The powerful voice for black feminism and justice can be heard within the Omi Gallery at Impact Hub Oakland this summer. In an effecting show of artivism, the #SayHerName exhibit places hyper-focus on the soul wrenching fight to bring Black female victims of police brutality to the forefront of the Black Lives Matter Movement. The names Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown are widely known, but this exhibit quietly provokes viewers to have questions, rage, and vindication for the sister victims of police brutality in marginalized communities.
“Justice for our Lives” by Oree Originol presents striking and beautiful black and white portraits of women killed by ‘state sponsored terrorism’ and police brutality. These posters were used in the action captured by April Martin’s photo document series, “Who Taught You how to Love Yourself: Black Womyn”. Martin displays the raw courage and vulnerability of women who stood bare breasted in the streets of San Francisco in protest of the continued gendered violence against Black Women. Combined as an exhibit, the bold photographs and prints demand you feel the pain, anger, and sadness and join the voices of courage in the movement to stop these killings and acquittals.
Rekia Boyd was killed by police just months after Trayvon Martin, but her story wasn’t made viral news. While names like Michael Brown and Eric Garner symbolize the narrative of the national Black Lives Matter movement, women are being killed, too, and we must not ignore this necessary truth in the conversation of justice.
In a demonstration of resistance against the silence to ongoing police violence on black women, on May 21st fifteen women black women protested in the streets of San Francisco, shouting the names of slain sisters of police violence, including Rekia’s, and removed their shirts to stand bare breasted with painted their chests against traffic. This bold use of “nudity for a cause” was meant to provoke and “to shame the people responsible for our oppression” according to the protest’s organizer, Ashley Yates.
The photographs of the event are visually arresting and hold nothing back. The exposed breasts are shocking, but the cause behind the picture, protest, and action demand answers to a more provocative question entirely. “Why doesn’t anyone care that the sisters are being killed?” the exhibit screams in hurt tones which echo inside the viewer’s mind. “As black women, they pay more attention to aspects of our bodies, to commodify us than the fact that we’re dying” says Chinyere Tutashinda, Co-Founder of The Blackout Collective has said.
The #SayHerName exhibit profoundly attacks the silence to shout that Black men being killed is only one part of the narrative that needs to be told.
– Story by Yodassa Williams
Photographs by Alonzo Young