St. John’s graduate student Tiarah Poyau, 22, died during J’Ouvert a Pre-Labor Day Parade festival held in Brooklyn, New York. Did she get hit by a car? Did she die from an illness that she didn’t know she had? Did a mosquito bite her giving her the Zika virus causing her to die? No, no, and no. Tiarah Poyau lost her life because she had the audacity to tell a man to stop grinding on her. Reginald Moise allegedly shot Tiarah in her face at close range causing her life to end because he couldn’t handle rejection.
This story while gruesome is not uncommon, 22-year-old Lakeeya Walker had hot coffee thrown in her face, was thrown to the ground, punched, and kicked in her pregnant stomach by Darryl Giullyard. The reason? She didn’t say thank you when he held the door open for her.
Janese Talton-Jackson, 29, mother of two died after leaving a bar one night in Pittsburg. The cause of her death, she was shot in her chest because she rejected a man’s sexual advances. Janese was having a night out with friends when Charles McKinney tried to talk to her and she rejected his advances. He tried again before she left the bar and again she rejected him. He followed her to her car where witnesses say he was seen talking to her and after she rejected his advances again he shot her in the chest.
There are so many stories like these that go untold, Black women are not being protected. Nobody is going off on social media, celebrities are not making short videos, and the famous hashtag #BlackLivesMatter is not being widely used surrounding these events. When I first read Tiarah’s story it kept me up at night because at any given moment that could be me. I live in New York City and I have lost count of the number of times a man has taken it upon himself to invade my personal space or worse, aggressively grab my arm to try and get my attention.
When I was younger my clap back with an attitude game was strong and then something in me shifted, stories started to circulate, Black women were being killed because they were rejecting sexual advances from men. Whatever obscene words were thrown at me because I didn’t want a “friend” I threw right back and didn’t care. Now it was different, I had to think twice about how my actions would influence a man’s behavior. Even though I know it’s not my fault that some men cannot control themselves or handle rejection I noticed how I would lower my tone and smile more than necessary because I didn’t want to be the woman who set him off.
Black women are not viewed as the damsel in distress and we are being blamed for our own deaths, sound familiar? I read comments on news threads that surrounded these stories and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Some men believed that if these women would have just been more kind then they would be alive. Who groomed these men to be so weak that a woman saying she doesn’t want to talk to them makes them feel so incompetent they have to harm or kill her?
And the absolute sad part of it all is the silence from Black men. The only people standing up for Black Women is Black Women. We are the ones making sure you say our names, we are the ones showing up to march and protest for ourselves because Black men are silent. Black men, all the “My Black Queen” memes on your social media pages mean nothing when you are silent on these issues. Fact, Black women are being killed, hurt, and objectified by men, and a lot of these men are black. And believe it or not, we don’t want to talk about it.
We see our black boys and our black men being killed because of the color of their skin, so we dare not come out of the closet and say that these same men are hurting us. We stand up for our black men and scream to the world to stop wrongfully and unjustly killing us. We say US because we see no difference between you killing our black men and you killing us. And then we go back to our homes and we are beaten, raped, and killed by the same men we were outside protesting for. The same men we brought water to while pouring milk on their faces to alleviate the sting from tear gas are the same men we fear. So no, we don’t want to talk about it because we don’t want our black men to view us as another enemy out to get them.
But it’s hard to know for sure if the brothas have our backs when I see comments from Black men stating that Tiarah shouldn’t have been at that type of event. So because I decide to go to a party to dance with my friends and not leave with a man I shouldn’t attend? Because I don’t want my arm to be aggressively pulled by a strange man I shouldn’t walk outside? People will argue that comments on social media don’t matter, but they do because these are people’s real feelings.
When I see a Black man’s face next to a comment that suggests Black women should be kinder and have less attitude when men approach them I have to consider that his comment is his truth. It’s comments like those that make me lower my voice and smile longer than I have to when a man aggressively asks for my number. I decline politely so I don’t end up being the Black woman with the attitude that ends up dead because she claimed ownership over her body.
Black men, we need you to stand up for us the same way we stand up for y’all. We need you to speak up for us the same way we scream to the world that your life matters. We are your Mothers, Daughters, Cousins, Aunts, Little Sisters, Favorite Nieces, Homegirls, Best friends, and most of all we are your support system. We are not your enemies and we are not trying to be like “them” and take you down. We simply want your protection, and for you to acknowledge that our lives matter. Say our names because we ALWAYS say yours.
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