Black women have traditionally been largely ignored and given the lowest roles in American society. They are the last to be hired and the first to be fired. Their traditional role was one of caretaker, nanny, cook or housekeeper. Black women are traditionally kept out of the mainstream. When they were allowed to attend college they were steered into teaching or nursing roles. Black women learned early on from times of slavery to hold her tongue and be careful of speaking out for the safety of her family. Despite these challenges Black women have always been at the forefront of the struggle for equality but they have been overlooked and their names are rarely known.
#SayHerName and #BlackLivesMatter has changed that. In the past the press allowed us to know the names of a few Black female leaders such as; Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Oprah Winfrey. However, the names of the millions of other women who stood up, spoke out and was beaten, shot down, hung or killed in various ways for seeking justice freedom and equality have gone unknown. The young women of today have made it their mission to step up and demand that their names and the names of other Black women are identified and spoken out. Black women are consistently stopped, harassed, raped, heavily fined, detained, car door closed on their arms and legs, beaten, frisked, handcuffed, arrested and killed in the custody of police or by jailors after having committing no infractions and broken no laws. The names of these women are never said and never known.
#BlackLivesMatter in 2013 grew out of a response to the George Zimmerman acquittal after the Trayvon Martin murder posted to Facebook by Alicia Garza of Oakland, Ca. Her Facebook message included the words, “Black Lives Matter” they resonated throughout the Black community, filled the protest signs and was on the lips of every news correspondent. Garza along with Opai Tometi and Patrisse Cullors cofounded BlackLivesMatter. Little did they know when the three came together they would start a world-wide movement. There are now #BlackLivesMatter chapters in the United States, Canada and Ghana. These women are speaking our for Black queers, transgenders, undocumented, disabled and against racial profiling, police brutality, mass incarceration of African Americans and the militarization of American police departments. There have been approximately 1,000 #Black Lives Matter demonstrations world wide.
The #SayHerName movement brings attention to the rape, physical abuse, unfair treatment and murder of African American women by police and other law enforcement personnel. #SayHerName is here to make sure that Black women are no longer ignored. Black women made it known at a conference what they want if they die in police custody. Heartfelt statements from Black women included: “If I died in police custody: Do not let my parents talk to Don Lemon, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or anyone who would destroy my name. If I die in police custody: Know your silence helped kill me. If I die in police custody: Know that I want to live. We want to live. We fight to live. Black Lives Matter. All Black Lives Matter.”
These are just the names and the year of death of a few of the hundreds of thousands of Black women who died as a result of police interaction and abuse. #SayHerName:
1911 Laura Nelson
1999 Margaret LaVerne Mitchell, LaTanya Haggerty
2003 Kendra James, Alberta Spruill
2006 Kathryn Johnston
2008 Tarika Wilson
2010 Aiyana Stanley Jones
2012 Malissa Williams, Shantel Davis, Sharmel Edwards, Rekia Boyd, Shereese
Francis, Alesha Thomas, Shelly Frye, Darnisha Harris, Malissa Williams, Shantell Davis,
2013Treshon Cousin, Miriam Carey, Kaley Moore, Alberta Spruil
2014 Sheneque Proctor, Yvette Smith, Sharon Mosley, Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Cusseaux
2015 Natasha McKenna, Sandra Bland, Raynetta Turner, Kindra Chapman, Joyce Curnell, Ralkina Jones, Tanisha Anderson