Kerrice Lewis. Facebook photo
Sunday night's insurgent Golden Globes Awards were, despite the usual glitz and privilege, truly uplifting: The black protest gowns, activists accompanying stars, award-winning women-centric narratives - Lady Bird to The Handmaid's Tale to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri - and electrifying speech by Oprah Winfrey, the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. The media mogul, author and producer of films highlighting black stories - including Selma, Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God - poignantly described sitting on her linoleum floor as a child, seeing Sidney Poitier become the first black man to win an Oscar, and "what a moment like that means to a little girl...watching from the cheap seats." Arguing that "speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have," she praised the #MeToo movement and proclaimed, "A new day is on the horizon." Most notably for some of us, Winfrey highlighted the inclusiveness of the current moment, citing "the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories, and they work in restaurants...in academia, science, tech, politics."
And on construction sites. Kerrice Lewis, a 23-year-old African-American lesbian and "free spirit" who was orphaned young, endured a tough childhood and spent time in jail, was turning her life around working in construction and taking night classes when she was savagely murdered in D.C. days after Christmas. Lewis was one of three black queer women violently killed over the holidays; none of their deaths got much media coverage, even Lewis', which was particularly horrific. Police found her body with “no signs consistent with life” after getting reports of a fire and gunshots in an alley. Lewis had been shot, stuffed in the trunk of her car, and burned alive; neighbors told police they'd heard screaming as she tried to escape from the trunk. Grieving friends are enraged by the lack of media coverage or police action - no suspect has been named - but hardly surprised. "Black queer women get murdered," says one advocate, "and no one notices." In truth, the deaths of scores of lesbians have been "erased"; the expunging of their stories is even more swift and profound when they are butch and/or women of color. Women have lived "too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men," said Oprah Winfrey at the Globes, "but their time is up." Not quite. But to make it happen, we need to say their names - all of them.
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Lewis with her best friend's son