Edited by Lia James
My mom gave me the name Brianna Taylor. I’ve always loved it because the name means strength and courage. My heart stopped beating while my mom was in labor and she didn’t know if I was going to make it. Spoiler alert, I came out healthy (and quite loud, according to my parents). I was crying, and then babbling, but I was there. I survived. When I asked why she named me Brianna she simply said in her beautiful Caribbean accent “You’re a survivor, baby. Your heart stopped and you survived. I knew if you could do that, then nothing could faze yuh. Well…it could faze yuh but it couldn’t kill yuh.” Whenever I felt alone or hurt or scared, that’s what I would lean on. I was strong and courageous and that’s what I am supposed to be. The meaning behind my name has carried me through the most distressing moments in my life but somehow it didn’t prepare me for this moment. I still recall the look on my mother’s face when we heard about Breonna Taylor’s murder. I saw the fear in her eyes and I felt the shake in her voice as she told me what had happened. It had never occurred to me, the anguish and confusion an incident like this could produce, and how tramautizing it is hearing your daughter’s name in the context of systemic racial genocide. Most people don’t get an insight as to what it would be like if their name were the next #justicefor. I did.
I don’t hear my name the same way anymore. I can no longer say my name without thinking about her; without seeing her smile. It was difficult to be on social media and my mom couldn’t watch the news for days. Every time I hear “Rest In Peace, Breonna Taylor” my heart rate picks up and I feel like I can’t breathe. I see myself in her. I see myself in her drive and in the dreams that she will never see come to fruition. My mom gave me my name because she felt whatever challenge I faced wouldn’t kill me, but Breonna Taylor did not survive the challenge she faced that night. How could I move forward from that? How could I find solace in a strength and courage that couldn’t save her?
Naturally, as people, we have the tendency to think in “what if’s?” What if I got this job? What if I got into this school? What if I let this person down? Every time a black person is murdered you can’t help but think “What if it were me?” I got the “what if” answered. This is how social media would treat me if I were the next hashtag. They’d put my name on street signs and sneakers. Maybe they’d write a tik tok song about me. They’d meme me, but at the end of it all I may still not get justice. There was no video of Breonna’s murder. No audio, no body cam footage, and I was still angry. There was no video of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and fifty-seven years later, I’m still angry. You should not need to see a video of black people dying to be enraged. Seeing the video of Ahmaud Aubrey and Georgle Floyd’s death was not only traumatizing, but not once did I feel any more hopeful that they would receive justice. For those who say “If we don’t have the video, we won’t have evidence for justice”, I ask you this question: What more evidence do you need than their absence from this earth and the lives of those who love them–and now mourn for them–to be enraged? I never question if my Black brothers and sisters are dying, because I know that unless there is a dramatic change in this country’s system, it will always allow for the murder of my people.
My name is Brianna Taylor. I am a daughter, a cousin, a student, an activist, a friend. More importantly, I am a person, with real emotions, and my life matters. As a Black woman, my safety, my body, my mental health, it all matters. My trauma and the trauma of my people is real. And it is not a meme.