Marielle Franco: Black, Lesbian, Human Rights Activist and murdered at 38.

I’ve been avoiding this story for days.

I’ve been changing the channel, saving the articles and videos, but I’ve been avoiding hearing the pain in people’s voices.

This morning, as the snow fell I was finally ready to engage with the story.

Even as I write, tears still stream down my face because for the last few hours, I’ve read and watched the videos and my heart is broken.


Franco was shot 4 times in the head.
Franco was assassinated…more than likely by the police.
Franco is dead but she is still here.

She was 38. I am 38.

I can’t stop the tears from falling down my face.

Today’s word from Iyala Vanzant;’s Acts of Faith commanded that we cry purposefully, that we allow the tears to flow in order to allow release.

So as I write, I am allowing my tears to flow because I mourn this woman, a woman I hadn’t heard of prior to her assassination.

An assassination that happened as she left a Black Women Empowerment event.

In Shaun King’s piece for the Intercept, he gives much needed context to Franco’s fight:

In the United States, nearly 1,200 people were killed by police officers in 2017. These deaths often destroy families, and the cops responsible for even the most egregious cases are rarely held accountable. In most peer nations, like Canada, police are responsible for nearly 95 percent fewer deaths. American police officers kill more people in a few days than police in many nations kill in a year.

More than any other factor, it was the egregious crisis of police brutality in the U.S. that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.

But did you know that Brazil may actually lead the entire world in police brutality? Despite having 120 million fewer citizens than the U.S., Brazil had a staggering 4,224 people die at the hands of police in 2016. That number represents a 26 percent surge over the previous year.

Lately, every chance I get, I remind or inform people that Brazil has the largest number of African people outside of the continent almost 56 million. The United States has just above 42 million.

Additionally in the piece, The Assassination of a black human rights activist in Brazil has created a global icon on Quartz, they go on to explain how Brazil deals with their Black people, especially Black boys and men.

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Franco, was unapologetic in her quest to create a just and equitable world for Black people, poor people, marginalized people.


I’m sure she was afraid.
It would be impossible for her not to be.


I’m sure her loved ones, feared for her safety.
In a place where, the police are the real terrorists, how could they not fear for her?


I’m sure she knew her time would soon come to an end.
How could anyone who was dedicated to ending anti black racism not be prepared for their death…their murder.


She was unapologetic in her love as is stated in the Quartz piece;

“She oversaw the women’s commission at the council and, just last month, was chosen as the speaker for Rio de Janeiro’s commission overseeing police and security forces in the city’s favelas, or slums. Her party was planning to run her as a candidate for vice governor of the state in elections later this year.”

Shaun King reminded me that Franco was only one year younger than both Malcolm and Martin when they were assassinated.

Thirty Eight Years Old.

When one decided to be a freedom fighter, one must accept that their fight for freedom will end in death…murder…and that their murder will spark the next generation of fighters.

All Black Lives Matter both domestic and abroad

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And I wonder when, we in America, will begin to recognize that we must care about all African lives.

When will we teach from a Pan African perspective? Ensuring that our young people learn about Franco, right now, from us versus hoping one day, she’ll be apart of the curriculum.

So, I’m going to share something with you, that I’m sure my loved ones would advise me not too, for fear that I would jinx this opportunity. But I don’t believe in jinxes and as the Jamaican proverb goes, “whatever is for you can’t be un-for-you.”

Last week I was nominated for a racial equity fellowship. One of the many goals of this fellowship is to build 21st century leaders who are dedicated to ending anti black racism.

No, for real, that’s the actual goal, “to end anti-black racism.”

Amazing right?

When I found out about my preliminary nomination I was immediately humbled and grateful. Who knew, opportunities, like this existed?

I at 38, was being nominated for this opportunity at the same time Franco was being murdered for actually doing what I am hoping to do, end anti-black racism.

As I looked into the organization that was funding this fellowship I found that they have six programs with “a common purpose of advancing fairer, healthier, more inclusive societies. ” They offer fellowships in:

  • Racial Equity
  • Equity in Brain Health
  • Social and Economic Equity
  • Health Equity in South Africa
  • Health Equity in SouthEast Asia and
  • Social Equity

As I said, I am humbled by the nomination and I am speaking my acceptance into the program into existence and I am wondering how we bring this work to our classrooms?

How do we teach our young people the ways to end anti-black racism?

I mean, what are we teaching yall? The whole ENTIRE world is falling apart (again) in front of our eyes (especially with social media) and I want to know WHAT ARE WE TEACHING AND WHY ARE WE TEACHING IT?

Those of us on the North East have a snow day today. I’m hopeful that you have been able to enjoy this unexpected (and by the snow fall unnecessary day off) and I don’t want to f with your vibe.

But, I gotta ask you, what are we doing?


If you have been avoiding Franco’s story, I ask you to stop avoiding it.

If you’ve been reading about Franco’s story, I ask you to share it.

If you have been pondering on how you can introduce your students to Franco’s story, I offer you these suggestions…

Early Elementary:

Get a picture of Franco and for Women’s history month discuss her contributions to the world.

  • Locate Brazil on the map
  • Discuss the language they speak
  • Teach kids how to say hello, goodbye, etc
  • Locate/define what a Favela is
  • Define activist: “Someone who helps others”
  • Give a small bio with the picture of Franco (Born, activist, loved Black people, politician, died)
  • Discuss that she worked for the government
  • And loved Black people
  • Possible Summative Assignment: If they could be an activist and help Black people what would they do? They can make a little presentation with pictures and words to chart their activism.

Middle School:

Have students analyze the quote, “well behaved women seldom make history,” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • Have them take what I call 90 seconds of inquiry and have them just ask questions about the quote.
  • Then have them dissect parts of the quote, what does well behaved mean? what are the characteristics of a well behaved woman, what are the characteristics of a “badly” behaved women, what does it mean to make history?
  • Show pictures of diasporic icons both dead or alive (include Franco) if you’re gangsta get women from around the world; Malala, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Assata Shakur. Have the students research them and compare and contrast the characteristics.
  • Then introduce them to Franco, ask them to do a social media search #MarielleFrancoPresente using her name. Include Youtube and have them share and watch videos about her. Discuss that she was an activist and loved Black people.
  • Possible Summative Assignment: Create their own quote that honors the work/activism of women of color, redefine those characteristics initially listed. Have them present what work/activism they intend to do, that is in alignment with their quote. Ask them to envision themselves (and remind them that activists exists in all spaces, not just in human rights, you can be a tech activist, art activist, banking activist etc)

High School:

Have students investigate the reach of Black Lives Matter Movement outside of America engaging them in the ideology of Pan Africanism and what it means to be apart of the African Diaspora

  • Analyze the term “BlackLives Matter” Would it be different if it says “African Lives Matter.” Have them engage in any areas of tension around the term African.
  • Have them gather and tell the inception story of BLM including the stories of the 3 Black women founders, ensuring they identify their intersectionality.
  • Then have them travel to Brazil. Introduce them to the fact that there are more descendants of the Diaspora there than here.
  • Have them compare and contrast the lives of Blacks there to here.
  • Introduce them to Franco (much like the Middle School activity)
  • Have them investigate her life and death and create a timeline of her life, trajectory of her life. Discuss that she was an activist and loved Black people.
  • Ask them to find other countries where Black folks are suffering, fighting…
  • Examine her intersectionalities Black + Lesbian + Pan Africanist (my designation not hers)
  • Possible Summative Assignment: What would a Pan Africanist Movement for the lives of African people look like, what would it need? Have them create a plan for uniting the Pan African world. Is it possible? What steps are needed? The goal here is in the process not in the product.

Now, this is me shooting off the top of my head. I haven’t aligned to standards. I haven’t engaged in any STEM content. I haven’t aligned to State Exams…but I could…

Did you peep the thread though; she loved Black people!

The question is, would you? Will you? Not could or can? But would or will?

With these 6 days left for Women’s History Month and before we take our Spring Break would you acknowledge Franco’s life and impact on our Pan Africanist movement for equity?

Will you do your part to dismantle anti-black racism?

DISCLAIMER: Ok, so I’m not against you doing this work after Spring Break either because I don’t believe in rushed learning experiences. And my above suggestions literally came to me as I am writing this piece. I ain’t saying it’s my best work. It’s just a start.

Let’s talk about it on IG. Drop something in the comments. Less discuss. My ideas might be wack, what you got? Let’s build and share and do the work together.

In solidarity,



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