Note from BW of Brazil: It is an issue that we can never talk too much about. Black youth in Brazil are dropping like flies, victims of a Brazilian homicide rate that is higher than a country at war. The numbers are simply shocking. If you haven’t followed this blog for very long, allow me to repeat the statistics. Every 23 minutes a young black Brazilian is murdered. 77% of young people murdered in Brazil are black. In the northeast of the country, where more Afro-Brazilians reside, black youth are five times more likely to be murdered than white youth. In the northeastern state of Pernambuco, homicide kills 40 times more black women. A black youth has a 3.7 times higher likelihood of being murdered than a white youth. And although the numbers tell the story statistically, they don’t put a personal face on the mothers and fathers who will never see their children again. For this reason, acts like this and voices of resistance must continue to be heard. The young black population of Brazil is in a state of emergency and no one seems to care!
Amnesty International calls for reduction of black deaths
The action brought together young people from each region of the country. Activists took coffins to Ministry of Justice to symbolize high death rate
By Thayna Schuquel and Juliana Moraes; photos by Andressa Anholete
Amnesty International and a group of young black activists handed over to the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday (6/12) the presidencies of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the Secretariat for Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality, a manifesto with more than 60 thousand signatures, in an action in Brasília. The protest calls for a national homicide reduction plan focused on protecting young blacks and affirmative policies for the promotion of rights among black youth.
In front of the Ministry of Justice, demonstrators took objects from a coffin, items such as balls, skateboards, notebooks and tennis shoes with references to the Jovem Negro Vivo (black youth alive) in Brazil campaign, and performed an act-performance in which they exposed public policies they would like to see implemented by the authorities, both in the area of public security and in health, education, housing and other rights violated daily in the life of black youth in the country.
Activists took objects from a coffin such as balls, skateboards, notebooks, headphones and sneakers that bring references to the Jovem Negro Vivo in Brazil initiative and performed an act-performance in which they exposed public policies that they would like to see implemented in practice by authorities of the country
The action presented five activists from five Brazilian regions in a performance with symbols of youth, representing at the same time the indignation at the very high homicide rates faced by the black population in Brazil and the youth force that fights, mobilizes and resists.
The executive director of Amnesty International, Jurema Werneck, was in the act of symbolic delivery of the manifesto Jovem Negro Vivo. “It is very important that young people like Antonella, Joel, Alejandro, Blenda and Bruno, coming from one of the regions of a continental country such as ours, can present their demands to the Brazilian State.”
According to Werneck, Brazilian authorities, the Ministry of Justice and public security forces need to take urgent measures to reduce homicide rates of black youth in the country and to combat structural racism in society and within public institutions. “Their lives cannot be at the mercy of individual political wills. A policy of reducing homicides and protecting the lives of black youth must be a state policy and it is urgent,” said the director of Amnesty International.
During the demonstration, the youths called for actions such as: an end to police violence and so-called “autos de resistência” (death after resisting arrest); better qualification of security officers to ensure more public safety; policies to address structural and institutional racism; and the implementation of human rights education in schools.
“It is necessary that the Public Prosecutor’s Office carry out preventive actions in favelas with high levels of violence. Moreover, it is urgent to deconstruct the criminalization of the periphery justified by the so-called ‘guerra às drogas’ (war on drugs) argument. There should be an establishment of criteria for police incursions to consider the daily lives of people and preserve the safety and life of the residents,” said Joel Luiz, criminal lawyer and resident of Jacarezinho in Rio.
The activists present in the act also pointed out recommendations for the preservation of the life of black women. “It is fundamental to expand and foster networks of protection for black women, so that there is a preparation of public agents to act properly in cases of violence and to take into account all bodies that consider themselves feminine, in order to justify public policies for the reduction of these homicides,” said Antonella Mondadori, a lawyer and militant of the Movimento Negro (black movement).
In an interview, Werneck explained why they chose to take a coffin to deliver to the Minister of Justice. “Inside [the coffin], there was a series of objects reminiscent of the power of black life. We took a skateboard, notebook, ball, musical instruments. Symbols that are part of the lives of young people,” she said. “Carrying this symbol was very painful, shocking and difficult. We are proud to send this message. More than 70% of the people killed are young black men and women. That’s why it hurts so much. These young people who were with us experiencing this every day. “
According to her, such actions are important to “show that these homicide rates cause the country to lose a lot of power” and that “it is necessary to promote immediate actions in order to ensure that these black men and black women participate in the production of solutions. We only ask the state to guarantee black lives.”
According to data from the Atlas da Violência (Atlas of Violence) study, the IPEA and the Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública (Brazilian Forum of Public Security), 59,000 people were killed in the country in 2015, most of whom were blacks from suburban neighborhoods.
Therefore, five black activists, from the five Brazilian regions, participated in the act last Thursday. Joel Luiz, criminal lawyer and resident of Jacarezinho (Rio de Janeiro), spoke about the importance of being one of the activists to participate in the ceremony.
“The differential of the Amnesty movement is that the young blacks are ahead and making the speeches. Being black, I am 25% more likely to die than my white friend. We are here pleading for our safety and there is no one speaking for us. We participate and we are just not represented,” he explained.
Joel’s comment is based on data from Unicef (United Nations Fund) which shows alarming figures: out of every thousand Brazilian adolescents, four will be murdered before reaching age 19, with three times more deaths of blacks than whites. If the scenario does not change, about 43,000 Brazilians between the ages of 12 and 18 will die between 2015 and 2021.
According to the activist, the discussion on racism and the death of blacks is an urgent matter. “We have a marginalized black population and we have to act. Even if the change takes time, we have to fight daily. These deaths have to be fought, it’s urgent.”
Joel pointed out that “although we are in 2017,” it’s still necessary to combat racism in his work environment. “It’s a daily fight. I work in an elitist area, I am the only black man in the room, taking the defendant. I fight every day against racism and I have to rub some people’s faces into the fact that this act was prejudiced.”
The Jovem Negro Vivo campaign was launched three years ago and the first phase was closed on Wednesday with the delivery of the manifesto signatures collected since the launch of the campaign in November 2014.
According to Jurema, Minister Torquato Jardim didn’t receive them in front of the ministry. “The collection of petition signatures was to be delivered to the Minister of Justice. We wanted to deliver in person, but we were not greeted. We deliver the signatures, we filed the document and it will get to him anyway.”
“We insisted that the issue had to be discussed directly with him, but what we did is basically a way of engaging people to convince the Brazilian state that action needs to be taken. We are sure that Brazil does not want to lose so many lives like this,” she added (see note one).
The five activists called for an end to police violence, more security for blacks, policies to combat structural and institutional racism, and the implementation of human rights education in elementary, middle and high schools. The youth also spoke about the preservation of black women’s lives, as homicide rates increase annually, while homicide rate among white women is declining.
- Unfortunately, I don’t share this view. Brazil has for centuries demonstrated its disdain for its black population. Not only was there an actual idea of promoting the disappearance of the black race through race mixing, the state also sent hundreds of thousands of Afro-Brazilians to death in the Paraguayan War, created a policy that banned immigrants from Africa and left recently freed slaves to their own resources with the abolition of slavery. The murder of black youth is simply another weapon in the arsenal. For me, it seems obvious that Brazil would like to eliminate blackness from its borders but it appears Werneck has yet to come to this same conclusion.