Holding the photos of 40 Black women who have died at the hands of police across the country, activists gathered at City Hall Wednesday to “say her name,” recounting stories of women that they say often go untold amid discussions of police brutality and racial injustice.
“Enough is enough. We are done dying,” organizer Dawn Chavous told the crowd. “That could be us. That could be any one of us.”
Later Wednesday, about 50 people gathered in West Philadelphia’s Clark Park to protest police brutality and Black transgender erasure in the form of a community scream.
Co-organizer and West Philadelphia resident Bianca “Blu” Lazuli said the event’s purpose was to raise awareness of Black transgender lives in a way that was impossible to go unnoticed.
“This is something that hits home for us because it could be us or one of our friends being pulled out of the river,” Lazuli said, referencing the discovery of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells’ dismembered body in the Schuylkill on June 8 — at least the seventh transgender woman murdered in Philadelphia since 2013.
As the country has faced a reckoning against racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd, activists have urged protesters to remember Black women, including Black trans women, during the push for change.
“People are protesting in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and they don’t know Atatiana Jefferson or Breonna Taylor,” Chavous said at the City Hall memorial. “I thought it was important to show up in the same volume, to give light to these women and their stories in the same way we do for our brothers.”
In March, Taylor was shot eight times by officers who burst into her Louisville, Ky., home while she was sleeping, using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation. As protesters have flooded Philadelphia’s streets in the wake of Floyd’s death, Taylor’s name has become a common chant during demonstrations against police brutality.
This week, three months after the shooting, the Louisville Police Department fired one of the officers involved in Taylor’s death.
At Wednesday’s rally, 40 women, one by one, told the story of another woman who had died at the hands of police.
A handful of politicians also attended the rally organized by Chavous, who is married to City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson. They included City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart and Councilmembers Katherine Gilmore Richardson, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, and Cherelle L. Parker.
”Specifically for Black women, we have found ourselves at the bottom of the totem pole,” Parker said. “Within the African American community, we are paid less, and if you look at our history in the women’s movement .... we had to even fight to be included in that movement. That very specific intersection is a place that we need to recognize and we need to honor, and show that their lives are valued.”
Created in 2014 by the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, the “Say Her Name” campaign aims to bring attention to often-overlooked violence against Black women in the United States.
Organizers of the rally in Philadelphia, sponsored by a bevy of organizations including Millennials in Action and the Black Women’s Leadership Council, also presented a list of demands for local officials, including investing in forms of community safety that don’t rely on police, ending the practice of sending police to mental health and domestic disturbances, and holding police accountable for violence against Black women and girls.
”There will be a continuum of this until we see the changes,” Chavous said. “We just got to do better. We’re done dying.”
At Clark Park, protesters formed a semicircle holding signs that read “No justice, no peace, no fascist police,” “All Cops are Bastards,” and “Black Trans Lives Matter.” The transgender flag and blank poster boards decorated a nearby tree, where people were encouraged to write messages in memory of Black transgender lives lost.
Co-organizers Lazuli and Chef Marcú directed the crowd to let out five 10-second-long screams.
Reflecting on transgender deaths over the past year, Lazuli said the screams reflect how tired the community is of constant subjugation.
”It’s too much, and we’ve had enough. And usually, when people feel like something is too much or enough, they scream about it,” Lazuli said.
Monthly community screams are planned to continue raising awareness of Black transgender lives.