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I Can't Breathe

Five years ago, the nation watched as Eric Garner was murdered at the hands of white police officer Daniel Pantaleo. As Pantaleo used excessive force and had Garner in a chokehold, we all watched as Garner pleaded, I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe.

For years, I’ve followed the work of Erica Garner as she fought for justice for her slain father. She too, lost her life to an unjust system that is racism. Erica Garner, lost her life at the age of 27 as a result of a heart attack. I want to talk about this for a second, because I’m not sure we understand how systematic racism can affect your overall wellness. According to reports from, Black Americans of all ages are more likely to be victims of violent crime and adult Black Americans living below the poverty line, are more likely to report serious psychological distress.

In the African American Policy Forum series, Under the Blacklight, they examine the racial trauma that comes with Black people and their experiences with the police. In this episode, #SayHerName, the sisters and mothers of women who have lost their life due to police violence, shared that each and every one of them has experienced health issues after the death's of their loved ones. From medical expenses, sometimes home repairs, funeral costs, court and lawyer fees, in addition to their own declining mental health and ultimately their physical health is jeopardized.

#SayHerName was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, who also defined intersectionality as we know it. The #SayHerName campaign is a call to action for all the Black women who have lost their lives to state violence. Too often, Black women and girls are left out of the conversation. This year, over twenty trans women alone have been murdered by a racist and unjust system of misogyny and white supremacists systems.

In 2019, following the death of both Eric and Erica Garner, Al Sharpton and several organizations like BLM (NY) and the Justice League supported the Garner family as Emerald Snipes Garner took on the job of fighting for justice for her father. It was not until, August 19, 2019, that Eric Garner’s murderer was fired from his position on the New York Police Department. Even still, Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill stated time and time again that the decision was difficult and it was unfortunate that they had to let him go. *deep sigh*

As I walk through the Atlanta airport on the same week as some justice was gained for Eric Garner, I felt proud to wear my I Can’t Breathe t-shirt. I enjoy seeing the weird looks from whites and even the occasional side-eye from some Black people. I also enjoy the nods, fists, and support that is given too. Kayla Moore, was a Black woman who was murdered by the police. Her final words were "I can't breathe." When we speak the name of our Black men we cannot forget to include the names, experiences, and stories of Black women and girls.

As we still fight for America to see that Black Lives Matter, we must be comfortable enough to speak out against these types of injustices, to sign petitions, to create art, to explore new ways of finding and creating spaces of joy, to call out our elected officials, to hold those who are to serve and protect accountable.

In power ✊🏿,

Teryn Denae

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