I hesitated to write this post, because I didn't want to share upsetting news through Soul and Story. I want Soul and Story to be a place to inspire and to educate you on and about women social entrepreneurs around the world. I want to share their stories so that you can be motivated and encouraged by their efforts to be the change they wish to see. I want Soul and Story to "be the light", to give you good vibes and feelings not be yet another bearer of bad news of all that is wrong in the world.
I am compelled by truth and transparency to share what I know of the story of Marielle Franco, a Brazilian politician who fought for the rights of marginalized Brazilians - Black people, LGBT people, poor people, those living in favelas, those who are largely disenfranchised by a system of injustice, discrimination and racism that exists in Brazil.
You see one month ago, sitting in her car, after an event on black women's empowerment that she organized, Marielle was murdered. 9 shots with 4 to the head, killed both Marielle and her driver that evening. She was murdered, brutally. Murdered.
Why am I telling you this?
I am telling you this because I think you should know. Because there are people who put their life on the line so that others can be treated fairly with dignity and respect. And whether they do it via entrepreneurship like the women featured on Soul and Story, through politics or other, their work is important just the same.
I am telling you this because my silence this long has been aided and abetted by my privilege of being able to act like I didn't know it happened because of my distance from the situation. Because I am not directly affected, because I'm American, because I am not faced with imminent danger, because this was not in my backyard...I could ignore it.
I am telling you this because when I first found out, I wanted to believe it was random. Even though in my heart I knew it was not. Because its easier to believe a lie than to face the truth. Because when you admit the truth, then you are compelled to do something about it. I could not face yet another innocent black person being killed for being black, being killed for having the audacity to stand up for what is right. I simply had to believe another narrative, even if the narrative I believed was a lie.
I am telling you this because I realized that if I continued to live in my bubble, in my silence, in my complacency then I'm not much better than the ones that pulled the trigger. If I denied the truth of the matter simply because it made me feel better, I am no better than people who deny systemic racism, I am no better than the institutions that put a target on someone's back because they dare to speak out against a system of injustice.
I am telling you this because it is so utterly egregious that she was assassinated and that we are here one month later with no clue as to who did it and little hope that anyone will ever be brought to justice. And because, what is a black life worth?
Make no mistake, Marielle was silenced because she spoke out against injustice, because she gave a voice to the poor, to the voiceless to those who are invisible to the same systems that should protect them. Marielle dared to speak truth to power and she lost her life because of it. She lost her life because people were afraid of a woman who was not afraid to stand up and do what needed to be done. She challenged the status quo and was killed.
Those who killed her wanted her silent and to deter others from speaking out against injustice as vehemently as she did.
But what they do not know is that we will not go quietly in the night. And when I say we, I am talking about the truth-tellers, the light workers, those using their skills and abilities to fight systems of injustice, those working to uplift and empower those society wants to forget about. I'm talking about the entrepreneurs, the politicians, the healers, the writers, the artists all those using their voice and bodies in whatever form to bring positive change.
I've said on many occasions that what is happening in Brazil is very similar to the injustice and oppression black and brown people face here in the United States.
Will we not stand against injustice no matter where it occurs? Will we turn a blind eye because our privilege affords us the opportunity to do so? Will create a false narrative that explains why an innocent person deserved to die because only in this lie can we absolve ourselves of the responsibility we all have to do our part to make this world just and fair for everyone?
While Marielle's voice has been silenced, I hope that there are thousands of others who spring up and continue to fight. I hope more find their voice and the courage to use it to bring about positive change.
What can you do? Stand up and speak out. Stop turning a blind eye to inequality. Do you part to fight against racism, sexism. homophobia and other societal ills. It is not someone else's problem to deal with, it is your problem, it is my problem, it is a collective problem. In silence is complacency. History is filled with millions of "well-meaning good people" who said and did nothing while innocent people were marched to their death, while innocent people were slaughtered, raped, bound to slavery and other atrocities. We can not afford to be cowards any longer, lives are at risk.
While I was considered whether or not I should write about this or not. Two of my favorite quotes are from the movie/book, "Cloud Atlas", popped in my mind. They are:
“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
These quotes have such power and meaning to me and I knew then that I had to share this because it is the very least I can do. I wish I knew what THE solution is to all this. I do not. But, I do know if we want a better future, we have to wake up. The Universe has put out a clarion call for us to stop the destruction, the hate, the injustice and the spilling of innocent blood.
Of course, I did not know Marielle but I am inspired and encouraged by her life and bravery. May her spirit rest with the ancestors. May her voice echo throughout time and reverberate throughout the world continuing to call for equality and justice. Marielle will remain a light for us all, her work is not for naught.
Marielle Franco, thank you for your courage and your vision. Rest well.
Founder, Soul and Story