Sandra Bland. Natasha McKenna. Raynette Turner. Ralkina Jones. Joyce Curnell.
They all have one thing in common: They are Black women who died this year while in police custody. Whether from Tasers, garbage bags fashioned into nooses, or neglect, they lost their lives while tangled in a system that has repeatedly shown little regard for Black lives.
But do you know them? The names of our fallen men and boys have been (rightly) etched into our brains. From Trayvon to Eric to Michael to Tamir to Freddie to Laquan, we’re on a first name basis with their violent deaths. From synchronized protests in Ferguson, Mo., to calls for mayoral resignation in Chicago, we unite around their deaths, make mantras of their last words, refuse to grant authorities’ peace when ours has been stolen. But with the exception of demanding #JusticeForSandy, many of our women and girls’ names go unspoken.
And now, a Texas grand jury has decided not to bring criminal charges against the officers and staff who were supposed to be caring for Sandra Bland during her three days in Waller County (Texas) Jail, which ended with her death on July 13, 2015. It's a decision that is heartbreaking, but not surprising. Our collective pain is spilling out onto our phones and keyboards, as people simultaneously #SayHerName and shrug at the commonness of it all. It would be trite if it weren't so damn disgusting.
But we must keep on. How can we save ourselves if we don’t keep the names of Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, Joyce Curnell and all the others on the tips of our tongues, push district attorneys to file charges for rogue officers and monitor their cases the way we do for the officers who killed Freddie Gray and Tamir Rice? Even when it's hard, even when we feel defeated, even if no one else cares, we owe it to them to use our voices. We must honor their legacies and do the work to keep more of our women and girls out of harm’s way.
Click here to access the African-American Policy Forum’s coverage of women who have experienced police violence.
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(Photo: Courtesy of Bland family/AP Photo)