#SayHerName for Reggina Jefferies

I have a fifteen year old sister, Suniya Barnes; she is a rising sophomore in high school, she hangs out at Bay St. nearly every weekend, she gets attitudes every five minutes, she’s a cheerleader, runs track, and she occasionally gets caught up in lies to my mom like many other Oakland teens. Despite her imperfections, her youth and blissfulness still allows me to see her natural pureness.

Reggina Jefferies was a sixteen year old girl from Oakland, a dancer, big sister, jokester, loved to get her nails done, rising senior in high school, a cheerleader, and a strong headed young woman.  She was also a very pure youth in Oakland.

Suniya and Reggina were not friends, but they both attended the memorial service of the two 15-year-old boys who drowned at the Woodward Reservoir. More than 3,000 people, over half of them being teenagers, gathered to celebrate these beautiful lives.

Together they shared fond memories of the boys, viewed pictures, rapped along to some of their favorite songs, and Reggina performed a beautiful praise dance to Marvin Sapp’s Never Would Have Made It.

After the memorial service many of the attendees gathered in downtown Oakland to continue the celebration at the repast. After eating, hundreds of teens gathered in the streets to dance and socialize. It was a beautiful scene of so many young people gathered in all white and making the best of the terrible situation that brought them together.

Everything was fine until a little after 5:30 pm when a car drove by and opened fire into the group of children. They all ran for protection, but four were shot, one of the victims being Reggina. When I initially heard of several shooting injuries, I was disappointed and angry.  I was disappointed because these stories are all too common in Oakland. I was angry because these were children being shot.

Unfortunately, Reggina later passed away at the hospital. My anger and disappointment made me numb to the apparent sadness in these events, but when I saw that picture Reggina captioned, “Rest easy baby girl,” the sadness sunk in and tears began to roll down my face.

I am writing this because although I did not know Reggina personally, I feel so compelled and connected to her. I see Suniya in Reggina’s eyes, I see my little cousins, I see myself a few years back, and every other young Black girl.

Everyone has been so confused as to what person could have so much lack of respect, stupidity, and inconsideration to harm mourning children. Details were later revealed that the shooting may have conspired out of a dice game gone wrong.

A few boys who also attended the memorial began to play dice with a man on the streets and when that man lost he refused to pay the five dollars. The boys beat him up, the man left, and called his friends who then came to the gathering and began shooting aimlessly. Learning the “reasoning” for the shooting did not help with any of the confusion and distraught because it still lacks sense.

For so many years Oakland has been viewed as one of the most dangerous cities in America, but people who call Oakland home constantly try to prove that the city is better than the association with violence. When the town was at its peak of violent crimes a few years back there were so many campaigns and programs aimed at stopping the violence, but since there has been a decrease in violent crimes, there has been a decrease in campaigns.

Photo credit: Sumari BarnesPeople only come together before the damage has been done and another life has been taken. There are rallies, a few cries of “this has to stop,” and more, but where is the prevention and accountability?

Just as we all claimed, "#IamTrayvonMartin," Oscar grant, or Michael Brown to show our unity; we need to #sayhername for Reggina Jefferies. When the police murders a Black person, the streets are flooded to demand justice, but where is everyone when our children, mothers, fathers and cousins are being murdered in our home?

All violence is state violence, not only when law enforcement or other forms of government directly inflict the damage. Violence within our communities is a direct reflection of state violence. Communities with no resources, filled with guns and drugs, a lack of adequate education, and police officers that do not care whether they live or die cannot be safe.

At the vigil for Reggina many community members spoke out to demand a change in Oakland and the greater Bay Area. They urged the community that we cannot depend on the police and the government to make a change, it needs to come from within. The police do not care as much as we do because it is not their family members, neighbors or friends losing their lives. The death of Reggina could have been prevented if our community was not so dependent on police and took it upon ourselves to intervene.

Before the shooting the teens had been hanging in the area for a few hours and several adult eye witnesses said they kept getting a bad feeling and that “something was about to happen.” One bystander who says he watched the life leave Reggina’s eyes twice before the ambulance got there says that he called the police one hour before the shooting occurred. Had the police responded to this call of concern we may still have Reggina here with us. It is our own duty to save our children and our communities.