The murder of Marielle Franco, a Brazilian city councilor, was a shock not just to Brazil, but the entire world. People everywhere are expressing their sorrow and anger. Demonstrators have marched in the streets of Brazil’s largest cities and #MariellePresente (“Marielle Is Here”) has trended on social media.
— Brasil Wire (@BrasilWire) March 15, 2018
With all that she stood and fought for, Marielle Franco is without a doubt a Mindful Hero.
The Hope of Maré
When faced with prejudice and inequality, mindful people take action—we march, we protest, we make our voices heard. But there are those of us who take it a step further, running for office to help facilitate change. Brazilian city councilor Marielle Franco was one of those people.
Franco was born and raised in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood Maré, a favela (or “urban slum”). After becoming a single mother at 19, Franco got her masters degree in sociology and wrote her thesis on public security policies. As a black, left-wing, feminist lesbian, Franco became an activist for the poor, for racial minorities, and for the LGBTQ community.
In 2016, when Franco won her election for city council, it was a call for celebration. Marielle Franco was the only black woman elected to Rio de Janeiro’s 51-member city council. And it was the first time a resident of Maré had been elected. Franco’s election meant that ignored Brazilian people would finally get a voice.
Marielle’s great rise makes her death even more tragic. On March 14, 2018, 38-year-old Franco and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, were assassinated. They were shot by two attackers after Franco took part in a panel called, “Black Women Moving Structures.” Franco took four shots to the head, and she leaves behind her 19-year-old daughter, her parents, her sister, and her partner, Monica Tereza (who she was due to marry this year).
Some activists have even borrowed a phrase from another movement in order to bring awareness to Franco’s death.
#SayHerName is a campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum. Its goal: to call attention to police violence against Black women. This is exactly what Marielle Franco tried to do in her short life. She helped Human Rights Watch “document police abuses in Rio de Janeiro.” She believed that police brutality and the military approach to fighting crime in poor communities (especially black communities) fueled a cycle of violence.
So far, according to Rio’s federal prosecutor’s office, the evidence of Franco’s murder points to “a hit by corrupt police officers.” It’s believed that Franco’s assassination was meant to silence her campaigns against police brutality in favelas. But her death has only motivated other activists to demand change.
Marielle Franco: Mindful Hero Never Forgotten
Though Marielle’s life was cut short, her impact on her community has been undeniable. In 2016, community journalist, Thaís Cavalcante wrote of Marielle:
“What Franco represents is empowering for many women and poor people. Many voted for better known politicians, but young activists here in Maré participated directly in her campaign, and voted for her. This is the hope we still hold dear: that every person from favelas is seen for their potential, as a part of this city. We deserve to have representatives in power who have lived our reality.”
Marielle’s life was a sign of hope for her community in Maré and for marginalized communities around the world. It’s time for us all to Say Her Name.
Main photo credit: Daniel Arrhakis / Flickr
The picture is called “Tribute To Marielle Franco Colors And Dreams”