Francia Márquez Mina is a name to know and follow. She may be the first black woman in Colombia’s presidency. Her pre-candidacy, announced in July, has already broken many barriers: she is the first black woman to aspire to the position in the country.
A lawyer and environmental activist, Francia Marquez led an important movement to stop the exploitation of a mining company in her community, La Toma. It was in this context that he met Angela Davis, a black activist and American feminist. Since then, in 2010, Francia’s international recognition has deservedly grown.
Upon receiving the highest recognition for nature’s defenders, the Goldman Environmental Prize, in 2018, she gave a speech in honor of the ancestral knowledge of her community.
“In our community, we have learned that dignity is priceless. To love and value the territory as a space of life, and to fight for it, even putting our own lives at risk”, he said, in a broken voice, still unaccustomed to spotlight.
Now, in the process of collecting signatures for the candidacy for the 2022 presidential election, Francia raises her voice, which is the voice of many, in a country marked by violence against the black population and the murder of human rights defenders.
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According to the international group Global Witness, in 2019 alone, 64 environmental activists were murdered in Colombia, making the country the most dangerous place in the world for environmental defenders.
Her political movement in the candidacy bears the name “Soy Porque Somos”, from the ubuntu philosophy that refers to mutual recognition, also used by Marielle Franco and many other black women in their struggles: “I am because we are”.
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A reference for black women’s movements around the world, Angela Davis has supported Francia Márquez’s candidacy for the presidency of Colombia. “It gives me a lot of pride and enthusiasm, not only for Francia, but for the black Colombian people, for the indigenous people, for the poor, for black women in Colombia, Latin America and around the world,” she said, with a smile, at a conference virtual on the last day 7.
The occasion was an online meeting between Angela Davis and Francia Márquez, where they raised issues such as violence in racialized territories, the climate crisis and the issue of representation in spaces of power.
“Our fight is not just to specifically dismantle the institutionalization of violence in the state,” said Angela Davis, when criticizing the prison system that victimizes black populations around the world.
“More than that, our perspective is to recognize that we can’t just focus on prisons and police structures, but see a bigger picture, ask ourselves bigger questions. State violence?”, he asked.
In more than two months of national strike this year, Colombia has counted more than 40 murders in the repression of protests in Cali, a city with the second largest population of African descent in the country.
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In this regard, Francia recalled a protest in a prison in Colombia, in March of this year, in which the prisoners demanded better sanitary conditions in the context of the pandemic: the result was 23 dead and more than 83 wounded at the hands of the state.
“A few years ago, at another conference, a government official was very happy that they had built the largest prison in Latin America here in Colombia,” said Francia. “At the time, I was struggling to pay for my university. It seemed incredible to me that if I was celebrating the largest prison in the region, we had never heard anything similar about a university,” he said, then concluded: “The prison system in Colombia is a continuation of slavery.”
when the black woman gets up
Always taking up ancestral knowledge, the environmental agenda is not, for Franci, a separate theme, but part of the whole. “We are victims of necropolitics, and racialized territories are the ones that suffer the most from the environmental crisis. The rich are looking for other planets, but this is the one we have to take care of,” he pointed out.
Angela Davis highlighted that “hope is a discipline”, pointing to what Francia is doing in Colombia. “When black women stand up, the world stands up with them,” he said, noting, later, that it is not enough for a person to be black for this to mean advances for the population.
“Some people are very emotional about Kamala Harris in the US Vice President,” Davis said. “But we have to look at the policies and ask ourselves whether, for example, Barack Obama, during his time in office, most effectively represented poor, black, transgender people. We have to ask the same question about Kamala Harris. Change doesn’t happen simply because someone is part of an oppressed group,” he concluded.
In agreement, Francia added, regarding her candidacy: “For me, occupying a position in the State is not the purpose; the purpose is to dignify life, it is to live in more just and dignified places for all. Reaching the presidency of Colombia is a means of “he stated.
The powerful meeting was celebrated by the activists in joint militancy and as an example of international solidarity. With Angela in the United States and Francia in Colombia, both agreed that, in times of pandemic, it is increasingly evident that the answers to the most complex and profound questions about the problems of our societies, deepened with covid-19, emerge from the collective .
Edition: Vinícius Segalla