The ongoing protests in response to the death of George Floyd has seen some powerful moments from high-profile figures who are using their reach and platforms to push for lasting change.
There was actor and morning show host Keke Palmer avidly trying to convince a cop to march alongside protesters. Singer Halsey gave medical care to those wounded by rubber bullets. Insecure star Kendrick Sampson was struck by rubber bullets in a separate protest. Rapper Chika detailed her experience of getting arrested on Instagram.
And then there’s John Boyega.
Addressing a packed crowd in London’s Hyde Park, Boyega launched into an impassioned speech that perfectly underscored the rage and determination at the foundation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I need you to understand how painful this shit is,” Boyega roared through a megaphone, barely fighting back tears. “I need you to understand how painful it is to be reminded everyday that your race means nothing. And that isn’t the case anymore.”
Boyega reminded the crowd that they’re a physical representation for the black men and women who have been killed because of police brutality including George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, and Mark Duggan.
Then he delivered the most important message in his fiery sermon.
“This message is specifically for black men. Black men: We need to take care of our black women. They are our hearts. They are our future. We cannot demonize our own.”
I can’t help but to think of Malcolm X’s famous speech from 1962 where he said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
Uplifting and supporting black women, especially within our own community, is paramount. And Boyega was wise to give such a reminder in front of a rapt and mostly black audience.
However, I’d like to put a finer point on what Boyega said: Black women, cis and trans, need to be protected and honored in the community—and also within the scope of the larger movement.
It’s a hard-to-ignore fact: The death of cis black men tends to garner more media coverage and attention on social media than the deaths of cis, and especially trans, black women and men. To some, it may seem like a grimmest splitting of hairs, but the erasure of black women and black trans-men within the larger push for black equality has to be checked.
A black life is a black life.
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This is why #SayHerName was created. It’s not # SayHisName. We’re all fighting to be heard. BLM was created for Black Men #SayHerName was created for Black Women murdered by police because our cases never get the same amount of media coverage, outrage, or empathy. Please stop silencing these women’s stories with # SayHisName. Remember and uplift these ladies. They didn’t deserve to die. #breonnataylor #BlackLivesMatter
I worry (and know) that the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade may not have had nearly the amount of resonance that they’ve received in the media had they not happened within relative proximity to Floyd’s.
I worry (and know) that while we’re calling for equality for blacks, there are stories happening everyday like Iyanna Dior‘s, a black trans woman who was filmed being beaten by a group of black men in Minneapolis.
I worry (and know) that Dior was “lucky” that she wasn’t one of the dozen confirmed and underreported trans women who’ve been murdered in the past year alone.
I worry (and know) that there’s still a rampant and toxic culture of treating our own as less-than because they have one too many intersections.
The momentum of this current movement is undeniable and long overdue. We’ve certainly been at this point before with Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. But I’m hopeful that the energy of this particular moment will somehow knock a notable chunk out of the foundation of systemic racism that this country was built on. But, at the same time, I want to be sure that all black people are kept in the conversation.
I can’t explain enough how deeply I felt Boyega’s speech and how grateful I am that he took a moment to speak directly to the black men in the crowd. We absolutely need to “take care of our black women”—and that includes all women and remembering to say their names as often and loudly as possible.