A love letter to Breonna Taylor
On Wednesday 23 September, a Grand Jury ruling indicted only one of the three Louisville police officers who fired shots in Breonna Taylor’s home, killing her in her sleep, for wanton endangerment. In response, New York-based British member, writer and commentator Lola Adesioye writes to Taylor in commemoration of her life and legacy
By Lola Adesioye Artwork by Djeneba Aduayom Saturday 26 September, 2020
If I had known you, no doubt I would have called you Bre, as a term of endearment. Bre: a sweet nickname for a beloved person. Or maybe I would have referred to you as ‘Bre Bre’: terms of love for a sister with a sweet soul.
Despite not having known you or met you, Bre, you are dear to me, and you are loved by me. I also want you to know that you are loved, respected and held in high esteem by people all over the world who have called for justice, and who have said, shouted and screamed your name, over and over again, in the months since your short, innocent life was unjustly taken away.
Dearest Bre, I am so sorry. I know the word ‘sorry’ doesn’t go far enough, but I’ll keep on saying it – although an apology is the least you deserve. I’m sorry that the system failed you. I’m sorry that the system failed your mother, your father, your family, your friends, your boyfriend, your coworkers – all who have ever known you, and all who would ever have known and met you throughout your life.
I’m sorry that the system failed your future, which was bright. I’m sorry that the system, forever demanding Black people’s allegiance, continues to shows us that it places zero value on Black people’s lives.
When I heard that none of those officers would be held accountable for your killing, I was furious. I am angrier now than when I first heard about what had happened to you. But even though I had hoped and prayed for a just outcome, I was sadly not surprised. As you were no doubt well aware, this lack of care about Black life is nothing new. The injustice system in this country has not protected Black people – and especially not Black women – since we were stolen from Africa, and brought to these shores in shackles and chains back in 1619.
The senseless, wanton destruction of Black bodies is as American as apple pie. It is America’s modus operandi. It is what America does and has always done. It is the American way. I’m just so sorry you became a victim of it.
When I saw your photo for the first time, I cried. We share the same rich, chocolate-hued skin tone. The same full lips. Similar round cheeks. We both have big smiles and laughter in our eyes. The photos I’ve seen of you show a young woman who took pride in looking good, in wearing fly garms, in having her hair laid and her make-up on point. [A woman] who happily stood, certificate in one hand and flowers in the other, on the platform when you passed your exams to be an EMT – in typical, beautiful Black woman style. You were a Black girl who rocked. You had that Black girl magic. You cared about people; you wanted to protect and serve humanity through healthcare. It takes a special someone to want to do a job like that.
In you, I saw myself. I saw all the Black women I know and love. You look like a member of my family. You could have been my sister, my cousin, my auntie. You represent us, Black women, just out here trying to live, love, learn, and get through this life as best we can. I’m sorry you were not given the opportunity to see that through to the end.
I imagined you going to sleep that evening, wrapped up tight in your bed, perhaps reflecting on the day you’d just had, probably thinking about what you had to do the following day. I can only imagine how you must have felt as you heard the front door burst open. You had no way of knowing who was coming into your private space. You had no idea what the next few minutes would hold. You were in a place where you were supposed to be safe. I’m sorry that even in your own home, in your own bed, you were not safe.
I promise that we will continue to fight for you. What else can we do except fight? It pains me that despite many, many long and tiresome years of fighting this system, in spite of our protests and our cries for the very basic of human decency and rights, the killings of our innocents continues. For how much longer, I don’t know. I know it has to stop. But I would be lying if I told you that I know exactly how to bring an end to it. This doesn’t mean that I – nor countless others – will stop trying, though. You, and all of our other slain brothers and sisters, mean far too much to us for that.
This is what I want you to know: your life mattered. It still matters and it will always matter. Black women matter. Black men matter. Black children matter. Black people matter. Black Lives Matter.
You deserved to live a long and prosperous life. You deserve justice. But since you are no longer with us, we will continue to say your name, Breonna. Forever. Rest well, sweet sister. The fight continues.
With love, from one sister to another.
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Artwork by Djeneba Aduayom, djeneba-aduayom.com