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Tuesday 9 February 2016

Sarah Reed - Say Her Name - Because Black Lives Matter - Because Sarah's life mattered

Art produced by Zita Holbourne

Yesterday I participated in, spoke and performed poetry at a candlelit vigil organised by Blaksox for Sister Sarah Reed outside Holloway prison where Sarah died last month.

The vigil took place on the same day that Sarah was laid to rest by her loved ones.

Sarah's life was plagued by tragic circumstances and events, ending with her being brutally, physically abused by a police officer which was caught on camera  and subsequently being wrongly accused and imprisoned when what she needed was support and care not punishment, ultimately ending with her life being taken. 

If it were not for the persistence of my co-founder and co-chair of BARAC UK, Lee Jasper, Sarah's story could have gone untold as far as the mainstream media were concerned. 

Co-founders of BARAC UK, Lee Jasper and Zita Holbourne 

You can read Leeds article that broke the story here.

If any of us had to go through all the awful things that Sarah went through which included her sadly losing her baby, it would impact on our mental health and state of mind.  The institutions that ought to have protected and supported Sarah, instead categorically failed her. 

The prison claims that Sarah strangled herself to death in her own bed, as Lee points out, this is physically impossible.

Hundreds of people  attended the vigil braving the storm that evening,  because Sarah could have been our sister, daughter or mother.  In unison we called out Sarah Reed! Say Her Name! Black Lives Matter!

There was strong representation from black women at the vigil - which was MC'd by Patricia Lamour -  who spoke and performed, sharing their own experiences of mental health, abuse, brutality, pain and racism, these accounts are not unique - they are sadly too familiar, because we live in a society where black women face double  and multiple discrimination and disadvantage. 

This experience is amplified by austerity, as essential services are cut, job security is reduced and poverty deepens. 

Singer Alex Watson, Co-Chair of BARAC Zita Holbourne,  BARAC National Women's Officer, Donna Guthrie 

Patricia Lamour, Blacksox, Vocalist and songwriter Alex Watson 

In a world where black women are valued by society, where we have equal chances and opportunities, where institutional racism and sexism does not exist Sarah's story would not be a familiar one.

There is power in words but the vigil ended with a few minutes of silence, as we  paid our respects to Sarah in our own minds, that collective quiet period was deeply moving, emotional and powerful. 

Sarah's family have asked that her story is told, they need answers and they need justice. 

BARAC is supporting the campaign for justice for Sarah and we encourage you to join the facebook campaign page to stay updated and to demonstrate your solidarity.   join here and #sayhername #SarahReed because #blacklivesmatter and Sarah mattered, what happened to her matters to her family, those who knew her and loved her. The categoric failures by the State that she encountered in her young life and the way in which she died should be a concern for all of us. 

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