ENGLEWOOD — Several years ago during a TED Talk, scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw had the audience participate in an exercise in which she named Black male victims of police violence, asking people to remain standing if they recognized them. Most were still standing when she was finished.
When she began to name Black female victims, all but four audience members remained standing.
Far too often Black female victims are forgotten, their stories caught in a never-ending news cycle that centers the deaths of Black men, calls for justice never answered. And it’s not just police violence that Black women have to contend with, it’s intimate partner violence and sexual violence as well.
One local organization, Gyrls In The Hood, is working to keep the memories of Black women and girls felled by violence alive. Founder Chez Smith and Natalie Manning, co-founder of This Is Life, are hosting “Gone, But Not Forgotten” on Friday, an event that is part catharsis, part call to action.
Both Smith and Manning have worked with teen girls and young women for years on issues ranging from healthcare to education, and both believe the time to address the violence young Black women face is now.
“Malcolm X said that the most disrespected woman in the world is the Black woman. We’re objectified, our girls are sexualized, and no one takes us seriously enough,” Smith told Block Club in a recent interview. “When it happens to Black women, there’s never the same outrage or the same compassion.”
Black female victims have to be perfect in order to be believed, she added, pointing out that conversations surrounding Sandra Bland often land on her “confrontational attitude” when she was pulled over.
“I remember some Black men saying, ‘oh, well she was talking smart and popping her neck.’ For [Black men], we don’t care what they were doing, whether right or wrong. We’re going to be out there with them,” said Smith.
The lack of urgency when it comes to Black women — cis and trans — is why Friday’s event is necessary, added Manning, who stressed that the tribute is open to all who love them.
The two women are also urging people who attend to bring a letter ready to mail demanding that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron arrest the officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, the Louisville ER tech who was gunned down after law enforcement officers executed a “no-knock” warrant on her home. One officer involved was fired Tuesday, three months after her death.
They also want people to bring their stories. Those in attendance Friday will have the opportunity to share whatever artistic expression they wish, from poetry to dance, followed by a balloon release after.
“I want people to walk away with a newfound love and appreciation for one another, to show each other love. If we’re going to change the narrative for the next generation, we have to stick together first, and then we have to demand respect,” Smith said.
As for Manning, she hopes that people who attend the tribute won’t be afraid to express themselves.
“We tend to not use our voices as much as we should, so this is an opportunity for them to use it, to use this tribute as an outlet. They can talk about the way they feel about various things in the community, from domestic violence, to police brutality, to young girls being killed,” added Manning. “I want us to learn how to protect each other.”
Gone, But Not Forgotten will be held from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Friday in the parking lot of 945 W. 69th St. For more information, contact email@example.com.
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