James Boyd

Times sports reporter James Boyd

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My life, like the lives of countless others, has changed drastically since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

All of the routines I had, like picking up my grandma for church every Sunday, seem like distant memories. But in their absence, other routines have taken their place.

A few nights a week — after talking, thinking and writing about sports all day as a sports reporter — I'll get home from a practice or game in the Region and watch Home & Garden Television with my mama. I never thought I'd be the person guessing which house a couple will choose on "House Hunters" or Googling "What is a waterfall counter top?" But alongside the woman who brought me into this world, it has become a routine I look forward to.

Usually my father and sister are already asleep, so it's just the two of us. And when it starts to get really late, my mama will turn to me and jokingly say what she always says, "I'm not fooling around with you. I can't stay up all night." So, she goes to bed and I spend the next couple hours enjoying my own company and thinking — a lot.

Whatever is on my mind varies depending on the day, but over the last few weeks Breonna Taylor has overtaken my thoughts.

One night when I was up, I decided to post a picture of my mom and I on all of my social media platforms, along with a short message.

"A black woman gave me life, and then she and countless other black women saved my life. So when I say I love black women, I need you to know where I'm coming from. Disrespect toward them will never be tolerated. They are, and always will be, the greatest of God's creations."

James Boyd and Lorna Boyd

Times sports reporter James Boyd and his mother, Lorna Boyd, watch Home & Garden Television together about three nights a week.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I'm always talking about how much I look up to my mama, but that post was made specifically with Breonna Taylor in mind.

After I found out that none of the three white police officers who carried out a no-knock warrant at her apartment would be directly charged in regards to her death — the death of black woman — it felt like I needed to remind black women that they are still loved, admired and appreciated.

I needed to reassure them that their black lives matter, even if it this country — and the systems in place here — doesn't always share that same vantage point.

Before the WNBA season officially started July 25, its players decided that Breonna Taylor would be at the forefront of their campaign. New York Liberty guard Layshia Clarendon released a statement prior to her team's season opener against the Seattle Storm, which was both profoundly powerful and incredibly sad.

“We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, an outstanding EMT who was murdered over 130 days ago in her home. Breonna Taylor was dedicated and committed to uplifting everyone around her," Clarendon said. "We are also dedicating this season to 'Say Her Name' campaign, a campaign committed to saying the names and fighting for justice for black women, black women who are so often forgotten in this fight for justice, who do not have people marching in the streets for them. We will say her name.

"Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Dominique Remy Fells and Breonna Taylor. We will be a voice for the voiceless."

After Clarendon finished, everyone at that game stood in silence for 26 seconds, each second representing one year of Breonna Taylor's life.

That was only the beginning.

WNBA players wore warmups with a picture of Breonna Taylor's face on them all season long and also had her name printed on the back of their jerseys, right underneath their own nameplate. To some people, those may seem like meaningless gestures. But for anyone who watched those games like I did, while you were enjoying the return of WNBA basketball, you were always reminded of what happened to Breonna Taylor.

You couldn't escape it. You couldn't run from it. It was always there.

The players constantly called for action, for justice, for something — but then there was nothing.

On Sept. 23, a Kentucky grand jury decided to charge only one of the three police officers for their involvement in the no-knock warrant that was served at Breonna Taylor's residence, and even that officer wasn't charged in relation to her death.

In fact, Brett Hankison, who has since been fired, was charged with wanton endangerment for the shots he fired into the apartments that were adjacent to Breonna Taylor's apartment.

No one was charged for the shots that took her life.

Yes, you read that correctly. A charge for the drywall next to Breonna Taylor, but no charges for Breonna Taylor.

When the news broke, it was met with a wave of despair and frustration from WNBA and NBA players, and professional athletes across a multitude of sports.

One day after the grand jury's ruling, Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier and Connecticut Sun guard Jasmine Thomas both released a statement on behalf of the WNBA prior to their games.

"Our hearts are with Miss Tamika Palmer. It has been 195 days since her daughter, Breonna Taylor, was killed," they read. "One hundred and ninety-five days, and still today no one was charged for her death. We strongly support the sentiment expressed by the family of Breonna Taylor.

"The result is outrageous and offensive."

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James offered his condolences, too, via Twitter.

"I’ve been lost for words today! I’m devastated, hurt, sad, mad!" James tweeted. "We want Justice for Breonna yet justice was met for her neighbors apartment walls and not her beautiful life. Was I surprised at the verdict. Absolutely not but (expletive), I was & still am hurt and heavy hearted! I send my love to Breonna mother, family and friends! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!!"

I read through dozens of social media posts that day from countless professional athletes, each one pointing out the harrowing fact that even in death, Breonna Taylor still wouldn't receive justice.

Of all of the statements I read, it's what Minnesota Lynx guard Lexie Brown wrote — so simple, yet so poignant — that resonated with me the most.

"We’re still going hard for you," Brown tweeted. "You deserved so much better."

Brown is absolutely correct.

After reflecting on the grand jury's decision, I was heartbroken but also a bit ignorant. That night that I penned a quick note about my mama and black women, I realized that I never really took the time to find out who Breonna Taylor was before she became a hashtag.

So, I read a very in-depth piece about her in the New York Times, as well as several other articles. I learned about everything that led the police to her doorstep shortly after midnight March 13, and while some people will try to justify her death because of who she was associated with, I also want to point out a few facts.

Breonna Taylor never had a criminal record.

There were no drugs found at her apartment, which is why the police conducted the no-knock warrant in the first place.

Breonna Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, only shot at the police because he thought someone was breaking in.

When Walker struck one of the officers, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, in the thigh, they fired back in Walker's direction, shooting Breonna Taylor five times.

As the officers scrambled to administer aid to their fallen partner, none of them bothered to check on Breonna Taylor.

Walker actually had to call 911 on his own in hopes of saving her life, but while he was on the phone with an emergency operator he realized his worst fear.

Breonna Taylor, his beloved girlfriend, was gone, and the police were responsible.

It seemed like the whole world stopped when George Floyd was murdered, but since Breonna Taylor's death isn't accompanied with video, it feels a bit murkier. What transpired before her demise ultimately boils down to what police officers have said, what her boyfriend has said and what her neighbors have said.

And while people have drawn and accepted their own conclusions, what I refuse to accept — alongside countless professional athletes — is that this is justice.

A $12 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit and a new law, "Breonna's Law," banning no-knock warrants in Louisville, Kentucky, is a start, but it's not enough. Not even close.

Breonna Taylor deserved so much better.

Law enforcement, or anyone for that matter, should not be able to shoot and kill someone in their own apartment with impunity and indemnity.

Breonna Taylor deserved so much better.

Walls, which can be rebuilt, refurbished and repainted, should not receive more justice than the human being they surround.

Breonna Taylor deserved so much better.

Marginalized individuals should not have to march in the streets in order for their voices to be heard and for their pain to validated.

Breonna Taylor deserved so much better.

And when I'm sitting on the couch, bonding with my mama as we watch "Love It or List It," I should not have to question if this country appreciates her existence just as much as I do.

Besides, deep down, I already know the answer to that.

I've seen the way some people have discarded and disrespected the life and memory of a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, and I'm here to repeat what the athletes have been saying all along.

Breonna Taylor deserved so much better.

Black women deserve so much better.

Gallery: Whiting Black Lives Matter rally

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at james.boyd@nwi.com

This article originally ran on nwitimes.com.


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