Pop Mom: Female Protesters In The Holtzclaw Trial Show What It Takes To Win
“Don’t be silent on Holtzclaw,” reads the text from a friend last Wednesday.
“What’s that?” I text him back.
“Come on, Holtzclaw is the cop who raped 13 black women in OKC.”
It all comes back to me. I read some months ago how Daniel Holtzclaw raped women with drug problems and felonies. Women that ‘nobody cared about.’ I have a friend who lives in Oklahoma City.
“The jury is deliberating. I’m here on the front lines protesting. We want him to get life. We need support!” reads another text.
I’m looking at my schedule like, huh? As much as I wanna help, I can’t just pop out a story. It takes time. My girls get out of school in an hour…
The next day Holtzclaw gets convicted of 18 of the 36 charges against him: 263 combined years in prison. It’s all over social media. Excitedly, I text my friend.
He gets back to me saying that while they are happy with the conviction, there’s more work to be done. He wants me to speak to a woman named Candace Liger who co-founded OKC Artists For Justice, a group of artists who protested on behalf of the victims and are responsible for a lot of the media attention out there about the case. She can tell me what’s needed moving forward.
It’s interesting because as one of the few success stories we can celebrate when it comes to Black people, let alone Black women, and the police- remember Sandra Bland anyone?
I’m curious about what it takes.
While on the phone with Candace, she starts filling me in on how she got started working with the trial. She and her friend, Grace Franklin, co-founded OKC Artists For Justice after Grace’s friend – the daughter of the grandmother who was the first victim to come forward – told her about the case. They had never protested before, but felt compelled to do something. In no time they sprung into action and were relentlessly on the ground. Soon enough the work began to pay off.
“The feedback we were getting in OKC and national media outlets was that if it wasn’t for us, they wouldn’t know anything about the trial,” says Candace, who estimates they organized at least seven protests within the past year.
And while they were achieving their objectives in terms of getting coverage of the trial, it was not easy work, and they struggled with whether to continue.
“At one point, after the preliminary hearings we were tired of it,” Candace says. “We wanted to focus on other things. I have two kids. Two times only about seven to 10 people came to the protests. People may not realize how exhausting it is to organize and formulate agendas and objectives while handling social media and news media and still maintaining a life. We don’t get paid for this.” Yet and still, when the trial started back in November they were ready.
Candace talks about their efforts and if she thinks they have an affect on the outcome of the trial.
“The consistent thread in this case is that each of these women had some contact with the criminal justice system, which is why he chose these victims in the first place. So when we were out there we wanted to show that we support these particular women because these are the women that even women talk about when we’re in certain circles. I think it did have an impact for the jury to know that they had a whole community of people who believed and supported them.”
I stop to imagine how different the trial might have ended had there not been one protester outside of the courthouse as people were piling in and out. If there wasn’t a soul to prove that they mattered. Now I’m wondering what motivated them to spend so much time and energy on these women when it’s not like they knew them personally. I have two kids of my own and I can barely finish laundry.
Candace is thoughtful before explaining: “There was a silent connection. We didn’t ask what was driving us, we just got out there and did what needed to be done. It was only recently that the connection unfolded and we realized that six of us had been victims of sexual assault.”
It’s easy to become speechless and moved beyond measure by how these women came together, and in giving voice to the voiceless they’ve found theirs. As a result, many of us who have withered under the weight of whatever abuse can hope to spring tall again.
So what does it take to win? Standing. It’s what got us here. It’s what Martin Luther King Jr. did, and what the heart of every protest is about. It’s the only way that our voices won’t be silenced.
So what can we do? How can we help?
Candace says that it’s important to keep the conversation around rape culture going, and also stay in touch with their social media because Holtzclaw’s sentencing is in January.
Done and done.
Check out Erickka Sy Savané’s column, Pop Mom Daily, right here or visit PopMomDaily.com. Before Erickka became a writer/editor, she was a model, actress, and MTV VJ. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Jersey City. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.