It’s been 10 years and two months since a Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer shot and killed 22-year-old Rekia Boyd. Over the years, Black women and femmes have worked tirelessly to seek justice for Boyd and garner the same nationwide attention that the police killings and murders of Black boys and men such as Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, Mike Brown and Eric Garner received. 

There were widespread nationwide protests against their killings. Without activists raising their voices on the ground while victim families and attorneys fought with the criminal justice system, each case might’ve been swept under the rug like countless other victims of police brutality whose stories are underreported or wholly ignored.

The unfortunate reality is Black women, femmes and girls who are killed by police rarely receive the same widespread attention as Black men and boys. According to the Washington Post, Black women are far more likely to be killed by police than other women. A 2021 FiveThirtyEight analysis studied the Washington Post numbers, and found that of at least 51 Black women killed by police since 2015, half of those women received some national media attention in the 60 days surrounding their death — but coverage was limited to five stories or fewer.

In Chicago, recent examples of this include the deaths of two Black women, 33-year-old Irene Chavez and 31-year-old London Marquez; both died while in CPD custody in December 2021 and January 2022, respectively. While both of their stories have been reported on by multiple news outlets, their stories haven’t yet received widespread national attention.

“The centering still, by default, goes to Black men, and there’s a lot to unpack there because Black men do have high rates of incarceration and high rates of being murdered by the police and high rates of being perpetrators and victims of intercommunal violence,” Kofi Ademola said. He was a member of Black Lives Matter Chicago during the justice for Rekia Boyd campaign before founding GoodKids MadCity in 2018. 

“But with that being said, sadly, so do our Black women,” he continued. “Trans women get erased from the narrative completely.”

“You can't talk about Laquan McDonald without talking about Rekia Boyd.”

The police killing of Boyd on March 21, 2012, laid the groundwork for the emerging Black Liberation Movement and activated a new generation of organizers in Chicago. The injustice around her killing breathed fire into the #SayHerName campaign, which launched in 2014 to uplift Black women, girls and femmes killed by state-sanctioned violence.

Boyd’s death served as the launching pad for the #ByeAnita campaign, which successfully rallied voters to get former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez out of office. 

Boyd’s death also sparked the beginnings of a narrative shift surrounding police violence; one that includes the way police violence impacts Black women, girls, femmes and the LGBTQ+ community, and how policing harms everyday people in their day-to-day lives. 

Charlene Carruthers is a Chicago native who worked alongside hundreds of Black activists as the founding national director of BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100). She said Boyd’s campaign connected Chicago’s organizations to the issues of policing in a way that hadn’t been done before. 

“It also shifted the Chicago organizing community. It brought together many different groups of people in organizations around policing in ways that hadn’t happened—to my knowledge—in recent history.” 

However, Boyd’s family and the activism community still faced challenges in keeping her story front and center. A few months after her death, Jordan Davis was killed in November 2012. Then Mike Brown in 2014, Dominique Franklin in 2014,  Eric Garner in 2014, Freddie Gray in 2015 and Walter Scott in 2015. The stories of these Black men and boys became high-profile cases in the eyes of mainstream media.

Thousands of people participated in the "Day of Protest" in Chicago on May 30 following the police killing of George Floyd. Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE

The demand for justice weighed heavily on Boyd’s loved ones. Her brother, Martinez Sutton, refused to let his sister’s story go silent. He spent more than seven years protesting and battling the judicial system on behalf of his sister. He initially thought he’d be on this journey alone, but many joined him in the fight. The support from others allowed him to persevere and stay the course.

“That was amazing to me. It started to uplift me, and it gave me the fuel to keep on fighting and keep going strong,” Sutton said, describing what it felt to be supported.

When Laquan McDonald was murdered by ex-CPD cop Jason Van Dyke in October 2014, that was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” according to Crista Noel, the founder of the Women’s All Points Bulletin (WAPB). Chicago’s organizing community were still in the middle of advocating for Boyd, so they were prepared to rally support around McDonald.

With the subsequent release of the CPD dash-camera footage of the shooting in November 2015, mass protests and demonstrations broke out nationwide. During that time, according to queer non-binary femme abolitionist organizer Vee Morris Moore, Chicago’s organizing community crafted messaging that connected Boyd’s story to the story of Laquan McDonald.

That way, it would be impossible for someone to talk about McDonald without talking about what happened to Boyd.

“You can’t talk about Laquan McDonald without talking about Rekia Boyd. You can’t talk about police violence and leave out the ways in which Black people, Black queer people, and Black transpeople also suffer brutality at the hands of the state,” said Morris Moore, who uses they/them pronouns. “You can’t talk about Mike Brown and not talk about Cece McDonald because Black queer organizers and Black trans organizers Black transwomen particularly did that labor to link those things. It’s inseparable.”

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Carruthers remembers traveling down to Ferguson during the uprisings following the police murder of 18-year-old Mike Brown in August 2014. She stayed for about a week, learning from organizers on the ground that were demanding that Wilson be put on trial for Brown’s murder. The style of organizing in Ferguson shaped the campaign for Boyd in Chicago, Carruthers said.

“It [Ferguson] showed me the capacity for the police to occupy a small community and for local organizers to make what happened to Mike Brown an international issue,” Carruthers wrote in a text message to the TRiiBE.

Additionally, Ferguson showed Carruthers how people could come together for demands “that go beyond calls for jailing a cop but for longer time systemic change,” she added. 

In the joint campaigns for Boyd and McDonald, Chicago organizers incorporated language around policy changes, examinations into the mayor and other city officials’ roles in police violence and money allocated for CPD’s annual budget.

In 2015, for example, BYP100 called for defunding the police and that the city invests in Black futures. 

In 2016, the campaign to end cash bail and decrease pretrial incarceration began to take shape in Chicago. Last February, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill. One of the significant reforms includes a law to abolish cash bail making Illinois the first to eliminate cash bail in the U.S. 

In addition, the 2017 Department of Justice report revealed decades of racist police misconduct and excessive force within CPD that resulted in a federal court-ordered consent decree.

After the murder of Floyd in May 2020, Chicago activists and others across the U.S. rallied around the #DefundThePolice campaign. More than 20 cities including San Francisco, Portland, Austin, and Minneapolis, have cut money from their police departments since 2021, according to an analysis from the Guardian. But in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot instead doubled down on her stance not to defund CPD. She increased the police budget from $1.7 billion to $1.9 billion in 2022.

What does it mean to support and protect Black women, girls and femmes who are killed by police violence?

The disproportionality in which Black men and boys killed by police violence receive nationwide attention compared to Black women, girls and femmes have not ceased. 

In April 2021, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was fatally shot by a Columbus, Ohio, police officer. That July, 19-year-old Alexis Wilson was killed in a south suburb of Chicago during an encounter with Dolton police officers Jared Carlton and Ryan Perez. Bryant’s death did capture some national headlines, while Wilson’s death was mostly covered locally for a short while. 

In December 2021, 29-year-old Andris Wofford was found dead in her Chicago home. Her boyfriend — ex-CPD officer Pierre Tyler — reportedly shot Wofford and was charged with first-degree murder. According to news reports, the two had a child together. Her story received some news coverage, but not widespread attention. 

For Noel, support looks like people and Black men, in particular, joining demonstrations on the street, showing up to meetings, and lending their bodies to protect protestors on the ground. 

“They [Black men] can show up to say: ‘We ain’t gonna let Kyle Rittenhouse roll up on you. We’re not gonna let dudes drive through you all as you walk. So we’ll drive the cars behind you and in front of you.’ They can show up in a way of being protective,” Noel said.

BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100) co-founder Asha Ransby-Sporn said support should center on the experiences of Black women, girls femmes, and other queer communities so that we understand how race and gender work side by side.

During the Drag March for Change in 2020, Black LGBTQ+ leaders spoke about the racism and discrimination they faced in Northalsted. Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE

“By including and paying attention to the particular ways that race and gender work together to form a certain type of experience of oppression, we can come up with better and more inclusive solutions that we’re demanding,” Ransby-Sporn said. She is currently an organizer with the #DefundCPD campaign, and an organizing co-director at Dissenters, an anti-militarist organization of young people.

According to Ademola, homophobia and transphobia also must be called out to overcome these challenges. He added that there has to be constant political education and collective challenges of power. 

“It is imperative that we are educated, that we unlearn a lot of toxic masculinity, that we realign ourselves and hold ourselves accountable and not be in a position that harms Black women. That has to be the goal,” Ademola said. 

However, Ademola has hope in Chicago’s Gen Z organizers, who are actively centering trans, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people in their work. He said Gen Z are finding ways to show up for each other.

“I’m hopeful of generation Z and the generation that’s coming up after them. They are eliminating a lot of the -isms, eliminating a lot of barriers that my generation and generations before mine sort of upheld and reinforced,” Ademola said.

is a multimedia producer for The TRiiBE.