This week my students and I commemorated Domestic Violence Awareness Month by focusing our thoughts on Bresha Meadows. As this is also National Bullying Prevention Month, I framed DV as a form of bullying.
We started these discussions three-weeks ago, when I invited them to participate in the National Bresha Meadows, Days of Action (Oct 5 & 6) effort, by writing letters of encouragement to her—since we meet on Mon/Tues, we wrote our letters a little before the official Days of Action.
The girls were just as drawn to the stories of Marissa Alexander, Joyce Quaweay, Naomi Freeman and Jessica Hampton, as they were Bresha. (Refer below for details). With several of the groups, we also addressed domestic violence in the context of the criminalization of Black girls, beyond Bresha.
I hadn’t read their letters or their cards until now, and OMG, they are so authentic, moving and heartfelt. Not that I expected anything less, as they are quite thoughtful, I was still taken aback by the sentiment they conveyed. They weren’t jaded; instead, they were full of empathy and understanding. They did not justify her killing her father, but they had an understanding of why this was her last resort.
When preparing their correspondences, they put a lot of care into how and what they wanted to say to her. In each group the energy shifted when they began writing their letters/drawing their cards. They wanted to make sure they had the proper spelling of words. One student confirmed her spelling of “consciousness” and “defenseless.” They reviewed the handout I’d given them, they looked up the case on their phones as they wanted to see a picture of her, to better connect. Some said they felt like she was their friend or cousin, like, “she’s one of us…” Several of them referred to her as Bre-Bre or Bri-Bri in their letters, or greeted her with, “Hey pretty girl…”
When asked how they felt about writing letters their responses included: “I feel like I made a difference;” “I feel like this will have a positive impact on her life so she won’t feel alone;” “It feels good, because I know when she get these letters she’s going to be soooooo happy.”
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Marissa Alexander, Joyce Quaweay, Naomi Freeman,
Jessica Hampton and Bresha Meadows stories:
August 1, 2010: Nine days after giving birth to a premature daughter, Marissa is attacked by her abusive estranged husband at their shared home. Marissa retrieved her lawfully registered gun and fired a warning shot upwards into a wall to prevent him from beating her to death. No one was injured by her warning shot.
February 10, 2011: Marissa’s incarceration begins.
August 17, 2011: Marissa is denied Stand Your Ground immunity from prosecution.
September 26, 2013: Marissa successfully appeals the 2012 trial, the guilty verdict is overturned, and she is – not free – but given the right to a new trial.
November 27, 2013: Marissa is released on bond the night before Thanksgiving having spent 1,021 days in prison. She is released on a $200,009 bond and is placed on house arrest with an ankle monitor until the start of her retrial. Marissa and her family was responsible for paying $500/fortnightly for bond and $105/week for her ankle monitor.
March 1, 2014: State Prosecutor Angela Corey seeks 60 year sentence for Marissa.
June 21, 2014: Changes to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law go into effect, including expanding the law to cover warning shots. Marissa’s case is cited as an inspiration for the reform – but it does NOT apply retroactively to provide immunity for Marissa.
July 21, 2014: Marissa is denied a new Stand Your Ground hearing, which means she will not receive immunity from prosecution and must defend herself again in a new trial that will be expensive and long. Her new trial is scheduled to begin December 8, 2014.
November 24, 2014: Marissa ‘accepts’ a plea deal, which includes time served (1,030 days). The deal requires Marissa to immediately serve an additional 65 days followed by two years of probation serving house detention. Marissa is required to pay monitoring fees.
January 27, 2015: Marissa was released from jail to begin her 2-year probation.
On July 5, 2015, Naomi Freeman chose to survive. Naomi is a 23 year old Black woman from Chicago and the mother of 1 and 2 year old children. In choosing to survive that day, Naomi Freeman unwittingly joined the ranks of Marissa Alexander, Cierra Finkley, Cherelle Baldwin, Paris Knox, Tewkunzi Green, Eisha Love, and many women who made the split-second choice to survive rather than die at the hands of an abuser. Also like them, she was arrested for it. Some of these women are still awaiting trial while some are already serving decades in prison and seeking clemency. Marissa Alexander, however, avoided her initial 60-year sentence after successful public pressure and fundraising support. Cierra Finkley was also released after her charges were dropped. Naomi should be free as well, and can be with your help.
Like many of the women named above, Naomi chose to survive an attack by an abusive partner. We know from Naomi and other eyewitnesses that Naomi was pulled from a vehicle by her hair and slammed to the ground. Once on the ground, Naomi was beaten and punched in the face no fewer than 20 times. During this assault, Naomi was in the early stages of pregnancy and suffering a chronic autoimmune disease that affects her joints. Sadly, this was not the first time Naomi had been assaulted by this man.
As of December 8th, Naomi had been in Cook County Jail for nearly 6 months. Naomi’s pregnancy is complicated by Lupus and the ongoing traumas of pre-trial detention and separation from her two young children. For saving her own life, Naomi Freeman is being charged with 1st-degree murder and was held on $350,000 bond (reduced from $500,000). It is our intention to support Naomi by working alongside her family to advocate for the dismissal of these outrageous charges by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
Naomi Freeman was released on bond on December 23, 2015!
Jessica Hampton, 25, was stabbed in the neck during an ongoing domestic argument with a man she dated.
“He asked the young lady a question, she said no, and he got up and started stabbing her,” said Andrea Patterson, a witness. “She fell toward the floor and he slit her neck.”
Hampton was pronounced dead at the scene.
She is survived by her six-year-old daughter.
Much of the incident was recorded by Chicago Transit Authorities cameras.
August 2016: 24 year-old, mother of two, Joyce Quaweay’s partner stripped her, handcuffed her, and beat her to death while his best friend watched and assisted. Her children watched, too. These two men, one a former Temple University police officer (TUPD), the other a current TUPD officer, were still beating her dead body when the cops arrived. Why did he do this? He did this because of Joyce’s alleged failure to submit to her boyfriend’s “authority.” Beating her was his way of punishing her and his way of trying to break her.
July 28, then fourteen-year-old Bresha Meadows of Ohio is incarcerated and facing a charge of aggravated murder for defending herself and family against the unrelenting terror and abuse of her father.
Bresha, her mother, and her sisters endured years of abuse and threats by Bresha’s father. After continuing to witness this abuse, Bresha sought help from family members and police, but the violence continued. As a young girl with few options, she was rightly scared for her family members’ lives as well as her own. What Bresha faced was not new: countless Black girls and women face similar experiences of interpersonal violence and state violence. Many, like Bresha, are criminalized for choosing survival.
The incarceration of Bresha Meadows serves no one. Bresha is not a threat to herself, family or community. Instead, it perpetuates the violence against Black women and girls that is inflicted at both the state and interpersonal levels every day. The state failed to protect Bresha. Now, it has chosen to criminalize her. In doing so, it also has chosen to exacerbate the suffering her family already has endured, as they now are separated from their daughter, sister, and niece and must prepare to defend Bresha’s life.
#FreeBresha #sheBLOOMSblack #LoveDoesNotHurt