Marching for Black Women: A Call to Justice

“When fear rushed in, I learned how to hear my heart racing but refused to allow my feelings to sway me. That resilience came from my family. It followed me through our bloodline” – Coretta Scott King

 

Diamond Raymond, Program Assistant

I finally reached a point in my life where I can relate to the way Coretta Scott King talks about fear. Attending the March for Black Women was by far one of the scariest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. An experience only made possible because I refused to let my fear keep me from participating in a such a historic and significant moment. Like Coretta, I am learning to conjure up the bravery of my mother and foremothers in order to answer the call to justice. While I’ve always been involved in activism for women’s rights, and more specifically for achieving equity for black women in academia, marching in the streets of D.C. and allowing my anger and sadness to be on display felt a lot scarier than any workshop, presentation, or speech I ever put on. Needless to say, the times we are in call for bolder measures from us all.

It’s no secret that 2017 has been an extremely hard year for black women. However, the March for Black Women organizers still took up the noble and necessary cause of sharing the shocking statistics of injustice that have plagued black women this year, such as:

  • In the first six months of 2017, 12 black trans women were murdered
  • In February, 30-year-old black woman Morgan Rankins was shot and killed by police
  • In March, 10 black children went missing in less than 2 weeks in the I-495 corridor that stretches between Baltimore and D.C., most of them black girls
  • In March, 38-year-old black woman Sherida Davis was shot and killed by police, the officer was also her husband
  • In March, 21-year-old black woman Alteria Woods, who was pregnant, was shot and killed by police
  • In April, black woman Glenda Taylor was stabbed and strangled by a probation officer, who was also her fiancé
  • In April, black woman Karen Smith was shot and killed by her husband, and hundreds more such cases go unnoticed
  • In May, 27-year-old black woman Jonie Block was killed by police
  • In June, black woman Charleena Lyles, who was pregnant, was shot and killed by Seattle police in front of her children

Each of us, each black woman, who came to Seward Square for the March, came with the heavy weight of those statistics on our backs only to have the further compounded by recent attack on Title IX by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Withdrawing the “Dear Colleague” letter from Title IX was a huge blow to all women, and especially for black women, considering that for every black woman who reports her rape, 15 do not. We cannot afford for the system to make it anymore difficult for black women to report their assault. The imperative to March was undeniable and black women, and our co-conspirators, eagerly answered the call.

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Black women showed up powerfully and in style! The posters, outfits, speeches, and hair were all equally fabulous.

#MarchForBlackWomen: My sisters are black and trans. You mess with them you catch these hands. #M4BW #EveryBlackWoman [email protected]

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In formation with @ruhnay! ????❤️#m4bw #sayhername

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Much like the conversations my mom and aunties had in the kitchen growing up, there were equal parts laughter, anger, joy, tears, and storytelling. The speakers who blessed the stage with their grace and strength included: Fatima Gross Grave, National Women’s Law Center; Farah Tanis, Black Women’s Blueprint; Monica Simpson, Sistersong; Indira Henard, DCRCC- Powering A Culture of Consent; Annie Clark, End Rape on Campus; Lisalyn Jacobs, National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence; and Bre Ann Campbell, Trans Sisters of Color Project. They called us to action and reminded us of the collective power of black womanhood.

While the things that brought us together are heartbreaking and infuriating, it was incredible to be in a space together with our joy and pain centered. The entire day was a reminder that healing begins when the call to justice is answered.