Activist Marielle Franco Killed

Photo by Mídia Ninja

"Being a black woman is to resist and survive all the time.” – Marielle Franco

On March 14th, at age 38, Marielle Franco was killed in a car on the streets of Rio with four bullets to her head. Since then, thousands around the world have gathered to honor her life and protest her brutal killing. 

Marielle Franco was a recently elected city councilwoman. She was the only black woman in the city council of 51 people, and she won with the fifth-highest amount of votes among thousands of candidates. She was part of the liberal Socialism and Liberty Party. 
She was a black lesbian woman from the Maré favela, one of the poorest favelas. She was a single mother, pregnant at 19, and graduated college with a master’s degree in sociology. She fought for racial justice, women’s rights, the LGBTQ+ community, and the underrepresented. She fought against government corruption and police brutality, often risking her life with the campaigns she led. 

Her rise in politics is astounding—her identity in itself was a threat to much of the elite white government. In 2006, when a stray bullet from the police killed a close friend, Franco became further involved in politics, emerging as a fearless leader, a true activist, and a fighter for the people. Franco challenged the Brazilian police unit and called for an end to their harassment and murder of people, particularly of black people. In Brazil, according to The Washington Post, 1,124 deaths were by the police in 2017, with nearly 80% of those deaths being of black or mixed race people. In 2008, Franco joined a committee investigating Rio militias of former police and officers that were harassing residents of the city. The committee’s work resulted in many indictments, a great amount of justice for the victims. In 2016, she ran for city council and won by an overwhelming amount of votes. As a councilwoman, she was the chair of the Women’s Defense Committee and a part of the group to monitor the recent federal military intervention in Rio’s public safety (declared by President Temer), a move she was strongly against.   

The day before her death, she tweeted about another young man who had been killed by the police: “How many more need to die for this war to end?” The war continues, and Franco was one of the most fearless warriors. 

The fact that she was a black, lesbian woman who spoke out and stood up fearlessly scared and threatened many of those who opposed her. She represented and advocated for all of the communities of which she was a part. She was a passionate human rights activist, and her work reflects that. Some people point out that she also fought for families of slain police, not just the people slain by the police. She was an outspoken advocate for women’s equality and better health care, education, and social programs. 

Looking at the things she has done, I am in awe of how fully Franco gave her life to so many of the Brazilian people who were and continue to be underrepresented. In a world full of corrupt politicians, she really, truly believed in the people and things for which she fought. In fact, it might be more accurate to call her an activist for the people. 

Franco’s death put her in the global spotlight. Not many people outside of politics and Brazil knew her before, but her death and its circumstances have made her a global symbol. Social media users have honored her and spread her legacy with messages and hashtags like #MariellePresente, #MarielleVive, and #SayHerName while also advocating for the end of unjust black deaths, whose ranks she joined. Many powerful politicians, activists, and artists penned an open letter calling for justice and an investigation into her death and who was behind it (many say it might have been a militia of former and current police). People all over the world are demanding action and justice. Vigils and protests have been held in several countries, with thousands of Brazilians taking their anger and grief into the streets.  

Just before her murder, Marielle Franco was attending an event for empowering black women, and she quoted Audre Lorde, 

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” 

She lived by that quote. 

In trying to silence Marielle’s voice, the killers were trying to silence everyone she represented. They failed. Her voice and the voices that join her are increased in number and sound, and we will continue her fight. 



By Hannah Yang

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