Melissa Harris-Perry: Say Their Names

We less frequently discuss historical violence against black girls and don’t adequately connect these stories to movements for social justice. As a result we think our daughters are safer than our sons. We forget Elizabeth Eckford walking a racist gauntlet toward Central High School in 1957; or tiny Ruby Bridges requiring federal marshals to attend elementary school in 1960, New Orleans; or four little girls murdered in their Sunday school in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.  Girlhood has never been a shield against the brutality of white supremacy. We cannot forget the vulnerabilities of black girls. Yes, we must keep our brothers, but what about our daughters? We must also say their names: Rekia Boyd, Renisha McBride, Mya Hall, Natasha McKenna, Sandra Bland.


Many call it black girl magic because it seems we can do what no one else can or will do. We seem to bear burdens heavier, run races faster, and absorb brutality more stinging than ought to be possible given how few resources are at our disposal. The legacy of black women’s lives and labors show an unprecedented capacity to survive in hostile conditions. This is not magic. It is grinding work that exacts deep costs from black girls and women. Yes, black women have long made lemonade from the lemons life handed them. The problem is somebody usually sat down and drank it after she made it. That is not justice.

—nothing about us, without us.

On July 9, 2014, Tianna-Gaines Turner, an African American mother from Philadelphia, became the only person living in poverty to testify before Representative Paul Ryan’s House Budget Committee on poverty―the only person living in poverty to address the lawmakers creating policy about poverty. Her statement was powerful and clear. She concluded by admonishing the committee with these words:

My neighbors and I know what’s going on in our own communities, more than anyone else. We know our own hardships better than anyone. We have the energy, the grit, the creativity, and the strongest interest in overcoming our struggles. We’re fighting already for our families and our neighbors. We need to be taken more seriously by our state and federal governments. …

Nothing about us, without us. Congress should not make any decisions about programs meant to help families living in poverty without people who know poverty firsthand at the decision-making table…. It’s time to call in the experts.

Please take the time to read the speech in its entirety at the link below or picture above →

via Melissa Harris-Perry’s Testimony Before the Congressional Caucus for Black Women and Girls | ELLE