Amnesty Int’l campaign hopes to raise awareness about killings of black youth

World Today

Brazilians marked Black Awareness Day Thursday which is meant to serve as a tribute to all Brazilians of African descent. But there’s not much to celebrate when homicides have soared among Brazil’s black population, especially the youth. Lucrecia Franco reported this story from Rio de Janeiro.

Amnesty Int'l campaign hopes to raise awareness about killings of black youth

Brazilians marked Black Awareness Day Thursday which is meant to serve as a tribute to all Brazilians of African descent. But there’s not much to celebrate when homicides have soared among Brazil’s black population, especially the youth. Lucrecia Franco reported this story from Rio de Janeiro.

Ana Paula Gomes de Oliveira, a teacher and mother of two, lived all her life in the favela of Manguinhos, a slum in Rio de Janeiro. Six months ago, police shot her 19-year-old son, Johnatha in the back.

“I lost Johnatha. My family lost Johnatha and a part of me. My daughter is 9 years old and now has to live with just a part of her mother,” she said.

She said her son was killed in broad daylight during a possible drug raid…and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. She swore he had never been involved in criminal activity.

“It can’t go unpunished, because if it does this will continue. The killings will go on, they will continue coming to the favela and taking lives and destroying families,” de Oliveira said.

Johnatha was not the only victim of this kind of violence. According to a recent study, 82 youth are killed every day in Brazil, of which 77 percent are black.

On the eve of the Black Awareness Day, Amnesty International released a report showing that violence claims the lives of 56,000 people a year in Brazil. Thirty thousand victims are between 15-29 years old, and four out of five are black.

To raise awareness, Amnesty International started a campaign called Jovem Negro Vivo, or Black Youth Alive. According to the campaign coordinator Alexandre Ciconello, this is as a wake-up call to what he calls an “indifference epidemic” where the killing of black youths in Brazil are considered almost natural.

“There is this belief in the Brazilian society or a part of it that says that good thieves are dead thieves and make this association that a black youth is a thief. So this racism helps to trivialize this terrible violence against the black youth,” said Ciconello.

Last year, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff approved a law called the “Youth Statute of Rights”, which is a bill that grants non-discrimination and equal rights to youth among other measures. “By sanctioning the Youth Statute, we are taking a step to build a history of the Brazilian youth based on rights,” said Rousseff.

The bill was considered a milestone after nearly ten years of debates in congress. Now de Oliveira wants to claim those rights.

“Justice for the injustice that was done against my son. That is the least I can ask,” she said.