By Jacquinette D. Murphy
Special to North Dallas Gazette
The hot Texas sun of the past few days was the perfect symbol of the internal fire of the more than 100 people of diverse ages and ethnicities who marched through the streets of DeSoto, Texas, with the #SayHerName, Black Lives Matter Protest organized by the Emerging Leaders of DeSoto on June 6.
Chanting, I Can’t Breathe!”, Get Your Foot Off My Neck!”, and “No Justice, No Peace!” amid calling out the names of black women and men from around the country whose lives were extinguished at the hands of police, the protestors demonstrated solidarity with the international outcry for systemic change, social justice and the eradication of racism against all African Americans.
The protestors observed the death of George Floyd, the most recent black man who was allegedly killed beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer and extended the focus to also raise awareness of the 22 black women killed by law enforcement officers. The #SayHerName protest was held one day after what would have been the now deceased Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday. Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT who was killed by police officers in her own home in Kentucky in March, is the most recent black woman killed by police.
“Their stories are not told with the same attention as black men. They are underreported. The media talks about it for a little while.” said DeSoto City Councilwoman Kay Brown-Patrick who helped to organize the event for the community. “This is not a competitive narrative. The men are not less important and we still talk about them. Today, we wanted to put their [the women’s] names back in the forefront or at least in the mix with George Floyd. The protests and the change that we are seeing in the country are the results of his death, not theirs. They are killing black women, too.”
Brown-Patrick read the names of the women at the rally as protesters held up corresponding signage in their honor and encouraged the crowd to research and learn about the lives of the women after leaving the protest.
“Women’s voices need to be amplified and the death that is happening at the hands of police needs to be amplified too. Like in anything else, women often get pushed aside and a lot of times, the women are on the front line when we talk about protests coordinating and putting the events together, so we just wanted to say their names,” said DeSoto City Councilwoman Candice Quarles. “People always use the example of my son, my husband, or my brother, cousin, or uncle. Police are also killing our moms and sisters and aunts.”
Crystal Chism, a local citizen who helped organize the #SayHerName protest, said she feels a responsibility to speak up for these now forever silent voices.
“These stories go untold for a very long time even if you take Breonna Taylor’s story. This happened on March 13th and I think most of the world found out about it close to the end of May. That speaks to how that even in times of crisis, women still tend to take a back seat. It is not just black men that are being lynched in the street, it is also black women like Sandra Bland, Atatianna Jefferson, Pamela Turner, and the list goes on.”
Addressing the Larger Issue of Black Lives Matter
On Saturday, DeSoto, though a suburb of Dallas, not only stood up for justice in their city, but joined more than 700 cities across the country that are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
As a city whose population is approximately 80% African American and Hispanic residents, Quarles, Brown-Patrick and Chism, felt that it was proper that DeSoto had an opportunity to speak up during this time.
“We are a majority-minority community and the call to actions and the things that we want to see changed involves African Americans. I felt like it was important to have a protest here in DeSoto,” said Brown-Patrick. “We have been titled as one of the most affluent black neighborhoods in the North Texas area and it just speaks volumes that we should have felt this was a responsibility for DeSoto.”
During the protest, many speakers shared their experiences with police brutality and racism and encouraged the protestors to vow to keep fighting until change occurs.
Speakers such as former Dallas NAACP President and current DeSoto ISD Trustee Aubrey C. Hooper, recalled the long road to equality and justice still being fought through recent police- involved encounters in the cases of Botham Jean in 2019, Jordan Edwards in 2015, and the 1990’s case of the dragging death of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas.
District 109 Texas State Representative Carl Sherman, who was the first African American of the City of DeSoto, shared his experience with police racial profiling prior to becoming mayor.
“It is not about one bad apple, it is about a culture that says nothing when bad officers do bad things. It is about a culture that we must fight to change,” said Sherman.
Desire for change and Local Police Reform
While the participants shared their disdain for the national happenings, the protest organizers also used this public platform to share their experiences with police brutality, racial profiling and a demand for change.
Crystal Chism, a local citizen and one of the organizers, championed the needs for law enforcement reform, for the community to vote and have a voice at the table.
Some of the demands shared during the protest included:
• The establishment of a police oversight review board appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council
• The invoking of the duty to intervene
• More transparency with the practices for hiring police officers
• Required body cameras active when interacting with the public
• Standard communication of citizen contact data
“People thought that a protest would not ever happen in DeSoto. The truth is, that we will never go back to normal. It opens up the opportunity for us to be more transparent and is a door for the police department to be transparent.” said Chism. “ Someone has to police the police at some point.”
Pastor Marcus King, Pastor of Disciple Community Church hopes to see change in the form of education. “Some people do not seem to be aware of it because it has not hit their doorstep. The George Floyd case made it real.” King hopes to see more engagement.
The Emerging Leaders of DeSoto admonished the community to keep the momentum going by:
• Attending the city council meetings
• Demanding accountability of the elected officials
• Showing up for jury duty and the voting booths
During the protest rally, Pastor King asked the crowd to inhale and then exhale. Then asked, “Before you are the one with a knee on your neck, what are you going to do with the breath you have right now?”
For more information on the Emerging Leaders of DeSoto, please text the word REFORM to 66866 or join the Facebook page to stay connected and engaged.