Arising from a 16-year hiatus, the African American Women and the Law Conference: Black Women Still Rising: Ending Structural Racism, Patriarchy and Violence, co-sponsored by the Transformative Justice Coalition, The Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School and the African American Policy Forum, brought together Black women leaders to draft and pursue a legal and public policy agenda that centers the experiences of Black women and girls and strives to dismantle, in an intersectional manner, the systems that marginalize Women of Color. Over the course of two days and 16 panels ranging from “The Hush Among Us: The Target on the Back of Our LGBTQIA Community” to “If Black Girls Matter We Must Rethink ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ And Other Education Policies” and “#Say Her Name: Why We Must Address the Police Killings of Black Women,” the AAWLC attendees worked through some of the most difficult issues facing Women of Color with a focus on drafting hard policy points to advocate for the rights of Black women and girls. Each panel was tasked with producing a list of recommendations to present and be voted on at the closing plenary in gallery walk style. It was these policy points that would be written on the long sheets of paper and stuck up on the walls for all to see.
On Thursday, with the conference over, but its momentum still strong, the family members and the AAPF staff took their message to Capitol Hill. Guided by the experienced hand of Dara Baldwin of the National Disability Rights Network, the three women met with five Congressional offices and one prominent Senator’s office within just one afternoon. Although our time on the Hill was short, it was a major step forward for the family members as well as AAPF. These conversations, only just the beginning of a longer relationship, bit deeply into issues of violence against Black women and police accountability with both sides taking copious amounts of notes. Moving the forward, the AAPF staff is excited to spread the stories of these women across the Capitol and push for legislation that will lift up their narratives and, hopefully soon, protect Women of Color from state violence.
THE TRANSFORMATIVE JUSTICE COALITION, THE AFRICAN AMERICAN POLICY FORUM, AND THE CENTER FOR INTERSECTIONALITY AND SOCIAL POLICY STUDIES PRESENT:
BLACK WOMEN STILL RISING: ENDING STRUCTURAL RACISM, PATRIARCHY, AND VIOLENCE
THE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN AND THE LAW CONFERENCE
When: Tuesday, September 13, 5:30pm-9:00pm and Wednesday, September 14, 8:30am-8:00pm
Where: National Education Association, 1201 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
Washington, DC – The Transformative Justice Coalition, the African American Policy Forum, and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies will host “The African American Women and the Law Conference” to examine the role of the law and public policy as it impacts the lives, barriers, and opportunities for Black women’s advancement. The purpose of this historic conference is to develop a Black Women’s Legal and Public Policy Agenda to guide our advocacy efforts for the next several years.
The conference will be held on Tuesday, September 13th through Wednesday, September 14th at the National Education Association. Convened by Barbara Arnwine, President and Founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, host of Radio One’s international radio show, “Igniting Change with Barbara Arnwine,” and Adjunct Professor at North Carolina Central University and Kimberle Crenshaw, Co-Founder and Director of the African American Policy Forum, and Professor of Law at Columbia University and UCLA Law Schools, this conference will feature esteemed legal scholars and advocates including, amongst others, Barbara Smith, Co-Founder of the Combahee Collective, Adrienne Wing, Associate Dean for International and Comparative Law Programs and Bessie Dutton Murray Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, and Farah Tanis, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Black Women’s Blueprint. This conference aims to highlight the efforts of Black women attorneys, advocates, activists, and change agents and also elevate the narratives of Black women and girls impacted by various educational, judicial, and other social systems. Ultimately, this conference aims to spark and sustain the systematic transformation of Black women and girls’ lives.
Black women and girls occupy a precarious, and often paradoxical, position in the US. Although data suggests Black women pursue post-secondary education at higher rates than either Black men or white women, they are incarcerated at staggeringly high rates. Similarly, Black women account for the fastest growing segment of small business ownership, yet the median wealth of black women is just $100. This contradictory nature of Black women and girls’ experience highlights their unique positioning as targets of varying forms and types of systemic oppression, i.e. racism, sexism, etc., and also their collective efforts to challenge said systems. Thus, the stance of the Transformative Justice Coalition, and co-conveners of the AAWLC, is the necessary adoption of intersectional frameworks that speak to the varying and intersecting systems of exploitation.
The African American Women and the Law Conference will close out with an evening reception entitled, #SayHerName: An Evening of Arts and Activism. This event will both showcase a variety of art forms, from dance to song, as well as provide vigil for women who have been killed by the police and their families. Fran Garrett, mother of Michelle Cusseaux, Gina Best, mother of India Kager, and Misha Charlton, sister of Meagan Hockaday’s sister, will be in attendance. #SayHerName will provide a space for Black women attorneys and their allies to celebrate the progress made concerning Black women and girls and will also serve as a call to action for furthering an intersectional social justice agenda.
Today AAPF mourns the tragic loss of George Curry. He was a journalistic giant, a gifted and pathbreaking leader in the Black press who championed the civil rights movement and the cause of Black liberation throughout his remarkable career - a career that spanned newspapers, TV and the creation of the invaluable Emerge magazine, which he was reviving online at the time of his death.
Whether it was the Supreme Court, the White House or traditional civil rights organizations, Curry was not reluctant to ruffle feathers of friends and foes alike on matters of social justice. His provocative covers during his tenure at Emerge magazine were visual representations of a critical mind that sought to inform and engage on issues impacting Black America. Says Reverend Jesse Jackson: "He called it like he saw it every time."
Named by the National Association of Black Journalists as one of the most influential Black journalists of the 20th Century, Curry was among the first to identify the crisis that became mass incarceration, among the first to confront how the legacy of Thurgood Marshall had been reversed by the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, and among the first to recognize how neither conventional civil rights organizations nor Democratic Presidents always serve the best interests of Black America. He represented the finest of the Black journalistic tradition, in both his reporting and in his generous mentorship of young writers and activists. What’s more, he was ready to challenge gender and age biases that shaped Black political discourses, constantly providing information that broadened the way we think about community and political interests. At the end of the day, he was unafraid to take on anyone.
We at AAPF had the great pleasure and honor of working with Curry for nearly twenty years on matters ranging from Affirmative Action to My Brothers Keeper. He was an expert adviser whose guidance we greatly appreciated. More than once he helped us to navigate the tricky waters of elite politics in the DC beltway and beyond. The impact of our campaigns over the years owes much to the sage wisdom and knowledge he gave us as our chief source for media training among our allies. Moreover, he was a member of national and international delegations we jointly participated in to support exchanges with journalists, scholars and activists engaged in racial justice work. We were looking forward to the renewal of Emerge under his extraordinary leadership; and his death represents the lost of a national treasure.
We encourage those who would like to join us in honoring George's legacy to donate to EmergeNewsOnline's GoFundMe page, which George launched prior to his death.
The funeral will take place Saturday at Weeping Mary Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A public viewing will be held from noon to 7pm Friday.
By: TruLe'sia Zhane'
Over 1, 392 miles. Two time zones. Five modes of transportation—car, plane, bus, taxi, and train (then another taxi cab). Twenty-four hours with my eyes opened wide in anticipation. I made it here. If I said that I was excited for this experience, that would be making an understatement.
In May, at the conclusion of my undergraduate career, I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to commit to next or where I wanted to be. Due to all the stress that attached itself to me at the end of this critical chapter, I connected with one of my sisters in the movement. Asking her about self care and how she did it because I needed some! She connected me with the AAPF along with some other resources and opportunities to prepare for this next adventure in life.
I researched different avenues. I read blogs of successful women of color who had triumphed the uncertainty. And I even, I applied for internships. What I found was that there were many places I could go, but those successful women said “no matter where you venture follow your heart & passion!” I found the perfect internship! Then, I remembered a dope article where the woman of God said in order to validate her plan she gave it to God—so I prayed. God, if this thing is meant for me and will put me in the right direction for my life— will You pppppppppuuullllllleeeeeeeaaaaasssssse do miracles, signs, and wonders. But ok... If it’s not what you have for me, I will go home and get prepared for what is next. Amen.
God’s plan was preparation. Day 1 of this divinely prepared summer camp took me to a place of readiness in myself that I never felt before. Like a gardener going out to her field to just put her hand in the soil before doing anything. The morning dance & meditation was the first time in a few years that I had danced consciously or even with a group of folks not feeling ashamed. I had the unction to put my whole self on the front row because there I could be in a space where I wouldn’t have to judge my movement against anyone else’s. I felt free in my own being that I hadn’t recognized in a long time.
As the day continued, the activities and conversations brought the traumas, hurts, pains, and anxieties of my life into the part of my throat where I could feel it getting ready to expel. Sharing stories, clasped hands, deep hugs, and truth have captured me in this moment. It hit me after such an amazing day, that this camp—Breaking the Silence—was designed for us, chosen women, for this appointed time to collectively begin healing. This space was prepared for me to chose life. It hit me that this was His plan of miracles, signs, and wonders. A miracle that I got here in one piece with breath inside my chest. A sign that I will be ok. Wonders that I get to be among my sisters for this moment in life.
In July 2015, we held our first ever “Breaking Silence: An Arts, Action and Healing Summer Camp” at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie NY. The program brought together over 40 women and girls of color from across the country, ranging in age from 16 to 65. Participants had the opportunity to share their stories and celebrate their achievements in a unique space that centered the livelihood of women and girls of color.
We're now less than 2 weeks from kicking off Year 2 of Summer Camp, taking place again at Vassar from July 20-25, and we could not be more excited to announce that for the first time ever, we are opening up a limited number of Summer Camp spots to the general public. An anonymous donor has offered to support up to three new attendees from across the country, and you're invited to apply!
If you're a woman of color age 16 or older and you are interested in applying for one of these three scholarships, please fill out this form by Monday, July 11th at 6pm EST.
To learn more about our Summer Camp and hear about what it meant to the women and girls who were able to attend, check out last year's video below, and stay tuned for information on how to attend or view our public performance on Sunday, July 24th:
One Year After Charleston & One Week After Orlando, AAPF Condemns Hate Based Terror in America
Today as we mourn the loss of 49 lives in the Orlando massacre, we remember as well the 9 Black parishioners who were killed a year ago this day in Charleston, South Carolina. On June 17 2015, Dylan Roof, a young white man, entered a space meant for healing and prayer with the intent to kill. One year later, this visceral hatred and disregard for safe spaces for marginalized groups still prevails. The recent shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando during Latinx night, where nearly all the victims were queer people of color, is a perfect example of the continuing threat of homegrown terrorism.
In the case of Dylan Roof, his justification left no doubt about his views that Black people were a threat to whiteness - especially to white women, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Playing on stereotypes which date back to the 19th Century, these words constituted Roof’s response to a plea from one of the victims to spare their lives. As both massacres exemplify, racial violence is a threat to both men as well as women of color.
We cannot ignore the fact that anti-Black rhetoric, homophobia, sexism and all forms of oppression are sentiments that are historically and institutionally embedded in the United States. It is imperative to understand that while such violence becomes increasingly visceral, the countless individuals and communities who have suffered from such violence have faced further marginalization and silence.
We refuse to forget the tragedy that unfolded in Mother Emanual last year, and we remain committed to fighting for visibility and justice for the Charleston 9 as well as the countless others whose lives were stolen by racialized violence. These massacres serve as solemn reminders that the US is not safe for people of color - not even presumptive safe havens such as Emanuel Church and Latinx night at Pulse.
The victims of the Charleston and Orlando shootings must be centered in our nation's discourse around domestic terror. As feminists, we reaffirm our commitment to the intersectional struggles against racism, patriarchy and homophobia. When we talk about this violence, we must recognize the ways in which queer people and people of color have been the targets of these attacks in spaces meant for healing, connection and affirmation. We cannot let the media deflect or distort the fact that domestic terrorism a profound threat to American lives. Continuing to stay silent about this reality is no longer acceptable.
In recent years, single-sex education has been promoted as a critical intervention to target achievement disparities and related challenges facing boys of color. While the prevalence of single-sex education has steadily declined throughout the nation as a whole, single-sex classrooms have re-emerged as an attractive option within initiatives such as My Brothers Keeper and other male empowerment programs. Gender-separated interventions have been premised on the assumption that boys and girls of color face distinct disparities, and that these unique challenges are best approached by distinctly gendered approaches to education.
This convening will bring together researchers, practitioners, advocates and philanthropic partners to explore the rise of gender-separate approaches to public education reform. Among the central questions to be considered are: What conceptions of racial justice and gender difference underwrite the move to gender-separate solutions to low-achievement? Are there gender disparities in private and public resources being made available to address the needs of boys of color and girls of color? If so, how can this problem be addressed? What legal issues are raised by the proliferation of single-sex classes and schools, and how can we ensure that Title IX and constitutional protections are enforced? What role should philanthropy and community engagement play in elevating the values of race and gender equity in contemporary school reform?
PANELISTS & CHAIRS:
AAPF and Partners Celebrate 2nd Annual Week Dedicated to the Status of Black Women
New York, NY - March 21, 2016 - In honor of Women's History Month and the second year of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent, the African American Policy Forum, the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School, the Transformative Justice Coalition, National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, Black Women’s Blueprint, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the American Association of University Women, YWCA, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, and other leading gender and racial justice organizations will sponsor “#HerDreamDeferred: A Week on the Status of Black Women,” from March 28-April 1, 2016.
In conjunction with the week’s events, Senator Gillibrand entered into the Congressional Record that for the second year in a row, the last week in March is officially “Black Women’s History Week.” Recognizing years of advocacy by AAPF, Black women leaders in Congress also recently announced the creation of the Caucus on Black Women and Girls. We are grateful that this year’s event series occurs at a political moment when politicians and stakeholders across the country are paying unprecedented attention to the experiences of Black women and girls.
Throughout American history, Black women have mobilized against societal inequality, working to advance racial justice on behalf of themselves, their children, families and communities. Despite the central role they have played in movements for civil rights, the challenges Black women face at the intersections of race and gender have consistently been relegated to the margins of dominant racial and gender justice discourses. To highlight this problem and build frameworks for inclusive and comprehensive social justice reform, AAPF and CISPS will hold its second annual weeklong series of activities with each day dedicated to a specific challenge Black women and girls face in America today.
“This is a critical moment to uplift the realities of Black women and girls, and to push back against the common misconception that they are doing 'just fine,'” explained Kimberlé Crenshaw, Executive Director of AAPF and CISPS. "We are at a political juncture where an increased level of concern is finally being extended toward women and girls of color. It is urgent that we use this moment to ensure that the resources being directed toward this population are sustainable and targeted to uproot the systemic barriers to equality facing Black women and girls."
#HerDreamDeferred is dedicated to elevating issues confronting Black women and girls that are often cast into the shadows of public concern. Each day from March 28-April 1, we will host an online event to highlight a specific set of challenge facing Black women and other women of color. The series will be led by a series of prominent racial and gender justice leaders, including Jamilah Lemieux, Kiese Laymon, Heidi Hartmann, Barbara Arnwine, Anu Bhagwati, and many more. Topics that will be covered include: #BlackGirlsMatter: Countering Criminalization In and Outside of School; #StandingUpForMom: Resisting the War on Black Single Mothers; Race and Gender Below the Mason-Dixon: The Status of Women of Color in the South; The Unspeakable Truth: The Reality of Sexual Assault at HBCUs; and Neglected at Home After Serving Abroad: The Story of Black Women Veterans.
Our goal is to elevate these challenges so that stakeholders across the country can better understand and address the unique challenges facing Black women and girls. Information is key to broaden the public will to develop an inclusive social justice agenda that leaves no one behind.
“In a moment where we are transitioning from one historic presidency to potentially another one, there is a profound possibility that Black women may fall through the cracks again,” explained AAPF co-founder Luke Harris. “AAPF and CISPS will continue our work to generate the public will to collect data on women and girls of color to make sure the information is there to foreground their needs in racial justice agendas.”
For more information and to register for the week’s events, visit: www.aapf.org/herdreamdeferred2016
On March 10th, AAPF traveled to London for the Women of the World Festival South Bank Centre! Executive Director Kimberle Crenshaw brought #SayHerName to the London stage during her keynote address at WOW and during an interview with BBC Women's Hour; Communications Director Brittany Hazelwood spoke about the legacy of Sojourner Truth; and Associate Director Julia Sharpe-Levine spoke about the possibilities and challenges of global solidarity on the #ActivismWithoutBorders panel.
We also had an exciting conversation with a dynamic group of UK activists and organizers discussing parallels between the lives of women of color in the UK and the US and their efforts to seek justice for #SarahReed.
We look forward to being back soon to continue building we these brilliant folks!
AAPF and the National Association for Ethnic Studies (NAES) express grave concerns about the recent decision of the Board of Education in Henrico County, Virginia to censor educational material pertaining to racial inequality. The actions of the Board represent a troubling trend in public education that undermines the goals of promoting a healthy democratic society.
As part of Black History Month at Glen Allen High School in Henrico County, Virginia, Professor Ravi K. Perry from Virginia Commonwealth University showed the African American Policy Forum’s Unequal Opportunity Race video. This first-ever Black History Month program at Glen Allen High School was in part a response to a controversy last fall involving a song that was played over the public announcement system at a football game that included multiple utterances of a racial epithet against African Americans. In consultation with school officials, Perry, who is also President of the National Association for Ethnic Studies, developed a program to facilitate a dialogue with students about contemporary racial issues. The Unequal Opportunity Race video was presented along with other materials.
The 2010 video was produced by AAPF to highlight the historical and structural barriers that create disparate life circumstances within racially marginalized communities. Developed for modern audiences of all ages, the video builds on President Lyndon Johnson’s observations that: “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” It shifts the focus of President Johnson’s metaphor from the runners in the race to the conditions of the track -- namely, to the lanes that have been littered with race-based obstacles. In so doing, the video highlights policies and conditions such as slavery, genocide, segregation, underemployment, poor schooling, mass incarceration, and racial profiling that that have cluttered the lanes of racialized communities throughout our history. In this way, the video draws attention to both the disadvantages of having to run in lanes shaped by racial inequality, and the advantages that accrue to those who do not confront such obstacles. While the four-minute video does not pretend to map all inequalities, it does point to class, gender, and other advantages that further enhance the opportunities of runners who are not encumbered by race.
AAPF has used the video in its work for over a decade, and has subsequently created a simulation game to deepen the engagement with the material. Both the video and the game have been extremely well-received by audiences across the country. In settings ranging from public schools and college campuses to churches, businesses and foundations, instructors have used the Unequal Opportunity Race video to facilitate dialogue and understanding about the inter-generational effects of discriminatory laws and public policies. The information is often new to many observers and the dialogues that have ensued have been rich and productive. In the process, the video has served to challenge assumptions that racial inequality is solely the product of individual failure and shortcomings. It has placed institutional and structural disadvantages at the center of meaningful debate about the contemporary significance of racial disparities.
With the exception of the extraordinary actions of the Henrico County School District, the video has never been banned anywhere.
Despite its illustrations of actual policies, historical events, and contemporary racial inequities, the Unequal Opportunity Race video has been demeaned as a "white guilt video" by a vocal minority in Henrico County and by national outlets such as Fox News. Though that interpretation of the video is both misguided and unfortunate, Micky Ogburn’s reaction is far more disturbing. Denouncing the video as divisive, Ogburn, the School Board’s Chair, proclaimed that "school leaders have been instructed not to use the video in our schools.”
“This censorship of material that highlights historical and present-day policies constitutes an alarming capitulation to those who would prefer our youth to remain blissfully ignorant about the foundations of contemporary racial inequality,” said AAPF Executive Director Kimberle Crenshaw. “Honest engagement with the continuing legacy of our history should not be held hostage to those who can only relate to this information as a personal indictment. Educators who succumb to these sensibilities rather than working through them only contribute to the shameful mis-education of millions of Americans, many whose indignation about the video is only surpassed by their lack of knowledge about the facts it portrays.”
The Glen Allen School Board’s blatant censorship of this pedagogical tool is reminiscent of both book banning that is unfolding elsewhere in places like Arizona, and other efforts to elide, obscure, or completely ignore the historical facts of United States slavery, racial segregation, genocide, and colonialism. Schools especially, however, should not treat particular aspects of history as “inconvenient truths.”
Most Americans have no idea how much the current patterns of haves and have-nots in the United States are shaped both by explicit laws from the past and also by modern-day policies. While many Americans agree that "the system is rigged" economically, few are aware of the ways in which racial inequality has been structured and embedded in our society. This is why candid, fact-based discussions about racial inequality are so desperately needed. As Luke Harris, co-founder of AAPF, explained, “The real problem is the fact that structural forms of racism are enmeshed in the fabric of American life. If we really are committed to building a harmonious racial future, we need to dismantle that social reality rather than punish folks who are shining a light on it."
Against this backdrop, educators who are willing to teach their students about the history of the United States and the resulting structural inequalities are needed now more than ever. Yet, the “investigation” under way in Glen Allen suggests that the teachers and administrators involved in the Black History month program must worry about their futures. In facing sanctions for their role in seeking honest dialogue about racial injustice, however, they are not alone. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose legacy far surpasses those who sought to discredit him as divisive, was himself committed to working through the creative tension that comes from direct engagement with our history. The urgency in doing so remains even in this era, a fact that is painfully evident in the ill-informed and blatantly racist comments by some of those who support the ban in Glen Allen. The School Board should not support these views by apologizing for the airing of the video or by banning it.
Anyone who is remotely aware of the nation’s ugly history of suppressing materials that challenge dominant ideologies and political orthodoxies should be appalled by these developments. Censorship is certainly not the answer to controversial material and is inconsistent with our most basic constitutional values.
Other options are surely available to those who are made uncomfortable by the video. The School District could have encouraged teachers to facilitate a dialogue so that those who disagreed with the content of the video could explain what they perceive to be its shortcomings. Educators adopt that pedagogical approach all the time. Indeed, the fundamental purpose of the video is to offer alternative perspectives about the significance of our history in order to encourage informed debate about what should be done about contemporary racial inequality. That Ogburn chose censorship over robust engagement denied students access to the very thing schools are supposed to provide--the opportunity to learn and engage in the robust exchange of ideas.
Perry’s presentation to the students began with the importance of ideas, wherein he discussed how seven essential ideas form our consciousness as Americans. It is because of the power of multiple ideas, and the interplay between them, that this moment calls on us to show faith in teachers who know how to guide students from different backgrounds through difficult conversations; and to support education that values tolerance and critical thinking over lockstep agreement. After all, if schools prohibited the inclusion of controversial topics in their curriculum on the grounds that such topics are divisive or alienating, there would be very little in history, political science, or social studies that teachers could cover in their classrooms.
We applaud the local educators who enhance our collective capacity for civic engagement by recognizing the importance of exposing young people to a multiracial and multicultural historical perspective. Professor Perry states, “I firmly stand by the video and will proudly continue to use it as a powerful tool to educate people everywhere about structural discrimination.” AAPF and NAES will redouble our efforts to ensure that educators are equipped with the materials they need to do so.
CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THE MEDIA COVERAGE ON THE UNEQUAL OPPORTUNITY VIDEO
CLICK HERE TO READ SOME FACTS ON RACIAL DISPARITIES
click here to view some of the UGLIEST RESPONSES TO THE unequal opportunity video storY (discRETION IS ADVISED)
Monday, February 8, 2016, marks the one year anniversary of Natasha McKenna’s death. In February of last year, Natasha called 911 during a mental health crisis. She had been diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 12. Instead of providing her with mental health support, officers brought Natasha to Fairfax County Jail on an outstanding warrant. After being held in jail for seven days, Natasha—who weighed 130 pounds and was 5’4’’ tall—was hooded, shackled, and repeatedly tasered by officers attempting to move her to a mental health facility. Within minutes of being tasered, she stopped breathing. She died in the hospital seven days later — one year ago today.
A disturbing video showing Natasha’s brutal treatment at the hands of law enforcement has been available to the public since September, 2015. Fairfax County Sheriff Stacy Kincaid reported that her office released the video to demonstrate the “professionalism” and “restraint” exhibited by the officers who removed Natasha from her cell and tasered her to the point of unconsciousness. At the same time they released the video, a chief prosecutor declared that no criminal charges would be filed against the officers responsible for Natasha’s death.
Despite this horrific video and the total lack of accountability in Natasha’s case, her story has been met with relative silence from mainstream media and social justice groups. On the one year anniversary of her death, it’s time to stand up for justice. It’s time to #SayHerName.
Join us to ensure that the anniversary of Natasha’s death won’t be met with the same kind of silence. Take action and spread the word with us!
Raise awareness: Read and share the following items:
Natasha McKenna: When Killing a Black Woman in Crisis is “Professionalism”, AAPF’s statement on the case
Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women, AAPF’s report on police violence against Black women
Add your name to the demands for substantive change: Sign Amnesty International’s petition calling upon the Department of Justice to open an expedited investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death and enact national guidelines for taser use.
Are you in the DC area? Join the local actions on February 8:Representatives from groups including Black Lives Matter DMV, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Northern Virginia, African American Policy Forum and Amnesty International USA will first hold a peaceful demonstration while handing out information and petitions outside the detention center, and later that evening will gather for a vigil at All Saints Episcopal Church in Alexandria.
WHAT: Demonstration of Remembrance for Natasha McKenna
WHEN: February 8, 2016; noon to 1:00 PM ET
WHERE: Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, 10520 Judicial Dr., Fairfax, VA 22030
WHAT: Vigil for Natasha McKenna
WHEN: February 8, 2016; 7:00 PM ET
WHERE: All Saints Episcopal Church Sharon Chapel, 3421 Franconia Rd, Alexandria, VA 22310
Spread the word on social media: Make your social media networks take notice using the hashtags #NatashaMcKenna and #SayHerName. Use AAPF’s #SayHerName Social Media Guide for background information and ideas!
The gross miscarriage of justice in Natasha McKenna’s case reminds us of the need to be vigilant in our calls to #SayHerName. Today, on the one year anniversary of her death, let’s honor her memory by redoubling our efforts to combat the systemic flaws that allowed Natasha to be treated as a threat to the status quo rather than a woman in need of compassionate support.
We must rededicate ourselves to uplifting her story. We must let the powers that be know that if we don’t get no justice, they won’t get no peace.
#SayHerName -- #NatashaMcKenna
On February 8th, 2015, Natasha McKenna died in Fairfax County Jail after being tased 4 times with 50,000 volts while in the midst of a schizophrenic episode. The incident was captured on video, which was released in September, 2015, as part of the Fairfax County Sheriff Office's announcement that those responsible for McKenna’s death had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Despite the horrific footage, mainstream media and activists have paid little attention to this case. The following talking points are intended to help raise awareness and generate concern around her story.
INTERSECTION OF RACE/GENDER/MENTAL ILLNESS
Natasha McKenna had a long history of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In February 2015, she called 911 during a mental health crisis. Instead of providing her with mental health support, officers brought McKenna to Fairfax County Jail on an outstanding warrant. Police officers are not mental health professionals and often lack the skills and training necessary to handle such situations. While six deputies pinned McKenna to the ground and repeatedly tased her, she pleaded, “You promised you wouldn’t kill me.” When police are increasingly first responders to calls during mental health crises, racial stereotypes can make Black women like McKenna vulnerable to violent restraint and unreasonable force when they should be provided with support and treatment.
WHAT EXACTLY IS “EXCITED DELIRIUM”?
Natasha McKenna’s cause of death was listed as “excited delirium...contributing: schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.” The term ‘excited delirium,” which is not recognized by the medical community, is used nearly exclusively to justify deaths while in police custody. The medical examiner concluded that Natasha McKenna’s death resulted not from being tasered four times but from a condition in which a person with mental illness suddenly dies in a state of distress. It is outrageous that McKenna’s death was ruled an “accident.”
HOW MUCH IS 50,000 VOLTS?
Over the course of 2 minutes and 37 seconds, a total of four 50,000 volt shocks were administered to Natasha McKenna. For comparison, an electric chair used for lethal purposes administers between 1,000 and 2,400 volt shocks. Currently, there are no national guidelines on law enforcement use of tasers, a large part of what allowed McKenna’s killers to escape legal repercussions.There needs to be widespread recognition of the use of non-lethal or “less-lethal” weapons -- such as tasers -- as forms of police brutality. This violence will only continue if officers are permitted to use such dangerous weapons without any restriction.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS FOR THE DEPUTIES?
In September of 2015, it was decided that the deputies responsible for Natasha McKenna’s death would face no criminal charges. Fairfax County Sheriff Stacy Kincaid commended the “professionalism” and “patience that the deputies demonstrated” when restraining and tasering McKenna. While the FBI and the Department of Justice have opened independent investigations into Natasha McKenna’s death, this could take years. We need to continue to demand justice and demand it now. Law enforcement officers who abuse their status by administering excessive force must be held accountable for their actions.
CAN THIS BE VIEWED AS SEXUAL ASSAULT?
Yes. Natasha McKenna was completely naked when she was “extracted” from her cell. She was pinned against the ground by several men in uniform. They covered her head in a hood but left the rest of her body exposed. By the end of the video she is unconscious yet the officers continued to manhandle her body. If Natasha McKenna was white, the sexual assault implications of what happened to her would not have been overlooked.
Kimberlé Crenshaw Named Outstanding Scholar by the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation
The African American Policy Forum is pleased to announce that Executive Director Kimberlé Crenshaw will receive the Outstanding Scholar Award from The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. The award is given annually to "a member of the academy who has engaged in outstanding scholarship in the law or government."
“Professor Crenshaw’s extraordinary scholarship and exemplary engagement as a public intellectual certainly embodies the American Bar Foundation’s core commitment to ‘Expanding Knowledge and Advancing Justice,’ especially in respect to fusing together racial and gender justice,” said George Lipsitz, board president of the AAPF. “She is not only one of the most widely read, cited and taught scholars of the law, but also a visionary activist who has promoted the creation of research-based strategies to promote social inclusion.”
Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, Crenshaw is a leading authority in the area of Civil Rights, Black feminist legal theory, and race, racism and the law. She was a key progenitor of the Critical Race Theory movement and developed the innovative legal framework now known as "intersectionality," a term she coined.
"Her ideas and vision have literally transformed the basis of our thinking and inspired us to break out of our silos and work in the intersection of liberation, justice and equality," says AAPF board member Eve Ensler.
In her work with the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, Crenshaw is a leading advocate for a gender-inclusive approach to racial justice. In 2015 she spearheaded the groundbreaking studies, Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected, and Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women and the social media and activism campaigns built on this crucial work, for which she was named Ms. Magazine's #1 Most Inspiring Feminist of 2015.
The #SayHerName campaign exemplifies Crenshaw's work to bring an intersectional understanding of racial justice to the national stage and, says Barbara R. Arnwine, president and founder of The Transformative Justice Coalition, has been "game changing," and has "forever the transformed the Black Lives Matter struggle."
Arnwine describes co-teaching with Crenshaw as "a true joy in my life….Words like brilliant, exemplary and extraordinary are insufficient to capture the full range of her amazing intellectual, scholarly and organizational output."
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The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) is an innovative think tank that connects academics, activists and policy-makers in dismantling structural inequality and engages new ideas and perspectives to transform public discourse and policy. The work of AAPF promotes frameworks and strategies that address the bases of discrimination as they relate to the intersections of race, gender and class.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Today, a historic precedent was set when Daniel Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 consecutive years for the rape and sexual assault of 8 Black women in Oklahoma City. Although 18 of the 36 counts were not guilty verdicts, leaving 8 women without justice, this day effectively puts law enforcement on notice that Black women will report, testify and seek justice even in the presence of an all-white jury. Holtzclaw sought out Black women in low income neighborhoods with histories of drug dependency or incarceration because he knew they were less likely to report and less likely to be believed. He was mistaken.
With this sentencing, those officers in power will become more hesitant to abuse the authority entrusted to them by the United States of America and its citizens. Those survivors who tell this story will reclaim some of their own power. They can understand the bravery and courage it takes to stand up for their own bodies. Their testimonies will continue to resonate in the souls of the countless survivors of sexual assault who have yet to come forward or seek healing. The world can value a Black woman, regardless of socioeconomic status or background, as a human being that is afforded the same civil rights as every other member of society. Conversations involving rape culture, sexual assault, intersectionality, and the community can be brought to the table with the confidence of educating, learning, and making positive changes towards the future.
We demand action with law enforcement around the country:
We want a national database of officers who have been disciplined, terminated, charged and convicted of sexual misconduct while acting as or using information from their access to the policy department.
We want every officer to have mandatory training as first responders of sexual assault and domestic violence.
We want a zero-tolerance policy in reference to sexual misconduct enforced in every department across the country.
This is a turning point in our history. We will reflect on the moments where we allowed egregious violations of women who didn’t have voices. We will reflect, as organizations, communities, religious affiliations, and media outlets, on how we did not tend to these injustices with urgency or failed to address them at all. That conversation will change due to action, exposure, and bravery on behalf of the community and the brave survivors that came forward to share their stories. We collectively stood up and screamed to the mountain top with these women to demand justice. We must change the conversation and evolve out of a rape culture into a culture that promotes, enforces and defends the right of all women to be safe in their own communities.
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Grace Franklin, 405-318-1968
Candace Liger, 405-882-1909
Transformation Justice Coalition
African American Policy Forum, email@example.com
National Organization for Women
Stand Up for Justice for the OKC 13
The day of accountability is coming soon for Holtzclaw -- the former Oklahoma City Police Officer will be sentenced onJanuary 21, 2016 following his conviction last month of 18 of 36 counts of sexual assault. Holtzclaw’s preying on Black women in the course of duty came to light only after Jannie Ligons, a 57-year-old grandmother, reported the crime to the police. 12 more Black women told similar stories of being violated by Holtzclaw.
But Holtzclaw’s sentencing cannot be the sole focus of our efforts for justice. We must look beyond the verdict and focus on the intersections of race, gender, class, substance dependency and system-involvement that rendered the OKC 13 prey to a rapist with a badge. Countless Black women will continue to be vulnerable to sexual abuse by police even if Holtzclaw receives a life sentence.
Daniel Holtzclaw was not an anomaly. Approximately 1,000 officers lost their badges in a six-year period after having engaged in some form of sexual misconduct. And this is a gross undercounting of how many officers engage in such conduct. Few know that sexual misconduct is the second most reported form of police abuse because it is rarely addressed by the media and within our movements against sexual violence and police abuse.
We have to make this all-too-common form of police abuse visible.
Let’s join together to combat the intersectional erasure of victims of state violence and rape.
January 19: PREPARE TO TAKE ACTION
Join us for a webinar on the Holtzclaw case and sexual abuse of Black women by law enforcement. Hear from the Organizers of OKC Artists for Justice and other voices from across the country. Share your plans for Visibility and Accountability.
January 20th: MAKE SEXUAL ASSAULT BY LAW ENFORCEMENT VISIBLE
Stand with the Women in OKC and around the country to bring Sexual Abuse by Police Out of the Shadows!
January 21st: DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY FROM OFFICERS, INSTITUTIONS AND ALLIES:
Not only must police departments and elected officials be held accountable, but police sexual abuse must be centered in feminist anti-violence advocacy and anti-racist police reform.
Listen, Learn and Stand! Register Now!!!
If you demand an end to sexual violence and an end to police abuse, then find a way to get involved! Here are a few ways you can:
January 20 - JOIN THE TWITTER STORM
Using the hashtags #SayHerName, #BlackWomenMatter and #OKC13, share your story of sexual assault, other stories you know, and your thoughts on why the Holtzclaw case matters. Keep your eye out for AAPF’s OKC Toolkit for sample Tweets and info to help you create your own!
January 20 - SHARE A POEM, REFLECTION, OR ARTISTIC EXPRESSION
that sheds light on Black women’s experiences of sexual assault on Facebook and over your own social media. Together, we can show that what happened to the OKC 13 was not an anomaly. Look for details at OKC Artists for Justice.
January 20 - HOLD A FORUM OR IMPROMPTU DISCUSSION
to draw attention to the circumstances that make Black women vulnerable to police abuse. If you are in Oklahoma City, attend OKC Artists for Justice's Community Forum to discuss the Holtzclaw case and how community members can get involved in making changes. Panelists will include Grace Franklin, Candace Liger, Barbara Arnwine, Kimberle Crenshaw, and more. The event will be at 6:00pm at Langston University, 4205 North Lincoln Blvd.
January 21 - On the day of Holtzclaw’s sentencing
join us in sharing and demanding CONCRETE STEPS toward accountability for officer-involved sexual misconduct.
January 21 - During Holtzclaw’s sentencing,
TWEET YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE OKC 13 using #SayHerName, #BlackWomenMatter and #OKC13. Demand resources for the OKC 13 and other women across the country who have been sexually assaulted by police. Ask what local organizations are doing to address this issue.