An Open Birthday Letter to Breonna Taylor

Dear Breonna,

Today you should be celebrating your 27th birthday with your loved ones. But unfortunately, your life was cut short due to a justice system that is steeped in racism. Today and every day, I will uplift your name; you made the ultimate sacrifice serving as an essential worker during this unprecedented time. You showed up for your community, and it is only right that we show up for you. Your name means “strength,” and that is what you have given me and so many others. Your name has served as a rallying cry for so many Black women.

When I read about what happened on March 13, my heart sank. You had so much life left to live; you were only 26 years old. This is another case where a Black woman was wrongfully killed by law enforcement in her own home, just like we saw with Atatiana Jefferson in October of last year. And similar to the death of Sandra Bland, the response to your death has not been as loud as it should be.

You did not deserve to be killed. To lose your life so violently, and for it to be a mistake, is inconceivable to me. I do not understand how people could be so careless with firearms. I know that I cannot turn back the hands of time, but I wish I could. I wish that our society had taken more steps to address law enforcement reform and accountability.

So often, history and contemporary media can serve as a sobering reminder of how often Black women’s experiences, needs, and contributions are erased or diminished in our collective consciousness. We have been pushed to the margins of society even in our fight for justice, although Black women have always been at the forefront of social justice movements. Moments like this remind us of the need to advocate for the amplification of the experiences of Black women more consistently. When we say “Black Lives Matter,” we must emphasize all Black lives matter, especially Black women because of this history of erasure.

In your honor, we must ensure we get the support, reform, and policies we need to ensure our safety and wellbeing; we, as Black women, are disproportionately affected by a myriad of issues such as maternal mortality and violence. Data shows us that Black women were killed by firearms over three times the rate of other women in 2017, and this disproportionate rate has existed for twenty years. Malcolm X once said, “The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” This is an unfortunate and persistent reality, and we must work to change it.

We know that you deserved better on March 13, 2020, and you still deserve better now. The officers involved must be brought to justice; we have waited too long for the arc of justice to bend in our favor. In your memory, I will do the work to ensure that your name — and those of Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, and other Black women — do not leave our collective consciousness. I will work to ensure that we advocate for the systemic change we need with respect to police reform and accountability, but also for resources to recognize and address the unique needs of Black women and girls more broadly.

Rest well, Breonna. We will take it from here.

Lauren Footman

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) is a 501(c)(4) organization founded in 1974. We are the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention organization.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store