The summer of 2015 has been an especially somber one for #TeamBeautiful and the country at large. Last month alone, we saw five Black women die in police custody in different parts of the country—despite the fact that these women rarely displayed significant criminal activity or were subject to arrest warrants when they were killed. Furthermore, these women (and girls) were frequently unarmed at their time of deaths, were often mistakenly targeted, mistreated for their mental health issues and virtually never posed a threat to the public or to the police officers apprehending them.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement has mobilized tremendously when Black men like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and, most recently, Sam DuBose have died. This mobilization is an accomplishment in its own right; people around the world are recognizing and responding to the blatant and immense police misconduct that is killing innocent Black Americans day after day. But in the spirit of #SayHerName, we must recognize the stories of women like Sandra Bland, Miriam Carey and Malissa Williams with the same amount of passion and relentlessness as we do for Black men in combatting police brutality.
Black women’s stories—particularly in the narrative of police brutality—have historically been pushed aside and ignored by the mainstream as the media and Black community alike have often rallied around Black men’s stories as a tool to fight for justice. Yet Black male brutality victims are only one part of the story, and the sexes must be equally upheld if we’re going to ensure safety in interactions with the police for everyone. Police brutality isn’t a Black man’s issue. It is an intersectional one.
Because of this, we present to you some of the names and images of the Black women either killed by the police or who died in custody over the last few years. By no means is this a comprehensive list—in fact, it’s a growing one that, unfortunately, we know will be elongated in the days and years to come. Still, we are here to pay tribute to these women’s lives, to speak on the unjust ways in which they were pulled from this earth, and to hold our country’s police departments accountable for the lies they have told, the lives they have ruined, and the criminals they have set free through the loopholes and semantics of America’s flawed and imbalanced justice system.
We give special thanks to the men and women of the African American Policy Forum (AAPF). Under the leadership of Kimberle Williams Crenshaw and Andrea J. Ritchie, AAPF has asserted itself as one of the most reputable and groundbreaking think tanks examining Black life in the 20th and 21st centuries. Furthermore, AAPF’s exhaustive and definitive research on the police brutality as it affects Black women has served as the guiding light for the #SayHerName movement. For more in depth information on the sweeping trends and individual stories of Black women being brutalized by the police, see the AAPF study, Say Her Name: Restricting Police Brutality Against Black Women.
*Editor’s Note: Last week, we brought you part one of this series. This week, we’ve added 25 new names to the list of women whose lives we choose to honor, whose legacies we choose to help carry on, whose names we will never stop saying. If you know a woman whose name should be on this list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.