May 16, 2016 marks the tragic death of a little black girl named Aiyana Stanley Jones. Six years ago Aiyana, 7, was killed while she slept at her grandmother's house. Joseph Weekley, the Detroit Police Officer who fatally shot her during a botched raid, is still on the force. Despite being charged with involuntary manslaughter and two lesser charges, juries failed to reach verdicts and the charges were eventually dropped in January 2015.
The loss of this innocent baby girl is heartbreaking and it is a stain on the soul of this nation. It's also a sickening comment on the state of black girlhood in America.
Earlier this year, news accounts and press releases made it seem like the moment for the recognition of black girls' humanity had finally come. For example, after years of lobbying, the White House finally launched an initiative aimed at improving the lives of black and Latina girls -- something similar to the program My Brother's Keeper. Even more recently, The NoVo Foundation, created by Peter and Jennifer Buffett, launched a seven-year, $90 million commitment to "support and deepen the movement for girls and young women of color in the United States."
These developments follow the tireless work of organizations such as the African American Policy Forum and the Human Rights Project for Girls and reflect the impact of studies on the lives of black girls undertaken by researchers -- from historians like LaKisha Simmons to social justice scholars like Monique Morris. In April, the Black Girl Movement gathering in New York marked the nation's first conference on black girls.
This momentum is positive and necessary. Unfortunately, it does not overshadow the virulent hatred and misogynoir that jeopardizes African American girls' very existence.
From the racist vitriol spewed at the first-daughter, Malia Obama, a brilliant student who has been admitted to Harvard University to the white supremacist's bullets that whizzed past a five-year-old black girl hiding among the dead during last summer's shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina to the beating and subsequent criminalization of a 16-year-old Spring Valley High School student by a school resource officer -- black girls lives have yet to matter.
Countless studies have now ticked off the ways that black girls are extremely vulnerable to sexual assault and criminalization because of it. Studies have shown how black girls are suspended more than white girls and even black boys, who are themselves disproportionately targeted by school disciplinary policies. Research indicates that black children are regarded as violent threats and black girls are viewed as loud, hostile, and aggressive -- stereotypes that eclipse their humanity and their youth.
The failure to obtain justice for Aiyana is rooted in all of these issues. Still, in order to upend these dynamics we have to get justice for this child and her grieving family because we will not achieve substantive change for black children, let alone all black people, until we do.
There is no moving forward until Joseph Weekley is brought to justice for taking Aiyana's life.
There is no reconciliation until the humanity of our children is sacrosanct.
There is no forgetting about Aiyana Stanley Jones. She was seven years old, asleep at her grandmother's house. An officer shot and killed her and walked away.
On May 21, 2016, a peaceful rally will be held in Detroit outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to remember Aiyana and all victims of police brutality. If you cannot get to Detroit, contact the Department of Justice and demand that they investigate this case because black children must have the right to exist without deadly police violence. We should also continue to call on the government to demilitarize the police and to specifically curtail no-knock warrants and the use of SWAT units like the one Joseph Weekley led.
We need justice for Aiyana and we need to turn the tide in this country for the sake of all black girls.