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Families of people killed by police violence: Reform is not the answer. Uproot the system.

We are forced to deal with police and criminal justice systems that often don't recognize our grief and are too frequently corrupt.

Breonna Taylor.

George Floyd.

Atatiana Jefferson.

Sean Monterrosa.

You know their names; you’ve heard their stories. We are their mothers, their sisters, their cousins.

A little over a week ago, our families came together, as we have in cities across this country over the past year, to join the Make Good Trouble Rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. We were there to continue the call for justice for our loved ones. 

One of the most challenging aspects of having a loved one killed by police is how invisible we become to people in positions of power. We are at best a nuisance, at worst the enemy. They deny us even the most basic information. Think about that – at the most painful, tragic, unbearable moment in our lives, we are forced to become full-time advocates, fighting for the minimum in human decency.

Holidays and birthdays pass by, and the gaping hole left by our relatives' loss deepens. But we have no time to grieve. We are forced to become lawyers, media spokespeople and policy experts, just to be taken seriously. 

When we should be allowed space to grieve, we are forced to combat false narratives being spread about our loved ones. We are forced to deal with threats of violence for our activism. And those threats extend to people supporting us in our time of desperate need. 

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The people who step in to help us are often called names, accused of using us, accused of exploiting our families when nothing could be further from the truth. Not one of us wanted to be part of this exclusive club. When our loved ones were ripped from our lives, the ones who came before us created space for our grief. They gave us their time, their love, their support, their strategy, the benefit of their experience and their personal networks.

But it takes a village beyond impacted families to fight the system. We understand how important the marches and the protests are – and we’ll keep marching and protesting – but we also know that real change comes from policy. It comes when we change the laws that conspire to oppress and discriminate against communities of color. 

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Words are not enough. We need action. As we build solidarity for change and elect districts attorney, judges and others who take our voices and our concerns seriously, the right for Black and brown communities to go to the polls is becoming increasingly restricted. 

Reform is not the answer. You can't reform a system willingly engaged in cover-ups, lies and false reporting to justify the murder and killing of our family members. For justice to be served we must uproot the weeds of corruption, racism and impunity at the hands of individual officers and law enforcement as a whole.

We have met with many family members of police brutality victims and heard their stories of pain and loss. They, too, deserve justice for their loved ones. Though we cannot bring them back, we believe holding the police departments accountable is the first step to peace and healing on our journey toward justice.

Tamika Palmer is the mother of Breonna Taylor; Shareeduh McGee Tate is a cousin of George Floyd; Ashley and Amber Carr are the sisters of Atatiana Jefferson; and Ashley and Michelle Monterrosa are the sisters of Sean Monterrosa.  

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