Imagine being 15 years old sitting in a juvenile detention center charged with the aggravated murder of your abusive father. Welcome to Bresha Meadows’ life every day since her July arrest.
In the wee hours of July 28, a then 14-year-old Meadows allegedly killed her father, Jonathan Meadows, with his own gun as he slept. Reportedly, that same gun was used to threaten her mother and two siblings for over two decades.
“If he finds us, I am 100 percent sure he will kill me and the children,” Bresha’s mother Brandi stated in an order of protection filed and then later dismissed in 2011. “My life is like living in a box he created for me, and if I stepped out of that box, he’s there to put me back in that box.” She also told Plain Dealer in an interview that her husband sent her “to a hospital or an outpatient facility 15 to 20 times over the years.”
Afraid for her life, Bresha ran away from her house twice leading up to the shooting, which her aunt Martina Lateesa, a Cleveland police officer, says was a result of years of physical and psychological abuse. Now, as she battles depression, she also awaits her fate at Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center in Warren, Ohio. She faces being tried as an adult for a premeditated crime, which carries a life sentence.
Sadly, the story is all too familiar. A person of color is locked away in the devastating mental conditions of jail and punished by the full extent of the law for a justified crime (if we can even describe it as such seeing as how it was self-defense). The difference is that Bresha is a black girl; therefore, she has become yet another victim at the intersection of racism in the criminal justice system and the invisibility of women of color.
The media coverage for this miscarriage of justice has been largely pathetic, with celebrity sightings and the presidential circus taking precedence over the abomination happening to Meadows. Similar to Black Lives Matter, however, the movement has gained legs through social media thanks to the Free Bresha Meadows Campaign (#FreeBresha), which seeks to have Meadows’ charges dropped and to get her released. According to the campaign, black youth face a 40 percent higher chance of pre-trial detention than white youth, while white kids are 50 percent more likely than black youth to be offered alternatives to incarceration. Additionally, black youth are not viewed as children and, in 2002, were sent to adult prison at nine times the rate of white youth.
The numbers are upsetting, and the lack of viral support in this particular case is indicative of the wide disparity between the overwhelming rallying behind black men and that of black women, both living and deceased. Why aren’t we talking about it like we discuss Terence Crutcher? Why aren’t we protesting about it in larger numbers? There’s layered reasoning for this case to go unnoticed on MSNBC and CNN, but what’s our excuse as a community to not be a voice for this young black girl?
No, we shouldn’t choose between seeking justice for Crutcher or Meadows, but we should stick to our ministry of black lives matter, which includes the activism for all acts of systemic racism.
As deeply described in Ava Duvernay’s documentary “13th,” the system is designed to break prisoners mentally, and many don’t survive it. Therefore, we have to show our support through action in order to keep Bresha from meeting the same fate as Kalief Browder or Ramsey Orta, be it through signing the petition, sending money or spreading the word online.
The system has failed Bresha, who her mother claims is her hero. So how about we make it a point not to?