After midnight on March 13, 2020, Louisville Police Officers executing a no-knock search warrant used a battering ram to force open the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Emergency Room Technician. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at the police, who returned fire, striking Breonna Taylor. According to her boyfriend, she struggled to breathe for several minutes, but she received no medical attention for 20 minutes after she had been shot, despite a call to 911 from her boyfriend right after she had been shot. The police had been investigating drug dealers who lived a long way from Breonna Taylor’s home. They obtained the warrant under the belief that one of the drug dealers had been using Breonna Taylor’s residence to receive packages. No drugs were found in Breonna Taylor’s residence. According to her mother, she had dreams of becoming a Registered Nurse, buying a house, getting married and having a family.
This morning, I witnessed Congressman John Lewis’ flag draped casket being carried, by decorated servicemen to the Capitol Rotunda. I thought about his words forty years after his participation in the Freedom Rides of the South after white supremacists firebombed the bus he was riding on May 14, 1961, “It was very violent. I thought I was going to die. I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious.”
On Bloody Sunday, March 9, 1965, during the Selma to Montgomery marches, his skull was cracked by the billy clubs of Alabama police as he attempted to cross a bridge named, then and now, for a confederate army officer and ku klux klan grand dragon. He thought he was going to die, then, too, but God had other plans. Yesterday, his coffin crossed that bridge one last time, accompanied by his family.
Just in case you did not know, Juneteenth commemorates the day when Union soldiers delivered the news of emancipation to slaves in Galveston, Texas (June 19, 1865). Never mind that the emancipation proclamation was actually signed on January 1, 1863, but it explains a lot about Texas and how a lot of Texans do things. Depending on where people are, it is celebrated with a parade, a picnic a music festival or a similar gathering. Growing up in the South, it was a big thing there but I have attended events as far away as Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.
My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.