The genocide of black youth and the grief of mothers

Worsening State violence marks International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


In Bahia, the month of March began with the killing of three young black men in the fishing community of Gamboa de Baixo (Salvador) in a tragic event caused by the Military Police.  In the early hours of 1 March, the young men, Patrick Souza Sapucaia (16 years old), Alexandre Santos dos Reis (20 years old) and Cleverson Guimarães (22 years old), were summarily executed.

Residents who witnessed the massacre confirmed that these young people neither resisted arrest, nor exchanged fire with the police. In a public statement (in Portuguese) the Coalition of Movements and Communities in Salvador’s Historic Centre (Articulação dos Movimentos e Comunidades do Centro Antigo de Salvador) reported that the police didn’t even have a search warrant and that following the executions the bodies were removed and the scene was tampered with.  This was an partisan trial, whose consequences were arbitrary executions.

“Every day, our work is to show the community and people in general that manifestations of racism are connected, systematic and affect black people’s right to life.  The greater incidence of the violent deaths of young black people is not normal,” explained Ana Caminha, President of the Residents Association of Gamboa de Baixo and member of the Historic Centre Coalition.

21 March is International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Since 1966, the date has shone a light on the struggles of black people around the world, in memory of the tragic events in Sharpeville, South Africa, when 69 people were killed and a further 186 were injured at a protest against Apartheid Laws.  The UN proclaimed 21 March a day to remember antiracist struggles and the need for action to eliminate racism.

State Violence – at the end of 2021, the Network of Public Security Observatories published the study “Target Skin: The colour of police violence” (in Portuguese) containing the alarming information that 98% of the deaths caused by the Military Police in Bahia are of black people (in Portuguese). In 2020, the number of police killings rose by 21.08% compared to 2019: of the 787 deaths arising from police operations, 606 were identified by race.

The severity of this moment in time demands greater efforts from the black movements in Brazil. Activist Mônica Oliveira, from the Black Women’s Network of Pernambuco, noted that this is also a moment for political advocacy to avoid the widespread installation of facial recognition cameras, another powerful mechanism to operationalize racism.  Another study from the Network of Public Security Observatories, conducted in 2019, noted that 90.5% of arrests through facial monitoring in Brazil are of black people (in Portuguese).

Mônica reminded us that, while young black men are more frequently victimised by lethal police violence or the drug trafficking wars, black women are the victims of the same racism but in different ways.  “In the last 14 years, there’s been a 600% increase in the number of women arrested, 68% of whom are black women.  Whether through their own bodies or those of their families – their sons, their fathers, their brothers, their companions are killed or imprisoned – black women are criminalized, not only for their actions, but also for their relationships,” she noted.

For Ana Caminha, 21 March is a day of victory, because on this day we focus attention on the growth in violence against black populations. “It’s a day for flying our flags. And our flags are for dignity for Gamboa, dignity for the black populations in Brazil. Our flags are for decent housing, for land regulation for a fishing community. They say ‘enough to the killing of our black communities’. It’s not normal for so many to die so violently.”

Mônica declared that this is an important day because of the international dimension of confronting racism. “On this day, we make it clear that there’s no going back.  We will not give up on our victories.  We will not give up on quotas.  We will not stop occupying political arenas, even when they threaten black women who occupy political seats.  Violence concerns us, but we will not retreat,” she confirmed.

CESE’s Commitment – As an ecumenical organization that works for the promotion, defence and guarantee of rights, CESE identifies and recognizes the existence of individual, institutional and structural racism in the historic construction of the Brazilian State and society, and that this racism generates injustices against the black population.  Throughout its almost 50-year trajectory, it has always supported the movements, organizations and grassroots groups of the black population, making its contribution to strengthening the country’s antiracist struggle.  And understanding that it is fundamental to its praxis, CESE reaffirms its Institutional Racial Equity Policy.

CESE is looking to mainstream discussions about confronting racism and to contribute to the debate on this issue in several arenas and struggles.  Recently, this work has focused on territories in the Brazilian Cerrado, through a series of workshops, training sessions and seminars dedicated to strengthening resistance and confronting racial and gender violence.