#SayHerName: The Mothers of the Movement

Posted on April 16, 2019 | Julia Sharpe-Levine and G’Ra Asim, African American Policy Forum

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Founded in 1996, African American Policy Forum (AAPF) is a think tank that connects academics, activists and policy-makers to promote efforts to dismantle structural inequality. AAPF utilizes new ideas and innovative perspectives to transform public discourse and policy. They promote frameworks and strategies that address a vision of racial justice that embraces the intersections of race, gender, class, and the array of barriers that disempower those who are marginalized in society. AAPF is dedicated to advancing and expanding racial justice, gender equality, and the indivisibility of all human rights, both in the U.S. and internationally.

The African American Policy Forum first marched under the banner of Black women killed by the police on December 14, 2014 at the NYC Millions March, an anti-police brutality demonstration fueled in part by grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Marching together with 30,000 protesters, we urged others to join us to “say her name” and uplift the stories of Black women, girls, and femmes who were killed by the police, and whose names often got excluded from dominant narratives around police violence.

Since that day, #SayHerName has emerged as a rallying cry around the globe, demanding that violence against Black women is treated with the same urgency and awareness as violence against their brothers. In the years that have unfolded since, the stories of men like Brown and Garner became exemplars of the embattled relationship between Black communities and the police. Narratives about the over policing of Black women, however, were largely excluded. The Say Her Name movement responds to the void in popular discourse, theory, and policy about police brutality by expanding the existing frames used to understand police violence against Black people so that the violence against Black women is treated with the same urgency and awareness.

To reflect on four years of the Say Her Name movement and pay homage to the lives that should have been, AAPF produced a video highlighting the incredible members of the #SayHerName Mothers Network. Brought together in 2015 to attend the first ever #SayHerName Vigil in Union Square, the Mothers of Say Her Name are a group of Black women who have all lost daughters to police violence and have organized to collectively demand accountability. Since then, the Mothers Network has joined together on a number of occasions, marching at the Women’s March on Washington, lobbying for police reform on Capitol Hill, and joining together for several focus groups and planning sessions to strategize around the initiative and to assess the needs of new family members who’ve lost their daughters to police violence.

For more information about the Say Her Name movement and other campaigns for intersectional justice, visit us at AAPF.org and subscribe to our podcast, Intersectionality Matters with Kimberlé Crenshaw.

Julia Sharpe-Levine, produced and edited the “#SayHerName: The Mothers of the Movement” video. Julia is a writer, activist and theatre-maker living in Brooklyn. After serving as AAPF’s Associate Director for two years, she now serves as its Arts and Education Program Director. She has led workshops on theatre and social engagement, and has written articles on politics and intersectionality for publications such as the Huffington Post and Rewire Magazine. She has a Master’s degree in applied theatre from CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in drama and Chinese from Vassar College, where she graduated with honors. She is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society.

G’Ra Asim wrote the text for this piece. A writer and musician based in Harlem, G’Ra is AAPF’s Writing Fellow and a columnist for The Baffler.com. He holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University and is a former graduate teaching fellow in Columbia’s Undergraduate Writing Program. A graduate of Emerson College, his writing has appeared in Slate, Salon, Mosaic Magazine, and Punknews.org. When not writing or teaching, he sings, plays bass, and writes lyrics for New York pop punk quartet babygotbacktalk, who were recently named one of Afropunk’s “Top 8 Punkest Bands on the Planet Right Now.” His scholarly interests include the relationship between style, identity, and Western norms of citizenship.

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