On July 27, 1979, Marielle Francisco da Silva was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to parents Marielle and Antonio, who raised their family in an area called Mare’ that’s considered a slum. As a young girl around the age of eleven Franco began working to earn money to help her family financially. At the age of nineteen she gave birth to her daughter Luyara but the relationship with her daughter’s father did not last. To support herself, she worked as a pre-school teacher while beginning her pre-university studies so she could further her education at a major university. In 2002, Franco earned a scholarship and attended the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, earning her bachelor’s degree in social sciences. Her next step was attending Fluminense Federal University and earning her master’s degree in public administration. The title of her master’s thesis was “UPP: The Decline of the Favela in Three Letters,” a thesis that examined the impact the police were having on the Favelas they patrolled; UPP means “Pacifying Police Units”, an initiative Brazilian law enforcement instituted in to attempt to retake the Favelas from the gangs.
Between 2005 and 2007, Franco began working with the socialist party state representative named Marcelo Freixo. Franco, Frexio, and a number of others created the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship. Franco was motivated by the death of a friend killed by a stray bullet during a shootout between the police and drug dealers. Her motivation also led her to join the Brazil Foundation and the Maré Center for Solidarity Studies and Action. She was not only working to change the conditions in Brazil because of the death of her friend but change the overall conditions for black people and other oppressed people in Brazil. During Brazil’s municipal elections of 2016, Franco was a candidate running for a city council seat. She was viewed as having a long shot to win because she was a black woman from the Favelas who was an unmarried nineteen-year-old mother and was open about being a lesbian. But despite the negative perceptions and the odds, Franco earned the fifth-highest vote total with over 46,500 votes to become one of fifty-one of Rio de Janeiro’s city council members.
As a city council member she used her position to help create change in Brazil by fighting for black rights, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, the rights of Brazil’s poor, and many more. She was a force to be reckoned with. Franco served as the chairperson of the Women's Defense Commission and also positioned herself as the overseer of Rio de Janeiro’s federal interventions into their local dealings. She pushed hard to destigmatize LGBTQ+ relations and even worked to create a bill that would approve of a day of lesbian visibility; the bill was eventually voted down. Franco consistently spoke out against the oppression the people of Brazil were experiencing, she was especially vocal against the consistent police violence. March 13, 2018, was the last time she was able to use her voice via social media to speak out against police violence. "Young Black Women Moving Power Structures" was the round table discussion Franco attended on March 14, 2018. Two hours after leaving the round table Franco and her driver were ambushed by two men shooting nine times killing them both. According to an investigation it was concluded that Franco was assassinated by the Brazilian Federal Police.
Two former military police offers were arrested for the murder of Franco in 2019, with ties to the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, his neighbor, and his son. Protests of over one hundred thousand people were held all over the world in the name of Marielle Franco by those who supported her activism. Organizations such as the UN of Brazil and many others fought to have Franco's death investigated so justice can be served. Franco fought hard for the rights of others, now she needed her people to fight for her. Marielle Franco was a true soldier in the war against oppression who was unfortunately murdered by people who feared her power and feared change. Franco’s last words to the world via social media were “how many others will have to die for this war to end?” To the courageous Marielle Franco, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Click here to learn more about the On the Shoulders of Giants book series!!!
Click Here to join our mailing list