Eleanor Bumpers. Tanisha Anderson. Kendra James. Kathryn Johnson. Aiyanna Stanley-Jones. Sheresse Francis. Miriam Carey. Michelle Cuseaux. Gabriella Nevarez. Yvette Smith. Shelly Frey. Rekia Boyd. Tarika Wilson. Shantel Davis…
These names above represent only but a few of the numerous African-American women who have been killed by law enforcement or while in police custody. Although some names have gained more media attention than others, there is one organization that is making sure that the legacies and dreams of these women do not fall into obscurity.
The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) is ensuring that the world never forgets to say their names.
In conjunction with the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS) at Columbia Law School—led by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Director of CISPS and the African American Policy Forum and Andrea Ritchie, a Soros Justice Fellow and expert on policing of women and LGBT people of color—the #SayHerName campaign was created to highlight the pervasiveness of police brutality against black women. In 2015 alone, six African-American women were killed by the law enforcement. Another case in question is that of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer during a traffic stop in Waller County, Texas. She was found dead in a jail cell three days later. Her death was labelled a suicide; however, questions and concerns arouse surrounding the suspicious nature of her death. Most recently, in October 2015, Americans were shocked by a video showing a South Carolina school resource officer violently throw a young female student from her desk and drag her around the classroom.
The campaign, emerged from a report released by the AAPF and the CISPS, in May entitled “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women.” The report documented stories of black women killed by police, shining a spotlight on forms of police brutality experienced disproportionately by women of color. Intended to serve as a resource for the media, organizers, researchers, policy makers, and other stakeholders to better understand and address black women’s experiences of profiling and policing, the campaign also aims to be inclusive of other forms of police violence, including sexual assault by police, police abuse of pregnant women, profiling and abusive treatment of lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming black women.
#SayHerName has brought communities together to honor the women who have been lost. It has effectively raised awareness of the issue, especially inside the police and justice systems, putting pressure on officials to conduct more careful monitoring of practices and sensitizing police and law makers. Various protests across the country drummed up much-needed dialogue on the intersections of race and gender in regards to the issues of gender-based violence and racialized state violence. In the continued quest for racial equality and gender equity, the African American Policy Forum refuses to let the lives of these women fall to the wayside; never allowing their dreams—or their names—to be deferred.
photo courtesy of African American Policy Forum