#500EmpoweringAfricanStories: Breonna Taylor
By: Sakina Adamali
Breonna Taylor was a young woman, a dedicated emergency medical assistant, and an aspiring nurse. On March 13, 2020 as she lay asleep in her own bed, the police raided her house, shooting her multiple times. The raid was apparently targeted to another person in the neighborhood who was already detained by the time the police entered Breonna’s home. Her story is a tragic one, but her name sings the tune of freedom against police brutality for Black Americans.
In the words of Breonna's mother, Tamika Palmer, “I just think she was destined to be great. Breonna just loved life, and people gravitated towards her. She lit up a room and had this aura about herself.” It is sad the world lost such a beautiful soul, but her legacy lives on.
Four months after the incident, none of the police officers who were involved in the killing of Breonna were charged. On September 15, 2020 Louisville mayor announced a $12 million settlement with the Breonna family. In the settlement, the city did not admit to any wrongdoing, according to the mayor.
Taylor’s mother said during the press conference, “As significant as today is, it’s only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna. We must not lose focus on what the real job is … It’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more.”
On September 23, 2020, Officer Hankison who shot Breonna was given three wanton endangerment charges; however, the two other officers faced no charges. The grand jury indicted Hankinson because he shot bullets into neighborhood apartments, not shooting and killing Breonna.
Though Black women make up 13% of the female population in the United States, they represent 20% of women killed by police and almost 30% who are killed while unarmed. About 36% of women killed by police since 2015 were killed in their homes, like Breonna, according to an article by The Washington Post. Breonna’s death has fueled a movement that addresses this police brutality. The #SayHerName movement sheds light on Black women’s experiences of police violence, supporting a gender-inclusive approach to racial justice that uplifts all Black lives equally.
Despite the grand jury’s failure to implicate anyone in Breonna’s killing, activism and protests in her name bring to light just how disempowering the justice system is toward Black female victims of police brutality. Supporting the #SayHerName campaign means remaining steadfast in the struggle to upend how systemic racism and sexism intersect to disproportionately affect Black women. Breonna’s death continues to unify people to fight against racism and her name gives voice to thousands of those that have gone unheard.