Reflections on the Black Women's Blueprint Justice Ride to Oklahoma City
Twelve members of Black Women's Blueprint traveled to Oklahoma City - ten of us by van - to show support for the survivors of former police officer, Daniel Holtzclaw during his sentencing. For many of us, we could easily have lived half a lifetime within the range of emotions and obstacles we sat with and fought through. All survivors in this work, it was important to us to reflect on the experience during and after and to share some of our reflections with those who have supported our work as we continue our movement for justice.
"So many impactful moments happened throughout our Justice Ride to stand with the women survivors of OKC13, but there were two particular moments that left a lasting impression on me. The first would be during the night of the forum, it was evident that there needs to be more conversation amongst people of color surrounding the complexity of internalized racial inferiority. The next moment would be, sharing a tearful to hug with one of the survivors after the sentencing, thanking her for restoring the light within other survivors. The chain effect of that moment was when she, in her moment, took the time to comfort another survivor."
- Jerlyne Calixte
"The justice ride was unforgettable experience. Something I will never forget was the Woman who sat next to me in court, her son was beaten and eventually died of injuries caused by Holtzclaw, while on duty. This experience brought to light all the injustices that we would never hear about were it not for this experience to hear Black women in Oklahoma City tell their stories in community."
- Natalie Peña
"Sitting in the courtroom across from Daniel Holtzclaw in a community of survivors in Oklahoma City was both a moment of social and spiritual turmoil. As I sat behind the survivors I felt their courage and strength as well as their continued devastation. I was proud to be a part of the room that embraced them with so much support, love, and high-vibrational energy. At the same time, I had raw emotions and a deep sense of pain as I sat desperately trying to dream of healing, restoration, and liberation for the Black women across this nation who continue to live in a world of sexual trauma.
I understand that for some, Daniel Holtzclaw’s sentence of 263 years behind bars is a victory. However, that is his destiny, but what is that of the survivors? How will the survivors live those 263 years, and generations of Black women to come? How many generations of Black women will see those 263 years and live within the temporal boundaries of that span of time? How will they live out a dream of justice and liberation that means more than a sentencing? What can freedom look like for Black women and how can it be achieved in a world of sexual terror that continues to impact Black women and girls the most?
Although Holtzclaw is locked up I do not yet have relief. I honor and respect the historic moment that allowed us to cross over into new planes of justice and to bear witness to an acknowledge of Black women’s lives that we have not yet seen. However, I still dream of more defined freedom, more fruitful justice, and more expansive liberation."
- Sevonna Brown
"I don't know that I've ever experienced such a raw emotions for such an extended period of time to the point that my body reacted with headaches, tremor, and pure fatigue. But I also don't know that I've ever experienced such solidarity as pure as what we experienced on the ride, at the courthouse, and trekking back to the East Coast. There is something about coming to the aid of the sister you don't necessarily know that staves off fatigue and hunger until the work is complete. I can rest in knowing we drove those 22 hours with purpose for our sisters. And that feeds me for the next time and the next."
- Ashley J. Hobbs
"As a cisgender Black man, the ride to OKC was a necessary mark in my journey towards actionable solidarity with Black women survivors of racial-sexual violence. The energy in OKC was palpable. It was an honor to see Black women from OKC Artists for Justice for example, standing strong in a long line of anti-rape activists from Ida B. Wells-Barnett to Rosa Parks to Fannie Lou Hamer. There's hope."
- Ahmad Greene-Hayes
"Being able to thank an old friend for not only believing the moment I told him I was assaulted but also for standing with me almost six years later was a necessary grounding moment. After all of the emotions and energy of the trip and sentencing I needed to be reminded of what a rarity and blessing it is to have people ready to go to war for me and never question or minimize my truth. I'm able to refocus my purpose and be for others what so many have been for me; it's truly the greatest gift of healing."
- Kelicia James
"After leaving the press conference with emotions running high, I began thinking on this being the dawn of a new day. I think we are in a pivotal moment and making of history as it relates to the shifting of societal consciousness. It was an honor having spent the week supporting our sisters in Oklahoma City. It dawned on me even more when the Court announced recess until 1:30 p.m. and a sister/survivor turned around asking that we please come back. With an anticipation for 1:30 p.m. to come and a packed courtroom, there was no doubt that we were there determined to support them. Not only were we standing with our sisters, we were our sisters. I love how the week consisted of healing and joy. We had girlfriend chats with some of the most brilliant minds to in-depth conversations about history and change. Overall, we were one--in search of justice."
- Kimm D. Lett
"The 3 day trip from New York to Oklahoma and duration within the city with Black Womens Blueprint impacted my life greatly in such a short amount of time. The encouragement to build community and keep self care a priority permitted a safe space in which I could fully process what it means to be a woman and black from my own perspective and many others within the country I was born in. I have gained so much knowledge of my outer world, as well as my inner and will never forget the week I witnessed HERstory turn. This is, indeed, the beginning. "
- Iesha Saunders