Say Her Name
As we remember the memories of black men, it's equally important to honor black women lost such as Breonna Taylor.
Photo Credit: Family Photo
Tomorrow, June 6th would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday. I hate that I’m even writing about her in the past tense. Taylor was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was an EMT that resided in Louisville, Kentucky who was also on the frontlines of COVID-19. After midnight on March 13th, Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker were sleeping in their bedroom. According to Kentucky state law, they have something called a no-knock warrant which allows officers to enter homes without announcing so. This particular warrant was centered around a suspected drug dealer named Jamarcus Glover. He was already in custody and did not live with Taylor. It was on the belief that he was keeping drugs and money in her home.
Soon after, three plainclothes officers broke into her home. Walker had called 911 thinking there were intruders and traded gunshots with the cops. Kentucky does have the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law and Walker was a registered gun owner. There’s a loophole within that law in Kentucky that excludes police officers if they announce themselves as such. During this exchange, Breonna Taylor was shot eight times killing her, her boyfriend, and the officers were wounded. Neither Taylor or Walker had a prior criminal record. There were no drugs found in the home or body cameras worn.
As per Walker and neighbors, they did not hear a knock or an announcement. Kentucky’s lead prosecutor stated that the officers said they did announce themselves. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and first-degree assault, but later, the charges were dropped.
It has been 83 days since her death. No arrests or convictions have occurred. A botched raid led to the end of a promising life too soon.
The attention in regards to police brutality has been rightfully on Black men like George Floyd and Amaud Arbery - probably because we have seen the images and video. It is equally imperative that we focus on Black women as well. Just because their deaths aren’t shown on social media, does not mean they do not occur. Much of the movements and momentum that you see in getting civil rights legislation and resolutions passed are due to the efforts of Black women. Women like Angela Davis, Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, Erica Gartner, and Claudette Colvin just to name a few. Their efforts are often underappreciated and their plights are underreported.
Black women are more likely to be susceptible to police brutality within all ranges of women. Many of us should be familiar with the story of Sandra Bland. What are some of the stories that may have flown under the radar? Joyce Curnell died of dehydration while in police custody. Bettie Jones was killed within her own home during a domestic disturbance call. Michelle Shirley, who was suffering from bipolar disorder died shortly after cops opened fired into her car after an episode. There is the case of Miriam Kelly who did a u-turn at a checkpoint and was shortly killed after with her daughter in the car. Rekia Boyd was shot in the head after an officer opened fire in a car where the officer mistook a cellphone for a gun. The issue of and fight against police brutality and excessive force is not simply just a Black man issue.
Not only do we need to turn the focus to Black women, but all parts of the Black community. The black LGBTQ community needs to be included in these discussions as well. Remember Martha P. Johnson who was a key figure in the Stonewall uprising in 1969. There’s a saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” If you are truly for black lives, you include everyone. That’s everyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, queer, trans, and more. While the stories of Nina Pop and Iyanna Dior are not police-involves, issues regarding homophobia and gender violence also need our attention. Out of the 26 transgender-related deaths, 91% involved black women. Every single black life is valuable.
So, within this Friday, give Breonna Taylor’s spirit the best birthday gift she could ask for as we continue to fight for her memory. Keep saying her name until she receives the proper justice she deserves. Say it even afterward to keep her memory alive. Not only as a victim of police brutality, but most importantly, an intelligent and strong black woman. Say the names of Sandra Bland, Kayla Moore, India Kager, Korryn Gaines, Pearlie Smith, and Aiyana Stanley-Jones and many others. Where there may be a blindspot in the news, let’s keep using our voices to keep present the struggles and sacrifices of Black women.
Follow me on Twitter @murjanirawls
Iyanna Dior - $NajaBabiie (Cashapp)