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