(Content warning for descriptions of racist violence, police violence, transphobia.)
“Although Black women are routinely killed, raped, and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality. Yet, inclusion of Black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives, and policy demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combatting racialized state violence for Black communities and other communities of color.” –Kimberle Crenshaw, AAPF Executive Director
On the one year anniversary of the death of Sandra Bland, I want to share some paintings I made of Black women whose lives mattered, but were cut short by violence (most by police violence). This series was the brainchild of Ms. Wilhelmina Young, one of the two Black women who dreamed up Serenity House (the community center where I live and serve), and a friend and mentor and mover and shaker at Arch Street United Methodist Church. For African Heritage Month (which Arch Street celebrates in February in place of Black History Month, because of our international congregation), Wilhelmina wanted us to have a display remembering and honoring the Black women killed by police violence and other kinds of racist violence, and recognizing that, while men of color bear the brunt of police violence, women of color are by no means spared. The paintings were displayed in the front of our sanctuary in February and March.
I was honored to be asked to create tributes to these women. Painting them was very heavy. Please, let us speak up, stand up, march, chant, sing, organize, vote, resist, educate, advocate, preach, pray— intentionally, strategically, urgently, hopefully— until people of color in the US have no need to live in fear of racialized violence.
Aiyana Mo’Nay Stanley Jones was 7 years old when she was killed by police in 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. She was sleeping on the couch when police burst into her family’s home, firing a shot that killed her. She is one of many children killed by racist policing in the US.
Renisha McBride was 19 years old when she was killed in Dearborn Heights, Michigan in 2013. She had crashed her car and went to a nearby house to knock on the door and ask for help. The homeowner fired a shot through the screen door, killing her. She is one of many Black people who are hurt or killed by those who should have helped them.
Tanisha Anderson was 37 when she died while being taken into custody by police in Cleveland, Ohio in 2015. She was bipolar, and one day when she was disoriented and trying to leave the house not dressed for the cold, her family called the 911 for medics to help restrain her for her safety. Instead, police came and violently arrested her, causing her to go into cardiac arrest. She is one of many who are killed by the combination of racism and ignorance about people living with mental illness.
Sandra Bland was 28 years old when she was found hanged to death in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas in 2015. Three days before she had been violently arrested for a minor traffic violation. She is one of many Black people in the US who face extreme results for minor or invented violations.
Keisha Jenkins, a trans woman, was 22 years old when she was killed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2015. She was beaten and shot to death by a group of men. She is one of many who are killed by the combination of racism and transphobia.
Bettie Jones was a grandmother who was killed by police in Chicago, Illinois in 2015. Police came for a domestic disturbance call for another resident of her building, and shot her when she opened the door to let them in. She is one of many innocent elders killed by racist policing in the US.