For the black girl they raped this week, and all the others who have been raped today, yesterday and the day before

 

Source: LA Johnson/NPR

 

A 15-year-old black girl was sexually violated, gang raped, and brutalized by a group of 5-6 boys and men. Somewhere in Chicago, her rapists took her and video-taped while they raped her. The harm doers publicized their wrongdoing… no, no, their sin, their unabashed wickedness, their unrepentant transgression on Facebook live, an action that in some way mirrors how the Klan hanged Black folks’ tattered, raped and dismembered bodies on trees for all to see, to behold.

 

They have published her name online, but we will protect her underage status, even as she was not protected from brutality. Yet we have her mother’s words, her mother’s cries, her mother’s horror. “It should never, ever happen to anyone… It’s disgusting…. She was so scared.”

 

They raped a black girl today, and yesterday and the day before that…

 

They murder black women and girls in the streets. We say their names. Rekia Boyd, Islan Nettles, Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

 

They kill black women and girls in jails. We say their names.

 

Kindra Chapman died in a cell in Homewood, AL

Joyce Curnell died in a cell in Charleston County, SC, begging for water and medication

Ralkina Jones died in a Cleveland Heights, OH jail

Raynette Turner died in a cell in Mount Vernon, NY

Sandra Bland was found hanging in a cell in Waller County, TX

 

They rape black women and girls in police cars. We honor and remember the thirteen plus black women whom Daniel Holtzclaw dehumanized.

 

They steal our children off the streets, and we fear sex trafficking. In the District of Columbia, more than a dozen missing children in the month of March alone. They have names and faces and fearful families. We say their names.  

 

Jaqueline Lassey; Yahshaiyah Enoch, Keon Herder, Juliana Otero, Dashann Walker, Aniya McNeil, Dayanna White, Talisha Coles, Gladys Keitt, Antwan Jordan, Morgan Richardson, Shaniah Boyd, Chareah Payne, Navaras Johnson.

 

We remember 8-year-old Relisha Rudd, stolen from us two years ago. There are 64,000 missing black women throughout this country. Where are they?

 

And even as these realities remain true, black men rape black women and girls in the home, and murder black women and girls every 21 hours. Every 21 hours, someone who claims they love them kills a black woman or a black girl.

 

Black men also murder Black trans* women after they have slept with them or raped them, or when their homeboys find out they are trans-attracted. In 2017, already seven black trans* women and one Native trans* woman has been murdered. We say their names.

 

Mesha Caldwell, found dead on a rural road near Canton, Mississippi.

Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, found dead in her South Dakota home.

Jojo Striker, found dead in a garage in Toledo, Ohio.

Jaquarrius Holland, murdered in Monroe, Louisiana.

Keke Collier, found dead in a car in Chicago, Illinois.

Ciarra McElveen, stabbed to death in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Chyna Doll, found dead in the parking lot of a New Orleans shopping center.

Alphonza Watson, found dead in Baltimore.

 

There are certainly more.

 

Many trans* women who are misgendered, buried in ways they did not live or identity with in life. Or their bodies have not been found. They have been dumped in rivers or they have been dismembered, causing their families to search for body parts one at a time, as was the case of 19-year-old Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard in Detroit, Michigan.

 

We do not know all of their names, but we remember grandmothers–trans*, cis, and gender nonconforming–who carried secrets of sexual assault to their graves and granddaughters whose make up covered faces concealed bloody bruises as they lay in pristine caskets.

 

We look to Marissa Alexander, who was just released from prison after serving three years for defending herself and her children from the violence of her abusive husband. We see the pain and hurt of fourteen-year-old Bresha Meadows, who has been charged for killing her abusive father to defend her mother from his sexual, emotional and physical abuses.

 

We know as ministers, scholars of religion and theology, and freedom fighters rooted, fueled and centered in black communities, that black religious institutions, including but not limited to black churches and mosques, have been complicit in rape culture and perpetrators of sexual violence in the pew, from the pulpit, on bended knee and while bowed prostrate to prey and to pray. We have read and reflected on the work of womanist scholars such as the Rev. Dr. Renita Weems’ Battered Love: Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets and the Rev. Dr. Monica Coleman’s The Dinah Project: A Handbook for Congregational Response to Sexual Violence. We are also aware of the work of Black Women’s Blueprint’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName initiatives, the interventional projects of Girls for Gender Equity, and other black feminist and womanist organizations and projects that center the livelihoods of black women and girls.

 

We are aware that 60% Black women report having been raped before the age of 18. And that 1 in 4 black girls are victims of child molestation, incest and rape. We have cause to believe that these numbers do not fully speak to the experiences of black women and girls. Far too many are never given the chance to speak their truths, others are shamed into silence because of the culture of dissemblance and the politics of respectability, and many more suffer from depression, suicide ideation, premature death, and so many other residual traumas.

 

We also know that black boys are victims of sexual abuse as children and often become sexually violent and physically abusive towards women and girls as adults. We wish to acknowledge the ways violence, trauma, and rape functions cyclically among us who are the descendents of the enslaved and who live amidst slavery’s many afterlives.

 

We write as active leaders in the movement to end child sexual abuse in black church communities through Children of Combahee, a newfound project through the Just Beginnings Collaborative. We are committed to deconstructing the theologies, practices, and ways of worshipping that enshrine safe space for the violation of children, women and girls. We are deeply invested in uprooting the patriarchal, rape apologist, and misogynistic cultures of our religious communities, which not only encourages what happens to survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, but also enacts and re-enacts that same violence each time a survivor is ignored, told to forgive her harm doer, and/or is revictimized or worse, sexually assaulted or raped by those who claim to represent God and God’s gospel.

 

We recommit ourselves to cry out against these horrors and to work toward communities where rape culture is uprooted and where the most vulnerable will find safety and justice. We will not merely shake our heads while social media becomes a venue for voyeuristic violence. We will organize, we will resist, and we will build communities where all are free and whole. We call on all who believe in justice, in human thriving, and in hope to join us.

 

For the cause of justice*,

 

Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Founder of Children of Combahee and Doctoral Student in the Departments of Religion and African American Studies, Princeton University

 

Rev. Valerie Bridgeman, Ph.D., Board Member of Children of Combahee and President & CEO of WomanPreach! Inc.

 

Darnell Moore, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Writer

 

Vivian Anderson, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Organizer with Every Black Girl, Inc. and Black Lives Matter NYC

 

Rev. Kym McNair, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Associate Minister, Antioch Baptist Church, Bedford Hills, NY and Minister of Community Education and Engagement, Bedford Presbyterian Church, Bedford, NY

 

Hari Ziyad, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Founder of RaceBaitR

 

CeCe Falls, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Founder of Harlem SUN

 

LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College

 

Jason Johnson-Gordon, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Organizer with BLM Philly

 

Sevonna Brown, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Gender Justice and Human Rights Project Manager at Black Women’s Blueprint

 

Rev. Eboni Marshall Turman, Ph.D., Board Member of Children of Combahee and Assistant Professor of Theology & African American Religion, Yale Divinity School

 

Rev. Melva Sampson, Ph.D., Board Member of Children of Combahee

 

Rev. Starsky D. Wilson, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Pastor, Saint John’s Church & Deaconess Foundation

 

The Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Executive Pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ, Brooklyn, New York

 

Dr. Tamura Lomax, Board Member of Children of Combahee and Co-Founder, The Feminist Wire

 

Minister Whitney Bond, M.Div., Board Member of Children of Combahee and Ph.D. Student at Chicago Theological Seminary

 

Rev. Onleilove Alston, Faith in New York

 

Jade T. Perry, Co-Founder of The Mystic Soul Project

 

Teresa Pasquale Mateus, LCSW, Co-Founder & Executive Director at The Mystic Soul Project

 

Beccy Bayne, Human Being

 

Dr. Brandy Liebscher, Psychologist

 

Rebecca Berry, J.D., Black Women’s Health Imperative

 

Alicia Crosby, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Center for Inclusivity

 

Rev. Dollie Howell Pankey, Social Concerns Coordinator, 5th Episcopal District, C.M.E. Church

 

Rev. Dr. Irie L. Session, New Friends New Life and ILSession Ministries, Inc

 

Chinyere Tutashinda, BlackOUT

 

Monique A. Dauphin, LMHC, Hudson Valley Feminists

 

Laura Shmishkiss, Co-Executive Director, Border Crossers

 

Jill M. Humphries, Ph.D., Africana Studies, University of Toledo, National Conference of Black Lawyers New York Chapter

 

Rev. Pamela Canzater, United Church of Christ

 

Rev. Simone Oliver, New Day Ministries

 

Rev. Dr. Mike Greene, Highland Hills UMC

 

Andrea Plaid, Writer, Survivor

 

Rev. Andrew Wilkes, The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York, Associate Pastor of Young Adults and Social Justice and PhD student at CUNY Graduate Center

 

Chelsea Miller, Founder & CEO, Women Everywhere Believe

 

Hosea Anderson, East Mt. Zion Baptist Church

 

Rachel E. Harding, Veterans of Hope Project

 

Rev. Bianca Davis-Lovelace, Pastor of Eastgate Congregational United Church of Christ & Co-Founder of Progressive Millennials for Action

 

Logan Patton, UCLA

 

Lynda McEwan, Socialist Party Scotland

 

Ahmad Abojaradeh, Founder and Executive Director of Life in My Days, Inc

 

Dana Russell, Leake and Watts

 

Inas Mahdi, MPH, Personal

 

Dr. Khalilah Ali, Founder, The 64 Project & Freethought Schools

 

Neity K.C

 

Tia Keenan, writer

 

Jaclyn Coleman, Broadside Print

 

Joy James, FULCRUM

 

Reverend Michelle Nickens, Pastor, Washington Plaza Baptist Church, Reston VA

 

Rev. Ellen Rasmussen, United Methodist Church – WI

 

Preshuslee Thompson, Center for Community Solutions and San Diego NAACP Branch

 

Julie R Lewis MA, Sonoma State University

 

Monna Morton

 

Alexis Haynie, Ph.D. Student, Literatures in English, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 

Tia Keenan, writer

 

Andrea Coln, Vocalist

 

CM! Winters, Librarian

 

Ryan Seaton, Kids-Net Los Angeles

 

Marianna Islam, Community organizer

 

Treena Bell, Teacher

 

Lena Hayes, Board Member, Child Development Support Corporation Brooklyn, NY

 

Chanique Lawrence, University of Cape Town, student

 

Kretel Krah, Womanist, Christ follower, Covenant House of Georgia, Homeless youth advocate, Activist for Black women and children

 

Scott Alves Barton, PhD, Queens College

 

Sherry Perkins, Citizen

 

Rashida Whitley-Smith

 

Prof. Katherine Kurs, Faculty of Religious Studies, Eugene Lang College, The New School University

 

Dr. Sheba Lo, Africana Studies, California State University

 

Stacey Andrews, M.Ed., Advocate and Owner/Handler, Miley the K9 Advocate

 

Isha Clayton, Activist

 

Catelyn Icenogle

 

Black Cotton Coleman, Seminarian, MDiv 2019

 

Alissa Maddren, Decent Human Being

 

Sharae Green, M.S Ed., Teacher & Board Member of Affinity Community Counseling

 

Naomi Washington-Leapheart, The National LGBTQ Task Force and City of Refuge United Church of Christ

 

Olinka Green, NBPP

 

Deborah Porter, Writer/Producer/Marketer

 

Cheryl Anakwa, Africana

 

Joanne N. Smith, Girls for Gender Equity (GGE)

 

Yavon M. Davis, Senior Citizen’s for African-American People

 

Eddye Ervin, Concerned Citizen

 

Ms. Leslie D. May, MFT intern, TasDAngel’s Dominion

 

Noelia Marcano, Mother

 

All members and founders of the Rise Up Campaign

 

Jallicia Jolly, Ph.D. Student, American Studies, University of Michigan