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To the Black girls watching the news, hearing the sirens, and holding their breath, we see you.

Last week, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was fatally shot by police in Columbus Ohio. This week, a nation of Black women and girls grieve, mourn, and remember Ma’Khia. Our thoughts, love, and healing energy are with her family today and always. In a video taken following the murder, Ma’Khia Bryant’s mother, Paula Bryant, described her daughter as a “loving” girl, and expressed that she would like Ma’Khia to be remembered as someone who “always promoted peace.”

To those who knew her, Ma’Khia was like any other 16 year old. She was vibrant and warmhearted. She loved TikTok and often posted videos of herself trying new hairstyles, dancing, and expressing herself creatively. She excelled in school and was an honor roll student. Yet in spite of the beauty that lived in her, she, like so many slain Black girls, was murdered for simply being. Instead of receiving the care and understanding they deserve, our girls are being pushed out of their schools and homes, and into the foster care system where they are at high risk of experiencing abuse and neglect. The systematic abandonment of Black girls feeds into the lie that their needs, boundaries, intelligence, joy, and ultimately their lives do not matter. These lies however, could never dim their light, nor diminish the truth of who they are. Ma’Khia’s light still shines even though she is no longer with us. But just as it is now our responsibility to protect and honor her memory, we must choose, as a community, to protect and honor all Black girls who dare to embody the fullness of their humanity without compromise.

To the Black girls scribbling poetry and prayers and sorrows onto the sidewalk with chalk as we watch yet another murder by police, we see you. To those of us who were once little Black girls, who are holding the pain of Ma’Khia Bryant’s death in our bellies, in our hearts, in our lungs, and in our collective memory, we see you. Ma’Khia’s light is etched in our minds forever, and her death has shaken us to our core.

This love letter is for the Black girl who was braiding her hair when she learned about Ma’Khia Bryant, or Aiyana Stanley-Jones, or Darnisha Harris, or Tyisha Miller or the girl she once sat next to in class, or the girl who used to live down the street, or the girl she once called a friend and a sister, whose life was taken by police.

This love letter is for the Black girl who fights back, talks back, and behaves defiantly in the face of power. This is for the Black girl who wields her own power. This love letter is for every Black girl because every Black girl deserves to live.

Black girls deserve to live. Black girls deserve to live even if they speak boldly. Black girls deserve to live even if they fight. We see ourselves in Ma’Khia Bryant, in her fierceness, in her brilliance, in her love of life, and in her boldness. We are Ma’Khia Bryant. We defend and protect Black girls.

Join us Friday at 9am EST on Instagram for a Vigil honoring Ma’Khia Bryant’s life

March for Black Women Urges 10,000 Letters to Black Leaders

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