9 Shots – The Assassination of Marielle Franco
Our perspective of Brazil, from an American city that is in walking distance to Canada, is that Brazil is both a beautiful struggle and futuristically flawed. The country with rich African traditions born from slavery is divided by income, gender, color, class, education and law enforcement interaction etc. Not unlike the U.S. there is a strong correlation between family income and the quality of education children receive. Without proper schooling the higher paid jobs go to those who have been prepared and the cycle continues. For women, the struggle becomes harder. The biggest sport in Brazil is football (soccer). The entire time Pelé (arguably the greatest football player to ever live) played professionally, it was illegal for Brazilian girls to play football. For Blacks, you have a more than 1 in 10 chance of growing up in structures with high poverty, high crime and aggressive police activity called favelas. Many favelas have no running water and no sewage system. Some of these low income communities have no garbage collection or electricity. When you compare favela life to the wealthy people in São Paulo who use helicopters as taxis it’s not hard to see a political revolution rising.
Police brutality is nothing new to black people in the U.S.; Though if we lived in a favela in Brazil, we’re not sure we’d have the courage to leave the house. According to a 2015 article in The Atlanta Black Star “Between the Brazilian state and federal police violence, they have killed more Brazilians in the last 5 years (11,200) than did all U.S. police combined in the last 30 (11,090).” Most police shootings occur in favelas and disproportionately affect young men of color. The number of registered killings by on duty police between 2010 and 2013 is 1275. Of those victims 99.5% were male, 79% were black and 75% were between 15 and 29 years old.
Marielle Franco was born in 1979 and was raised in Maré, a favela in Northern Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Franco received a degree in social sciences from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Marielle would go on to earn a masters degree in public administration from Fluminense Federal University and wrote her thesis (“UPP: The Decline of the Favela in Three Letters”) on police brutality. In 2016 with more than 1500 opponents, she ran for Rio City Council and won a seat with the 5th highest vote total of all candidates. Marielle was an advocate for women’s rights, human rights and was a powerful voice in the LGBTQIA community. She used her platform to fight for the most vulnerable members of society.
Last week we lost a voice that raged against the systematic oppression of beautiful people who deserve a fair shot in life. Two gunmen in a separate car fired 9 shots killing Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Pedro. Bullets used in the ambush belonged to the federal police. Marielle was just 38 years old. A vibrant young woman cut down in her prime to protect an unjust system of inequality. Brazil is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis where the murder of poor black people is state sanctioned. You may have killed the messenger, but her message lives on in all of us. Out of all the pictures and videos on various social media platforms one resonated more than everything else. It was a picture of her sitting in a meeting with her majority white, majority male counterparts. In a room full of suits, be the big haired rebel in a tshirt.