1954 or 2014 — what has changed when it comes to racial justice?
If you ask the average open-minded or socially conscious person — not much. Some even argue that conditions that Claudette Colvin, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the thousands of unsung heroes and sheroes of the Civil Rights Movement fought for still exist today.
Look at the rise of “Black Lives Matter.” Both the hashtag and the grassroots groups that came from the poignant call were led or dominated by three Black women named Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometipal. In the outrage over the lack of justice for Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner and the several others who died at the hands of law enforcement, there was an erasure of the black women, girls and queer folks who had met the same fate within some of the protests.
The Millions March NYC was called for and primarily led by two black women named Synead Nichols and Umaara Iynaas Elliott. More than 50,000 people — young and old, black and white, across genders and identities — came out in honor of the thousands and thousand that we have lost. We always seem to hold down our sons and others in the movement, but who will stand up for us — besides us?
The lack of mainstream attention for black cisgendered women, black trans women, black gender-non conforming and black girls doesn’t deter actions. Groups such as the Audre Lorde Project have transformed knowledge in action for queer and trans people of color for years. Girls for Gender Equity and the African-American Policy Forum have amplified this consciousness through the critically important #WhyWeCantWait counter narrative to My Brother’s Keeper.
Under our “Feminists On The Move” contingent, we called the names of black cisgendered women, black trans women, and black girls who have been killed by the police. Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7. Pearlie Golden, 92. Rekia Boyd, 22. Nizah Morris, 47. Kayla Moore, 42. The list of names are just as long as the list for black men and boys that you will often hear about.
When the call for our contingent was put forth, we didn’t know how it would turn out. To our surprise, we were met with an overwhelming amount of support — including that of the creator of the term intersectionality itself, Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.
To be able to put forward theories of intersectionality while honoring the lives lost at that intersection is a powerful and inspiring affirmation. Calling the names of these women that could have easily been me, I found the strength in my voice to speak truth to power. Yet, when I called these names into a bullhorn, I still wondered about what is to come.
How do we continue to build from theory to practice? How do we continue to grow from moments to movements? At the intersection of being Black [or of color] and being a woman — we’ve learned that we have everything to lose when it comes to mechanisms of oppression and violence.
If #BlackLivesMatter and the Millions March NYC have taught us nothing — we have everything to gain from collective dialogue, acknowledgement and action.
Veronica Agard is a Program Associate at Humanity in Action, City College of New York alumni and Transnational-Black Feminist. You can find her on Twitter @veraicon_