On Friday afternoon, after hours of waiting for assistance at the Fort Greene Human Resources Administration (HRA) Center, 23 year-old Jazmine Headley was wrestled to the floor while police and "peace" officers forcefully pried her son from her arms. Ms. Headley has yet to be released or reunited with her baby.
Onlookers screamed - appalled and terrified for the young woman and her baby. A horrified bystander posted the footage to her Facebook page where she described the incident as a gross over-reaction from an affronted security guard and overzealous police officers drunk on power and blind to the humanity of a young Black mother and a Black baby.
Nearly every day presents another story of a Black woman being brutalized for simply existing. In this case, Jazmine Headley was brutalized for being poor, sitting on the floor of a government assistance office, and being flippant. Headley reportedly waited for hours to be helped in the Human Resource Administration office. The office was so filled with other clients, Headley was forced to take a seat on the floor. No staff offered her a chair, no staff offered her assistance, Ms. Headley was offered only aggression - a common occurrence according to local news sources.
Clutching her baby repeatedly screaming “you’re hurting my son”, it is hard not to see the parallel between Headley’s arrest and historic scenes of enslaved mothers gripping their children, unsuccessfully refusing to allow them to be taken by slavers and auctioneers. The horrifying video lays out in the most extreme terms just how disrespected and unsafe Black women and children still are and have been since we arrived on these shores. And when our ancestors bore children under the American slave system, they were separated from their children by a slaveholders’ purchase.
photo credits: NYT & Washington Post
Once on the plantation, our enslaved fore-mothers were surveilled and terrorized by the overseers - armed white men hired to keep the enslaved from escaping, or stepping out of line in word or deed. When caught doing so, women as much as men, were assaulted, maimed and detained. Thus, the institution of policing - surveilling, brutalizing the insubordinate bonds people was born.
The shocking nature of the video reminds us of that the legacy of slavery is ever-present; it was never defeated, it only changed forms and compromises the existence of Black women and our children every minute of the day.
This cannot stand. We must protect the safety of black women at all costs. We cannot allow the state to continue to brutalize Black women and our families for the slightest and often perceived infraction. We support Jazmine Headley and her legal team in their pursuit for her release. If you are in the New York area, join the upcoming rally to protest this egregious act of violence against Jazmine Headley.
We stand with Jazmine Headley. We demand justice NOW!