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Could an economic crisis and a new government undo the progress made by Brazil’s black activists?

ON A WINDY October evening in Rio de Janeiro, newly elected city council member Marielle Franco stood in the middle of a packed rally with tears running down her face. As the election results came in, dozens of supporters danced around her, many of them wearing campaign stickers featuring a silhouette of Franco’s Afro. With her victory, the 37-year-old single mother had become one of the few black women in Rio’s history to hold a city council seat.

Franco and the 31 other black women who won city council seats in other Brazilian state capitals in October are part of a generation of young black Brazilians who have become increasingly vocal inside and outside statehouses. But these gains are now under threat, as a new government seems poised to undermine the social policies that have elevated so many black Brazilians, creating a new sense of urgency for the country’s black activists. “If we don’t stand together and mobilize now,” says Franco, “we will never be in the position to make decisions or create change.”

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