She walked for her — this palpable trail of humanity and collective tears flowing down South King Drive, their chants rising in unison from here and the grave into the warm summer air in remembrance of those Black girls and women no longer able to speak for themselves.
Their voices resounded with a call for closure. For justice. For answers, and ultimately for an end to the slaying of young Black women and girls strangled, suffocated, shot or mangled, their bodies discarded like yesterday’s trash.
They spoke. For those Black girls and women abducted or who suddenly vanished without a trace, like a vapor.
For the dead, they walked. For those whose innocent blood still cries from premature graves.
They walked purposefully. For recognition of the humanity of Black women, despite brutalities suffered amid the perpetual American disparity in how their lives and deaths and disappearances are treated compared to white women in America, even animals.
They spoke. And they marched — each step symbolic of their earnest hope that some day there would be no need.
They marched and lifted up their voices for the “Unforgotten 51”: For Nancie Walker. For Gwendolyn Williams. For Reo Renee Holyfield and also for other African-American women murdered or missing in Chicago.
The event, held on Tuesday evening, was sponsored by a coalition of community groups, including the Kenwood Oakwood Community Organization (KOCO), H.E.R. Chicago, and Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere (MOVE). They also called for policy change by law enforcement to “prevent more murders.”
The marchers advanced with solemnity and vigor, escorted by uniformed Chicago police officers on bikes and in blue-flashing squad cars as they headed south for blocks along King Drive from 35th Street.
Some in the estimated more than 100 marchers carried placards or banners. Many wore white T-shirts emblazoned with the emblem of a young woman wearing twin Afro puffs, and the words, “We Walk for Her IV,” in honor of the fourth annual march. Aziah Roberts, a KOCO youth leader, age 13 at the time, initiated the walk in 2018.
In her estimation, nothing was being done about missing or murdered Black girls and women. As a Black girl, she wanted to do something. So she did.
This week, protestors echoed each line bellowed from a loudspeaker as young Black women led the way. Many young Black men also took part. Among the march’s chief messages: “Her life matters.”
“The war on missing girls, especially Black women and children, has been plaguing communities and cities for years,” said Tanisha Williams, a KOCO youth organizer, speaking to the media moments before the march kicked off.
“As a mother, I couldn’t begin to imagine the nightmare that comes with the lack of investment, lack of accountability and concern from CPD, elected officials and the mayor of our great city of Chicago. I couldn’t imagine having to fight for closure for one of my loved ones…”
I have heard the devastating stories, not only as a journalist for over 30 years, but more recently in leading my students at Roosevelt University to cover the case of 51 mostly African-American women murdered in Chicago since 2001.
Indeed I have seen the tears. Heard the unforgettable cries of families for justice and peace. I have witnessed their pleas for police to find the killers in cases now ice cold and unsolved. I have felt their anguish over the disparity in media coverage of the murder and disappearance of Black women and girls.
And I can think of no march more noble.
Until there is no longer a need, may this whole damn city walk for her.
For more on the Unforgotten Project, visit: https://www.unforgotten51.com
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