One Year - Breonna Taylor and the Continuing Struggle for JusticeApril 7, 2021
March 13, 2021 marks the one-year anniversary of the killing of Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police Department. Although the city spent $12 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family, not one officer involved in her senseless shooting has been charged with murder. Black Scene Millennium decided to remember this sad occasion by reprinting a powerful speech given by Keturah Herron of the ACLU at a press conference six months after Taylor’s death. At the time of this writing, federal authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding her shooting. Let us hope Breonna finally gets justice.
Good afternoon. My name is Keturah Herron. I’m a policy strategist with the ACLU of Kentucky and member of Black Lives Matter Louisville. I was honored when Breonna Taylor’s family asked me to be here today. I am grateful to Aja Holston-Barber and other members of the movement who helped me prepare my comments for today.
To Breonna’s family, you deserve better than having to fight for 6 months after officers from Louisville Metro Police Department – some of whom remain nameless – killed your beloved family member. You deserve closure. You deserve rest. You deserve to be cared for and loved on and supported for the rest of your days. I’m grateful you have reached this point of some closure in some of the ways you have asked for.
To Breonna, to her family, to the families of every person who has been violated, abused, and killed by Louisville Metro Police Department - I hope enough of us are joining this Movement for Black Lives to support you and give you a moment to rest, grieve, and find routines that fortify you. We promise you that we will keep this fight going and win it all. We know we are not only fighting against the deadly violence that is integral to policing; we are fighting for a completely different vision of being in community together. We are creating something different.
We are creating a community that no longer invests our tax dollars in people who kill our neighbors. One that no longer needs to spend our tax dollars on settlements that should never have to be paid in the first place. No more.
Instead, we are creating a community that invests our tax dollars in our basic needs as human beings, in our joy, in our wellness. In protecting each other. We are going to create a community where all people are supported by our investments and given the chance to reach their full potential, rather than redlined into disinvested, distant neighborhoods that remain out of sight and out of mind to those on the other side. No more.
We want to end the so-called “compassionate community" that was never actually compassionate. Where people were forced to compete against each other for scarce essential resources, policed for the consequences of what it means to live in scarcity, and then killed for our connections to each other. No more.
We are creating a community that finally sees the fruits of our collective labor and invests our tax dollars in ways that nourish us, nurture us, heal us, challenge us, and love us. In ways that house us, feed us, and make us laugh. This is the community investment that values Black life and that will heal Louisville.
To Louisville Metro Government and all of the complicit decision-makers throughout this horrifying experience, understand that this is not over. We are demanding full individual accountability and institutional accountability.
While the culture of white supremacy has lied to you about what accountability means - let me tell you. Accountability includes self-reflection, repair, apology, and changed behavior. Changed behavior means people are no longer incentivized to violate, abuse, and kill our people. Accountability means an end to transactions that tinker around the edges.
For years, we have watched as you tinker around the edges with our freedom while you go all in with dangerous and wasteful programs that you call investments - from the police budget to the gentrification of our neighborhoods, you have used our own tax dollars to harm us. Our people demand transformation. Our people demand rest, joy, solidarity, interdependence, and freedom. Change is here. And it’s the peoples to shape.
To my people who are giving so much of themselves to this moment, striving for a better today and better tomorrow; I offer you the words of Harriet Tubman: “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there's shouting after you, keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.
The cover image is an issue of Vanity Fair featuring an image by artist Amy Sherald. The Taylor portrait is included in the Promise, Witness, Remembrance exhibit at The Speed Art Museum.