There are moments in life that are so definitive that you remember exactly where you were. I remember where I was when the Challenger space shuttle exploded, when Princess Diana died tragically in a car accident, when O.J. Simpson took his infamous ride in the back of a white Bronco, when Michael Jackson passed away. Those moments are etched in my mind. Defining points in time that I will never forget.
Similarly, I remember where I was as I awaited the decision about charging the police officers that killed Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman killed in her home on March 13, 2020, by the Louisville Metro Police Department. I sat on a concrete ledge in Injustice Square Park in Louisville, as they played the decision over a loudspeaker. The only charge Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron would seek was wanton endangerment against Officer Brett Hankinson for shooting into a wall and endangering lives in a neighboring unit.
My mind was telling me to scream, but my mouth couldn’t formulate the sound. Perhaps I swallowed my screams so often over the past months of protesting, waiting, marching, waiting that I had lost my voice. I didn’t want to cry. Somehow, I felt that would give those in authority satisfaction, but the tears came, rushing from my eyes as if a dam broke. I couldn’t stop them. Cameras surrounded me. I wanted to scream, “Leave me alone!” I think I did. I think I yelled. I think I cussed. I remember cameras were in my face, as reporters asked me for a quote, and I said, “Give me a minute.” Give me a minute to process what has just happened.
Everyone was looking for the next sound bite. The next tweet. The next Facebook post. They were all asking me, “What do we do next?” I wanted to say, “I have to march for you not to kill me. And now you are asking me to teach you how not to kill me. How dare you ask me what we should do next?”
They didn’t understand that I needed just a moment to breathe. The air was so thick and heavy, it lingered in my lungs, almost choking me as I exhaled. I gasped. I put my head down and sobbed loudly.
I don’t know if you have ever heard a soul scream, but my soul was screaming. My soul was screaming as a Black woman in Louisville. My soul was screaming for my daughter, who is named Brianna. My soul was screaming for justice, and this state told me that a Black woman’s life is not worthy of justice. How does this state think that makes Black women feel, that our lives are less important than the risk of shooting into a wall?
I wept for Breonna Taylor, for Atatiana Jefferson, for Eleanor Bumpurs. I cried because Black women can never just be, not even in our homes. I wept for Black women who marched endless miles because we wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, this time, there would be justice. Perhaps this time, this nation would see our humanity.
They didn’t. This city never saw us — Black women.
And here we are a year later — a year of protesting. A year of screaming, “No justice, no peace.” A year of marching in the streets. A year of screaming, “Say her name,” and still no justice.
As we come up on the anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death, I fear that she will become a figurehead. An image we point to and say, “Oh, there was a Black woman who died.” And we forget that Breonna had a life. She had hopes. She had dreams.
And we do not take in the totality of what has happened in this city. Breonna isn’t about T-shirts, masks or catchy slogans. Breonna Taylor was a Black woman who was killed in her home by the police. And she has received no justice. No one has been held accountable for her death. Kentucky couldn’t even pass Breonna’s Law, which would ban no-knock warrants.
I do not take this weekend to “celebrate.”
It is a reminder to me. That for many in this city, life just goes on. They do not understand the picture we see of Breonna that is frozen in time. They do not realize that something in this city has broken. This city doesn’t understand the fear that consumes me as I enter my home. That feeling in the pit of my stomach that someone will think I don’t belong in my neighborhood. The sadness I feel as I walk downtown and remember frantically running from the police. The memory I have of being tear-gassed. The pain I felt seeing police officers in full riot gear as I attempted to walk across a bridge in my community.
I will not forget.
I cannot forget.
I will always say Breonna Taylor's name.
Because she is not a figurehead.
Breonna Taylor is a Black woman that was killed in her home by the police.
Breonna Taylor is me.
Breonna Taylor is my daughter.
Breonna Taylor is my sister.
Breonna Taylor is my mother.
Breonna Taylor is a Black woman that is frozen in time.
A Black woman this city attempted to erase, but you were here, Breonna.
You were always here.
And I will remember.
I will always remember, and I will always say your name.