How to (Re)Exist in Enemy Territory: Marielle Franco Planted Seeds for our Future

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Article published in The Funambulist 18 (July-August 2018) Cartography & Power. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

In a recent interview, influential rapper KL Jay from the Racionais MCs put forward an ominous warning to fellow Afro-Brazilians: “We are in enemy territory.” He continued by advising Black people to increase strategies of resistance and protection such as walking through the streets “like lions and pit bulls.” KL Jay’s unsettling conclusion cautioned readers: “do not try to be accepted by the system, the system does not like you.” Hailing from the outskirts of São Paulo, KL Jay’s voice joins the innumerable voices opposing the long-standing history of Brazilian state terrorism against Afro-descendant populations. The national homicide rate of Black youth (between 15 and 29 years old) is four times higher than that of whites. Every 23 minutes, a young Black person is murdered in Brazil, according to the final Senate report of the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (CPI) published in 2016. This number corresponds to a death toll of nearly 23,000 Black youth annually.

The rise of extreme state-sanctioned violence has come to a breaking point with the recent assassination of Rio city councilor, Marielle Franco. Franco, a 38-year old elected Black woman from the Maré favela, was attacked on her drive home from an event titled, “Young Black Women Who Are Changing Power Structures.” She was abruptly cut off by another vehicle before being shot four times in the head, along with her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes. Both died instantly. Despite the suspected links between her attackers and militias (active or retired police officers, corrupt firemen, and local politicians), the law of silence reigns and Marielle Franco’s murderers remain unpunished. Now, four months after the attack, many Brazilians continue to mourn while facing questions of survival in an undeniable, yet nebulous, murderous system.