Black women and girls’ lives matter

‘Stop killing Black people,’ Coney Island beach protest, Brooklyn, N.Y., May 25.

‘Stop killing Black people,’ Coney Island beach protest, Brooklyn, N.Y., May 25.

March in Philadelphia after cops riot and beat protesters, May 21.WW photo: Joseph Piette

March in Philadelphia after cops riot and beat protesters, May 21.
WW photo: Joseph Piette

Malissa Williams, a 30-year-old woman, tragically lost her life on Nov. 29, 2012, in a hail of bullets, along with her 43-year-old companion, Timothy Russell, at the hands of nine white Cleveland police officers.

One of those officers, Mark Brelo, was acquitted on May 23 for his part in the shooting by a judge in a nonjury trial. Protests against this travesty of justice occurred right after the verdict, resulting in the arrest of more than 70 activists.

Natasha McKenna, a 37-year-old African American diagnosed at age 12 with schizophrenia, died on Feb. 8 in a hospital after being Tasered four times by police on Feb. 3 in a Fairfax, Va., county jail. At five feet, three inches tall, she had reportedly been handcuffed and shackled head to foot before being Tasered. Instead of receiving any kind of humane medical treatment, she had been in jail since Jan. 26 due to events reflecting her declining health.

Rekia Boyd was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Chicago police detective, Dante Servin, in March 2012. Servin was acquitted of all charges. Boyd was just 22 years old.

Shantell Davis, 23, was shot to death by police in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, in June 2012 during rush-hour traffic. Yuvette Henderson was fatally shot outside an Oakland, Calif., Home Depot by police on Feb. 3. Aiyana Stanley Jones, age 7, was shot in the head in May 2010 by a Detroit cop while sleeping on her grandmother’s couch. The cop walked free.

A motorist used his cell phone to record Marlene Pinnock, 51, being straddled by a white police officer and savagely beaten on the side of a highway in Los Angeles on July 1, 2014.

These names and many more, such as Kyam Livingston, Renisha McBride and Eleanor Bumpurs, may not yet be embedded in mass consciousness like Michael Brown, Freddie Grey, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner. But they should be.

These African-American women and girls, along with Black transwomen and girls, represent an alarmingly growing number of victims of police murders and legal or extralegal violence. They are all casualties of the racist war against people of color, regardless of nationality, gender or gender preference, sexual orientation, abilities, health and age.

BLM Movement founded and led by women

A National Day of Solidarity with Black Women and Girls was called by groups associated with the Black Lives Matter Movement on May 21 to demand justice for all Black women and girls and raise consciousness that Black women’s lives matter, too. Some of these actions took place in New York, the Bay Area (Calif.), Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami, Columbus, Ohio, and Lexington, Ky. The day also recognized that the Black Lives Matter Movement was founded and led by Black women and Black transwomen.

Racist, trans-hating violence against Black transgender women is also gaining greater awareness, thanks to the BLM Movement. At least 12 Black transwomen have reportedly been killed by vigilantes since last August. These murders have not been taken seriously by the mainstream media and the police.

Some of these victim’s names include Islan Nettles, Tiffany Edwards, Cemia Dove, Betty Skinner, Brittney Nicole Kidd-Stergis, Ty Underwood, Lamia Beard and Michelle Vash Payne. Black transwomen are often labeled as men by the police, and when incarcerated with men, they are subject to brutal sexual assaults.

CeCe McDonald, a Black transwoman, was attacked by neo-Nazis in Minneapolis in June 2011. When she killed one of her attackers in self-defense, she was incarcerated for several years before being released in January 2014. Most of her imprisonment was spent in solitary confinement in a men’s prison.

This racist and sexist war against Black women is also reflected in the mass incarceration epidemic. The Sentencing Project Research and Advocacy for Reform website reports that more than 1 million women are under the “supervision” of the criminal justice system — that is, in prison or on parole or probation.

While African Americans make up less than 15 percent of the general population in the United States, African-American women constitute 30 percent of the overall women’s population in state and federal prisons. The states that Black women are more than three times likelier than white women to be incarcerated in prison or jail.

The Black Lives Matter upsurge is unifying the movement by demanding justice for Black women, girls and transwomen who have been killed or brutalized by police or racist vigilantes.