Note from BW of Brazil: The disrespect and disregard for the lives of African descendants is an issue that affects us all, whether we are speaking on police violence that claims the lives of thousands of black people throughout the Americas or foreign policies mandated by powerful first world countries that economically impoverish the people of Africa. And we, as black people, must realize that our various nationalities don’t impede the situation. Regardless of whether we are Jamaicans, Haitians, Colombians, Americans or Brazilians, it is our blackness that positions us into the target of various forms of exploitation, invisibility, lack of power and vulnerability.
A few weeks ago, in Rio de Janeiro, a group of black women, mostly Brazilian, but including representatives from Jamaica and the United States, came together to discuss the similarities in our stories of violations of human rights and the ramifications on our experiences as a people. The women participating in the discussion all made powerful presentations that resonated with the audience in the event that was captured on video. And their presentations should move people. After all, not only black women often the ones left standing to hold their families together and press on after violence claims a life in their homes, they are also the women most likely to be murdered in everyday violence or murdered by police forces. Below, feel free to watch the presentations in English or Portuguese. And as the saying goes, “A Luta Continua”/”The Struggle Continues”.
Debate “Black women in resistance and mobilization for human rights” packs Cine Odeon in Rio de Janeiro
Cine Odeon, one of Rio de Janeiro’s most well-known and historic street cinemas, located in the city’s downtown with a capacity of 550 seats, was small enough to host a historic night: the debate “Mulheres negras na resistência e mobilização por direitos humanos” (Black women in resistance and mobilization for human rights) which marked the launch of Amnesty International’s annual report, “O Estado dos Direitos Humanos no Mundo 2016/17” (The State of Human Rights in the World 2016/17).
For the debate of the launch, a table composed only of black women and with different trajectories that mark the fight for human rights in Brazil: Jurema Werneck, Djamila Ribeiro, Vilma Reis, Marion Gray-Hopkins, Shackelia Jackson, mediated by Sueli Carneiro and Ana Paula Lisboa as master of ceremony. In the audience, many other protagonists: mothers and relatives of the victims of police violence and those who are on the front line of mobilization for justice daily.
Jurema Werneck opened the table at her first event as executive director of Amnesty International Brasil, and spoke about what it is to be a black woman in the country and about her trajectory since medical school, foundation of the NGO Criola, to this day, to the head of an international organization. After saying that all those who were there in the same fight are part of her family, she highlighted the strength of the black women to move on.
“Ser mulher negra (being a black woman) in Brazil is facing every day the need to confront the weight and strength of this enemy called racism. This enemy called sexism. This enemy called poverty and exclusion. (…) It is to have your son killed and not fainting. Facing the pain, the daily struggle, but knowing the pain of the suffering of the struggle is thinking of a new alternative.”
Marion Gray-Hopkins is the mother of Gary Hopkins Jr., a 19-year-old who was killed by police in the United States. During her speech, she narrated the day of the death of her son, murdered while returning home, after a party and accompanied by his friends. Marion, determined to continue her fight for justice and help other mothers who suffer the same pain, created the Coalition of Concerned Mothers to support mothers who lost their children through police action and violence in the communities. She calls on all these mothers from the US, Brazil, Jamaica and others of the world to always be together and mobilized.
Vilma Reis, with extensive experience in the fight against the mass incarceration of black and peripheral youth, is a sociologist and general ombudsman for the Public Defender of the State of Bahia. Throughout her speech, she refers us to great names in the history of the black movement in Brazil and in the world, such as Lélia Gonzales, Angela Davis, Carlos Marighella and Ana Maria Gonçalves. She moved the audience and called on everyone to resist against setbacks. “Masters of the nineteenth century want to rule the world in the 21st century, but we will not let them!” she said.
“When the bullet hits our bodies, racism and sexism have already hit us,” emphasized Vilma, who harshly criticized racism in the institutions, religious intolerance and conservatism, and was applauded by the audience.
“Our pain goes far beyond the language barrier. To those who are here, this is a call to action.” With the crowded galleries, eyes and ears followed the story of Shackelia Jackson. Her brother, Nakiea, was killed by the Jamaican police at the age of 27. He was shot twice inside his own restaurant he had just opened. In addition to talking about the urgent need to act to transform reality, Shackelia shows how Jamaica, Brazil, and the United States are similar when we talk about police violence and the murder of homens negros e pobres (black and poor men). Human rights violations cross borders, and international solidarity is the first step towards global rights mobilization.
Djamila Ribeiro made the last speech of the day and asked everyone: “who are those who do not have the right to the city?” The master in political philosophy spoke about the various rights violations that follow the life of the população negra (black population) and that think public policies for the city is, necessarily, thinking about the living conditions of this population. “You can’t have any debate without talking about racism, which is structural and structuring.”
Sueli Carneiro, founder of Geledés – Instituto de Mulher Negra and member of the Advisory Council of Amnesty International was the mediator of the debates and at the end of each speech, it brought more accumulations:
“It’s black women who speak for victims, it’s black women who speak for themselves, it’s black women who speak for all of us. They carry in their bodies the marks and stigmata of the multiple forms of oppression and for this very reason they are also and at the same time bearers of the requisites indispensable for the emancipation of all.”
Watch the full video
Black women in resistance and mobilizing for human rights
Act at Candelária
Also as part of the activities of the launching of the annual report “The State of Human Rights in the World 2016/217”, relatives of victims of violence gathered in front of the Candelária church in downtown Rio de Janeiro.
The symbolic place recalls the massacre that killed eight youths in the early hours of July 23, 1993, and this time brought together families of victims of police violence in Jamaica, USA, Bahia, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. They continued walking towards Cinelandia with slogans that drew attention to the high number of homicides committed by the police.
Brazil is the country that most kills in the world. There are more than 58,000 homicides per year, and more than half of the victims are young people between the ages of 15 and 29. Among young people, 77% are black.
Mulheres negras na resistência e mobilização por direitos humanos
Source: Anistia Internacional Brasil