Long Live Marielle Franco, the Queer, Afro-Latina Politician, Feminist, and Human Rights Activist

By: Korrien Hopkins

The proudly feminist Afro-Latina politician was a revolutionary public servant and activist. Unbothered by the status quo of politics, Franco quickly rose in political popularity. 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 the rights of poor Brazilian communities, feminists, and the LGBTQ communities. She led an unapologetic march to freedom, justice, and equity for all Brazilians and continued that mission once in office.

Franco grew up in Maré, a slum in northern Rio de Janeiro. At the age of 11 she began working to help support her family. She gave birth to her first and only child when she was 19-years-old. She then worked as a pre-school teacher, making minimum wage and raising her daughter without the father’s help.

In 2000, after her friend died from a stray bullet, she began working in human right activism. Then, in 2001, she enrolled at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Janeiro on a scholarship while she continued to work. She earned a degree in social sciences then went on to earn her masters degree in public administration from the Fluminese Federal University.

Her career in politics began in 2007. She began working as a consultant for state representative Marcelo Freixo. She coordinated the state legislature’s Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship. She also worked for civil society organizations, including the Brazil Foundation and the Maré Center for Solidarity Studies and Action. In 2016, she ran for a seat on the Rio de Janeiro city council in the municipal elections. With over 46,500 votes, Franco was one of 51 people elected, receiving the fifth highest vote total out of more than 1,500 candidates. When elected she continued to work hard. She fought tirelessly to empower black Brazilians and other marginalized communities and fought against police brutality. As a queer woman, she supported LGBTQ communities and women’s rights, and was a strong advocate for impoverished Brazilian citizens.

Franco dedicated 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.

On March 14, 2018, Franco spoke out on Twitter against the police violence in Rio de Janeiro: “Another homicide of a young man that could be credited to the police. Matheus Melo was leaving church when he was killed. How many others will have to die for this war to end?” she wrote. The next day, Franco attended a round-table discussion titled “Young Black Women Moving Power Structures”. Leaving the event, Franco and her driver were shot and killed on March 14, in a targeted assassination. This unleashed a wave of anger across Brazil, and provoked urgent debate on the country’s racism, violence, and impunity. As pressure grows on the authorities in Brazil to find her murderers, and open discussion on the global issues of hate crimes rise, supporters continue to  fight on her behalf. An open letter by international activists, writers, journalists, film-makers, politicians, and actors has called for an investigation of her murder by an independent commission.

Though Franco is gone, her work has forever changed her country and will continue to influence activists and revolutionaries around the world. As a black, bisexual feminist who was able to reach government official status, Franco’s death is not in vain. Her memory should continue to serve as an example of why serving others is so important. Her name and legacy will continue to motivate us to continue fighting for a greater world.

The Legacy of Berta Càceres

By Korrien Hopkins

Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores was a Honduran activist of the Lenca people. 

She was born March 4, 1973 and grew up witnessing the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980’s. Her mother, Austra Bertha Flores Lopez, was a great role model for humanitarianism. She was a midwife and social activist who took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people. Austra Flores served as two-term mayor of their hometown of La Esperanza, as a congressional representative, and as a governor of the Department of Intibucá

With the great influence of her mother, Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, at the age of 19, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging. This organization fought for their territorial rights and to improve their livelihoods.

In 2006, community members from Rio Blanco came to COPINH asking for help. They had witnessed an influx of machinery and construction equipment coming into their town. They had no idea what the construction was for or who was behind the project and asked Cáceres to investigate. What they did know was that there was a threat against the Gualcarque river which was a place of spiritual importance to the Lenca people and viewed as sacred land.

Cáceres responded to this threat by filing complaints with government authorities, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and by appealing to businesses that were funding the dam to withdraw support. Those efforts proved unsuccessful, however, and in 2013 Cáceres organized a human blockade of the road to access the construction site. The blockade stayed in place for more than a year, and protests continued to take place thereafter. Criminal charges were filed against Cáceres, and she and other activists were routinely threatened with kidnap and murder. After one protest leader was killed in 2013, Sinohydro, the Chinese partner of the Honduran company building the Agua Zarca Dam, withdrew from the project, and the International Finance Corporation later withdrew its support. Cáceres was later murdered in her home due to a fatal gunshot wound.

Despite her tragic death, Cáceres continues to be a great inspiration to many. She was a prominent figure in a very strong movement. Looking at current events like the protest at Standing Rock, we can see the attacks against indigenous tribal lands continue to rise. The fight that indigenous people continually face is a reminder that Cáceres was one person who has moved thousands, a single life turned into countless calls for justice.

Berta no murió. Se multiplicó. Berta didn’t die. She multiplied.

 

The Life of Angela Davis

By Tatiahna Turner

Born Angela Yvonne Davis on January 26, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama she is best known as an African-American political activist and for her relations to the Black Panther Party.

Davis grew up in a middle class neighborhood that was nicknamed “Dynamite Hill” due to the amount of African-American homes in the area that were bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. She was aware and affected by racial prejudice from her experiences with discrimination while growing up in Alabama. As a teenager, Davis organized interracial study groups that were broken up by the police. Davis’ mother Sallye, taught in an elementary school and was also an active member of the NAACP. Davis pursued higher education at Brandeis University where she studied philosophy, and then later, as a graduate student she attended the University of California, San Diego.

In 1969, Davis accepted a position as an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At this time she was known to world as a radical feminist and activist, a member of the Communist Party USA, and an associate of the Black Panther Party. Davis was fired from her job at UCLA due to her ties and beliefs with the Communist Party, but was then rehired after a judge ruled that she could not be fired solely due to her relations with them. A short while later, on June 20, 1970, Davis was let go from her position at UCLA again, but this time the reason was “inflammatory language” that she used during speeches. The report written for her dismissal stated, “We deem particularly offensive such utterances as her statement that the regents ‘killed, brutalized (and) murdered’ the People’s Park demonstrators, and her repeated characterizations of the police as ‘pigs’.”

Angela Davis was a strong supporter of the Soledad Brothers, who were three inmates accused of killing a guard at the Soledad Prison. As reported by FamPeople, the incident that took place was as follows: “On August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson, a heavily armed, 17-year-old African-American high-school student, gained control over a courtroom in Marin County, California. Once in the courtroom, Jackson armed the black defendants and took Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors as hostages. As Jackson transported the hostages and two black convicts away from the courtroom, the police began shooting at the vehicle. The judge, one of the jurors, the prosecutor, and the three black men were killed in the melee. Davis had purchased the firearms used in the attack, including the shotgun used to kill Haley, which had been bought two days prior and the barrel sawed off. She had also written numerous letters found in the prison cell of one of the murderers. Since California considers “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense… principals in any crime so committed,” San Marin County Superior Judge Peter Allen Smith charged Davis with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley” and issued a warrant for her arrest. Hours after the judge issued the warrant on August 14, 1970 a massive attempt to arrest Angela Davis began. On August 18, 1970, four days after the initial warrant was issued, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover made Angela Davis the third woman to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List.”

Davis fled from California and, according to her autobiography, hid in the homes of close friends. She was captured on October 13, 1970. On June 4, 1972 after 13 hours of deliberation Davis was found not guilty by an all-white jury. They decided that her owning the guns used in the crime was not enough evidence to convict her. After years of traveling and lecturing, Davis returned to the US where she taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz until her retirement in 2008. In 2017, Davis attended the Women’s March on Washington as a featured speaker and was made honorary co-chair.

Warrior Poet Audre Lorde

By K. Kendall (originally posted to Flickr as Audre Lorde) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

by Zaquoya Rogers

Audre Lorde was a black feminist writer and civil rights activist that used her skilled talent in poetry to express the social injustices she witnessed and experienced throughout her life. Being a black female lesbian, she experienced discrimination from all aspects, but that did not stop her from addressing the issues of racism, sexism, and homophobia. It was stated that all of her writings ring with passion, sincerity, perception, and depth of feeling. Her writings persuaded readers to look within their own lives and witness the prejudice they may have overlooked and react to it. She has called herself “A self-styled black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” and that she is.

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”