Nearly ayear after Breonna Taylors death, manypeopleare remembering her as an iconic symbol of the BlackLives Matter movement: a youngfirst-responderinnocent of any crimewho lost her lifein a hail ofpolicebullets in her own home. Photos and illustrations of her have been on magazine covers, spotlightingher as a victim ofoverzealouspolicing, with accompanyingarticles demanding justice and change.
But when JuNiyah Palmer thinks about Breonna Taylor, she calls her sister. She remembers her sister as a confidante and friend.
She was lovely, she was caring, said Palmer.
In a December interviewwithUSATODAY, Palmer, 21,recalled the summers she and Taylor spentwith their grandmother in Grand Rapids, Michigan.One moment etched in her memory is the car ride back home to Kentuckyone year.Theydusually taken the ride with their mother, Tamika Palmer, but thistimethey were driving the route by themselves.
It started to pour down rain. Taylor, who was driving,couldntsee.The carinched along in the middle of the highway.It was just really funny, because she really stopped and started crying because she couldnt see, and called my mama, Palmer said.
Their mothertold them to pull over to the side of the highway and put the hazardlights on, but theydidntmove.They stayed in the middle of the highway for about 20 minutes, until the rainpassedandTaylorfelt fine to drive again.
To Palmer,Taylor was playful, yet vulnerable in otherwordsvery much like any otheryoung Black woman.
Tamika Palmer, left, embraced her daughter Juniyah Palmer during a vigil for her other daughter, Breonna Taylor, outside the Judicial Center in downtown Louisville, Ky. on Mar. 19, 2020. Taylor was killed during an officer-involved shooting last week. The family chose the vigil site because it is across the street from the Louisville Metro Police Department.1-Vigil01 Sam [Via MerlinFTP Drop](Photo: Sam Upshaw Jr., Courier Journal/ USA TODAY Network)
Astheanniversary of her deathapproaches,Palmer andsocial justiceactivists areworking to keep her legacy aliveby pushing for police reforms and public policies that would prevent more needless deaths like hers.
Breonnas life mattered,saidBrittany Packnett Cunningham, founder ofthe social impact firmLove & Power Works and host ofaMeteor/Pineapple Street Studiospodcast,Undistracted.We have to wake up every day and ask ourselves what we owe her.
Taylor, 26, was killed in her home at about 1 a.m. March 13, by Louisville Police who had a "no knock" search warrant for her apartment. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III, were in the apartment that morning when they heard loud pounding at the door. According to Walker, the police did not announce themselves before breaking down the door. Fearing a home invasion, Walker fired one shot, hittingSgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg.
Police responded by firing 32 shots. Taylor was hit multiple times and died on the floor of her hallway whileMattingly, whowas wounded, was rushed to surgery.
In September, a grandjury charged former Detective Brett Hankison with wanton endangerment because some of the 10 shots firedwent into a neighboring apartment. But none of the three white officers involved were charged with Taylor's death.
This undated file photo provided by Taylor family attorney Sam Aguiar shows Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky. In news reported on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, Louisville police have taken steps that could result in the firing of an officer who sought the no-knock search warrant that led detectives to the apartment where Taylor was fatally shot.(Photo: Taylor Family attorney Sam Aguiar via AP)
"Breonnas Law," legislation banningno-knock search warrants, was adopted in June by the city of Louisville. Similar no-knock bans existinFlorida, Oregon andVirginia.But such laws haven't been universally adopted, not even inKentucky.Soactivists worry thissame scenario could play out elsewhere.
You owe it toher tosee Breonna in every Black woman you encounter at work, schoolor delivering your groceries, andtreather like her life is worth living before she dies, Packnett Cunningham said.
Activists in Louisville and beyond arepushing for police reforms and accountability for police officers. They continue to demandcharges against the officers involved in Taylors death despitethe refusal of the Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Council last December to appoint someone to pursue the case.
Imani Smith, a native of Kentucky and sophomore at Centre College, said she owes her activism to Taylor. After learning about her, Smith formed her own organization called the Youth Resistance Collective.
She is also collaborating with organizations like Change Today, Change Tomorrow;Play Cousins Collective and The Louisville Urban League, and pushing forward in social justice work by bringing awareness toTaylors story. The work involves changing policies, creating strategies that sustainthe Black dollarand teaching Black history.
Right now we are still in that process of still pushing, but also being conscious that we have to heal too because this was traumatic for a lot us, Smith said.
Protesters demonstrate on the steps of the Tennessee Capitol on Sept. 26, 2020, in Nashville in response to a Louisville grand jury decision about the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.(Photo: Mark Zaleski, The Tennessean/ USA TODAY Network)
During last yearsBreonnaConevent in Louisville,convenedto inspire activism in the wake of Taylors death, young Black women like Jaida Hampton,22, Youth & College President of the Kentucky NAACP State Conference, heldvoter education and registration sessions and legal roundtables.
Being a Black woman myself, living in Kentucky alone, (I know) that could potentially happen to me, and I have older sisters as well that are the same age as Breonna Taylor, Hampton said.
Black women are not safe at all in this country(if)you can innocently be sleeping in your own home and all it takes is for someone to make a life decision for you. That is just scary, Hampton said.
If Palmer could have told Taylor one thing on March 12last year,she would have told her to go to their moms housethat night, or to work some overtime. If this was adream,I would literally tell hertogo to pick up that shift at work that you planned on picking up, or go to moms house, and go out like you planned,Palmer said.
The days are longer than normal for Palmer, who shared the apartment with Taylor just as she had shared a room with her growing up.She wasused to coming home and seeing Taylor getting ready to leave for work. Taylor workedeveningsas an emergency room technician at the University of Louisville HealthJewish Hospital and Norton Hospital,and wanted to become a nurse.
Rosie Henderson tries to protect a Breonna Taylor memorial from rain Sept. 27, 2020, in downtown Louisville, Ky.(Photo: Max Gersh, Courier Journal/ USA TODAY Network)
Other times Palmer would come home and gointo Taylors room toplayfully bother her sister as she watched TV.Little memories like this,ormundane tasks like cleaning her room or washing her car, make Palmer miss Taylor the most.My outlook of the future has changed, any day could be really anybodys last day, Palmer said.
When Palmerseesimagesof her sisterpainted on muralsin brighthues or printed on the cover of magazines it makes her feel joyful.
It makes me feel like people are still thinking about her, were no longer lonely about the whole situation, Palmersaid.
Walker talked about protests in Breonna Taylor's name, and how his life has changed since her death. Louisville Courier Journal
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