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Black Youth Project 100 with Freedom Side in New York City August 2014. (Photo: Caleb-Michael Files)

Black Youth Project 100 with Freedom Side in New York City August 2014. (Photo: Caleb-Michael Files)

Under Banner of 'Black Women and Girls Matter,' Wave of Protests to Sweep Country

'The call is for anyone who cares about police violence against black people to also show up for black women and girls,' says organizer

Sarah Lazare

Mya Hall. Aiyana Jones. Rekia Boyd. These are a few of the names that will be held up in Thursday's national day of action, slated to sweep at least 17 cities across the United States, demanding an end to "state violence against All Black Women and Girls," including those who are transgender.

Organized by Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), Black Lives Matter, Ferguson Action, and numerous community organizations, the wave of protests come amid a growing nation-wide movement for racial justice that many are calling Black Spring.

Organizers say now is a critical time to highlight the black women who are heavily impacted by police and vigilante violence—and who are at the forefront of organized resistance.

"This is about centering the narrative and political demands around black women and girls, making sure we lift up black queer and transgender people," Charlene Carruthers, National Director of black youth organization BYP100, told Common Dreams. "We want to make sure the narrative about how this impacts the black community is representative of the reality we face every day."

Carruthers explained that the day of action was initiated by young Chicagoans demanding justice for Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old unarmed black woman who was shot and killed in 2012 by off-duty Chicago police officer Dante Servin. In April, Servin was found "not guilty" for Boyd's death, sparking anger and protest in Chicago and beyond.

However, Carruthers said that Chicago-based organizers with BYP100, We Charge Genocide, Black Lives Matter, and other groups "didn't feel like the response was what it should have been and felt there was campaign work that needed to continue to happen."

So, under the leadership of BYP100, a national day of action took shape, with protests, vigils, and demonstrations scheduled across the country.

In Chicago, many of the groups behind the city's historic reparations win for survivors of police violence are planning a rally at the police headquarters "demanding justice for Rekia Boyd and all Black women and girls that are victims of State violence."

Protesters in Ann Arbor, Michigan will call for justice for black woman Aura Rosser, shot to death at the age of 40 by police last year. "In order to represent the silence and erasure of Black Women’s and Girl’s Lives, we will wear black duct tape to cover our mouths," reads an event announcement.

In New York, actions will kick off Wednesday with a vigil, to be followed Thursday by actions and marches, including a demonstration organized by the family of Kyam Livingston, a 37-year-old black woman who died in NYPD custody in 2013.

"The call is for anyone who cares about police violence against black people to also show up for black women and girls," said Carruthers.

The few studies that exist show that black women and girls are heavily impacted by such violence.

The report Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women—released Wednesday by the the African American Policy Forum, the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia University—highlights the stories of black women harmed by police violence, including sexual assault.

"When Black women do turn to the police for support, they often fail to secure safety from their abusive partners," states the study. "Even more disturbing, an alarming number of police killings of Black women take place in the context of police responses to domestic violence situations. Similarly, Black women's experiences of sexual or homophobic and transphobic violence—leading to death of almost 10 transgender women of color nationally in the first few months of 2015 alone and a total of 12 in 2014—fail to result in protection or prevention."

According to a study released in 2014 by the Black Women's Blueprint, police targeting of black women is on the rise, and "Sexual misconduct by police officers, or public officials, is the second most prevalent form of police crimes as noted by a 2010 annual report conducted by the CATO Institute."

Carruthers emphasized that resistance to such injustices "is not new work," and Thursday's actions are "reflective of organizing that has been going on for a long time."

But, said Carruthers, that story "is not told as often as it should be. Everyone needs to be dedicated to this work. Black Lives Matter is about all black lives."

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