However, I realized that every time Nia Wilson’s name came across my screen, I would read whatever news update or tribute the post provided and keep scrolling. Truthfully, I became almost frustrated by the number of social media posts, “Say Her Name” hashtags and the like, which fueled my desire to try and ignore the story as though it had not happened. When I caught myself, I realized this was for no other reason than the fact that I am tired of reading about Black girls being killed. I am tired of the fact that, even in death, Black women are politicized and memorialized in the context of our social positioning in America rather than as human beings whose lives were senselessly cut short.
Read: The Very American Killing of Nia Wilson, The New Yorker
This eerily reminded me of how I was introduced to the reality of being a Black girl in America, by the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing which killed Denise McNair, aged 11, and Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins and Carole Robertson, aged 14. I remember being at my granny’s house learning their stories through Spike Lee’s documentary 4 Little Girls and feeling confused, trying to imagine myself in their place to somehow better understand what had happened. How someone could do this to young Black girls, let alone at church on a Sunday, was incomprehensible. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized this kind of tragedy was not exclusive to Birmingham, Alabama or the 1960s Civil Rights Era, but rather a stubborn stain in the fabric of Black womanhood.
Seeing stories like that of Nia Wilson, as well as 10-year old Makiyah Wilson, and the reaction they receive-- which usually includes the revival of #SayHerName on Twitter’s trending topics and good-willed but fleeting social media posts and calls-to-action-- illustrates to me that when Black girls die, people will care, mourn our deaths and march for our lives...but only while it’s relevant. When Black girls die, it reignites the constant fear of attack many Black women carry with us, tucked neatly between the burdens of being both Black and a woman in America-- burdens that little Black girls should not have to carry.
When Black girls die, it is a reminder that this country does not find our stories worthy enough to tell for more than eight minutes, nor our bodies valuable enough to protect while we are still alive. When Black girls die, we must continue to say their names and tell their stories-- not solely for political ammunition-- but to remember and honor their lives even after everyone else has forgotten.
Other links you should check out:
Nia Wilson and the Formula for Covering Black Death
Naomi Wadler Speaks at the Women in the World Summit