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Marielle Franco’s murder is the spark of revolution

Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

“Being a black woman is to resist and survive all the time.” These were the words of activist and Rio de Janeiro city council member Marielle Franco, who was shot to death by an assassin last week just 18 months after her election. She was 38 years old.  

A black, gay, single mother who stood up for the poor and advocated for the LGBT, feminist and black community, Franco was an extraordinarily brave soul.

In many poverty-stricken places, criticizing the police or government is a crime punishable by death, yet Franco constantly fought against the injustice and inequality that plague Rio’s slums. She spoke up against police brutality despite the dangers that lingered.

“How many more must die for this war to end?” Franco tweeted after the death of Matheus Melo, a 23-year-old black man who was killed by military officers on his way back from church. She was killed the next day. 

Franco’s car was hit by nine bullets — four straight to her head which killed her instantly. She was on her way home after an event about black women empowerment. Her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, was also killed.

Speaking up about your beliefs and having your voice heard is just as endangering and scary as it is challenging. It’s even more difficult when you’re a colored woman in a sea of conservative white men. Although the majority of Brazil is black or mixed, black homicide has risen to 40%, with black boys being 12 times more likely to be murdered than his white counterpart and black men being murdered every 23 minutes.

Women shouldn’t be punished for wanting a better life for themselves and their people. The violence that follows women when they say no or voice their concerns, demanding something be done and refusing to stay silent, is so overwhelmingly common. It’s devastating. Enough is enough.

Franco’s death is being mourned not only in Rio but internationally. Tens of thousands turned out across Brazil to protest her murder, demanding for justice to be served for the only one who called for it on behalf of the poor and colored of Rio. Supporters are also remembering her online: Twitter is buzzing with Say Her Name: #MariellaFranco and #MarielleFrancoPresente. Hundreds of thousands have pledged their refusal to forget in more than 30 languages using the hashtag, from citizens to actresses such as Viola Davis.

If the assassination was an attempt to silence a black woman politician who continuously challenged corrupt military head-on, her murder did the exact opposite.

Franco’s ability to shake up a room and get people to finally wake up and invoke change is what drew her so many supporters from all over Brazil. She valiantly showed it is no longer enough to sit back quietly and accept the tragedies happening to women, especially women of color, and has reminded us to speak louder and demand for more to be done so we can maybe one day live in a world where everyone is treated with equality and humanity.

Long lives Marielle Franco’s impact, and may her cause inspire more women to stand up against the ugly face of repression. #MarielleFrancoPresente.

Assistant opinion editor Bethel Biru is a broadcast journalism senior and can be reached at [email protected].

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