As Until Freedom’s BreonnaCon began underway in Louisville yesterday, so did the chatter on social media about the appropriateness of the event—and more specifically the use of the deceased 26-year-old’s name as a portmanteau to promote planned activities “Bre-B-Q.”
Much of the outrage also centered on promotional flyers for the event which showed Breonna’s faded picture in the background of celebrity speakers like Porsha Williams and Yandy Smith-Harris:
There were plenty of accusations being thrown, including from BLM Louisville who tweeted that they vocally opposed the idea when Until Freedom was planning it but were disregarded, prominent figures on Black Twitter saying the events are a clear bid to commodify and profit off of Breonna’s name, and others calling Until Freedom the ‘feds’ for asking people interested in participating in protest action on Tuesday to submit their date of birth and other identifying information into a Google Form.
Even I have to admit to a cringe-y feeling upon seeing “Bre-B-Q” and the faded visage of Breonna on a promotional graphic ostensibly about the movement to win her justice.
But who am I to center my feelings over those of Breonna’s own loved ones?
Because in a conversation with The Root on Sunday, Until Freedom co-founder Tamika Mallory explained that the events—and the use of Breonna’s name to promote them—not only have the blessing of Taylor’s family, they were integral to the development of BreonnaCon to begin with.
“There were no internal issues within Until Freedom about using the name,” said Mallory. “Especially not when Tamika Palmer (Breonna’s mother) and her family members and her family attorneys were here working with us when the concepts were developed.”
“When one of the younger organizers suggested ‘Bre-B-Q,’ her mom, with tears in her eyes looked at me and said Breonna would love Bre-B-Q, that would be really special,” Mallory added, explaining that she and Palmer have been working together to promote BreonnaCon, which kicked off in Louisville on Saturday with the support of many local organizers in the area.
“The work that UntilFreedom is doing has helped Breonna’s name to trend more than once, including yesterday,” Mallory explained. “Under normal circumstances, Black women fade from the media very easily when these types of situations happen.”
When asked if keeping Breonna’s name trending will contribute to justice, Mallory acknowledged that there is no sure way to calculate the winning formula for justice, but held firm that keeping the former EMT’s story and name in the news will ensure that the injustice that happened to her will not be forgotten.
“The more that there is attention on a case, at least the officials can’t sweep it under the rug, which is what was happening before we got here—because Breonna Taylor was killed in March,” said Mallory.
On the promotional graphics that made the rounds on the internet—specifically the one for a panel on Beauty, Money, and Power—Mallory conceded that Until Freedom can understand where people are coming from in terms of the design.
But she emphasized that the use of influencers like Williams and Smith to promote the cause of justice for Breonna is strategic, and pointed out that the women were among the 87 people arrested for protesting on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s lawn last month.
“The history of organizing has been using creative tactics to bring people into movements. Many of the women who came out to the women’s empowerment event yesterday were individuals who said they had never been to any of the protests. The influencers were used as a hook to get them in, but when they got there they learned about Breonna’s Law. They learned about what it means when we say to defund the police.”
“At the core of Until Freedom’s organizing principles is not just protest. We believe in community services as well. We are an organization that believes when we go into a community, we have to cover the intersections of the communities issues. We were very happy to include Breonna Taylor’s life in these activities, because her family needed it and asked for us to continue to uplift her name.
What about those Google Forms asking potential protestors or their Date of Birth and passport information? Mallory said plainly that it was about safety as well as a commonly used organizing tool.
“We receive a lot of trolling. We also receive a lot of death threats. So when we do actions, we ask for as much information as possible so that we can really verify that the individuals who are signing up are real people we have vetted to some extent.”
“Yesterday, while we were inside of the women’s empowerment event, the white militia [3 percenters] was outside—about thirty to forty people with weapons,” said Mallory. “While some folks are upset about the name of a conference and a graphic, our lives are in danger because we’re actually physically on the ground not on social media.”
As for the accusations that Until Freedom is trying to profit off of Breonna’s name and story? Mallory emphasized that all of the BreonnaCon events are free, and that Until Freedom has been funding their activities in Louisville with their own money.
“We have not taken any resources from this community, we’ve only deposited to this community.”
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