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Tennis champion Naomi Osaka is memorializing victims of state-sanctioned violence and racist vigilantism by wearing masks with their names during this year’s US Open. Osaka has seven custom masks for the seven rounds it takes to advance to the finals of the tournament. She began her road to the US Open finals wearing a Breonna Taylor mask.
“It’s quite sad that seven masks isn’t enough for the amount of names, so hopefully I’ll get to the finals so you can see all of them,” said Osaka, on wearing the names of Black American casualties of racism.
Below are 10 reasons why I believe it was important that her public recognition began this way.
1.Because Breonna Taylor’s name is the loudest whisper ever uttered. Because her name feels like it’s being shouted into an abyss that swallows Black women’s bodies and burps back indifference. Because even in our deepest advocacy, Breonna’s body still is submerged beneath a boy’s club of Black bones.
2. Because even in death, the Louisville legal apparatus is looking to criminalize Breonna. Because her life as an EMT at a time when so many people were dying was not a sinister enough narrative to justify her slaughter. Because dead Black bodies are defendants that offer no pushback to accusations against them.
3. Because Naomi Osaka knows the value of visibility and the sting of erasure. Because Naomi has had her identity heralded as historic and cast away in the shadows. Because she understands that there are still an innumerable amount of people that have not become familiar with Breonna’s story.
4. Because the name Breonna Taylor is five syllables long. Short enough to roll off the tongue in the name of advocacy, but also short enough to be anchored in a sea of names none of us should know. To say Breonna Taylor’s full name is to use the syllable count of the first line of haiku. It symbolizes the brevity of a life 27 years lived.
5. Because Daniel Cameron would like for us to stop talking about Breonna. Because public officials in Louisville would like this whole thing to go away like Breonna did.
6. Because Naomi Osaka championing Breonna’s name during the US Open is a different kind of metaphor for Black bodies slain at the hands of the state. Because the U.S. is an open casket for countrymen of color with too much hue to be considered human. Because when those countrymen are women, their toe tags are but a footnote of an exhaustive eulogy.
7. Because Breonna should be alive and saving lives. Instead, she is gone and her killers are free.
8. Because Naomi serves a tennis ball with the ferocity of a fist executing a no-knock warrant. Because Naomi knows how to use her hands to exert her dominance. Because LMPD used their hands to pound on Breonna’s door and their fingers to project bullets into her body. Because our hands can shape the world into something glorious or leave it in shards. Because Breonna’s hands used to care for the infirmed. Because her killers’ hands were the judge, jury and executioner.
9. Because Beyoncé said Breonna’s name back in March. Because Oprah purchased miles of billboards with Breonna’s image emblazoned. Because Tamika Mallory and Until Freedom have occupied Louisville for months. Because Black women recognize the urgency of advocating for a Black woman’s life after the world discontinues the conversation. Because of how peaceful can Breonna’s rest be if her murderers are not held accountable for unjustly ending her life. Because Breonna’s life mattered like Korryn Gaines’ life. Like Sandra Bland’s life. Like Rekia Boyd’s life. Like Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ life. Like the life of every Black woman and girl who was killed in an extrajudicial manner and then had their story buried under headline after headline of everything else.
10. Because Naomi Osaka recognizes the moment, she/we are in. Because she is embodying the advocacy of Arthur Ashe. Because a common term used in tennis is “love”. Because love is a verb that calls upon us to take action. Because if we love someone we never met enough to say her name in our demands for justice, we must love her enough to see those demands be met. Because the world is and has been watching. Because Breonna deserves every bit of posthumous justice that her living body was denied.