Dear Black girl: You’re not alone. Here’s how to cope with the grand jury verdict in Breonna Taylor’s trial
Illustration by Brianna Pippens instagram.com/bpeppersart
It’s been over a week since a grand jury—a jury that decides whether or not charges should be brought against an individual—announced their verdict in the case involving the death of Breonna Taylor. On September 23, officer Brett Hankison was indicted on three charges of "wanton endangerment"—showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” according to Kentucky law— for the shots he fired into neighboring apartments. However, none of the officers received charges directly related to Breonna's death. Breonna Taylor did not receive the justice her family and millions of other people were hoping for, and protestors took to the streets in multiple cities to express their frustrations with the lack of charges. The release of the grand jury recordings yesterday on October 2 has only heightened tension and added to confusion surrounding the case.
To all the Black girls struggling to process their emotions in the aftermath of this case, I just wanted to say that you are not alone. I know how you feel. I really do. It’s tough to be Black in America, and it’s even tougher to be a Black girl in America, but just know that you matter, you are loved, you are resilient and we'll get through this together.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you process everything that's happening right now:
Know that what you’re feeling is 100% normal and 100% valid
Regardless of what feelings you may have regarding the Breonna Taylor case or anything else unsettling in your life right now, know that you are not alone in the emotions you might have. When I first heard the grand jury verdict, I didn’t have any particularly strong emotions, possibly because I was preparing myself for the worst.
But as I went about my day, I felt my seemingly nonchalant demeanor slowly melt into anxiety and frustration. I felt exhausted. Helpless. Confused. Discouraged. Angry. Heartbroken. I couldn’t control how or when my feelings arose, but I knew that countless other people felt the same way I did, and my feelings were justified and valid.
Whether you feel like crying, screaming, protesting or doing nothing much at all, know that it is okay. Whatever you feel is fine. It’s normal. It’s valid. Don’t be ashamed of your feelings, whatever they may be! Allow yourself to experience and process them.
Find a way to release your emotions
After you allow yourself to acknowledge and accept your feelings, it’s important to have a way to release them so that they don’t build up inside of you. Everyone is different, and I encourage you to find what works best for you, but here are some ideas:
- Write down everything you're thinking in a journal to get the thoughts out of your head and onto paper—don’t worry about grammar or spelling, just scribble away
- Rant to a friend or family member
- Listen to some music that fits your mood (my favorite song to listen to when I feel discouraged is “Bright” by Kehlani)
- Go for a run or bike ride to release endorphins and clear your head
- Write a poem or sketch a picture that describes how you're feeling
- Fill in a coloring book to release anxiety
Take a self-care day
After processing something this difficult, take a day to allow yourself to relax and recover. Going through the details of a case like this can be traumatic. The feelings you have are real and raw. Take a weekend or an evening to just chill and recuperate. Some things you can do include:
- Start a book you've been wanting to read
- Paint your nails
- Take a bath to relaxing music
- Watch a movie on Netflix and eat your favorite snack
- Do a ten-minute meditation (the Calm app is my personal favorite platform)
Seek the comfort of the people and things that uplift and inspire you
I found comfort in talking to my mom and my friends, many of whom shared my emotions regarding this case. I found solace in being able to share my pain and be transparent about how I was feeling, and they helped me stay hopeful. I encourage you to be open and vulnerable with trusted family, friends and other people in your life who can offer comfort and wisdom.
You can also turn to other sources that inspire you, like a favorite book, podcast or YouTube channel that help you process your thoughts. One of my favorite podcasts created specifically for girls and women of color is “The Self Love Fix” on Spotify. It’s hosted by Beatrice Kamau, a black woman who seeks to inspire and uplift women of color through her messages of self-love, self-worth and self-care.
Look for the positives
Although you may be feeling heartbroken, upset, or discouraged over Breonna Taylor’s death and the grand jury’s verdict, it is important to recognize that her case has drawn more attention to the way the American law enforcement and justice systems treat black people, and some things have changed for the better.
No-knock warrants were almost entirely banned with the passing of “Breonna’s Law": Officers must now verbally announce their presence and purpose and wait at least 15 seconds unless there is an “imminent threat of harm or death.” This will hopefully prevent cases like Breonna’s in the future.
Breonna’s family won a wrongful death lawsuit that includes measures for police reform: Along with a $12 million settlement for Breonna’s family, Louisville police reform mandates include a more thorough review and approval of search warrants, using social workers to provide support on police runs and establishing a program to have more officers police their own residential areas.
The Louisville Metro Police Department has its first-ever black female Police Chief: Yvette Gentry was named interim police chief after the former chief recently retired. Although Gentry’s appointment is temporary, she has still made history, and she serves as an indication of hope for change.
Breonna’s case has reignited an important conversation surrounding centering Black women in the fight against police brutality: Hashtags like #protectblackwomen and #blackwomendeserve better are circulating on social media as reminders that Black women need to be valued and respected just as much as our male counterparts. Our stories matter!
Breonna’s case has also drawn attention to the justice system as a whole: As Bernie Sanders demonstrates in the tweet below, Americans are now confronting difficult conversations regarding racial equity in every facet of our justice system, not just in law enforcement.
Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. This result is a disgrace and an abdication of justice. Our criminal justice system is racist. The time for fundamental change is now. https://t.co/IPmO9upXbK— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 23, 2020
If you’re looking for action steps to take, Breonna’s family has created a website with action items including signing a petition, making calls and sending emails. Other action items can be found in the post below and in similar Instagram posts:
Our justice system failed Breonna Taylor today. Take action: Sign the petition to pass the BREATHE Act, co-created by @blklivesmatter and @mvmnt4blklives. Donate to the Louisville Community Bail Fund, a project of @blmlouisville. Share and support the list of demands from @blmlouisville organizers — which is the screenshot in the last photo, via @mvmnt4blklives. More information at investdivest.org. All links in our bio. #SayHerName #breonnataylor #breonnataylorwasmurdered
Above all else, remember that YOU MATTER.
Your life matters. Do not EVER doubt the value you bring to your community and to the world. You are loved. You are valued. You are cared for. You make the world a brighter and stronger place, so go fight for change and take it by storm. Use your #blackgirlmagic to inspire others and accomplish your goals. We're all rooting for you!
Ilustration by Brianna Pippens instagram.com/bpeppersart