Naledi Atari, "The Lives of Black Women"

                                                                   The Lives of Black women


It’s  been 4 years since the hashtag #blacklivesmatter  gained popularity worldwide. Many know the names of  Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and Philando; yet few  know the names of Aiyanna Stanley Jones, Rekia Boyd, or Renisha Mcbride.People know of Sandra Bland and Korryn Gaines yet did we march for them?  I question the  movement  for  black lives that was coined by  three black queer women :Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. Even so here’s rarely any public outrage about the unarmed  murders  of  black  female identifying people.
When my  friend Jacquelynne Causey asked me how I would feel if I saw a film dedicated to the lives of the black women who were murdered  by the police, I was ecstatic. A few days later she sent me the link to Al Jazeera’s  video, “The Lives of Black Women”.  I watched  the  video, withheld  any  reservations, and  took time to gather my thoughts. During the  film, I  thought of the #SayHerName campaign in response to the lack of awareness, news coverage or  public outcries about the extrajudicial murders of  black women, girls,and femmes. The #SayHerName  campaign  launched  last year to  uplift the names we  forgot. Many people have co-opted the  hashtag  completely  decontextualizing the  initial motive. When you say #sayhisname to uplift  male  victims of  police  you are  erasing black women and girls. Black women and  girls  are rarely  acknowledged in  news  coverage of police brutality.

  As  a  person who  lives in the identities of  black and assigned female,  I always   question my navigation.  In school I do not feel safe; I am either too loud or too black in my class both hypervisible and invisible.   In general society I feel like I have to play up my femininity so that I am not deemed threatening, a routine many black women adhere to.  When the Charleston shooting happened  I was saddened, the 6 women  murdered  were just like my aunties, grandmas, and female cousins. I know what it’s like to   trapeze on  awareness and racial fatigue. I appreciate the dialogue about Black Lives Matter  in my  classrooms, but  it’s troubling when so many don’t know the names of  Rekiya Boyd, Shantell Davis, and Bettie Jones. Where is the space for Black women, girls, and femmes? So many of  us are the pillars of  our community, yet there is a   debilitating  silence  that   surrounds us  when we are harmed by those in  our community and outside of it. 

        Rekiya Boyd, for those who are not  familiar, was a young black woman killed by an off duty cop in a neighborhood in Chicago. “The Lives of Black Women,” profiles Martinez Sutton, the brother of Rekiya Boyd. He talks about how important  she was to him and his continuous fight for justice.  
"People don't care about black women, they just don't. We're in the way in the case of Rekia Boyd. We're angry black women. Or we're just too angry and too black and too womanly in the case of Sandra Bland. We're either too x or we're invisible," says Page May, teacher and organiser of Assata's Daughters,  May  continues,"At best we're taken for granted, at worst we're abused. And we see the manifestation of that on the mainstream, in the erasure of our deaths, our suffering, and of our resistance,"
       A  quote  from the film  that resonated with me  personally -- Why does it resonate? Do you understand what she’s talking about when she says ‘we’re either too x or we’re invisible?’ expand on this and then add something to tie these together
      As the film  continues, we learn about the shooting of Bettie Jones, a 55 year old  mother and grandmother. We are shown her families who share their  memories of her. This was a humanizing moment for me; too often we forget the families of the people we uplift in this vital  movement. These families lost someone and are ultimately  seeking not only  justice but solace too. A lot of the ground work seen in Black Lives Matter  is by black women, femmes, and girls. We’ve  seen Lesley MsSpadden, Sabrina Fulton, and Gwen Carr  all grieving for the lives of their sons. In a movement for black lives, we have to recognize the intersections of  blackness and how white supremacy  targets them.
While I am thankful for both the movement and the film, there's much more work to be done in regards to the #sayhername campaign.

    To be both  black and  woman is to be  tired. A thread  to be pulled and pulled and pulled. All in all.  I really wanna hold a space for black femmes to be human. We are not  clasped hands for prayer. We are  expected  to be  everything  and  everybody top anyone but ourselves. Our  deaths  go erased,  we  are shamed  countlessly on social media , and ostracized  for  existing.  I want to raise awareness of  the  things that hurt us.   I say #blackmindsmatter and #blacklivesmatter  because  both are true. We never talk about mental health, or in this  case  the  constant  erasure. The  black  femme  identity is not  tied to trauma. However  it would  be disingenuous  of me to not account for the ways this  country  pushes us to the very  edges .  i often ask myself  who  is  watching the backs of Black women.   I  watch my  mother,  my friends, and  my  sister  work tirelessly often without complaint.  For  survival they have to  to try to  disguise  the inner turmoil,  this process was something we  were taught at an early age.  You never wanted to be  a distraction or   be deemed  an  angry black woman.  As  someone  who  has  spent  5 years  at  a higher education institution, the amount  of  code switching  I have to undergo is  exhausting. Most recently  I  began work at a very white office  space,I currently have extensions but  I  am  worried that if  i remove my  extensions my bosses will think lesser of me.  I know  to the person reading this essay it may seem like a nuance but that's  something  that living in a black femme body feels likes. Always lessening yourself to appease other people.  I   can recall the numerous  amount of times  that  someone has  guided  a microaggression towards me  in regards.   If it’s  not  my perceived  niceness or attractiveness, it’s  in regards  to the  choices I make to my hair.  People  feel so entitled  to your space and body.  The  lives of  black women  are  tied  to  capitalist  consumption; which means that are good enough to imitate. Yet  you are simultaneously  but not  good  enough to be  visible.   Your  voice  neither matters, you are berated for having an opinion.  Blackness  is  something that is  readily commodified  by  affluent  white celebs.    With that being  said I am  exhausted, always  ready to  put my  battle armor on. Though it’s not  easy as  a writer and  advocate I often catch myself  mid-fire. Trying  to   make sense  of  the world; it  is  easy to become  jaded and bitter. Both  feelings  are  valid however I   know that  I am doing my  part to raise awareness  of  narratives not highlighted. I know that the  lives of black women are not e asy but I wouldn’t change it for the world.