when will we learn to #sayhername?




Five years ago this fall, I sat in an auditorium where Kimberlé Crenshaw addressed my undergraduate community. I spent weeks buzzing with excitement about this day. It was Crenshaw's work on intersectionality that gave me the language to frame structural oppression in a way that I couldn't before. Crenshaw was electrifying. The kind of speaker who drives right in because there's work to be done and not enough time.


At one point in the evening, she did an exercise. She has traveled the world doing this exercise, and if you travel as far as the YouTube app on your phone, you can watch a video of her conducting this exercise. Asking all who were able to stand, Crenshaw projected names and images of Black women and girls we have lost over the years.


Sandra Bland. Rekia Boyd. Ayanna Jones. Renisha McBride. Natasha McKenna. Tanisha Anderson. Aura Rosser. With each name uttered, waves of the audience sat down, unable to recount the story of these women's deaths. It didn't take many names before all participants were sitting back down. Compared to the outrage of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, at best, the deaths of these Black women and girls resulted in a steady whisper. At worst, their deaths went unnoticed. I still remember the barely attended rally for Rekia Boyd in 2015. That same year, Crenshaw and the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) launched the #SayHerName campaign to bring light to the stories of these women and girls.


5 years later, the pattern hasn't changed much.


It is harrowing to constantly have to remind my community that Black women and girls deserve adequate attention in the framing of police violence and murder. Even bringing up the gender imbalance in how we collectively grieve and mourn our people sends a tinge of guilt from the lump in my throat to my fingertips. I mean no harm. This is not ill-intentioned in any way. However, the last few weeks feel like an eerie reminder of the attention span or lack thereof when it comes to Black women.


Right now, the deaths of Ahmaud Arberry and George Floyd are (rightfully so) igniting a demand for dignity and justice. The names of Breonna Taylor and Nina Pop, whose deaths have happened in recent months, have fallen from our tongues like a whisper blowing out a candle.


On this day, June 5, Breonna Taylor would have turned 27 years old. Though we celebrate her, we also mourn her. On March 13, 2020, three plain-clothes officers of the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (LMPD) entered her home in the middle of the night under a no-knock warrant, meaning they did not identify themselves. As Breonna's boyfriend attempted to protect themselves unknown intruders, LMPD Injured him and shot Breonna eight times. You wanna know what's even more fucked up? These officers were searching for two people who were *already* in police custody. As of this week, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Brett Hankison, Detective Myles Cosgrove, another police officer, and an LMPD lieutenant who were on the scene when the warrant was executed have not been arrested.


What will it take for us to #SayHerName and to say it loudly? Without condition?


The deaths of Muhlaysia Booker, Chynal Lindsey, and Atatiana Jefferson have all clouded me as a recent relocator to Dallas, Texas. In particular, the murders of Muhlaysia and Chynal, two Black trans women, along with Nina Pop highlight, even more, the selectivity of Black concern. If you are able to distinguish between Muhlaysia's death and Ahmaud's and therefore dismiss hers, then your outcry over our slain Black people falls short. Every name in this post had people who grieved them and deserved justice and accountability for their deaths.


White supremacy, police brutality, gender-based violence, and transphobia are all taking Black lives from this world. I refuse to stay silent in the strikingly different ways we cry for change. I see all of you who fail to honor and fight for Black women in their executions.


If at the end of the day Black women are all I got then I got more than the world will ever have to offer me. To all of the Black women reading this right now, I love you.

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