WASHINGTON, D.C.–In 2012 Rekia Boyd was 22 when she was fatally shot in the back of the head by an off-duty Chicago cop. In the days following her murder, hundreds of people in the black community rallied and protested for her, demanding justice.
In 2012 Shantel Davis was 23 when she was shot once in the chest after she struggled with the cop who chased her down. She later died. In the days following her murder, rallies and protests erupted in the black community in her defense.
In 2010 Aiyana Jones was 7-years-old when she was murdered by the police as they shot their way through the front door of her grandmother’s house.
Dozens of protests erupted after her murder and continue to happen in the years following her murder, demanding justice for Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
These are just a few names in a long list of black people murdered by police. We know their names and their stories because the black community held them up.
Before there were these national mass mobilizations, it was the black community that protested and organized to keep the names of our lost daughters, mothers, and sisters on the lips of our community.
Not as a way to say, “look black women get killed too,” but to organize the people against this terroristic entity known as the police, that operates as an occupying force in the black community.
But increasingly, instead of pushing to overturn our relationship to the police, discussions have been popping up criticizing the black community for the lack of significant protests around the deaths of black women at the hands of the police.
Much of the criticism pits the value of black female lives against that of black male lives or black trans lives. So now the struggle is less about overturning our relationship to the police and more about finding gender-specific platforms that seek to validate the lives of people, lives that the African community already valued.
You see the fundamental problem isn’t that black women’s names aren’t included on this list of police murder victims; the problem is that such a list exists in the first place, and it continues to grow every day.
The question should then be how do we stop the police from killing us and through that process how do we win power in the hands of the black community? Because, let’s be clear, when a black trans person, black female and a black male is murdered or assaulted by the police, it’s because they are part of the colonized oppressed African nation.
This is part of our 600-year history where the lives of African people has NEVER mattered to the oppressor and the situation will not change as long as we continue to allow these misaligned attacks against the black community.
But there is a concern that if we don’t fight to include every sector of our community – in this time of struggle – if reform happens then the conditions for these sectors won’t get better.
This concern helps us understand who is revolutionary and who is not revolutionary. Non-revolutionaries, petty bourgeois (middle-class), neocolonial black people agree to concessions and are not interested in destroying the system that oppresses us.
They are comfortable under this system because it offers them meager scraps from the table of the oppressor. Achieving better policy for African women under capitalism is seen as a win.
Revolutionaries see a bigger brighter future where black people control our own lives and have the power to completely overturn backward tendencies that devalue the lives of sectors of the African population. It’s with this understanding that African women revolutionaries must struggle.
If the people are in the street because an African has been murdered, then we should be there too, agitating, helping to bust up the status quo and push the masses of our people toward a revolution that will liberate our people from the clutches of colonialism.
This is why the African National Women’s Organization (ANWO) is so significant. Our mission is to politicize African women so that we can see ourselves as leaders in these struggles; which will ultimately help shape the outcome for all of our people.
Black lives do matter and have mattered to black people, because it’s our community that loses when one of our people is killed.
There has not been a time in history where we have not struggled together to win. And sometimes African women have led these struggles. It’s like we’ve caught amnesia, divorcing the current moment from our history of struggle.
When there was an epidemic of white men raping black women in the U.S., it was black men along with black women who organized against this terror.
Wasn’t it the revolutionary policies of the The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Portuguese: Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde, PAIGC) that helped to liberate African women from the oppression of African men by bringing women and men into the revolution, which helped to defeat Portuguese colonialism in Guinea Bissau? This is our history and we must learn it so that we know how we were able to win.