Black women are sick, and we are tired. We are sick of losing our lives, and we are tired of fighting for everyone else without reciprocity. On Saturday, we will gather at Crocker Park and march to demand our right to life.
Black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white mothers, our infants are more likely to die during birth, regardless of socioeconomic status, and we disproportionately experience brutality at the hands of both police and domestic partners.
We are sick of losing our lives, and we are tired of fighting for everyone else without reciprocity.
That is why the theme for Black Women United’s second Black Women’s March is “Can I Live?” Are we, black women, allowed to live full, free lives? When we look at the news and the statistics, the answer is no.
In 1851, Sojourner Truth addressed the Women's Rights Convention, where she asked the famous question, “Ain’t I a Woman?” Her question was the theme of last year’s Black Women’s March, and this year’s theme is a follow-up to her question. “Can I live?” is born from the frustration that for too many of us, this country doesn’t protect us in the way our Constitution promises.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – one of the first declarations made on behalf of this country – was written well before black women were protected by the U.S. Constitution. Two hundred fifty years of perseverance have led us to where we are now – full citizens, with supposed equal protections under the law. And yet, we don’t have the evidence to show for it.
As long as we bear these burdens disproportionately, and until feminism becomes truly intersectional, we will march specifically for black women. We should not have to choose between two identities, black and woman. We want a world where we are respected for both. We are whole, not meant to be dissected into the identifies that make people feel comfortable, or that are most politically convenient.
We are tired of being shoulders to cry on, without having shoulders to cry on in return. We are tired of being the friends who always pick up the phone, the citizens who do the right thing when we vote, and the workers with the highest education and lowest wages.
Even within our own communities, we are forced to make choices between standing up for ourselves as women and standing up for ourselves as black people. Black women consistently show up for our communities, which would be fine if it was reciprocated. Unfortunately, talking to black men about our issues can at times feel like pulling teeth. We love our brothers, and we show up for them. Sadly, they rarely show up for us, and too often, they actively harm us.
When it comes to harm toward black women, black trans women bear the brunt. They face an unconscionable amount of violence. Our own sister, Chyna Gibson, was taken from us too soon when she was shot and killed in New Orleans last year.
Police action can also be a source of trauma for trans women of color. One of our BWU members, Ebony Harper, was booked into a male cell when she was arrested at a protest for Stephon Clark last month. We must and will continue to show up for our trans sisters, especially since they are among the most marginalized individuals in our communities.
“Can I Live?” is a declaration for every black woman – trans, cis, immigrant, wealthy, unemployed, Muslim, agnostic. We all deserve to be seen, heard, and respected. Join us. When we march, we will proclaim that our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not just a dream – it is foundational to the health of this country.
Imani Mitchell is president of Black Women United Sacramento. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.