democraciaAbierta: Opinion

Today's Brazil is worse than Marielle Franco's. But its future belongs to the Marielles

Today's Brazil is not the same as the one the murdered young councilwoman knew and fought for. But the seed planted by the black lesbian activist created a transformative movement. Português Español

Manuella Libardi
16 March 2020, 9.37pm
On March 14, 2018, the councilwoman from Rio de Janeiro Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes, were shot dead in the heart of Rio. The crime is still unsolved, but the investigations point to the participation of cops.
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Cris Faga/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved

Since Marielle Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes, were murdered on March 14, 2018, Brazilians elected Jair Bolsonaro as president, the former Lavo Jato judge and current Minister of Security, Sergio Moro, was unmasked as a biased politician, Brazil has grown 1% under the reins of Minister of Economy Paulo Guedes, the dollar hit unprecedented levels.

The Brazil of today, in many ways, is worse than the one the 38-year-old councilwoman knew and fought for.

Her assassination was a deafening warning to many Brazilians that, no matter how successful, known or loved by the people, black lives are expendable. In a country where two-thirds of all female homicides are of black women, their killers know that they can act with almost guaranteed impunity.

Despite the hopelessness that inevitably hits us all, Marielle's struggle was not in vain. From the night of the 14th to the morning of the 15th, the offspring of the Maré favela became a personification of racial oppression and a symbol of resistance, not only in Brazil, but in the world.

In the days that followed her death, Marielle was honored in the plenary of the European Parliament. She was on the cover of The Washington Post.

Crowds protested her death and celebrated her life on the streets of metropolises around the world, from New York to London, passing through Paris, Munich, Stockholm and Lisbon, to name a few. Twitter and Facebook exploded, recording millions of mentions of "Marielle Presente" (Marielle is here), from places like Berlin, Miami and Montreal. People who had never heard her name, paid tribute to her using a hashtag from the Black Lives Matter movement: #SayHerName.

In a country where two-thirds of all female homicides are of black women, their killers know that they can act with almost guaranteed impunity

Symbols are important. They transmit messages with a speed unknown in the world of words. On a more spiritual level, the symbols represent doors that channel energy. Marielle had and has this role.

Using her already iconic images, women, blacks, LGBT people and other minority groups have joined in a movement that has been gaining momentum in Brazil, despite the setback of many other progressive wings. Marielle used her platform to defend LGBT and women's rights in Brazil, creating an intersectional battle built on her own intersectional existence.

Marielle's strongest influence is reflected in politics and the grassroots movement from which she emerged. The movement began during the political crisis that culminated in the coup against Dilma Rousseff, and sought to include more women, blacks, indigenous and LGBT people in politics as a way to transform the system from the inside.

As a result, 2016 marked the beginning of the political rise of black women in politics, such as Marielle and Talíria Petrone in Rio de Janeiro, and Áurea Carolina and Andréia de Jesus in Belo Horizonte. This movement has since organized to create Ocupa Política, an event that brings together activists, politicians and people want to run for office but do not have the resources or privileges, thus serving as a platform and support network.

2016 marked the beginning of the political rise of black women in politics, such as Marielle and Talíria Petrone in Rio de Janeiro, and Áurea Carolina and Andréia de Jesus in Belo Horizonte

Congress, in a country with at least half of its population consisting of blacks and browns, has only 24% representatives of this group. Brazil is also among the worst countries in female political representation, ranking third in Latin America for lowest female parliamentary representation. According to this ranking, Brazil's rate is about 10 percentage points lower than the global average, which has remained stable since the mid-20th century.

This awareness has been planted and the fruits are coming. In the 2018 elections, the number of black deputies – which is the sum of browns and blacks, according to criteria established by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics – grew by almost 5% in the 2018 election compared to 2014. Among the 513 deputies elected on October 7, 104 identified as brown (20.27%) and 21 identified as black (4.09%), according to data from the Chamber of Deputies website. In addition, the elections also marked the first time that an indigenous woman, Joênia Wapichana (Rede-RR), was elected to the national Congress.

Brazil has taken a turn for the worst since Marielle's shooting death. But changes will come. As Kamilla Valentim wrote for Maré Notícias, there is “the certainty that we cannot be ONE Marielle because we become targets. We have to be many, each in her own sphere.”

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