‘Say their names. Say all 51 of their names’

“Tell their stories beyond the gory details of how they died,” writes John Fountain. “Beyond how their bodies were discarded on the city’s South and West sides.”

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Reo Renee Holyfield

Reo Renee Holyfield. She is remembered, John Fountain writes, by her first cousin Riccardo Holyfield.

This is the second in an occasional series titled “Unforgotten: The Untold Stories of Murdered Women.” It is about 51 mostly unsolved strangulation and asphyxiation cases in Chicago since 2001, as identified by the Murder Accountability Project.

Say her name. Say all of their names. Dispel this cloud of enduring shame. And remember their lives, despite the pain.

Let us lift them beyond the realm of invisibility. To speak even from their graves to the dearth of human civility here in this city where they were slain with no indemnity.

Where their killers mostly remain unpunished, unnamed, unfound or free. And there remains no sanctity. For the lives of women poor black and brown. No collective pubic outcry by this shimmering city where glitz, glam and fortune abound.

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No justice for the 51 who now lie forever frozen in time, six feet underground. Or as ashes after cremation.

So for each of the 51, let us invoke this recitation: Say her name. Say all of their names:

Angela Marieanna Ford. Charlotte W. Day. Winifred Shines. Brenda Cowart. Elaine Boneta. Saudia Banks. Bessie Scott. Gwendolyn Williams. Jody Grissom.

Loraine Harris. Dellie Jones. Celeste Jackson. Nancy Walker. Tarika Jones. Linda Green. Rosenda Barocio. LaTonya Keeler.

Say their names …

“The media’s blatant disregard for minority victims of violence has reverberating consequences on a number of levels,” writes Cheryl L. Neely, author of “You’re Dead So What? Media, Police and the Invisibility of Black Women As Victims of Homicide.”

“First, it is clear that when society cares about victims of crime, and can empathize with their experience, the result is public outrage that has a catalytic effect on police response …”

So say their names. Say all of their names.

Let us remove the stigma. Purge this enigma. Tell their stories beyond the gory details of how they died. Beyond how their bodies were discarded on the city’s South and West sides.

Make the world to see their humanity. Stop this insanity. This incomprehensible profanity of mainstream media light cast on the mundane while mostly relegating to the shadows this matter so sacred, so consequential. So inhumane.

Say their names. Say all of their names …

Latricia Hall. Lucyset (aka Mary) Thomas. Ethel Amerson. Michelle Davenport. Tamala Edwards. Makalavah Williams.

Precious Smith. Denise V. Torres. Wanda Hall. Yvette Mason. Shaniqua Williams. Margaret E. Gomez. Antoinette P. Simmons. Kelly Sarff. Veronica Frazier. Mary Ann Szatkowski. Theresa Bunn.

Say their names … Say all of their names. For if this many dogs had been slain, the city would arise. If their zip codes were different, would not we all still hear their cries? Would we not answer with the sound of fury and righteous indignation? Be more in tune to the reverberations of this tally? Let us now rally. Say her name. Say all of their names … 

Hazel Marion Lewis. Genevieve Mellas. Charlene Miller. LaToya Banks. Shannon Williams. Vanessa Rajokovich. Lafonda Sue Wilson.

Quanda L. Crider. Angela Profit. Pamela Wilson. Velma Howard. Diamond Turner. Catherine Saterfield-Buchanan. Valerie Marie Jackson. Lora Dawn Harbin. Nicole Lynell Ridge.

Reo Renee Holyfield.

Some of Reo’s loved ones called her “Chocolate.” Some called her “Auntie.” Riccardo Holyfield, 31, called her his sister, although she was actually his first cousin.

She liked to sing. She made the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spaghetti. She was a fighter. A protector. Effervescent in soul.

She was murdered. Discarded as trash. Her family never got to hold a funeral, to touch her casket, to have a proper farewell — because her body was so badly decomposed she had to be cremated, Riccardo lamented.

“Right now, to this day, even though she’s passed away and not here, I still talk to her like she’s right here,” he told me. “That’s my sister.”

Her name was Reo Renee Holyfield. She was 34. She was loved. She is missed.

Say her name … Say all of their names.

Email: Author@johnwfountain.com

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

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