainment on TV, movies and at community celebrations. It is also the place where the overall deplorable treatment of African Americans needs to be vitally changed.
Marielle proved a deeply committed love for the people of her community. She tirelessly fought to protect the black community, the poor, women, and the LGBT+ community from violence and discrimination. This phenomenal woman didn’t seek power. With a loving approach, she merely accepted the mission presented before her by saying the things that needed to be said and fighting the battles that needed to be fought.
While serving with a fearless commitment, she paid the ultimate price. In her short 38 years of life, Marielle accomplished much while overcoming incredible odds in order to do so.
Born in the vulnerable area of Maré, Rio De Janeiro, Marielle began working at the age of 11 to help her parents pay for school. At 19, she began raising her daughter as a single mother while working as a teacher and earning a scholarship to one of the highest ranking universities in all of Latin America, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio De Janeiro.
Marielle was one of two black students attending the university even though the country of Brazil is over 50% black. She graduated with an emphasis in social sciences and went on to complete her master’s degree in public administration at Fluminense Federal University. After graduation, Marielle worked for civil society organizations and shaped the state legislature’s Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship.
Marielle’s life experiences, studies, and work inspired her to run for Rio’s City Council despite the overwhelmingly high number of white men who dominated the field. In 2016, Marielle won her campaign with the 5th highest number of votes out of a pool of 1,500 candidates.
During her career as councilwoman, Marielle served as President of the Council’s Women’s Defense Commission. She spoke out about the violence that inequalities create among poor areas and proposed bills as solutions to the systematic injustices plaguing her community.
She also worked on a congressional investigation into militias and fought police brutality while at the same time, attempting to bridge the gap between police and residents through town hall meetings. She also fought for the families of police officers shot in the line of duty.
When the military was deployed in Rio’s favelas, she monitored and documented cases of police brutality and abuses of power. In regarding a young man shot to death after leaving a church in the favelas, Marielle’s last tweet reads, “How many more have to die for this war to end?”
On March 14th, 2018, on her way home from an event discussing black empowerment, Marielle Franco was assassinated.
While the remembrance of Marielle’s death is overwhelmingly tragic and sad, the remembrance of Marielle’s life leaves us with a positive force as her legacy grows stronger and stronger by the day. Marielle lives on as a symbol of hope and change not only for the communities she directly served, but for marginalized communities all over the world.
Together, maybe we can come up with a name for that bridge between African Americans in North America to African Americans in Latin America. In Brazil, there’s a new common saying: “Lute Como Marielle Franco” – “Fight Like Marielle Franco.” Perhaps that can be the name of the bridge that binds us together for a better future for all African Americans.
Upcoming Events honoring Marielle Franco:
March 4th 6pm – I, A Black Woman, Resist – Bearing Witness to the Life and Legacy of Marielle Franco – Tufts University – Dowling Hall Room 745-A
March 9th – Marielle Vive! – Los Angeles City Hall – 1pm
March 12th – The Other Side of Violence: Marielle Franco and the Struggle for Brazilian Democracy – Harvard University
March 13th – A Tribute to Political Activist Marielle Franco – UC Berkeley
March 14th – Black Feminisms across Americas: A Tribute to Political Activist Marielle Franco – Princeton University
March 16 12-5pm – Marielle – The Legacy of a Powerful Woman – The People’s Forum – 320 West 37th St. New York, New York 10018
Foundations and Fellowship:
Arro Verse (@arroverse) is a music artist and actor from Detroit, currently residing in Los Angeles. Arro is a graduate of Hampton University and Purdue University. In honor of Marielle Franco, she wrote and produced the song “Glory Eyes” and its remixes. Watch below.
Fabio Koelsch (@moveunits) is a private investor, music producer and actor from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil who loves to ride his two-wheeled surfboard.