Far too often, black women’s voices, especially queer black women, are excluded from the conversation and protests surrounding police brutality against black people. The indignation and anger the public feels over a black man’s wrongful death are unrequited when black women die. In the Summer of 2020, social media and streets worldwide erupted over George Floyd’s death, who died after nearly nine minutes of a police officer kneeling on his neck. Internationally, George Floyd’s name, rightfully so, became known as the face of the second-wave of the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM), inspiring protests, riots, and lootings of greater magnitude than the first BLM protests upon the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. However, the names of black women, especially black queer or trans women, have been neglected from the collective outrage. Historically, there has been an erasure of black women and girls’ voices and experiences, and there has been a focus on the experiences of men since the time of slavery. Black women endured physical labor like black men, but they also experienced sexual assault and violence, rape, forced abortions or pregnancies, and separation from their children. Despite this, black men’s narratives have been embedded in history and our collective consciousness regarding slavery. This blueprint of only straight, male voices being heard rejects and moves to forget black women and girls’ experiences.
The #SayHerName movement’s plan for change is self-explanatory: by saying and repeating the names of murdered black women and girls, it keeps their memories alive, and more people become aware of their stories. Furthermore, they release reports and produce data and statistics relating to violence perpetrated against black women to ensure there are information and a database regarding violence carried out by police or anti-black individuals directed towards black women and girls, especially black trans women. They formulate policies that combat systemic racism and discrimination to ensure that it is intersectional.
WHAT WORK HAS BEEN DONE, AND WHAT WORK REMAINS?
The goal of the #SayHerName campaign is to ensure that female voices are included in narratives about police brutality and anti-black violence. #SayHerName encourages the BLM movement to be intersectional and all-encompassing in addressing and uplifting all black individuals’ stories and experiences. The creators of the movement have stated:
“When the lives of marginalized Black women are centered, a clearer picture of structural oppressions emerges. No analysis of state violence against Black bodies can be complete without including all Black bodies within its frame.” The most associated names with the BLM movement are Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castille, and Eric Garner. However, there is little to no media coverage on the deaths of black women. #SayHerName wants us to question how often we hear the names of Dominque Fells, Oluwatoyin Salau, Nakia Crawford, Tete Gulley, Riah Milton, and Priscilla Slator.
The campaign engaged in protesting and petitioning to sign “Breonna’s Law” into legislation, which prohibits “no-knock” warrants from being used by police following the murder of Breonna Taylor by police who invaded her home and shot her. At the same time, she was asleep in her bed. The hashtag #SayHerName has been trending periodically on Twitter since George Floyd’s death. Social media is being exposed to the stories of countless black girls and black trans women who have been subjected to police violence or anti-black violence. This movement moves together with the BLM movement, which has recently become more powerful and has amounted to an uprising against state violence against black people. It is essential to continue protests, riots, and other forms of anti-establishment resistance to ensure there are reform and change, and that said change is intersectional.
The campaign is working towards an all-inclusive policy agenda against police and anti-black violence intersectional and advocates for the freedom and protection of black people. They focus on raising awareness for the lives and stories of murdered black women and black men who have been killed and ensuring that there is an equal response when a black life is lost. The campaign continues to advocate that there is no black liberation without black female liberation, black queer, sexual, and transgender liberation.
WE MUST #SAYHERNAME
The following are the names of black women and black trans women who were killed by police. Look at their pictures and read more into their lives. Research what you can do in your community to further the #SayHerName movement.
Ayanna Stanley-Jones was fatally shot in the head during a raid in 2010. The officer who killed her was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun but had three trials that ended in mistrials. He is still working as a police officer today. She was seven years old.
Dominique Fells was a trans woman dismembered with trauma to the face, head, and legs, and her torso was severed.
Priscilla Slater was found dead in her holding cell without being given a reason for her arrest.
Police murdered Nakia Crawford at a red light for no reason. She was only 18 years old and graduated in 2020 and was to attend Central State University.
Breonna Taylor was murdered by the police while sleeping in her bed. No charges, no arrests.
Oluwatoyin Salau went missing after she publicly spoke out about her sexual assault. Her body was found shortly after. She was at the BLM protests in June 2020.
Tete Gulley was a black trans woman who was hung. Her death has been ruled a suicide despite the autopsy report not being released despite the family’s demands, and no investigation has taken place.
Shukri Abdi was a 12-year-old Somalian girl who was a refugee in Britain who was bullied and drowned by her classmates, who knew that she couldn’t swim. She was forced to the river, and there were bite marks and bruises across her body. The police ruled her death as a “tragic accident.” The girls who murdered Shukri pushed her in front of a bus once and laughed at her as she drowned.
Riah Milton was a black trans woman who was murdered during a robbery. No charges have been made.
Sandra Bland was killed by hanging in police custody after being arrested at a traffic stop. After her mugshot photos were released, it has been alleged that they were taken post-mortem, and the police tried to make it appear as if she was still alive at the time of the photo.