It was an all too depressing trend that began in the summer of 2014 and continued for months: A parade of previously unknown -- and unarmed -- black men who found themselves trending hashtags on Twitter and national cause celebres because they'd been gunned down by police officers or died in custody, under dubious at best circumstances.
Tamir Rice. Mike Brown. Eric Garner. Freddie Gray. Their deaths -- or the lack of justice following their deaths -- sent literally tens of thousands of people into the streets, blocking traffic and making one unified statement, that Black Lives Matter.
Since police-involved killings became front page news, the movement has grown in different directions. A push was made -- called Say Her Name, or #SayHerName -- to focus on female victims who died behind bars -- most famously Sandra Bland, the woman who died in a Texas jail in a series that began with the most minor of traffic infractions -- or in police-involved shootings. One of the movement founders, DeRay McKesson, entered electoral politics as a candidate for mayor of Baltimore. Others have worked to carry the Black Lives Matter banner into the presidential race.
Still, something seems different after watching the protests unfold for the last year and a half. The numbers of Americans killed by police -- more than 1,000 last year, and on the same pace so far in 2016 -- remains shockingly high when compared to other developed nations. And yet there's been less outrage in recent months over individual cases. Have we grown numb? We shouldn't do that.
Say her name. Joyce Curnell.
A woman who was arrested at a hospital over the summer for failing to pay court fines died the next day because she was deprived of water at the Charleston County jail, her family's attorneys said Wednesday.
Joyce Curnell, 50, of Edisto Island was found dead in the jail shortly before 5 p.m. July 22, a day after being taken from Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, where she had been treated for a stomach illness.
She spent the last 27 hours of her life behind bars. During that time she became too sick to eat or call for help, according to court documents filed this week. She vomited all night and couldn't make it to a bathroom, so jailers gave her a trash bag. Some medical staffers ignored the jail officials' requests to tend to her, the documents alleged.
Curnell's family filed a notice Wednesday to sue the jail's medical contractor, Carolina Center for Occupational Health, for malpractice. Unless a settlement is reached, a lawsuit likely will follow. The filing cited expert opinion from a local doctor, who said Curnell's death "more likely than not" would have been prevented if she had been properly treated for gastroenteritis and dehydration.
Credit The Post and Courier of Charleston -- pound for pound, one of the best newspapers in America -- for staying on this story. It turned out that Curnell died in the very same week as Sandra Bland, and in the same month that she and Bland were two of six African-American women to die in the custody of law enforcement. In Curnell's case, the alleged lack of medical care -- or even basic human concern for her condition -- is simply astounding.
And her last few hours isn't the only disturbing detail about Curnell's case. The story of how she even ended up in the Charleston County jail on the first place is truly bizarre. It started in a hospital, where Curnell was being treated for a severe bout of gastroenteritis. Somehow -- no one is quite sure how -- it emerged at that moment that Curnell still owed hundreds of dollars in fines from a 2011 shoplifting conviction, and so she was picked up and went straight from the hospital to the county jail. Not to the jail's medical unit, but to its regular housing unit. Where she died. Over a relatively small unpaid fine. Unbelievable.
Ironically, the seven finalists in that reality show that we call the 2016 presidential election just spent most of March traipsing around the Palmetto State begging for people's votes. And while there was more talk than usual on the Democratic side about social and racial justice, I don't remember any of this "Magnificent Seven" once mentioning the case of Joyce Curnell.
The Charleston area has been the scene of so much injustice in the last year or so -- the killing of unarmed, fleeing Walter Scott by the police officer now charged with his murder, and the mass murder of nine blacks on a Bible class by the racist Dylann Roof. But we won't see progress unless we remember this case, and the person we lost.
So say her name. Joyce Curnell.