Note from BBT: A few years ago, in 2019, I remember seeing a flyer that was beoing circulated around the internet. The image featured photos of the multi-faceted talent Abdias do Nascimento, writer Carolina de Jesus and Marielle Franco, the Rio-based councilwoman who was brutally assassinated in a political hit in 2018. The event being promoted was to take place on March 14th of that year. It didn’t hit me right away at first sight.
Then a friend of mine, journalist Kiratiana Freelon sent me the image again and asked me was special about that date. As I am a person who very much connects to important dates in history or people who impacted my life in some way, I knew that it was Nascimento’s birthday and I also knew that it was, at that time, the one year anniversary of Marielle’s murder. I wasn’t so sure why Carolina’s photo was there. I knew that she, like Abdias, was also born in 1914. But…
Then I thought, if there is a connection of the date March 14 with Abdias and Marielle, this is probably also true of Carolina. A quick online search and it was confirmed. Wow. Not only were Abdias and Carolina born in the same year, they were actually born on March 14th on the exact same date!
This is a little about that event.
“The Institute for Research and Afro-Brazilian Studies (Ipeafro) will hold the event “Carolina, Abdias and Marielle: Life, Ancestry and Continuation” on March 14. The date marks the birth of Carolina Maria de Jesus and of Abdias Nascimento, and the assassination of councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes. By state law in Rio de Janeiro, March 14 is Activist Day for the birthday of Abdias, and Marielle Franco Day of Struggle against the Genocide of Black Women. Following the struggle of these three personalities, in partnership with Redes da Maré, Criola, Editora Perspectiva, 21 Days of Activism Against Racism and FOPIR, with the support of Itaú Cultural, there will be a great tribute to Carolina, Abdias and Marielle at the Centro de Artes da Maré (CAM).”
I became aware of Abdias and Carolina through the same source, Africana: The Encyclopedia of African and African-American Experience. I mentioned more than a few times that this work is what led me on the path to discovering black Brazil. Of all of the biographies of the numerous Afro-Brazilians featured in that two thousand page book, it was Nascimento’s bio that struck me the most. Dude was not only an activist and writer, he was a painter, a playwright, an actor, poet and politician. Nascimento’s accomplishments were such that an encyclopedia that documented the history of Africans and African descendants named him the most complete intellectual of African descent of the 20th century.
At the time, Nascimento was the only black Brazilian author whose work was available in English, I quickly read the titles that were available. That was sometime early in the year 2000. A few months, I got my hands on the Carolina de Jesus classic, Child of the Dark, which was a translation of her Quarto de Despejo that had been translated into numerous other languages. As one of Nascimento’s books, Africans in Brazil, told a bit of his life story, reading both books took me on an imaginary journey to the country I had yet to visit.
With the increase in the access to university educations, many more Afro-Brazilians have studied the works of these two legedary figures that Brazil has ignored for decades and dedicated their own works to their memory and inspiration. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was the last person to interview Nascimento before his death in 2011 for his book and documentary series, Black in Latin America. Nascimento was also in attendance when then US President Barack Obama visited Rio de Janeiro and made a speech in March of 2011. Nascimento passed away two months later, about three years short of 100.
Carolina de Jesus was originally from the state of Minas Gerais but moved to São Paulo in the late 1930s. In 1947, she settled in a favela called Canindé in São Paulo’s north zone. Her everyday life in a community of about 50,000 inhabitants influenced the books she would write. Today, where that favela was stood is the location of the Portuguesa soccer stadium just off the Tietê freeway. It’s a place I’ve probably passed by a hundred times since I’ve been in São Paulo.
In terms of Marielle, I didn’t really know much about her when the news broke that she had been murdered in Rio. In 2016, she was one of only five black women elected to city councils across Brazil out of more than 460,000 candidates. In 2017, she revealed how she had been through a rather embarassing inspection while boarding a plane in the capital city of Brasília. So although I was aware of her, I didnt really know much about her.
2018 changed all of that.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, mostly in Brazil, but also in other countries, to protest days after she was killed. Numerous black women arose in her memory to increase the presence of black women in politics and there have been streets named in her honor, a TV series, documentaries on her life and death and talk of a statue being mounted of her image. In her short life, Marielle Franco has become one of the most well-known and remembered figures in Brazilian politics.
Each one of these people have inspired perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people because of their accomplishments. And, as fate would have it, in one day, we can remember all three of them.
Black Lives Matter: March 14 unites Marielle, Carolina de Jesus and Abdias
By André Santana
The memory of death is the affirmation of the importance of life.
In the Bantu language, one of the many African linguistic and cultural contributions to Brazil, the term bakulo is used for ancestors, the well-remembered, those who leave us with good memories. Those whose deaths have not interrupted their legacies.
Amid the more than 273 thousand deaths by Covid-19, it is our duty as civilization to condemn the trivialization of these losses perpetrated by the President of the Republic.
March 14 is a date to remember that vidas negras importam (black lives matter). And deaths of black people matter too.
On March 14, 2018, city councilor Marielle Franco and driver Anderson Gomes were brutally murdered in Rio. The answers about this political crime remain as a debt of the Brazilian State to the families and to all who fight for justice.
In these three years, Marielle’s death was not forgotten in a single moment by social movements, especially by the black Brazilian
movement, which historically denounces the genocide of the black population underway in the country.
Marielle’s life will not be forgotten either. It has become an inspiration for women and men who no longer accept institutionalized violence by racism against black bodies. Of the voices of indignation that no longer want to be silenced.
The 2020 municipal elections showed the motivating force of Marielle Franco’s life and death by strengthening the black women’s movement in politics from her legacy.
Bakulos who were born on March 14
On March 14, 1914, two black lives were born that, as they were so potent, racism was unable to erase. Carolina Maria de Jesus and Abdias do Nascimento were born in the same year and followed a path of resistance, traced with art, courage and revolt
It took a long time for the blunt denunciations of the work Quarto de Despejo: Diário de uma Favelada to be known by the Brazilian public and by readers of more than 40 countries where the translated editions of this bestseller by Carolina Jesus circulated, discovered and released only in the 1960s.
Books like Casa de Alvenaria (1961), Pedaços de Fome (1963), Provérbios (1963) e Diário de Bitita (1982) reveal the talent in narrating – in prose, poetry and songs – the memories of a maid and paper collector in prose, poetry and songs.
“The writer who was born from the improbable”, as the PhD in Letters from the Federal University of Bahia, Cristian Salles, defines. “Collecting paper, she reinvents her own life. She begins to read books and build her memories, which are not individual. It is a collective memory, of such a sensitive interpreter of post-slavery Brazil.”
The writer’s death in 1977 didn’t interrupt her legacy. Carolina’s life and writing is a source of inspiration for generations of black writers.
Recognition with the title honoris causa
On February 25, the writer received a posthumous tribute from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, which awarded Carolina Maria de Jesus the title of doctor honoris causa, an honor attributed to those who recognize the merits and contributions to society.
Abdias Nascimento also received the honorary doctorate degree from four Brazilian universities, in addition to the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ilé-Ifé, Nigeria.
These recognitions are ways of not forgetting a story that began in the 1930s, in the Black Brazilian Front and was enhanced in the creation of the Teatro do Sentenciado na Penitenciária do Carandiru, in 1943; the Teatro Experimental do Negro, in 1944, a pioneer of black protagonism in the performing arts, and of the newspaper O Quilombo, from 1948.
Actor, writer, director, playwright, painter, poet, politician, Abdias was the militant of the black movement with the longest trajectory in the country.
He died at the age of 97, in May 2011, having dedicated most of his life to extolling black culture and denouncing racism, in Brazil and worldwide, and inspiring people to put their talents in favor of collective struggles
In retrospectives produced by the press in 2011, the absence of the name of former Senator of the Republic Abdias Nascimento was noted in the obituary of important vehicles. They ignored his death as much as his life. They failed to know and disseminate the thoughts and contributions of this multi-artist, intellectual and activist.
The ancestral forces wanted the three bakulos (Marielle Franco, Carolina Maria de Jesus and Abdias do Nascimento) to have their lives (and death) crossed on this March 14th to mobilize us against genocide and fight for life.
As long as these lives are remembered, their legacies will not be interrupted.
Carolina Maria de Jesus, Present!
Abdias Nascimento, Present!