Tuesday, August 18, 2015

#SayHerName NWA Candlelight Vigil

A Community Gathers Together to Say Their Names
by Leora Jackson

Fayetteville, AR  There were over 20 names of Black Women shown on the SayHerName NWA Candlelight Vigil presentation Saturday, August 15 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, however those names were just a tiny fraction of the total representation of women of color who were killed by law enforcement in the past decade, and the recent death of Sandra Bland has created an awareness that #SayHerName need to be in the forefront of Social Justice.

Tina Gaston of HandsUpNWA and Leora Jackson of Umoja Soul NWA came together to host a local candlelight vigil called “SayHerName in honor of many black women who were killed in the hands of law enforcement. What turned out to be a simple Facebook dialogue between a Facebook friend about protests that are happening across the U.S. in relationship to the death of Sandra Bland, turned into an event that welcomed different Peace Organizations such as OMNI Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology, The Other Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas Chapter of the NAACP, Dept of Social Work and more.

 A lot of people were upset about things happening and wanted to join in to see what NWA would do locally in recognition of Sandra Bland and other women of color who have been reported as committing suicide. Bland's family and majority of the African American community have suspected foul play, and have demanded the Department of Justice to intervene.

“We are working on issues of injustices in the local, state, and National level to ensure that local voices would be heard. We will make sure to take this forward and address these issues in Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus, and in the National Urban League, said D’Andre Jones.

With the lack of publicity of Black women of color in main stream media, Jackson and Gatson knew that discussions on this issue were needed.

Dr. Valandra, Associate Professor of Social Work and African and African American Studies, stated she was concerned about the misrepresentation of black girls in the educational system as well.

“Black girls are now involved in more school suspensions than ever before”, she said,  and this leads to a disproportionate number of black girls being referred to law enforcement and some of the reasons for referrals is non-violent offenses which leads to the pipeline to prison epidemic."

Jackson, co-organizer of the event said in her speech that the media gives a lot of recognition to the black men who have died due to police violence, and when a black woman dies, it doesn’t get as much respect and very little attention.  She read a poem entitled, Why can’t we say her name.

“Why can’t we say her Name? Yes we have names of Black Men who were killed, shot, and beat on street. So, we hear their names, Repeat, Repeat and Repeat! But what about Her Name?? What about the mother, who had a son,  and he was the age of 1, when she was killed under the gun, while holding her son, in her arms. This mother had a name. Her Name was Tarika Wilson, Please say her name," Jackson asked the audience.

And the audience repeated, “Tarika Wilson!”

Gatson then showed a Power Point presentation acknowledging 20 women of color during the candlelight vigil. Some names were Miriam Carey (Washington, D.C.) – 34 years old, Shereese Francis (Queens, New York) – 30 years old, Shauntel Davis (Brooklyn, New York) – 23 years old Sharmel Edwards (Las Vegas, Nevada) – 49 years old, Rekia Boyd (Chicago, Illinois) – 22 years old, Tyisha Miller (Riverside, California) – 19 years old, Yvette Smith (Bastrop, Texas) – 47 years old, and Tanisha Anderson, age 37, Cleveland

J’onnelle Colbert-Diaz, NAACP Representative and member a Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, wanted to make sure the audience understood that while this was a Say Her Name vigil, we should replace her name with OUR name and understand the significance.

“Think of your son’s name, your daughter’s names, or replace HER name with YOUR name. The names would mean a whole lot more if it were someone we knew or if it was one of us. But this can happen to any of us. We could be THAT name,” she said.

Colbert-Diaz also asked the audience if they remembered the 1991 beating of Rodney King and everyone raised their hands. When asked if they remember the hate crime murder of Latarsha Harlins, no one raised their hands.  She was killed by an Asian store owner 15 days after Rodney King.

Black women disputes such as domestic violence, and hate crime assaults are not reported to the media as much. More recently, there have been incidences of hate crimes targeted toward transgender women.

Gaston read a story from a Black woman in Little Rock, Tiommi Luckette who was brutalized by Little Rock Police Department. The woman happened to be Transgender and ending up being harassed, bullied, degraded and surviving the most antagonizing ordeal she had ever faced.

“I constantly pray for the day that I can repress my experiences with the criminal justice system here in Little Rock, Arkansas,” said Gaston, 

Many people were very well pleased with the event. A lot of support and contacts were made. This was a very pleasant event that portrayed UNITY in the CommUNITY.

Umoja Soul NWA and HandsUpNWA will host Poetic Justice Open Mic on August 28, from 8pm-11pm. 
See the Facebook Event Invite for more information: Poetic Justice Open Mic Event Invite

Photos by Irvin Camacho of Natural Dreamers
More Photos by Irvin Camacho

An overreaction to #BlackLivesMatter - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frfq-ok8w_4