What a year we’ve had, eh? In the words of Celie, by God, I’m here! This year has been the epitome of a roller coaster with no off switch. However, there have been some serious highs this year, especially in the realm of entertainment. Oftentimes, I had this roiling feeling throughout the year that when we faced indescribable ugliness there was always some form of entertainment to fill the void. I’m sure that many of you went to the movies, binge-watched shows on Netflix, scrolled ceaselessly through Twitter, and did a plethora of things to make it out to the other side of 2018. However, in the midst of all this media consumption, I’m sure that you couldn’t escape or ignore the multiple instances of high-profile domestic violence crimes.
Many of these domestic violence crimes resonated within the communities where they occurred and received larger national attention because of the brutality and scale of the violence perpetrated against the victims. In particular, the murders of Dr. Tamara O’Neal and Aisha Fraser were crimes that caused massive debates and discussions about self-defense, gun ownership, and the legal system in regards to Black Women and intimate partner violence. The crimes against these two Black Women are representative of a larger national and global issue and remain to be so due to the following silencing tactics.
Number one, race/community taking precedence over sex and gender. Number two, police/the justice system being deemed foe versus friend. And lastly, at number three, religion/church/God being used to constrict and restrict Black Men, Women, and children’s autonomy. I’ll go into detail in a moment about the previous three silencing tactics but first when discussing domestic and intimate partner violence we must always always take into account that the violence can be exacted via physical, emotional (intimidation) or financial means. One or more of these tactics can work in concert to create an environment of fear, isolation, helplessness, alienation, depression, apathy, insecurity, and dependency for its many victims.
The silencing of Black Women and Men has deep and varied roots dating back to slavery and colonialism. I always think of the deep psychological damage and fissures of identity-related to the self that occurred during these hundreds of years and continues its ripple effect to this very day. Imagine a plate that has been broken and glued back together and then passed down generationally with more alternating breaks, and then lost pieces from family member to family member, and the descendants having to utilize that same plate to eat from. Let’s be honest, some of us in the Black community have chipped plates, cracked plates, splintered plates, weathered plates, shards of an old plate one mishap away from disintegration, and some of us have no plate at all.
This analogy of the piecemeal plate furthermore solidifies that the lived experiences, images, and visceral nature of power, domination, subjugation, and authority that is/was White supremacy wielded against Black men and women had to have caused a catastrophic break between Black Men, Women, and children. There’s absolutely no way that after hundreds of years of enslavement, then Reconstruction, sharecropping, debt peonage, black codes, sundown towns, mass lynchings, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the plethora of additional violences that took place thereafter to have not made a lasting impact on the Black American community, family structure, power dynamic, religious practice, interpretation of the Bible, interpersonal, physical, and emotional relationships between Black Women and Men.
The lack of mental health treatment, denial of social/economic opportunities, policing of Black movement, presence of the justice system or lack thereof via vigilante-mob justice, firm grip of the Black church, unhealthy constructs of femininity and masculinity, and post-traumatic stress disorder manifested during this time which further accounts for the silence in Black spaces today when discussing the existence and toxicity of domestic and intimate partner violence. The fear for many who report about domestic or intimate partner abuse is the consequences to themselves, their partner, and their children. Many women fear their partner going to trial or jail due to the learned history of the penal system against Black Men, plus if the case is dismissed or the jail time is too lenient their abuser could be free to stalk them or re-violate them at any time. We are all well aware — thank you news and social media — and if you aren’t informed about this grim reality I apologize, but I’m going, to be frank with you that before some domestic disputes ever see the light of day within a courtroom the perpetrator of violence has already attacked or brutally murdered their partner, children, or innocent bystanders.
Returning to the national news cases of Dr. Tamara O’Neal in Chicago and Aisha Fraser of Ohio reveal that some of these same exact bullet points occurred within their stories. Both women intimately knew their attacker, both were separated from their partners, both were engaged in face-to-face verbal arguments that ended in their murders, and both women were killed in front of innocent bystanders. Dr. Tamara O’Neal’s ex-boyfriend shot her multiple times in the parking lot of her workplace and proceeded to shoot more innocent bystanders within the hospital that she worked, many of whom died. And, Aisha Fraser’s ex-husband stabbed her to death multiple times in front of their young daughters. Many of the stories this year involved boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, husbands, common-law spouses, or ex-husbands that viciously stabbed or mercilessly shot their girlfriends or wives to death. Many of the weapons of domestic violence incidents are very easy to come by or in the case of guns still, need years of reform and regulation.
Kishana Jeffers of Lewisville, Texas was killed via multiple gunshots on Thanksgiving Day this year with her children bearing witness to the brutal murder. Stefanie Vallery of Baton Rouge, LA, during the process of divorce from her husband was stabbed to death in front of her children, with her daughter and sister-both named-Danielle Scott being caught in the crossfire one attempting to protect their Mother and the other protecting her sister, plus nieces and nephews from also being viciously stabbed. Young teenagers from Los Angeles, CA Uniek Atkins and her sister Sierra Brown were both shot multiple times by Uniek’s boyfriend and their bodies-along with their home-were set ablaze, her boyfriend and several collaborators were later apprehended. Shalinda Gordon of Nashville, TN, received countless threatening calls and text messages days prior to being shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend; her daughter bore witness to the aftermath of the crime and ran to a neighbor’s house for help. The tether of all these stories, again and again, was the race of the women murdered, their young ages, and their integral place within their communities. Dr. Tamara O’Neal was a mentor and trauma surgeon, Aisha Fraser was a Mother and school teacher, Kishana Jeffers was a Mother and Housekeeper, Stefanie Vallery was a Mother and Grandmother, Uniek Atkins and Sierra Brown — two teenage sisters that had their whole lives ahead of them, and Shalinda Gordon, a Mother and Juvenile Case Manager.
These heartbreaking stories and many others received national or local news attention, but I always get chills thinking about the stories that I wasn’t able to find and the girls and Women that survived their domestic violence attacks and weren’t cataloged or were placed towards the back of the news cycle. I pray for the healing and comfort of all the families that have experienced violence in this way. I pray for the healing and fortitude of their children. I pray that the families allow themselves to grieve, cry, scream, yell, and in all aspects mourn for the loved one taken from them. I pray for the communities affected and the places that are bereft of their light and love. I pray for all of us who are trying to heal, learn, and grow and become fully attenuated with ourselves. I pray for the Black Men and Women that are trying to navigate self-care alone or with the assistance of professionals. I pray that their journeys are not full of tumult and we allow ourselves weakness. I pray that we allow ourselves to heal individually and collectively and the experience remains restorative and cathartic. I pray for the peace that our ancestors sought but relied on strength as their sole means of survival. I pray for this generation and the next and that the healing can continue and begin.
Last night, no one showed up to march for Rekia Boyd.
Rekia was shot dead in the head by Cops, in Chicago, on Monday.
A Cook County Judge acquitted Police of killing Rekia.
Dante Servin, charge of manslaughter, went jailbird free.
Rekia Boyd was a 22-year-old unarmed Black Woman living on the Southside of Chicago and last night no one showed up to march at her rally.
I guess all the protesters got tied up.
I guess all the Black folks were busy making signs, saying stop killing our Black boys.
I guess no one hears the howling of a Black girl ghost in the nighttime.
We stay unheard — blotted out — buried — dead.
Black girls receive tombstones too soon and never any flowers to dress the grave, so we fight alone.
They will tell you the woes of a Black Man who got beat by the Police in the street — beat by the man at work — beat by the system at the institution — but never of the Black Woman he took his frustration out on — never, never of the Black girl he stretched into a casket.
They will tell you of the Brown boys who get pushed from school through pipeline to prison — but never of the girls who fill the cells — never of the orange jumpsuits they camouflage into.
200 Black girls go missing in Nigeria and America puts out a hashtag instead of a search party.
No one ever causes a riot.
The first Black, first Lady, is being called the first ape on all of the media outlets and no one is outraged.
There ain’t no boycott or nothing.
Down the street a man did a hate speech to a Black Butch Woman and someone gave it a 10 — someone said it was freedom — poets are still over there cheering.
I guess Queer Black Woman ain’t Black enough.
I guess the movement ain’t meant to be a crossroad.
I guess we are here for play — pretend — make believe — poof!
How magic trick missing must I become?
How tight does my noose have to ring?
How long does my body need to deteriorate before anyone can smell it rot?
If a Black boy gets shot by the Cops — isn’t that a tragedy?
Ain’t it the blues — isn’t it a misfortune?
If a Black girl gets killed by Police and the killer goes free — does anyone notice?
Do you still call it a lynching?
Is her rally just a rehearsal?
Ain’t that why no one ever shows up?