#Say Her Name Vigil Shines Light on Police Murder of Black Women

May 25, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


sample image

On May 20, over 300 people gathered at New York City’s Union Square for Say Her Name—a vigil to shine a light on the murder and abuse of Black women, including trans women, by police and other law enforcement authorities. Many were young Black women, among whom there was a deep sense that these lives need to be remembered as just as precious as those of the men killed by police, but there were men and women of all nationalities there as well. Others were of all ages, different genders and all walks of life, and the powerful vigil stopped many tourists, commuters and people hanging out in Union Square.

The mood in Union Square was one of anger, sorrow, and determination to rescue these names from slander, dehumanization, or oblivion, and to fight to put an end to the ongoing horror that goes beyond just the taking of individuals, but that tears holes in the hearts of friends, families, communities, day after day, year after year.

Coinciding with the vigil, the African American Policy Forum released “#SayHerName: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women,” an important and damning document “highlighting stories of Black women who have been killed by police and shining a light on forms of police brutality often experienced by women such as sexual assault.” Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Director of the African American Policy Forum and co-author of the brief, spoke at the vigil. (See the Revolution interview with Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw here.)

Speaking Bitterness and Outrage

 People gather at Union Square, New York City, as part of SayHerName nationwide protests against police murder of Black women.

Union Square, New York City, part of SayHerName nationwide protests against police murder of Black women. Photo: Special to revcom.us/Revolution 

This was solemn ceremony. Among the victims of police murder recognized were Miriam Carey, Kayla Moore, Michelle Cusseaux, Rekia Boyd, Shelly Frey, Alberta Spruill, Shantel Davis, and Tanisha Anderson. In each case, a family member, escorted by a pair of activists, leaders, artists, would come to the mic. The escorts would speak first, telling briefly who this person was that was lost to us now, using the words of friends and family to bring them alive. Then family members spoke of anger, love, and outrage.

“What did the police officer see when he pried open the door? A Black woman? A lesbian? He said it was just a look in her eye [that made him shoot her.] What face would you have on if police broke into your house?” These were the words of Frances Garrett, whose daughter Michelle Cusseaux, 50, was shot dead by Phoenix police after Frances had called them to ask for assistance getting her daughter to clinic for treatment for her bipolar disorder. She and another relative of Michelle Cusseaux were escorted and flanked on stage as she spoke by playwright, performer, and activist Eve Ensler and Carl Dix—representing the Revolutionary Communist Party, and co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.

Shelly Frey was 27. A Houston cop suspected her friends of shoplifting and shot into their car to stop them from leaving. Wounded, denied an ambulance for hours, Shelly died in the front seat of the car. Shelly Frey’s mother said: “We have to stand together, we can’t let this just go away. A week after Shelly was killed, we didn’t hear about Shelly anymore... The police always say that they ‘were in fear of their lives.’ That’s a lie. And if you didn’t have any heart for the people, why did you take that job? Now the lives of our loved ones have been stolen from us. Shelly had two beautiful children. Now the five-year-old asks the nine-year-old ‘when is mommy coming to pick us up?’ How do you answer that?!”

sample image
Eve Ensler and Carl Dix with family of Michelle Cusseaux, murdered by Phoenix police in 2014. Photo: Special to revcom.us

Rekia Boyd, 22, was with a group of friends in an alley; an off-duty cop had words with a guy and fired into the group. Rekia was wounded, she told the cops “I don’t want to die,” they told her to “Shut the fuck up.” Alberta Spruill, 57, a city employee, was at home when police with the wrong address attacked her home on a “drug raid”—they threw a concussion grenade in, Alberta died of a heart attack.

Kayla Moore’s sister said: “The police stole Kayla’s life, but they can’t kill her spirit. I won’t let them, my father won’t let them, we won’t let them.”

Shantel Davis’s mother told the crowd: “When Shantel was killed, I became an instant activist and I haven’t stopped since.”

Rekia Boyd’s brother declared: “To viciously take her life like that, and to show no remorse, that’s a slap against humanity.”

After each family member finished talking about their loved one, a large poster-picture of that person was put into the back of the crowd and was passed hand-to-hand to be displayed at the front. The MC took the mic and called out, for each person: “Who will carry Rekia Boyd? Who will carry Alberta Spruill? Who will carry Miriam Carey?” And the crowd would shout back loudly and solemnly: “We will!” as the family member sat down amongst the others in a place of honor on the stage, and the next group got up to speak.

Union Square, New York City, May 20
Union Square, New York City, May 20. Photo: African American Policy Forum

Leaders of the vigil emphasized that this day of remembrance and vigil needed to be followed by stepped up struggle. Shortly before ending, Climbing Poetree (Alixa and Naima) each performed powerful spoken word pieces, and then ended together with the following:

To destroy us
they’ll have to annihilate our angels
we summon the strength
of all those who came before us
and all those coming

We must weave freedom
in our fingers
when the world gives us nothing
but believing
a new day’s coming.



Volunteers Needed... for revcom.us and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.



"The film brings you up close inside Cornel West's and Bob Avakian's dialogue: the passion, the audacity, the science, the morality, the revolutionary substance. Two courageous voices modeling a morality that refuses to accept injustice – pouring heart and soul into standing together challenging all of us to fight for a world worthy of humanity."

Andy Zee,
co-director of the film


BA Speaks

"No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."

BAsics 1:13

Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).

What Humanity Needs

At the beginning of 2012, an in-depth interview with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, was conducted over a period of several days by A. Brooks, a younger generation revolutionary who has been inspired by the leadership and body of work of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism this has brought forward.

Special Issue

People need the truth about the communist revolution. The REAL truth. At a time when people are rising up in many places all over the world and seeking out ways forward, THIS alternative is ruled out of order. At a time when even more people are agonizing over and raising big questions about the future, THIS alternative is constantly slandered and maligned and lied about, while those who defend it are given no space to reply.

Contains Interview with Raymond Lotta, Timeline of The REAL History of Communist Revolution, and more...