Because This Black Woman Be Struggling to #SayHerName

“They don’t want to hear about Black women killed by police AT ALL.” -Gina Best, mother of India Kager (a Black woman who be knowing)

#SandraBland. I said her name and it hurt.

#KorrynGaines. I said her name and had to gasp for air.

#IndiaKager. I just found out about her. I said her name and began to weep.

#BreonnaTaylor. I said her name and my heart almost stopped.

There has been a lot of outrage (from mostly Black women) around the murder of Breonna Taylor but even more anger due to what seems like the lack of collective outrage, action and attention that she has received in comparison to #GeorgeFloyd. 

This is not the Oppression Olympics but when it comes to attention and outrage over state violence against Black folks, there is a legitimate feeling that Black women are forgotten or as Dr. Brittney Cooper says, “Black women are treated as an addendum” when it comes to this issue. We are being harassed by police. We are being sexually assaulted by police. We are being MURDERED by police! 

I can honestly say that I haven’t been as vocal about Breonna Taylor as I need to be and that is because her story triggers me in a very specific, very familiar way. It’s not that I don’t hurt for all of the Black women and girls who are killed by the State, however, Breonna’s story is a constant reminder that I could have been her. I experienced a similar incident and it has been and continues to be painful and downright paralyzing to hear Breonna’s story over and over again. There are so many overlaps that I am shaking as I type this. 

Kimberle Crenshaw’s Under the Blacklight series, #SayHerName episode focusing on the surviving family members of women who have been killed by police brought me to my knees. I cried and cried and all of those tears felt like the story I have been holding inside, pouring out of me.

I ask that you please read, listen, comment, share, discuss if the spirit moves you.

The Incident

In December 2011, I go out after work with some of my homegirls to a Holiday shopping event in Manhattan. Cocktails are served, credit cards are swiped and pictures are taken. I text my then-partner, Theresa to meet me at my apartment in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. Because I’m hanging out later than usual, my eleven-year-old daughter stays at my mom’s house. 

Theresa comes over; we have adult time and we fall asleep. At approximately 4:30a.m., I hear a loud noise in the apartment that causes me to jump out of my sleep. I turn to Theresa and ask, “Did you hear that?” Of course she heard it. It sounds like someone shot through the door with a fucking cannon. 

It’s pitch black in my apartment. I can’t find my glasses and I realize that someone is using a battering ram against my door. I start to panic. I’m naked. I’m disoriented. I’m fucking scared to death of who and how many people are outside of my apartment door. The ramming gets louder; we can hear the door beginning to split and I yell, “I WILL OPEN THE DOOR! PLEASE STOP BANGING! STOP BANGING ON MY DOOR!” 

I can hear the desperation in my voice and I am willing to expose my body to whoever is on the other side of the door just to make the banging stop. I approach the door and the voice on the other side yells, “GET AWAY FROM THE DOOR AND GET THE FUCK ON THE FLOOR!”

All I can do is cry. Theresa brings a sheet and tells me to get on the floor, lie on my stomach and put my hands up as she does the same. The next few seconds feel like an eternity as we lie there and wait for whatever is on the other side to come inside. I want to hold her hand so that just in case I get killed, I am holding on to someone who cares for me. 

With what seems like the 20th swing, the door finally comes off the hinges and in less than three seconds, we are surrounded by the NYPD, DEA and SWAT in full riot gear and guns pointed at us. They yell at us, “ARE YOU A PART OF THE TRINITARIOS!?! DO YOU HAVE DRUGS IN THE APARTMENT?” 

I can’t think straight. I can’t believe this is happening. I have to be at work in less than four hours and I’m about to get killed by cops because of incompetence. I just keep yelling “NO! NO! NO!” to everything. Some of them go into my daughter’s room and I thank the goddess everyday that she was at my mom’s house. They yell “CLEAR” to one another as they go into my bathroom and stomp past our naked bodies to go into the bedroom where we were intimate earlier. 

My underwear, her bra and a dildo are on the floor and I am literally and figuratively naked in front of these fucking killing-machine morons. I feel shame for a minute as I hear them exit my room and yell, “CLEAR”. One of them finally flips on a light switch and Theresa’s titties are out, half of my ass is out and we can’t even reach out to cover one another or ourselves. We lie there with no clothes, no clue what’s going on and no dignity.

They ask again, this time calmer as they figure out that they fucked up, “Are you part of the Trinitarios?” 

“No,” I say through gritted teeth and puffy eyes. Theresa also says no and I feel so sorry that I asked her to come over but I’m also beyond grateful that she’s with me cause I know I would’ve done something to get myself killed had she not been there. 

A female officer finally gives us permission to get up and get dressed. I run off like a white girl in the movies and I am inconsolable. I can barely talk. Although they clearly have the wrong apartment, they still run our IDs and find nothing. One of the officers asks me what I do for a living and I answer as my chest heaves, “I’m…a…high school…teacher.”

They apologize for the “inconvenience” and one of the officers turns on my Christmas tree lights to “make me feel better” and “lighten the mood.” I can’t believe this nigga went from Rambo to Santa Claus in a matter of minutes and expects me to have a lighter mood. As they leave, they continue to apologize and say that they must have gone to the wrong apartment because there are two sides of the building and they must have been on the wrong one. 

I can’t even close the door and lock it behind them because I don’t have a fucking door anymore. I can only chest heave and wail uncontrollably for the next 30 minutes. Theresa sits next to me as I call my father and fail to speak an intelligible word for five minutes. When he is finally able to make out the gist of what’s happened, he immediately drives over. He walks right in and asks what the fuck happened and I cry my way through the entire story. 

My father has always warned us about White folks, especially the police. We never called them and we avoided them at all costs. Here I am, just turned 27 years old (not even a full year older than Breonna was when the police killed her) and all of my fears about the police are confirmed. They are incompetent, cowardly, trauma-inducing, killing machines. 

I was a teacher. Breonna was an EMT worker and wanted to become a nurse. We were both in service jobs. We were both in our mid-late 20s and we both were INNOCENT. Our crime: being born Black and female in a world that does not value our lives. The only difference is I’m able to tell my story and she is not.

The Aftermath

As I get older, I continue to realize the ways that Black women do not get to be victims; the way we are always somehow blamed for the fucked up shit that happens to us; the way we are never protected; the way we are not cared for; the way we are left to nurse our own wounds. 

I call out of work that day (the only day I’ve ever taken off throughout my entire teaching career.) Following the incident, my Irish landlords come up to the apartment. They look at the door before they look at me (I assume to assess the damages and what they’ll need to replace) and the first thing the husband asks me is, “Why didn’t you just open the door?” I nearly black out. Does the condition of this door look like the person on the other side was knocking politely? GTFOH! It hasn’t been a full two hours since I damn near got swiss cheesed up and that’s your first question? I wanted to pack my shit up and leave right then and there but it would be two and a half years before I move. 

The next day, I contact a white lawyer (you already know how this will end.) He is able to pull up some sort of street view of my building to tell me the ways the cops enter my apartment as if I didn’t tell him that they came through my door using a battering ram. He talks to me for about 20 minutes only to conclude that he cannot help me because the officers had a no-knock warrant (same as in Breonna’s case.) I ask, “How does that matter when they came to the wrong apartment?” He, along with one other lawyer, gives me the same news: There will be no justice for you. The first lawyer actually said, “You should feel lucky that you weren’t shot.” Really? My innocent ass should feel lucky for not being shot by people who wrongfully came into my apartment? Copy that.

I definitely have PTSD. I feel sudden noises in the pit of my stomach. If I’m not expecting you to come over to my house, please do not knock on my door because my paranoia is on 100. Since Breonna Taylor’s murder, I have had frequent nightmares which has caused an increase in stomach pains that is typical for me when I feel anxious. Sirens, police officers and social media posts with Black women being violated cause me to feel downright depressed. 

That was 2011: pre-use of body cameras and pre-#SayHerName. I often think about the story that would have been told about me and Theresa had we died that day. Would it have even made the news or would our family and friends be forced to hold us in their memories alone? I know that even our dead bodies may not have gotten us and our loved ones any justice. And the real injustice is seeing this happen again almost nine years later but with fatal consequences. 

It’s been four months since Breonna Taylor was murdered by Brett Hankinson, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove and while I have signed the petitions and said Happy Birthday on what would have been her 27th birthday and have thought about her every day, sometimes saying her name is just too difficult. I am sometimes scared that in an attempt to say her name, my own might come out instead.

Nevertheless, #JusticeforBre! 

Black women be fighting for Breonna Taylor.

Black women be crying for Breonna Taylor.

Black women be Breonna Taylor.

And if you don’t know, now you be knowing.

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