Alton Sterling was Black, 37 years old, a father of five, and as he had done many times, selling CDs outside of a local store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For this, he was shot multiple times at point-blank range by a policeman. His children are left to grieve and contemplate a future without a father. The citizens of Baton Rouge are left with yet another reminder of on-going police brutality toward Black men. And, the nation is left with collective horror as another Black man, killed by police officers, is captured on video. We cannot imagine the full emotional toll of these incidents so graphically delivered to us. But we do know Black mothers, wives and sisters worry every day about the Black men in their lives and whether an encounter with the police will end in their death. With each death, the worry increases. And rightly so. Black men are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police officers than white men.
We want to protect our sons, brothers and husbands as they want to protect us. But with each death, our confidence in our ability to do so is shaken. Black women are beginning to exhibit signs of PTSD and it’s taking a toll on our physical health.
We at the Black Women’s Health Imperative grieve along with Alton Sterling’s family and the many families who have needlessly lost loved ones to police violence. We hope justice is delivered for Mr. Sterling’s family. And while we wait, we will continue our work to support Black women and encourage them to care for their mental health. July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. There is no better time to meditate, reflect, talk with each other, share our pain and our fears and seek help. We’re going to need all the strength and confidence we can muster to fight to prevent these senseless murders so our children won’t have to.