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Peace Without Voice Isn’t Peace. It’s Fear.

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For the original article by Edilano Cavalcante in Portuguese published by Fala Manguinhos! click here.

Today the Manguinhos favela woke up to silence. The usual noises of car horns, laughter, and children playing have all been replaced by the sound of fear. Everything seems normal, as if inside a bubble. The beating of our hearts hides the screams of terror.

It’s very interesting to hear the murmuring of conversations while walking through the empty streets. You overhear people say “thank God the shooting has stopped” or “hopefully it will stay like this.” What do you mean, “like this?” Fearing for our lives but safe in the knowledge that at least we won’t be killed by the BOPE (Special Operations Battalion)?

For how long will we be suffocated as if we were traitors to our country, even though we are the workers who carry Brazil on our shoulders? For how long will we receive our fellow citizens’ hatred, simply for not having plentiful bank accounts or lighter skin?

Don’t be fooled, my friends, this hatred won’t stop any time soon. Feelings of fraternity and solidarity don’t trickle down from the top of the pyramid to the bottom. This is an old battle, with a lot of deaths and some victories along the way. It’s up to us to keep on fighting for space, for our voices to be heard and our rights to be respected within this racist and patriarchal society, ruled and engorged by financial capital.

With so much going on recently, it becomes hard to pinpoint where the roots of the problem are buried. But the act of self-questioning, being curious about ourselves and learning who we are and why we do what we do—all this is just as important as eating, drinking, breathing, having sex. Questioning ourselves and our circumstances frees us from numerous chains, one of those chains being fear.

Don’t breathe just because you need to breathe—feel the sensation of the air coming in through your nose and spreading to your lungs. Do the same exercise with your fears—put them in front of the mirror and ask why they still sit within you. And most importantly, work out how to make those fears go away.

Violence imprisons our souls behind iron bars made of fear. While we’re behind those bars we can’t see where to find the keys of freedom. It’s no use wishing to have the money to buy yourself a bigger and more comfortable prison: we’ll only be able to open the doors when we look at the problem of violence as a whole and understand that we are part of a street, a neighborhood, a city, and a country. If one part is feeling FEAR, somehow you’ll be feeling that fear too.

Edilano Cavalcante is coordinator of and journalist for Fala Manguinhos!, a community newspaper that also contributes to RioOnWatch.