#SayHerName is a social movement that seeks to raise awareness for Black female victims of police brutality and anti-Black violence in the United States. Black women are 17% more likely to be stopped by police and 150% more likely to be killed than their white counterparts. #SayHerName aims to highlight the gender-specific ways in which Black women are disproportionately affected by fatal acts of racial injustice. In an effort to create a large social media presence alongside existing racial justice campaigns, such as #BlackLivesMatter and #BlackGirlsMatter, the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) coined the hashtag #SayHerName in December 2014.
In May 2015, the AAPF released a report entitled "Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality against Black Women", which outlined the goals and objectives of the #SayHerName movement. In July 2015, Sandra Bland, a woman who had been taken into police custody after a traffic violation, was found hanged three days later in her jail cell. Following Bland's death, the AAPF, in conjunction with the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School and Soros Justice Fellow, Andrea Ritchie, issued an updated version of the original report. The updated version includes a description of the circumstances surrounding Bland's death, as well as several accounts detailing recent incidents of police-instigated violence against Black women, including Tanisha Anderson and Rekia Boyd. The report also provides an analytical framework for understanding what it says are Black women's susceptibility to police brutality and state-sanctioned violence, and offers suggestions on how to effectively mobilize various communities and empower them to advocate for racial justice.
Drawing from the AAPF report, the #SayHerName movement strives to address what it believes is the marginalization of Black women within both mainstream media and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Of the movement's many agendas, one includes commemorating the women who have lost their lives due to police brutality and anti-Black violence.
Origins of the movement
Hattie McCray was a 14-year-old girl who was killed by a white police officer in 1930s New Orleans because she rejected his sexual advances. Women such as Hattie McCray and the girls of the Leesburg Stockade are mere examples of the police violence Black women face. Although the "SayHerName" campaign began in 2015, police brutality has been an issue for Black women for much longer.
Name of movement
#SayHerName stems from the idea that having individuals and the media say the names of Black women who have been victims of police violence will make people ask the necessary questions. And the concept of saying the name is also a symbol or shorthand for learning and telling the stories of these women, again both between individuals and in the media. Crenshaw has said, "If you say the name, you're prompted to learn the story, and if you know the story, then you have a broader sense of all the ways Black bodies are made vulnerable to police violence."
Creation of the campaign
The #SayHerName movement is a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the mainstream media's tendency to sideline the experiences of Black women in the context of police brutality and anti-Black violence. In recent years, the killings of unarmed Black youth like Trayvon Martin and men like Michael Brown have captured much more national attention and public outrage than the killings of Black women such as Rekia Boyd and Shelly Frey. According to Kimberlé Crenshaw, one of the founders of the AAPF, Black women's continued exclusion from stories about police brutality, racism, and anti-Black violence contribute to an erroneous notion that Black men are the chief victims of racism and state-sanctioned violence which underplay issues such as rape and sexual assault by police. #SayHerName does not seek to replace Black Lives Matter or dilute its power, but aims to simply add perspectives and lived experiences to the conversation of racial injustice.
The movement actively considers how multiple social identities (including gender, sexual orientation, and class) influence an individual's experiences with police brutality and anti-Black violence, a concept known as intersectionality.
This section may be confusing or unclear to readers. (November 2021)
#SayHerName builds off texts and movements like Anannya Bhatacharjee's 2001 report Whose Safety? Women and the Violence of Law Enforcement in order to expand on systemic violence in a way that is committed to being intersectional. Works that have been published as results of intersectional approaches to victimization through violence include Beth Richie's Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation (2012) as well as a list from INCITE! Including The Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology, Law Enforcement Violence Against Women of Color and Trans People of Color: A Critical Intersection of Gender and State Violence, and Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States.
#SayHerName as a movement is largely based on the concept of intersectionality in order to bring attention to all victims of systemic violence. Intersectionality is a term that Kimberlé Crenshaw, a well regarded scholar and activist, was responsible for coining in 1989. Since then, it has become a key element of many modern feminist practices. Brittany Cooper explains how intersectionality provides an analytical frame originally designed to address the unique positions of women of color within rights movements. Its relevance to #SayHerName is highlighted by Crenshaw's founding position in both the concept of intersectionality and the movement itself. The focus on the victimization of Black women within the #SayHerName movement is dependent on the notion of intersectionality, which Crenshaw describes as "like a lazy Susan – you can subject race, sexuality, transgender identity or class to a feminist critique through intersectionality".
Additional factors in an intersectional analysis within #SayHerName include cis or trans status, education, geographical location, and disability – both on the parts of the victims being targeted and the officers responsible for the violence. Crenshaw especially highlights the role of both physical and mental disability as a factor that puts victims more at risk of being targeted as threatening or otherwise violent by police. This is exacerbated by stereotypes of aggressiveness and poor emotional control attributed to Black women and men in the United States.
Homa Kahleeli asserts that over seventy Black women have died as a result of either police violence or police misconduct within the past three years. In instances of police misconduct where firearms are discharged, both female and child victims have been objectified with the label "collateral", which diminishes the violence of murder and erases responsibility of the officer. #SayHerName highlights collateral treatment as a unique form of violence that these victims face in contrast with the Black men addressed by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The #SayHerName movement is one of many contemporary social justice campaigns that engage in hashtag activism and digital activism. Created by AAPF and CISPS in December 2014, the #SayHerName hashtag provides an online community for activists, scholars, news reporters, and other social media users to participate in the conversation on racial justice along with other social movements such as Black Lives Matter.
The hashtag is mostly active on Twitter. Of its many uses, the #SayHerName hashtag has principally served to highlight recent incidents of Black women's fatal encounters with police and anti-Black violence as well as advertise upcoming events. An analysis of Twitter activity found that a third of Tweets using the hashtag were in conjunction with the name of a Black woman who was a victim of police violence. Other content using the hashtag included links to blogs written by Black women, such as The Huffington Post's Black Voices column, Blavity, and BlackGirlTragic.com. Second most frequent were academics, particularly Black feminist scholars, though the largest number of retweets came from a white male entertainer.
By addressing recent incidents of police-instigated violence, the #SayHerName hashtag strives to advance one of the chief goals of the movement: to re-integrate Black women's lived experiences into mainstream racial justice narratives about police brutality and state-sanctioned violence. Through its engagement with hashtag activism, #SayHerName situates itself within a recent social historical development in which the media's tendency to disregard or heavily misrepresent events pertaining to racial justice incites activists to commit themselves to digital activism. In addition, with its increasing social media presence, #SayHerName provides an opportunity for a diversity of voices invested in racial justice to contribute to an ever-expanding discourse on Black women's susceptibility to police brutality and anti-Black violence.
Some of the strongest original supporters of the #SayHerName movement include people who were directly impacted by the killings. Friends, family members, and individuals who shared similar social identities with the victims were and remain likely to participate in mobilization efforts. Mothers especially appear to have a strong emotional connection to the cause and are willing to speak out against police brutality and anti-Black violence.
The movement has received support from several celebrities, which is integral to the spread of the movement and its social media reach. Through the use of the #SayHerName hashtag, influential figures can increase public awareness and shed light on instances of racial injustice, which can sometimes go unnoticed. Such high-profile support was seen immediately following the death of Sandra Bland; musical artist Janelle Monáe tweeted the #SayHerName hashtag, as did actress Taraji P. Henson. Nicki Minaj, Jessie J, and Zendaya Coleman all recognized Bland's death on Instagram.
The American Civil Liberties Union has supported the movement, using the hashtag to promote activism particularly regarding violence against transgender women of color. The Human Rights Campaign likewise uses the hashtag in this manner. The 2017 Women's March also used the hashtag on Twitter, recognizing transgender women of color killed in 2017.
Since the movement began in late 2014, there have been two nationwide events (one that occurred in May of that year and another one twelve months later) to increase public awareness. The second #SayHerName Silent Protest: National Day of Action to End State Violence Against Women and Girls took place in major cities around the country and garnered significant attention on social media. In New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, men and women took to the streets with duct tape over their mouths to represent the silence and erasure of Black women and girls' narratives along with signs in their hands to remember those that have lost their lives to police brutality and anti-Black violence.
At Ohio University, the Women's Center created a SayHerName program for both Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. The Spring 2021 program involved speakers and structured discussion topics. They begin every session with a moment of silence for the women who had lost their lives.
The AAPF memorializes these women on their "Angel Day", the day they were killed.
In 2020, there was a resurgence in the #SayHerName campaign. This was due to the growing popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was a Black woman killed in March 2020 by police officers in civilian clothing, during a rushed police raid. A year after her death, Kentucky Governor, Andy Beshear, signed a bill into law that would limit no-knock warrants. The city of Louisville responded to this and officially banned no-knock warrants in Spring 2021 and named it "Breonna's Law."
The WNBA dedicated their 2020 season to "long history of inequality, implicit bias and racism that disproportionately impacts communities of color" by partnering with the #SayHerName campaign. The first weekend of their season, the players wore jerseys honoring Breonna Taylor and the #SayHerName movement. Angel McCoughtry, a player for Louisville, created the idea to put Breonna Taylor on the back of the women's jerseys. McCoughtry has brought greater light to this by saying, "It's a lot deeper than just the jersey, but I think that's a great start."
In 2021, Janelle Monae released "Hell You Talbout" alongside lawyer, civil rights advocate, and pioneering scholar Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw and the African American Policy Forum. 
Advocates claim that the #SayHerName hashtag has successfully created a safe online place for marginalized groups to come together and mourn their losses. However, as the hashtag spreads from Twitter to Facebook along with other social media platforms, the rhetoric does not change. Despite the diversity in background, with each woman sharing her story, the same underlying themes of vulnerability to physical police and aggressive sexual violence keep reappearing, making it appear that simply saying the names, remembering the faces and increasing awareness is not enough. Experts say that despite being only 7% of the population, and outnumbered by white women at the ratio of 5:1, Black women and girls have accounted for 20% of the unarmed people killed by police since 1999.
Relationship with #BlackLivesMatter
Although the movement makes an active effort to engage in discourse and conversation with the Black Lives Matter movement, #SayHerName is different in its construct, goals and methods. Feminist theorists such as Kimberlé Crenshaw have pointed out that the #SayHerName movement addresses intersectionality of gender, class and disability that play out on Black women and girls' bodies. These are aspects that do not appear to be so readily addressed by the Black Lives Matter movement, which is specifically known as a movement that addresses racial inequality within the criminal justice system. Many supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement were largely sparked by outrage of the deaths of young African-American males at the hands of police with excessive violence and no repercussion from the legal system. In contrast, when stories of African-American women meeting similar fates in just as harrowing circumstances were brought up, the number of supporters and advocates seemed to decrease; female victim's names and stories are generally less recognized than the male victims. #SayHerName aims to raise awareness of how sexism and racism simultaneously play out of colored female bodies, no matter their background, while still being a safe, inclusive space for all individuals to come together and create and participate in discourse.
Role of the African American Policy Forum
The #SayHerName movement represents one of three recent racial justice initiatives engendered by the AAPF. Since coining the #SayHerName hashtag in February 2015, the AAPF has assumed a central role in mobilizing the campaign – an effort that has culminated into at least two significant events: the AAPF's release of the report "Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality against Black Women" and its sponsoring of "#SayHerName: A Vigil in Remembrance of Black Women and Girls Killed by the Police". Both events occurred in May 2015, and have served to disrupt mainstream racial justice narratives that attend exclusively to heterosexual, cisgender Black men's susceptibility to police brutality and anti-Black violence. Since 2015, #SayHerName has organized Mother's Weekends in New York. These weekends shed light on the necessities of the families of those who lost Black women to a racist state. They also provide a place of inclusion and community for those individuals also. The #SayHerName Mothers Network has assembled numerous times. The Mothers Network marched in the Women's March in Washington, organized meetings and focus groups to come up with the most effective ways to aid families who have lost women to police violence, and they also lobbied for police reform.
May 2015 report
In May 2015, the AAPF, in conjunction with the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School and Soros Justice Fellow, Andrea Ritchie, issued a report entitled "Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality against Black Women". The report highlights the goals and objectives of the #SayHerName movement and presents several reasons as to why gender-inclusivity is a critical component of racial justice advocacy. In addition to these, the report includes several accounts detailing incidents from the last three decades of Black women's fatal encounters with police brutality and state-sanctioned violence. To supplement these accounts, the report incorporates an intersectional framework for understanding Black women's susceptibility to police brutality by addressing how the interactions between race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and ability inform the violent ways in which law enforcement officials treat Black women.
After divulging recent incidents of police brutality against Black women, the report concludes with several recommendations as to how members of local communities, policy-makers, researchers, and activists can best incorporate a gender-inclusive framework into racial justice campaigns that specifically address police brutality and state-sanctioned violence. By contributing these recommendations, the AAPF, along with the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School and Andrea Ritchie, hopes that the report could serve as a useful resource to which the media, community organizers, policy-makers, and other stakeholders invested in racial justice can refer.
After Sandra Bland's encounter with police in July 2015, the AAPF released an updated version of the original report. While the structure of the updated version is similar to that of the original report, the updated version contributes additional accounts of Black women's deadly encounters with police and includes a description of the circumstances surrounding Bland's death. By issuing the updated version, the AAPF strives to reinforce the critical, urgent need for policy-makers, the media, community organizers, and other stakeholders to tackle the structural inequalities that render Black women within the United States heavily susceptible to police-instigated, anti-Black violence.
- Priscilla Slater – Died in police custody on June 10, 2020
- Breonna Taylor – Killed by police on March 13, 2020
- Atatiana Jefferson – Killed by police on October 12, 2019
- Crystal Ragland – Killed by police on May 30, 2019
- Pamela Turner – Killed by police on May 13, 2019
- Nina Adams – Killed by police on March 13, 2019
- Latasha Walton – Killed by police on March 12, 2019
- Brittany McLean – Died in police custody on March 9, 2019
- Angel Decarlo – Killed by police on December 18, 2018
- April Webster – Killed by police in her home on December 16, 2018
- Tameka Simpson – Killed by police on December 11, 2018
- LaJuana Philips – Killed by police on October 2, 2018
- Dereshia Blackwell – Killed by police on September 9, 2018
- Cynthia Fields – Killed by a stray bullet by police on July 27, 2018
- LaShanda Anderson – Killed by police on June 9, 2018
- Shukri Ali Said – Killed by police on April 28, 2018
- DeCynthia Clements – Killed by police on March 12, 2018
- Crystalline Barnes – Killed by police during a traffic stop on January 27, 2018
- Geraldine Townsend – Killed by police on January 17, 2018
- Sandy Guardiola – Killed in her bed by police on October 4, 2017
- India N. Nelson – Killed by police on July 17, 2017
- Charleena Chavon Lyles – Killed by police on June 18, 2017
- Jonie Block – Killed by police on May 15, 2017
- Alteria Woods – Killed by police while pregnant on March 19, 2017
- Morgan London Rankins – Killed by police on February 22, 2017
- Deborah Danner – Killed in her home by police on October 18, 2016
- Korryn Gaines – Killed by police on August 1, 2016
- Jessica Williams – Killed by police on May 19, 2016
- Deresha Armstrong – Killed by police on May 5, 2016
- Laronda Sweatt – Killed by police on April 6, 2016
- India M. Beaty – Killed by police on March 19, 2016
- Kisha Michael – Killed by police on February 21, 2016
- Sahlah Ridgeway – Killed by police on February 12, 2016
- Gynna McMillen – Died in police custody on January 10, 2016
- Bettie Jones – Killed by police on December 26, 2015
- Barbara Dawson – Died December 21, 2015
- Marquesha McMillan – Killed by police on October 26, 2015
- India Kager – Killed by police in her car on September 5, 2015
- Redel Jones – Killed by police August 12, 2015
- Raynette Turner – Died in police custody on July 27, 2015
- Ralkina Jones – Died in police custody on July 26, 2015
- Joyce Curnell – Died in police custody on July 22, 2015
- Kindra Chapman – Died in police custody on July 14, 2015
- Sandra Bland – Died in police custody on July 13, 2015
- Nuwnah Laroche – Killed by police on May 7, 2015
- Alexia Christian – Killed by police on April 30, 2015
- Mya Hall – Killed by police on March 30, 2015
- Meagan Hockaday – Killed by police on March 28, 2015
- Janisha Fonville – Killed by police on February 18, 2015
- Natasha McKenna – Died of police-induced trauma on February 8, 2015
- Tanisha Anderson – Killed by police on November 13, 2014
- Aura Rosser – Killed by police on November 9, 2014
- Sheneque Proctor – Died in police custody after being refused medical treatment on November 1, 2014
- Iretha Lilly – Died in police custody on October 6, 2014
- Latandra Ellington – Killed in her jail cell on October 1, 2014, 10 days after writing to her family that she was threatened by an officer
- Michelle Cusseaux – Killed by police on August 13, 2014
- Pearlie Golden – Killed by police on May 7, 2014
- Gabriella Nevarez – Killed by police on March 2, 2014
- Yvette Smith – Killed by police on February 16, 2014
- Tracy A. Wade – Killed by police in 2014
- Ariel Levy – Killed by police in 2014
- Angela Beatrice Randolph – Killed by police in 2014
- Dawn Cameron – Killed by police in 2014
- Shonda Mikelson – Killed by police in 2014
- Renisha McBride – Killed on November 3, 2013
- Miriam Carey – Killed by federal agents on October 3, 2013
- Kyam Livingston – Died in police custody on July 24, 2013
- Kayla Moore – Killed by police on February 12, 2013
- Angelique Styles – Killed by police in 2013
- Shelly Frey – Killed by police on December 6, 2012
- Malissa Williams – Killed by police on November 29, 2012
- Erica Collins – Killed by police on October 13, 2012
- Shulena Weldon – Died after being run over by a car by police on August 9, 2012
- Alesia Thomas – Killed by police on July 22, 2012
- Shantel Davis – Killed by police on June 14, 2012
- Sharmel Edwards – Killed by police on April 21, 2012
- Rekia Boyd – Killed by police on March 21, 2012
- Shereese Francis – Killed by police on March 15, 2012
- Jameela Barnette – Killed by police on December 25, 2011
- Unnamed – Killed October 3, 2011
- Catawaba Howard – Killed by police on August 12, 2011
- Brenda Williams – Killed by police on April 27, 2011
- Derrinesha Clay – Killed by police on March 14, 2011
- Shelley Amos and Cheryl Blount-Burton – Killed on February 19, 2011, by an on-duty police officer who was driving twice the speed limit and was not responding to an emergency call
- Carolyn Moran-Hernandez – Killed by police on February 14, 2011
- Latricka Sloan – Killed by police on January 22, 2011
- Aiyana Stanley-Jones – Killed by police on May 16, 2010
- Ahjah Dixon – Died in police custody on March 4, 2010
- Sarah Riggins – Killed by police on October 23, 2009
- Katherine Hysaw – Killed by police on September 9, 2009
- Barbara Stewart – Killed by police on March 24, 2009
- Duanna Johnson – Died in 2008
- Tarika Wilson – Killed by police on January 4, 2008
- Kathryn Johnston – Killed by police on November 21, 2006
- Alberta Spruill – Died of police-induced trauma on May 16, 2003
- Kendra James – Killed by police on May 5, 2003
- Nizah Morris – Died in 2002
- LaTanya Haggerty – Killed by police on June 4, 1999
- Margaret LaVerne Mitchell – Killed by police on May 21, 1999
- Tyisha Miller – Killed by police on December 28, 1998
- Danette Daniels – Killed by police on June 8, 1997
- Frankie Ann Perkins – Killed by police on March 22, 1997
- Sonji Taylor – Killed by police on December 16, 1993
- Eleanor Bumpurs – Killed by police on October 29, 1984
In November 2016, the #SayHerName Mothers Network was made official. This took place a year and half after the first #SayHerName vigil was held in Union Square in New York City. The mothers network was reconvened on many occasions since the original official meeting. These times include women's march in Washington, lobbying for police reform on Capitol Hill, and several focus groups for strategizing purposes. These mothers also meet together to go over needs of new members who have been directly affected by police violence with their daughters. These mothers also organize vigils for victims of police violence including Charleena Lyles and Vicky Coles-McAdory, who was an original member who died from a stroke in 2017.
The AAPF published a "Take Action Guide" that lists five action items. Intended for immediate implementation, they include: "find ways to support all families who have lost loved ones to police violence, create spaces to discuss how the intersections of patriarchy, homophobia, and transphobia impact Black communities as a whole, and continuously develop skills to talk about the multiplicity of ways in which state violence affects all Black women and girls, particularly those who are transgender, non-transgender and gender-nonconforming".
The AAPF hosts events promoting the #SayHerName movement on a semi-regular basis. One example was an event in March 2017 titled "Say Her Name: An Evening of Arts and Action Los Angeles".
Spread of the movement
In the evening of May 20, 2015, the AAPF and twenty local sponsors, including the Black Youth Project 100 and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School, organized an event called "#SayHerName: A Vigil in Remembrance of Black Women and Girls Killed by the Police". The purpose of the vigil, which transpired at Union Square in New York City, was to commemorate such women as Rekia Boyd, Tanisha Anderson, Miriam Carey, and Kayla Moore, among many others, who lost their lives due to police brutality and anti-Black violence. Relatives of Tanisha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Shantel Davis, Shelly Fray, Alberta Spruill, Kyam Livingston, Kayla Moore, Miriam Carey, and Michelle Cusseaux attended,[better source needed] marking the first time that the family members gathered at the same location for the purpose of honoring the women.
In addition to commemorating the lives of such women, the event featured speeches, singing, poetry, and art by scholars, artists, and activists, including Kimberlé Crenshaw, Piper Anderson, Eve Ensler, LaChanze, and Aja Monet. Aja Monet wrote a poem advocating for the #SayHerName movement.
Given how the vigil occurred one day prior to the National Day of Action on Black Women and Girls, one of its principal aims was to mobilize the New York City community into action against gendered and racialized forms of violence and police brutality. By demanding that the public no longer ignore Black women's struggles against gendered, racialized violence, the vigil's attendants strove to advance one of the chief goals of the #SayHerName movement: to re-integrate Black women leaders and victims of anti-Black violence into mainstream racial justice narratives about racism and police brutality.
On the other side of the country in May 2015, Black women and girls also stood in the middle of San Francisco, holding signs and displaying painted messages on their bare chests. Some phrases included "I fight for those who have been murdered by the state", "with love for female masculinity", and "to end infant mortality".
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- "Say Her Name: In Expression of Vulnerability and Power, Black Women Stage Direct Action With Chests Bared". Common Dreams. Retrieved December 4, 2016.