By Cossette Hampton
Today, my profile picture is set to honor the militant, beautiful Korryn Gaines. Korryn Gaines was a Black woman from Baltimore, Maryland who was shot and killed by the police on Monday, August 1, 2016. One may ask why the streets in the United States aren’t filled with people pouring out their anger and demanding an end to state violence like there was for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile just a few weeks ago. One may also wonder why her death is being called “justifiable,” and her actions “asking to be killed” and that “wrong is wrong,” by Black people on Twitter yesterday. There are two answers. Gaines was a Black woman, and the murder of Black women by the police is not raged against with the same vigor as Black men shot by the police. Many of us can only remember the name of sister Sandra Bland, hence the creation of the #SayHerName campaign within the Black Lives Matter movement to give light to state violence against Black women and girls like the many we don’t hear of like Rekia Boyd, Joyce Quaweay, Janet Wilson, Jessica Williams, Alexia Christian, Megan Hockaday, Bettie Johnson, Natasha Mackenna, Tanisha Anderson and many others, including Black transwomen like Mya Hall and others.
The second and perhaps most critical answer is because when Gaines was killed and her 5-year old son shot, she was holding a shot gun that she made herself in one arm and her son in the other. Baltimore Police arrived to 23-year old Korryn Gaines’ house at 9am to serve her a warrant for traffic violations and her male partner a warrant for assault charges, and after 10 minutes, realizing that the house was occupied but the door was not being answered, the police obtained a key to enter the house. Upon opening the door, police were met with Gaines aiming a gun at them threatening to shoot if they did not leave. Instead of just leaving, police felt obligated to kill this Black woman and shoot this Black child over some damn traffic tickets!
Firstly, cops knocked for only 10 minutes and felt it necessary to enter the house. In the morning, people are feeding their kids, taking a shower, and getting ready for the day. Warrant or not, entering someone’s home should be used for the most violent offenses, not some assault charges and definitely not for fucking traffic violations.
Secondly, this Black woman was not only protecting herself and her 5-year old child, but also the grown ass Black man who fled with the 1-year old child after the police threatened to enter. Gaines is not rare– Black women who often bear down and lay down their bodies and lives to protect Black men are often victimized for it in the same way that Black men are socially (and physically) castrated when trying to protect Black women. Yet, when Black women stand up for themselves, they are deemed anti-Black and negatively liberal.
Korryn Gaines is the Harriet Tubman of our time. Holding the gun to the white pig/slave catcher at the forefront of the household– protecting two young children and a runaway male slave. Though Gaines is the 9th (known) Black woman shot by the police in 2016, she, like brother Micah Johnson, decided that enough was enough and that she wasn’t going to go down without a fight. If Gaines was still here, she could be freeing more of us slaves and teaching us how to hand-build a rifle for the revolution.
A key difference about the Black Lives Matter Movement from the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s and the Black Power Movement of the ’70s and ’80s is the visible presence and uplifting of Black women and queer people as not only the victims, but as the lead organizers. Black women in this movement have been unafraid to shout “Fuck the Police” in front of hundreds of police and thousands of other people on national television like Page May did a few months ago in the spirit of Kwame Ture (also, Stokely Carmichael). Black women (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi) in this movement are the leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization that has mobilized millions of people across the globe. Black women (Bree Newsome) have been climbing up government flag poles and tearing down Confederate Flags. Black women (Veronica Morris-Moore) were at the head of the fight for rich white Jewish universities to open up trauma centers for the surrounding Black communities where people were dying from menial bullet wounds simply because they are being rejected from these university’s hospitals hospitals. Black women have been channeling Assata, Elaine, Shirley, Angela and Fannie Lou to lash out and organize against the racist system of white supremacy and heteropatriarchy.
Standing next to Micah Johnson today in the realm of Black revolutionaries is Korryn Gaines. In Black America, we know from experience that a mere traffic violation could lead to our death. We are expected to go the extra mile to protect our families while simultaneously being expected to resist police who abuse their power. With what? Non-violent practices of putting our hands up and laying prostrate in the streets? Malcolm X said in “The Ballot or the Bullet” that, “If you don’t take this kind of stand, your little children will grow up and look at you and think “shame.” If you don’t take an uncompromising stand, I don’t mean go out and get violent; but at the same time you should never be nonviolent unless you run into some nonviolence” (1964). If we really want our people to feel empowered to take up arms and protect each other, we absolutely can’t demonize Korryn for doing the same. She didn’t put her son in danger, police as the protectors of white supremacy did. Show love to Black mothers today; show love to Black women.
Cossette Hampton is an organiser for BYP100 in Chicago, United States and an intern for the Black First Land First movement in South Africa.