Statement: S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective Outraged by Violent Assault by Rochester Police Department
Media Contact: Wakumi Douglas, 305-985-2725, firstname.lastname@example.org
On January 29th, 2021, video footage of a Rochester Police Department officer pepper spraying a 9-year-old Black girl sparked deep sadness and outrage in our community. This violence occurred while the Rochester Police Department was responding to a call that was made requesting support for a family related dispute. In the footage, this Black girl clearly names being in physical pain and emotional distress begging for her father; as officers handcuff her and demand she stop acting like a child she cries, “I am a child!”. We hold this recent assault as we continue to activate and agitate following the #AssaultAtLiberty and tasing in Lake County. This violent pattern of power proves again that our Black girls and Trans and Gender Non-Confirming (TGNC) young people are under constant attack, from the very people they are reaching out to for support and care.
S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective and our allies are responding to this latest act of violence by the Rochester Police Department, in line with our commitment to the liberation and protection of Black and Indigenous Girls and TGNC young people of color throughout New York State. While interventions to address state and police violence often focus on Black men & boys, this is a dehumanizing, retraumatizing reminder of what we have always known to be true; that in order to actualize true racial & gender justice, we must widen our scope to include Black girls & TGNC young people. Recent research demonstrates how uniquely vulnerable Black girls are as a result of disparities in adult perception; specifically, we see how those granted the authority to enact violence against our communities view Black girls as dangerous adults in need of detaining, instead of children in need of nurturing. This adultification leads to the horrific violence we saw in Rochester last week.
We uplift the organizing and demands of the Community Justice Initiative and additionally demand:
An investment in restorative justice, culturally-affirming social-emotional learning and gender-responsive supports for Black children; deeper investment in restorative responses to family crises, including trusted circle holders and social workers in Rochester who are solely focused on this role, to ensure Black children are met with support instead of further harm during crisis intervention.
Organizers with the Community Justice Initiative are proposing Na’ilah’s Law, under which the handcuffing and use of pepper spray on children would be prohibited. Should the law pass, Rochester City and Monroe County would be accountable for formalizing pathways to care and mental health support for children after traumatic experiences with police.
As a collective in the midst of organizing rapidly in response to similar violence against Black girls in Osceola County, we recognize the national scope of the state’s consistent assault on Black girls. We remain persistent and unyielding in our active support for petitions and the urgent necessity of systemic action to end systemic violence.
BIPOC girls & TGNC young people have been taking critical steps to end state violence in New York State and across the country. We are in profound prayer for this Black girl, her family and Black girls and TGNC young people in Rochester as they navigate how to be and breathe. We are available and ready to support this young girl and her family in holding a restorative space, and in accessing restorative alternatives for support and healing as a family. S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective is committed in solidarity with our kin in Osceola County and allies in Rochester and across New York State, as we continue the difficult, fundamental work to make sure no Black girl crying out for support is ever again forced to remind adults that she is in fact a child.
S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective supports new leaders who have “lived and breathed” the inequalities of our legal, educational, and economic systems. Our mission is to mobilize systems-involved girls, femmes, and TGNC youth of color – Black, Brown, and Indigenous – to interrupt cycles of state violence, poverty, and oppression. Our four pillars are leadership, healing, social justice, and the arts.