BLACK WOMEN ARE KILLED BY POLICE TOO
Launched in December 2014 by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) and Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS), the #SayHerName campaign brings awareness to the often invisible names and stories of Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police violence, and provides support to their families.
Black women and girls as young as 7 and as old as 93 have been killed by the police, though we rarely hear their names. Knowing their names is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for lifting up 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. To lift up their stories, and illuminate police violence against Black women, we need to know who they are, how they lived, and why they suffered at the hands of police.
On May 20th, 2015, at Union Square in New York City, AAPF hosted #SayHerName: A Vigil in Memory of Black Women and Girls Killed by the Police. For the first time, family members of Black women killed by police came together from across the country for a powerful vigil designed to draw attention to their loved ones' stories. The family members of Alberta Spruill, Rekia Boyd, Shantel Davis, Shelly Frey, Kayla Moore, Kyam Livingston, Miriam Carey, Michelle Cusseaux, and Tanisha Anderson were present and supported by hundreds of attendees, activists, and stakeholders.
That same week, AAPF and CISPS, in partnership with Andrea Ritchie, released a report entitled Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women, which outlined the goals and objectives of the #SayHerName movement. The report provides an intersectional framework for understanding Black Women's susceptibility to police brutality and state-sanctioned violence and offers suggestions on how to effectively mobilize various communities and empower them to advocate for racial justice.
Over the past five years, the #SayHerName campaign has expanded and increased its focus on direct advocacy. Since 2015, AAPF has hosted its annual #SayHerName Mothers Weekend in New York City, bringing together a group of mothers who have lost their daughters to police violence. The weekends served as a chance to learn more about the specific needs of the family members of Black women who are victims of racist state violence, and provide a space where these mothers can begin to construct a community of support and a network for activism.
Including Black women and girls in police violence and gender violence discourses sends the powerful message that indeed all Black lives matter. If our collective outrage around cases of police violence is meant to serve as a warning to the state that its agents cannot kill without consequence, our silence around the cases of Black women and girls sends the message that certain deaths do not merit repercussions. Please join us in our efforts to advance a gender-inclusive narrative in the movement for Black lives.
FILL THE VOID. LIFT YOUR VOICE. SAY HER NAME.
WHEN WE DON'T HAVE FRAMES TO TELL THE STORY, WE FORGET THAT BLACK WOMEN ARE FREQUENTLY THE VICTIMS OF POLICE VIOLENCE.
#SayHerName is grounded in the sad reality that Black women and girls who are targeted, brutalized, and killed by police are all too often excluded from mainstream narratives around police violence. And while their names and stories are left out of our demands for justice, they are no less grieved by their loved ones. Their lives are no less worthy of being celebrated and uplifted.
The #SayHerName movement uplifts those stories of Black women who have been killed by police and who have experienced gender-specific forms of police violence. The movement provides analytical frames for understanding their experiences and broadens dominant conceptions of who experiences state violence and what it looks like. When we don't have frames to tell the story, we forget that Black women are frequently the victims of police violence.
CAN YOU SEE THEM?
THE USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE AGAINST BLACK MOTHERS AND THEIR CHILDREN
Black women are killed by police even in the presence of their children. Korryn Gaines was killed in her home with her five-year-old son in her arms. They had arrived at her home with a failure-to-appear warrant from a traffic violation. Atatiana Jefferson was killed in her home while playing video games with her eight-year-old nephew. Police had entered her property concealed and unannounced on a wellness check.
BLACK WOMAN AS COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN DEADLY ENCOUNTERS WITH POLICE
Black women are killed by police when they are not the main targets. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was killed when police mistakenly entered her home in the middle of the night on a no-knock warrant while searching for a suspect who had already been detained. India Kager, a post office worker and Navy veteran, was killed by the police with her four-month-old child in the backseat.
BLACK WOMEN ARE SEEN AS “SUPERHUMAN”
Black women are killed by police when they are seen as having a mental health crisis. Tanisha Anderson was killed after her family called for assistance when she was in a mental health crisis. A policeman performed a “takedown” move on her, placing his knee on her back and handcuffing her as she lay face-down on the pavement. Michelle Cusseaux was shot in the heart when police arrived at her house for a mental wellness check and saw her holding a hammer. She had been changing her locks.
BLACK TRANS AND GENDER NONCONFORMING PEOPLE ARE ALSO KILLED BY POLICE
Black transgender women and gender-nonconforming people are verbally harassed, misgendered, and killed by police. Instead of being transported to a medical facility during a mental health crisis, police brutalized Kayla Moore in her own bedroom, suffocating her to death and calling her transphobic slurs while refusing to perform CPR. Her last words were “I can’t breathe.”