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Your View: #BlackLivesMatter isn’t just about Black men

Ruth Jeannoel is a resident of North Miami, lead organizer with Power U Center for Social Change, and a writer with Echoing Ida.  

Ruth Jeannoel

When we hold community space for Black Lives Matter, the images that are represented are of Black men. Black men may be the most impacted by gun violence and police killings, but they are not the only ones police killings impact. Black women, Black girls, and Black LGBTQ and gender non-conforming folks are all part of the #BlackLivesMatter conversation. It is our responsibility to talk about state violence as an issue that impacts not only Black men, but Black families and communities.

As a mother, a wife and community organizer, I know that we must understand, the experiences of black women within the context of police violence in order to address it.  A recent report, titled “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women” released by the African American Policy Forum and Columbia University, sheds light on Black women’s experiences with police violence When it comes to police killings, stops, and racial profiling, Black women are targeted in similar ways to black men. According to the report, which was released in 2013, 53.4 percent of all women stopped by the police are black, while 55.7 percent of all men stopped are black. Black women also face gender-specific risks from police encounters, including sexual harassment, assault, strip-searching, and endangerment of children in their care.  

It is clear that if we don’t talk about the experiences of Black women, girls and LGBTQ folks, then we run the risk of them being forgotten or even erased from our history — a risk that I am not willing to take.  If we forget Black women, femmes, and girls in our narrative of police or state violence, then we will be leaving them behind.

This is dangerous because then we will be leaving behind the very women who stand up and fight for justice in our communities and we will not be addressing the problem of patriarchy and gender-based violence, including within our own communities, as a systemic problem.

Black families should be able to live in complete dignity. Life is precious, and the lives of Black people matter — including Black women, femmes and girls.

Point blank. Period.

Across the country, communities have been demanding justice for Black women, femme, and trans women, including Lamia Beard, Aiyana Stanley Jones, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, and Mya Hall. This includes fighting against the criminalization of Black victims of sexual violence, intimate partner violence and abuse. Just this past May, national organizations such as BYP 100, Black Lives Matter, and Project South asked groups across the country to join them in a National Day of Action for #SayHerName to build power and uplift the the stories of Black women (trans and Cis), Black girls, Black femmes, who are all too often unseen and unheard. Groups from Miami, including  S.O.U.L Sisters Leadership Collective, Power U Center for Social Change and Broward Dream Defenders organized a Healing Circle to uplift the names of the victims of police violence. It included raising the names of Ashaunti Butler, 15, Laniya Miller, 15, and Dominique Battle, 16, who drowned in a pond in central Florida when their car went off the road while being pursued by police.

Not only are Black women being killed by the police, but many of these actions, protests, healing circles, and any other spaces have been led and organized by Black women. It is important to support the leadership of Black women and girls. Locally, Black women are leading! From the organizations listed above to Yes Sister Friend, Girl Power,  FANM-Haitian Women of Miami, women are stepping up and shaping and leading the movement.  Historically, Black women’s experiences have always been minimized, during the civil rights movement and within the Black Panther Party.  We are doing the work, taking collective action, holding community healing circles and having courageous conversations about how to end all violence in our communities, not just police violence.

This is not an attack on Black men or an attempt to invalidate their experiences. I’m in love with a Black man right now and I know for damn sure, his life matters. AND understand, this is not about who is being killed more or who is more oppressed because it is clear that Black men are being killed, Black women are being killed, and Black queer folks are being killed. We cannot leave any Black folks behind, we need Black people to show up from all forms of gender based violence. From an honest place of love, we must acknowledge that ALL Black people are being killed and that we must fight for justice for ALL of them.

I refuse to allow those stories to be overshadowed, misunderstood or erased. It will always be our duty to fight for Black people, and keep the experiences of Black women, girls and femme in the public consciousness for the sake of the liberation for ALL Black people.

So, you may be thinking, well what do we do now or what can I do? Non-Black folks, challenge your privilege and allow Black folks to lead how they want to. If you are at an action, make sure you bring a sign that has the name of a victim of a Black woman and #Sayhername, and make sure that all genders are represented in leading the action or event.

It’s not okay to just talk about the experiences of Black men, and Black men, we actually need you in this fight against all forms of violence against women. I’d love to see more Black men support Black women in that respect. Black women, continue to take up space! Get involved in anyone of these organizations listed above and organize, talk to your neighbor, your friends, and your colleagues and start a conversation about what you will be doing to stand up against all forms of violence.

Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about Miami with the community in a Your View piece, please email us at [email protected]