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Ajike “AJ” Owens, a 35-year-old Black woman from Ocala, Florida and mother of four children aged 12, 9, 7 and 2 was fatally shot while attempting to retrieve her 9-year-old son's iPad from her neighbor. Her neighbor, Susan Lorincz, a 58-year-old white woman, has been charged with her manslaughter.

Once again, a life has been senselessly taken away at the convergence of the perilous cultural mainstreaming of anti-Black racism and the continued political apathy around the proliferation of lethal weapons. Owens’ death demands that we look unblinkingly at a culture that diminishes our humanity and at laws that permit people to take our lives based on their beliefs about our worth, our relationships, and our right to exist.

Over and over again, like a drumbeat, we grieve lost lives that show us how this toxic intersection legitimizes our “killability.” We’ve lost lives for playing loud music, for going to the wrong address, for walking to the store for Skittles, for seeking help after a car accident, and now, for intervening in a conflict with another adult in defense of one's own children. As these cases sadly reveal to us, being a child, or a mother, or being mother with a child--does little to protect us from the vicious ways that too many people believe that their fear of us justifies taking our lives. AJ Owens should still be alive. Her life mattered. Her children should not have to live the rest of their lives grieving a mother who did what any mother who loves their children would do: protect them, fight for them, and stand up for them. No community should have to live in a state of fear and no mother should have to choose between protecting her children and protecting her own life.

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