Black (Women's) Lives Matter: A Conversation with Tonya TKO

Continued police brutality in an age of social media and video sharing has awakened a racially charged fire in America we know now as Black Lives Matter. The flames have primarily been fuelled by the headline-grabbing deaths of black men including Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray. But what about the women?

Black women in America today are not immune to the intolerance, profiling, and even brutality of their male counterparts, often targeted in the same exact way. They also face experiences of distinctly gendered violence in the form of sexual exploitation and violence, too often left unreported.

So where's the outcry? Where are their names in the protesters signs? Tonya TKO certainly wants to know, and as she broadcasted to her thousands of followers on YouTube, she's just about done.

In a follow-up to her November 2015 video, we got the opportunity to get totally candid with Tonya-who is currently facing tough times of her own , living out of her car due to a crazy string of money issues, and still trying to get production started on her show-on some of the issues facing black women today, and hear why she thinks they keep getting lost in conversation.

"We focus our attention on how every 28 hours a Black person in the US is killed by the police", Tonya explains. "We usually highlight the Black males murdered, yet some of the Black people killed by police are female." The roots of this disconnect, she continues, due (at least in part) to "the appreciated value of male life across the globe". As Tonya sees it, it's a gender-less crisis, so why aren't we hearing more female names in the headlines when the crimes do occur?

Then comes the issue of crimes that do follow gendered, and even racial, patterns. "Every 19 hours in the US a Black woman is killed by a man she was dating or married to, while one in six women in the US in her life will be sexually assaulted; a number for black women that jumps dramatically to one in five," Tonya points. Horrifying numbers by any standard, and something that triggers an emotional response from TKO, as she then looks to what she sees as the biggest problem when it comes to the community's response. "We talk to girls about not getting raped, but where's the conversation to boys about not raping? Why do we place the blame on the victims, finding them at fault because of the way they were dressed? The commonality between all cases of rape is the rapist. If it weren't for rapists, no rapes would occur."

So why, as Tonya so frustratingly professes, are we still blaming short skirts, provocative dresses, or the inability for females to properly guard their bodies? It's a question that's even more puzzling to her as she addresses a further underlying issue, in that the general understanding of the crime itself still remains blurred. "I believe many people are confused by dramatizations of violent stranger-rape, when the majority of rapes occur with persons whom the victims are acquainted, and aren't violent at all". They instead occur "when consent not only is not given, but also when it can not be NOT be given - like coercion, or when the woman feels she has no choice but to relent and allow the violation of her body."

It comes back to, as Tonya ends with, the issues of the country remaining so deeply embedded in a female devaluation that allows a rape culture to survive. This is why she is calling for 2016 to be the year that we all support the rise of the feminine. It's time for ladies everywhere, in the words of Beyonce, "to get into FORMATION", and it's time, as Tonya so intensely pleads, that black women's lives really matter too.