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In 2016, I first heard about the thirteen women who filed formal cases against Daniel Holtzclaw, a police officer in Oklahoma City who strategically targeted poor women of color believing they had no chance of holding him accountable for assaulting them.
I learned about Jannie Ligons and Sharday Hill (depicted in this piece) who courageously shared their experiences of being sexually assaulted by Holtzclaw in order to bring him to justice and ensure that he would no longer abuse his power to take advantage of the women he was ordered to protect.
And I listened to the powerful words of Benjamin Crump (depicted in this piece), the attorney who represented the women assaulted by Holtzclaw (also the attorney representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown). Crump proclaimed,
“We are celebrating their courage to come and tell the story for so many other women who never came forward after they suffered as victims of rape, of domestic violence, of abuse, where this is the face of courage, when people dare to stand up and say, we refuse to remain silent.”
I also learned about the organization OKC Artists for Justice, based in Oklahoma City, which is doing the vitally important work of sharing the stories of the women in this case and connecting the dots for the rest of us about the ways that the unchecked power of the police, sexism, racism and classism intersect and systematically marginalize poor women of color, historically making them vulnerable to crimes and abuses such as these.
I believe in the power of this image to celebrate the courage of women and men like Ligons, Hill and Crump and to inspire important questions about abuse, oppression, marginalization, courage and justice in our own lives and our own communities.