On March 14, 2018, the world was stunned by heartbreaking news about a tireless feminist activist.
Afro-Latina city councillor Marielle Franco was assassinated in a drive-by shooting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The beloved Brazilian’s brutal killing sparked outrage in her country and was condemned by human rights groups.
“She was already standing out in terms of debate, leadership capacity and intellect,” Franco’s social sciences course tutor Ricardo Ismael told The Guardian.
In a beautiful call to action, actress and philanthropist Viola Davis asked her Instagram followers to remember and stand with Franco’s mission.
The proudly feminist Afro-Latina politician was a revolutionary public servant and activist. Unbothered by the status quo of politics, Franco rose in popularity in politics. When elected in 2016, she won the fifth-highest vote count among council members. As a member of the far-left Socialism and Liberty party, Franco ran on a campaign that advocated for poorer Brazilian communities, feminists, and LGBTQ communities. She led an unapologetic march to freedom, justice, and equity for all Brazilians and continued that mission once in office.
Though Franco is gone, her work has forever changed her country and will continue to influence activists and revolutionaries around the world. Here are four things to remember about her work and life.
1. She worked tirelessly to empower black Brazilians and other marginalized communities.
When Franco was killed, she was leaving an event that focused on the empowerment of black women. Franco publicly supported causes centered around black women, indigenous people, and other marginalized communities in Brazil. She ignited supporters that had grown weary with corrupt government officials and crippling inequity that disproportionately affected black Brazilians and women by not only campaigning for them, but focusing her policy work on them once elected.
2. She fought police brutality.
The unabated brutal police force in Brazil has long been criticized by human rights organizations and activists around the world. According to the state government, in January 2018, 154 people were killed as a result of police action in Rio state, a 57% increase from January 2017. Franco was adept at fighting the heightened police brutality in Brazil and getting activists involved with effectively challenging the militarized state. She also criticized extrajudicial killings and spoke out against them until her death.
3. As a queer woman, she supported LGBTQ communities and women’s rights.
Franco was an openly lesbian woman, making her leadership in Brazilian government even more inspiring. Franco was an ardent supporter of gay rights and fought for LGBTQ safety and equality. She also was a champion for women’s rights, fighting against gender violence and for reproductive rights for Brazilian women.
4. She advocated for impoverished Brazilian citizens.
Poverty has devastated many of Rio de Janeiro’s citizens. According to the IBGE (Brazil’s government statistics bureau), 16.2 million people (8.5% of the population) live on less than R$70 per month — the equivalent of around $1.30 per person per day.
Franco grew up in a favela, a low-income neighborhood of Brazilian that has been riddled by brutal violence and chaos. Brazilians who live in favelas are often surrounded by unspeakable violence, such as stray bullets and brutal over-policing. Before working in government, Franco completed social work in favelas and fought for more equity and less police brutality in those communities.
Franco spent her life fighting to make her community and the world a better place for those who’ve yet to find peace and equity in it.
As a black, lesbian feminist who was able to reach government official status, Franco’s death was not in vain. Her memory should serve as an example of why serving others is so important. Say her name and continue fighting for her causes by advocating for the world’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised people.