Don’t forget to #SayHerName

I can’t remember where I was when I first heard her name. I don’t even remember how I learned of her story. What I do know is that for the past year Breonna Taylor’s name has constantly crossed my mind.

Whether I’m in the middle of the grocery store or having a laugh with friends, pictures of her flash in my mind and force me to remember the life of a woman I’ve never met. I think about her the most when I climb into bed at night, wondering if I’ll meet the same fate.

We all know the story of Taylor’s unfortunate demise. Her story has been inescapable for the last year. We have marched in the streets yelling her name. We have signed petitions demanding justice for her unjust murder. We have shared pictures of the officers who killed her on social media over and over again.

We have done so many things to honor a life that was stolen but the justice system continues to fail black women. A year after Breonna Taylor’s life was taken, the officers responsible for her death have not been charged or arrested in relation to her death.

The thing that haunts me the most about Breonna Taylor’s story is not that she was resting in the comfort of her own home when her life was stolen. It’s not even that she isn’t the first and she won’t be the last. It is the fact that something like this will happen again and the general public may never hear about it.

photo credit: Fibonacci Blue Artwork for Breonna Taylor at the George Floyd Memorial via photopin (license)

In 2016, Kimberlé Crenshaw gave a TED talk where she talked about the exclusion of black women in the conversation of police brutality. From the stage, she asked the crowded audience to stand, then asked them to sit down when she said a name they did not recognize.

Eric Garner. Mike Brown. Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. After these names were uttered more than half of the audience remained standing. Crenshaw continues by saying Michelle Cusseaux’s name, more than half of the remaining people standing sit down. Tanisha Anderson, more people sit down.

By the time the final two names are called, Michelle Hockaday and Aura Rosser, only four people remain standing. In less than two minutes, Crenshaw was able to scratch the surface of the plight of Black women in America.

In a report published by The Washington Post, more than nearly 250 women have been killed by the police since 2015. Of those women, 48 were black and most of their stories never made it to the furor of Breonna Taylor’s story. To be honest, Taylor’s story might have suffered the same fate had it not been sandwiched in between the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

The #SayHerName movement is aimed at amplifying the stories of women whose stories fall in between the cracks of notoriety and justice. #SayHereName’s mission statement explains, “Knowing their names is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for lifting their stories which in turn provides a much clearer view of the wide-ranging circumstances that make Black women’s bodies disproportionately subject to police violence.”

A mural of Breonna Taylor stands on a wall in Oakland, California. Artists: The People’s Conservatory, Robin Gibson, Octavio Hernandez Echeverria, Nicole Gervacio, Ebony Morris,@g.theartist510, Luisa, Karma Smart, @x10maralima
Location: Downtown Oakland, California, corner of 15th and Broadway. Photo credit: Astrud Reed

Besides bringing awareness to the stories of the untold, the #SayHerName movement forces us to dig deep and attempt to get to the root of why Black women’s stories aren’t projected at the same volume as those of black men.

A graphic published on the #SayHerName web page depicts how often the deaths of Black women are overlooked. In May 2013, 93-year-old Pearlie Golden died after being shot multiple times in Hearne, Texas. Two months later, Eric Garner was killed after being choked to death by a New York police officer.

A month after Garner’s death, Michelle Cusseaux was shot dead in her Phoenix apartment while she was in the middle of a mental health breakdown. Of those three people, only Eric Garner would become a national story. As the graphic above displays, for every Black man killed by police from 2014 to 2020, at least two women have suffered the same fate months before or after.

Black women have been forgotten for way too long. During this Women’s History Month, I implore everyone reading this article to educate themselves on the many stories of Black women who have died at the hands of police. The stories of women like Atatiana Jefferson, Mya Hall, and Charleena Lyles deserve to be told.

When we share their stories, we not only bring awareness, but we open the door for justice to be served. Whatever you do this month, remember to #SayHerName.

Featured image caption: A photo of Breonna Taylor hangs on a tree in Tenleytown, Washington, D.C. Photo credit: Diane Krauthamer