Just a few weeks after O’s gorgeous marigold-hued Breonna Taylor cover, Vanity Fair debuted its September issue with art by Amy Sherald — a Baltimore artist best known for her portrait of Michelle Obama. (And the photos inside were taken by Latoya Ruby Frazier, a visual artist and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.) I think the Oprah cover might be my personal favorite, but this is beautiful and has a different feeling to it. That one captured her spark; this one has a melancholy air. Both are apt.
The whole issue was guest-edited, as you can see, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, to whom Breonna’s mother Tamika Palmer told her story — of her life, of Breonna’s life, of the night Breonna was murdered, of the aftermath. It’s an incredible read, and deeply personal. The lack of information given to her mother between Kenny calling and telling her Breonna was shot, and her eventually realizing that her daughter’s body still lay in the apartment hours upon hours later… Your heart will snap for her. Here are two more bits that made me tear up. First, told in present tense from right after she finally was able to see her daughter’s body: after it happened:
And when we see her body, it’s just tears and screams. I walk out the home because everybody is just crying. And I am just so pissed off that she is lying there.
On the news they are saying it’s a drug raid gone bad. And it’s so common to hear these things—drug raid. Cops met with gunfire. One suspect dead. The other in custody. And that’s how they’re describing what happened with Breonna. Breonna and Kenny are drug dealers. That is how it’s being portrayed on the news. And I am pissed off because I know how hard Breonna worked. I know that Breonna ain’t about that life. Breonna couldn’t tell you where to buy a dime bag of weed. She isn’t that person on the news. Neither is Kenny. So somebody has to do something. Somebody has to help me. Somebody has to…. Look, I’m a person who believes if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. I am not saying that if somebody shoots you, you should get shot. But I am a person who believes, if you out here selling all these drugs and your house get raided, and you in there doing what you doing…well…you end up in situations and you brought that on yourself. Live by the sword, die by the sword. But that wasn’t Breonna’s sword. And I cannot let them do that to her. With COVID happening, it feels like they want to just sweep this under the rug real quick. But we will not let this go.
And, at the end:
[P]eople want to see me. They want to say they’re sorry. They want to apologize for the police. They want to offer their condolences. They want to apologize for not listening. I can’t believe it. People are begging for forgiveness like, I’m sorry we weren’t listening. I just can’t believe it. I felt like with the whole pandemic, Breonna would be forgotten, and we would just get swept under the rug.
And how do I feel then? Like, my God, somebody heard me. Like I finally caught my breath. That’s how I feel. Like I finally caught my breath.
I hope you’ll read it, and get to know Tamika, and Breonna. To read it is to realize how much gets swept under the rug every day, everywhere, including the names of her killers, Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove.