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Black Lesbian Bodies are the Media’s Forgotten Stories

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2017 was a trying year for everyone, it seemed as though there were more ups and downs packed into 365 days then ever before. If you ask people what are the moments they remember most about 2017 they may say Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest, or watching Barack and Michelle Obama walk out of the White House doors for the final time and later sobbing over pictures of their suntanned bodies as they vacationed on a remote island like the ex who got away.

 

For some, the answer may be the Trump Election, the brutal hurricanes, or even the Weinstein scandal, but there was something that happened in 2017 that seemed to have slipped under the radar. A rash of incidents that went unnoticed on account of the numbing Trump news updates, and holiday chaos that the end of the year brought. The close of 2017 saw some of the most brutal murders of Black lesbian women, happening during the last week of December.

 

Other than a few news articles, these vicious murders have gained little to no media coverage nationwide, reinforcing the notion of society’s lack of concern for crime against people of color, women of color – and even more so, a complete absence of outrage towards violence against Black lesbians. On December 28th, Kaladaa Crowell and her 11 year old daughter Kyra Inglett were killed in West Palm Beach, FL. The 26-year-old son of Crowell’s girlfriend Robin Denson was arrested for the murders. Also on December 28th, 23-year-old Kerrice Lewis was shot multiple times and burned alive in a vehicle in the S.E. section of Washington D.C. Again, on December 28th – in Troy, NY, police released the names of 36-year-old Shanta Myers; her children, 11-year-old Jeremiah Myers and 5-year-old Shanise Myers; and Myers’ partner, 22-year-old Brandi Mells who were bound, and had their necks slit by two men in a planned robbery. Police say that the robbery and murders took place about five days before the bodies were actually discovered.

 

In a CBS news article of the heinous crime, the journalist described Shanta Myers’ partner Brandi Mells as her “lover,” which is a snuff  at the couple’s partnership and perpetuates the heteronormative view of lesbian relationships as the act of two women who are just “shacking up.” This explanation gives little to no respect or consideration to the fact that the two women were reportedly sharing the home with Myers’ children as a couple. This type of reporting does little to honor the victims. In fact, it smears them, disregards their lifestyle like the aunty who insists on referring to your partner as your “friend,” even after being corrected multiple times. It is bad enough that stories of violence against Black lesbian women are not adequately covered in the media for what they are, but to also show such insensitivity within those reports is a double slap in the face. Had the victims been a heterosexual couple, they would have been given the title of “girlfriend,” “boyfriend,” or “partner.” The lack of respect for the LGBTQ community in the media is harsh enough in real life, it should not extend past death – and is a poor excuse for good reporting.

 

Beverly Tillery the Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, told HuffPost:

“We have been seeing an increase in violence against members of the LGBTQ community since the end of the [presidential] election cycle.”

 

There is absolutely no doubt that the current administration’s fear mongering, hate fueled campaign and subsequent tenure in the White House has pulled all of the blatant racists and social media race baiters out of the wood work. The Trump camp has given overwhelming confidence and validity to scores of passive aggressive White co workers who huddle around the water cooler and share war stories of their personal experiences with “reverse racism.” However, there is a larger issue at hand, an issue that is old as the summer day is long – the media has long forgotten the Black woman, and our White-man-driven society has always been simultaneously beguiled and repelled by the Black lesbian woman. Our cries for justice, equal treatment, and the need to be heard are constantly drowned out by rape culture and misogynistic rhetoric that has become as acceptable as the English language.

 

Our stories are ignored because we are Black.

Our stories are ignored because we are women.

Our stories are ignored because we are gay.

 

Even more so, when offenses against Black lesbians occur, they are grouped in with all violent acts against members of the LGBTQ community. Because of this, we become even more of a marginalized minority, seemingly incapable of garnering the attention necessary to effect change. Until we force the media’s hand, and come together to share our stories, until we confront those who try to silence us and sweep us under the rug, we will continue to be voiceless victims, disrespected and misrepresented to the grave and beyond.

Robin Williams

Robin Williams is a native of the Bronx, NY who holds a B.A. in Journalism from the University of D.C. and an M.P.S in Sports Management from Georgetown University. In 2017, Robin made her debut as a filmmaker with the creation of the short film Garden of Eden, which she wrote and co-directed. Garden of Eden was selected into the Cannes Film Festival Creative Minds Short Film Corner in Cannes, France. Robin is Managing Editor at Soule.lgbt, and also facilitates therapeutic writing and mindfulness workshops teaching participants how to use writing to heal trauma. IG/Twitter: @model_robbie

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