I’ve been sitting with the grief that anniversaries like this bring, and thinking about the world that Breonna deserved. In interviews, Breonna’s mother Tamika Palmer often shares her daughter’s dreams of becoming a nurse, buying a house, and raising a family. My own daughter is now 18, and also has very clear hopes and dreams that I want to see her live out. As a mother, the pain is unimaginable yet so many have to navigate it every day.
I want a world where all Black women are able to pursue their dreams, raise families, and just be who they are, without fearing that state or patriarchal violence will harm them or end their lives.
Yet Black women experience disproportionate rates of sexual violence, state terror, maternal and fetal mortality, chronic health disparities, and shorter life expectancies. Black women also face the highest rates of stops by law enforcement, police violence, arrests, and incarceration among women, and represent the fastest-growing prison and jail populations in the country.
But we are not simply sitting and waiting for the system to fix itself and end the war on Black trans and cis women, girls, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people. Because Black women are powerful and we’ve witnessed that collective power again and again. Black women led electoral strategies that shifted conditions for Black people across the nation. Black women came together amid this past year of health and economic crises to look out for one another, our families, and our communities serving as healthcare workers, launching mutual aid networks, and mobilizing for our collective liberation.
Still, just because we’re fierce and our leadership is essential doesn’t mean we should have to do it alone. We are organizing to abolish patriarchal violence and erect a new vision of society where Black women are loved, supported, and protected. There’s a role for everyone in ensuring all Black women have what they deserve.
This country failed Breonna, and continues to fail all Black women, but we are not stopping until our vision for Black lives is real.
When Black women have what they need to be free, we will all be free. I’ve been coming back to this statement for decades, taking inspiration from the Combahee River Collective and so many other Black feminist teachers.
On this first anniversary of Breonna’s death — during Black Feminisms Month — I am joining with the Movement for Black Lives to make a pledge to center and protect Black women.
Our pledge is not only about abolishing interpersonal, community, and state violence, it is about ensuring that Black Trans and cis women, girls, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people have all of what they need: living wage employment; quality, accessible, and affordable housing; universal, quality, and accessible health care; comprehensive, culturally appropriate community-based mental health care; comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care; universal, quality, and accessible childcare; and healthy environments.
This year we are committing to building local power in cities across the country, building alternatives to harmful institutions and practices where the state has failed us as well as fighting for investments in our communities that allow Black people to thrive.
We are committed to building the world Breonna and all Black women deserve. In an interview this month, Breonna’s mother reflected: “There’s been no justice…I still don’t have any comfort. And it’s definitely not easier. It’s a year for everybody else, but every day is still March the 13th to me.”
If we say her name, then let’s mean it. Let’s organize to bring that world of our dreams into being. Join me to keep building and dreaming our vision for Black lives. For Breonna, for my daughter, for all of us.
Karissa Lewis is National Field Director at the Movement For Black Lives. M4BL is a national network of more than 150 leaders and organizations creating a broad political home for Black people to learn, organize and take action. M4BL.org