DATE: Thursday, September 23, 2021
FROM: The Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders and the Reclaiming Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE) Project.
CONTACT: Margaret Prescod 323-646-1269 mp@allwomencount.net;
Nana Gyamfi 323-947-9722 attorneygyamfi@gmail.com

As it stands today, thirty-two Black women whose photos were found in the home of the serial killer Lonnie Franklin, dubbed the Grim Sleeper remain missing. Why is it that the serial murders of scores of Black women by multiple serial killers in South Los Angeles, an historically Black community, remain mostly unknown?

Since the 1980’s, long before the late journalist Gwen Ifill coined the term “missing white women syndrome”, the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders (BC) has railed against the lack of justice and attention to Black women who are victims of serial murders or missing. And we railed against the disregard of their families and the lack of urgency and sensitivity to those left behind. As one mother whose daughter was a victim said, the loss of her daughter is a wound that will never heal, and on top of that the treatment of her and other family members was infuriating.

The fact that most residents in Los Angeles (where the murders took place), much less the nation, have never heard about these murders underscores how the lives of these victims remain devalued, not prioritized, seen as throw away women. Indeed, some law enforcement referred to the victims as NHI, i.e., No Humans Involved. Importantly, killers who are looking for victims to target know this reality: that Black, Brown and other impoverished women will not garner interest, attention or be prioritized as say a white young woman from what they assume was a “respectable” family. An example is Samuel Little, the notorious serial killer who admitted avoiding white communities in his hunt to identify new targets.

This devaluation of the lives of some of us is a continuation of a long history in the US of the disregard of the lives of some of us, from the genocide of Indigenous peoples to the brutality of chattel slavery, to the kidnapping of children at the US border, to the recent treatment of Haitians at the US border.

Gabby Petito indeed deserves and should have all of the attention she is getting, as did the young blond whom the whole world knew was killed in Aruba some years back. At the same time, the double standard that treats some victims as deserving of sympathy and attention and others as irrelevant, is not lost to Black, Indigenous and Latinx communities.

We may never know how many Black women in South Los Angeles were serial murder victims. The BC count from the 1980s on is at least 200 women, but some members of law enforcement suspect the number is much higher. How many, hundreds? Thousands? The records of the murders of these victims were so lacking that we have not been able to get an accurate count, or even the names of most of the victims, reflecting how little the lives of impoverished Black women mattered.

For decades we have distributed flyers, held vigils, issued press releases, organized community meetings and more to try to get attention to and justice for our murdered and missing sisters. Our cry decades before Black Lives Matter was “Every Life is of Value: Black Women’s Lives Count.” These victims were first portrayed as people not deserving of concern, they were stereotyped as prostitutes and/or crack addicts, neither of which should be a death sentence. They were women, mothers, girls with families who loved them and who still grieve for them, and a community determined not to forget them. They were human beings but not treated as such.

It is outrageous and sad, yes it hurts, that we have to say again and again almost like a broken record, that Black Women’s Lives Count, because it should be obvious that we do, just as we have to continuously make the case that Black Lives Matter. To have to make the case that we are human beings and should be treated as such is telling in and of itself. This in and of itself, is a public health crisis according to Dr. Chandra Ford, the director of the Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Meanwhile, we will continue our decades old work of pressing for justice and accountability, for adequate compensation for families left behind, for a permanent memorial for the victims, and for the unsolved disappearances of members of our communities to be taken seriously. We deserve and demand they be prioritized and treated with urgency and respect.

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