‘Black Women Radicals’ Pay Homage to Slain Queer Afrobrazilian Activist, Marielle Franco

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Today I’d  like to shine a bright light on a project that I believe reflects the spirit of Atlantic Archives and much more.  I was introduced to Black Women Radicals through the Instagram algorithm gods and I was immediately inspired by the objectives of the project as well as the commitment of its founder, Dr. Jaimee Swift. 

Black women Radicals (BWR) describes itself as a Black feminist advocacy organization dedicated to uplifting Black women and gender-expansive people’s radical political activism.  Their mission is “to overcome the systemic erasure of Black women and gender expansive peoples’ radical activism by ensuring that their voices, perspectives, grassroots organizing, theoretical frameworks, leadership, and memory are seen, heard, felt, and known.

Swift founded the organization in 2018 with the purpose of uplifting and educating the public on the diasporic roots and modern political movements of Black women and gender-expansive people. Swift is a Ph.D. and political theorist who graduated from Howard University. She found a remarkable international response to the activities of the organization, including the subsequent of The School for Black Feminist Politics (SBFP), the political education arm of the organization.  

One of the primary goals of SBFP is to amplify global Black feminist politics and movement building through community-oriented events. Their hallmark event, The Defend Black Women March will occur in Washington, DC during the last weekend in July. 

This year’s event is of special importance to the Atlantic Archives family as it pays homage to Marielle Franco. Franco was a Black LGBT activist who was elected in 2016 as Rio de Janeiro’s fifth most voted city councilor. She was a scholar with a masters degree in Sociology and her political platform centered the struggle for human rights, anti-fascism, LGBT and worker’s rights. 

Franco was assassinated on March 14, 2018, by a government-related conservative militia. She was on the federal committee supervising the military intervention in Rio’s favelas. This made the young politician an even bigger political target. Two former military policemen were arrested for her murders but there has yet to be a conviction.

The march website outlines the goals for this year’s event: 

For the second annual Defend Black Women March, our goal is to disrupt this siloing by celebrating, centering, and interrogating the life, leadership, and legacy of Afro-Brazilian bisexual feminist, politician, activist, and human rights defender, Marielle Franco and the power of Black feminisms in Latin America and in the Caribbean. Annually, July 25th is the International Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Day. It is a day to celebrate the resistance of Black women in Latin America and the Caribbean. Moreover, July is the birth month of Franco, who would have celebrated her 43rd birthday on July 27th. This march is dedicated to historical and ancestral Black feminists in Latin America and in the Caribbean such as Franco, Cécile Fatiman, Maria de los Reyes, Nehanda Abiodun, Castillo Bueno, Argelia Laya, Emilsen Manyoma, Magalie Marcelin, Beatriz Nascimento, Nanny of the Maroons, Carlota Lukumi, Gumercinda Páez and the countless Black feminist leaders who have and continue to do the critical work of expanding the frame of reference of Black feminisms globally. 

The work of BWR is transnational and multidisciplinary. Our team met with Dr. Swift to discuss her experience in Brazil, our shared connections, and possible future connections. 

I advise you to run, not walk to the BWR website to register for the event. If you can be there in person, you can support the organizers by donating directly or by purchasing their Black Women Defiance Bracelet, a collaboration between BWR and the global brand, Melody Ehsani. 

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