This week saw the unfortunate passing of two fearless, progressive & adroit leaders for freedom & human rights, namely, Nora Schimming-Chase of Namibia & Marielle Franco of Brazil. Both remarkable women, oceans apart, yet linked by an invisible bond of shared moral & political values. They both saw the corruption & unfairness of their respective societies & endeavored to methodically resist in their own unique way.
Nora Schimming-Chase was one of the most spirited & engaging personalities I’ve ever met. Renowned as a freedom fighter & world-class diplomat, she threw the accolades, admiration & honors to the side& spoke warmly to everyone who wanted to talk to her, from the who’s who in society to the poor, dusty farmer. It didn’t matter. She knew her calling & fought to the end to be loyal to all of her people, honor their inborn dignity & represent them the best way she could . Her journey was an interesting & varied one. She sprang from a generation of political strategists and visionaries ( to include her own father,Otto Schimming, Namibia’s first black teacher & early independence activist). She matriculated at Columbia University & University of Cape Town & shortly thereafter she became a teacher like her father, but her calling was much deeper. She entered the political realm as a representative for the South West African National Union (SWANU) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania which led her to being a key member of the ruling SWAPO party then later breaking away because of ideological differences to help form & lead the Congress of Democrats (CoD). She went on to serve Namibia in various ambassadorial roles. Her impressive intellect & oratory skills earned her the admiration both at home & abroad, yet throughout it all, Nora’s iconoclastic fire to make life better for the marginalized, especially women, burned & if you were the unfortunate person who tried to douse that fire….well….how’s the burn healing? Thanks to the formidable spirit of Nora Schimming-Chase & others, Namibia has achieved low levels of discrimination against women in its social institutions. The fight is not over as there is much more work to be done, but rest assured, the baton has already been passed to the current generation of movers & shakers to include her own children, leaders in their own chosen fields. Thank you for your light, Nora – rest in Power!
Marielle Franco was a Brazilian politician and human rights activist. When I read about the circumstances surrounding her death, I was deeply saddened. From her humble beginnings in the slums of Brazil, she was inspired to lead after the death of her close friend from a stray bullet. She jumped into the human rights struggle then later matriculated at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro where she graduated with a degree in social sciences. She went on to earn a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Fluminense Federal University. Marielle’s political future was bright given the fact that Brazilians are very cynical about its established leaders and parties after a series of huge corruption scandals.She was believed to be contemplating running for election to Brazil’s Congress. As a progressive leader on the rise, she championed feminist, LGBTQ and anti-racist causes and movements against inequality. Her brutal death was predicted by close observers who feared that her criticism of Rio de Janeiro’s military police & their almost daily gunning down of poor & black citizens was going to put her in danger. Rest in Power, Marielle. Your torch has been passed & this injustice will not go unchallenged!