Flint, MI— Seven-year-old Trinity was one of around 50 people marching through the streets of downtown Flint Saturday to honor and demand justice for Breonna Taylor one year after her death.
As people walked across the sidewalks, Trinity and her grandfather, Gino Germani, were the first of the crowd to take the march into the road.
“I want my granddaughter to know that…you can stand together and use your voice because your voice is valued,” Germani said. “Your voice has power, and when you stand together in the same voice, you can make things happen. You can make change.”
Germani said he’s been taking his granddaughter to her first marches for Black Lives Matter, and other community organizations over the past few days.
“We’re here to stand together as one community for the injustice that was caused against a woman who, to protect and serve, was her purpose,” Germani said “And at the same time, she wasn’t protected and served by…those who have made a commitment to protect to serve the community.”
On March 13, 2020, police officers killed Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency technician, last year during a raid on her apartment. The police were investigating two men, one of whom was Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, who were selling drugs at another location.
The police got a warrant to search Taylor’s residence because they believed the men had sent packages to her apartment, but there were no drugs found in her home.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he did not hear the police announce themselves, and fired the first shot, hitting Sgt. Mattingly’s leg, after police banged loudly on their door and then knocked it off its hinges. The three officers fired several rounds back, hitting Taylor five times, and then failed to give her medical attention.
Detective Brett Hankinson was charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for the shots fired at Taylor’s next-door neighbors’ apartment, not for those fired at her. Taylor’s boyfriend was initially charged with attempted murder, but on March 8, 2021, the charges were dropped.
On the one year anniversary of her death, a group of femme-identifying people organized a solidarity march for Taylor, to honor her, and advocate for policy changes that will tackle systemic racism.
People gathered at the Black Lives Matter mural across from the Soggy Bottom bar around 5 p.m.
Flint singer Gwen Hemphill opened the event by singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” by Ray Charles.
“Walk on through the wind. Walk on through the rain. Though your dreams be tossed and blown,” Hemphill sang. “Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone.”
State Representative Cynthia Neeley spoke about the importance of standing together in this march, but also every day.
“Every day should be a walk for peace, for love, and for unity,” Neeley said.
She spoke about the significance of it being Women’s History Month, and said something that rang true for many of the Black women present, and for Black women across the country.
“That could have been us,” she said.
Poet and organizer Jovan “Jo” Lynell performed a poem she had just written, entitled “Miss Taylor,” which echoed that thought.
“One by one, another Black life lost at the end of the gun, so I run from the hollows that chase me,” Lynell said. “But I could be Breonna Taylor, can’t even be at home safely. They hate me.”
Her poem also referenced the “wanton endangerment” charges Hankinson received.
“Black lives matter, but to who? To the American justice system, the wall Officer Brett hit was a criminal act. Wanton endangerment. He could have possibly hit someone, as if you are not someone,” Lynell said. “That wall is being protected in court, but you, my sister Breonna Taylor, you are not.”
Poet and student at the University of Michigan-Flint, Ashley McIntosh gave a speech about justice in America.
“Who is Lady Justice married to? Equality or America?” McIntosh asked. “Fair judgement was not in Breonna’s courtroom, and this leads to many stories like Breonna, forgotten. Lady Justice is married to an oppressive system that allows blatant lynching of Black strength each day proudly, and shows that justice will never be married to equality, because equality do not live in America.”
One of the organizers, Eeshyia King, talked about the impact Black women have had on the world, and the lack of justice they always seem to be served.
“And after all of that, we get labeled as angry Black women. Of course, we are angry. We have been the most mistreated, belittled, and disrespected of all,” she said.
King called on people to continue fighting, and demanding justice in the form of changes to laws and policies.
The next speaker explained what one of those changes could look like: granting clemency for prisoners serving time for marijuana charges.
LaShaya Darisaw, another organizer of the event, argued that Taylor was another “casualty” of the war on drugs and poverty, since she died because the police believed there may have been drugs in her home.
“We’re not here just because of another cop murdering a Black person and yet not being held accountable again, and again, and again,” she said. “But I’d like to argue that Breonna Taylor’s death was because of a deeper, racist, systematic problem.”
After reading statistics about how Black people are disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, how much money is spent incarcerating people for drug charges, and how much money corporations now make with the legalization of marijuana, Darisaw encouraged attendees to sign a petition online urging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to grant clemency for Michigan’s prisoners incarcerated for marijuana.
“We can use Breonna Taylor’s life to show the injustice of the war on drugs. Her death shall not be in vain,” Darisaw said. “Breonna Taylor did not deserve death at the thought of drugs being in her home. But even if she did have drugs in her home, she did not deserve death. She may have lost this battle. But we are going to win this war.”
After the performances, attendees were each given a rose to take with them while they marched, shouting the same slogans they have been chanting for more than a year.
“Say her name!” “Breonna Taylor!”
“No justice! No peace! No racist police!”
“Black Lives Matter!”
The crowd marched from the mural to the Flint Police Department, where they held a moment of silence.
As the sun began to set, attendees lined up in front of a framed picture of Taylor, and a large bouquet of lilac, blue, and white flowers. One by one, they laid their roses down.
Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...
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