Green Library Exhibit

This Say Their Names – No More Names exhibit was inspired by George Floyd, Derrick Scott, Manuel Ellis, Michael Sabbie, Eric Garner and the more than 70 people who have reportedly died, while in police custody, after saying those three heart-wrenching words: “I Can’t Breathe.”

Victims featured in this exhibit were chosen as a representative sample of the wide-ranging types of vile attacks that have terrorized Black Americans for centuries. This exhibit includes victims of both covert systemic racism as well as overt white supremacists, including lynchings. The legal maxim correctly states that “Justice delayed is justice denied.” This exhibit pays homage to those who were proven to be innocent and eventually exonerated, oftentimes posthumously.

It includes some recognizable victims whose murders have sparked protests that sometimes led to riots and even massacres. It shines a light on those who are not as well-known, including female and transgender victims, young and old victims, and victims who suffer from mental illness. It highlights kindergarteners who were abused by law enforcement officers employed by schools, which often feed vulnerable children to the predatory penal system. These names include not only victims of police brutality but also victims who were assaulted or killed by civilians or blood-thirsty mobs.

This exhibit wants to be sure that we Say Her Name, out loud. These names include Ramona Africa, Renisha McBride, Tarika Wilson and Rekia Boyd. When we say their names, some gruesome details come to mind. When we say the name of Korryn Gaines, we are likely to recall that she was shot and killed by police while holding her precious five-year-old son in her arms. Her innocent child was also shot by police but was not killed, at least not physically. When we say the name of Atatiana Jefferson, we remember that she was shot and killed by police while inside her own home, innocently playing video games with her young, eight-year-old nephew.

This exhibit also included names of both women and men who survived brutal sexual assaults by either a mob like Recy Taylor, or by police like Abner Louima, who was called the N-word while being sodomized with either a broken broomstick or plunger, while handcuffed in a jail bathroom.

Violence perpetrated against transgender people are included because their stories are too often ignored by people, of all races. This exhibit will Say Their Names, as represented by Nina Pop and Tony McDade.

The victims highlighted include another overlooked demographic, those who are afflicted with mental illness. Innocent people who need medical help are instead tragically brutalized or killed by police. They have not been forgotten and are represented in this exhibit. Notable names included are Dominique Rem’mie Fells, Michelle Cusseaux and Natasha McKenna.

It is almost unthinkable that people who were not merely innocent but were actually good Samaritans are part of this memorial, people like Breonna Taylor, John Crawford III, Botham Jean, Bettie Jones and Yvette Smith. There is also Clementa Pinckney, who was killed along with eight other worshippers at Mother Emanuel Church. We would be remiss to not include Fred Hampton from the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

Regrettably this exhibit has no age limit, because victims of all ages, from the very young to the very old, are included. To represent the age ranges, there is Pearlie “Miss Sully” Golden, who lived to be 93 years old until she was gunned down by a police officer. She lived much longer than some of our younger victims. This exhibit aims to shine a spotlight on young children and teenagers who were robbed of their childhood by overzealous cops, by including the names of Aiyana Stanley-Jones aged 7, who was killed while sleeping next to her grandmother; 15-year-old Jordan Edwards; and Tamir Rice, who was only 12 years old when he was shot and killed by a police officer for simply playing with a toy gun, in a park located in an open carry state. This exhibit includes 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and his “16 Shots and a cover-up” that further exposed the rampant corruption of both police officers and politicians.

This exhibit includes representative names illustrating many infuriating categories of victims. One intensely deplorable category includes those victims who were finally exonerated, many posthumously, including a little child, just 14 years old, George Stinney Jr. George was so small he could not fit properly into the Electric Chair. He was exonerated 70 years after his execution. This memorial exhibit includes Haywood Patterson and Eugene Williams, who were just two of the nine Scottsboro Boys, all of whom were pardoned over 80 years too late. This exhibit includes Korey Wise, who was just one of the Central Park Five, now the Exonerated Five. Arguably the most well-known victim who was exonerated after their murder is of course Emmett Till.

This funereal exhibit includes names of a few familiar people, to represent the countless victims who have been murdered by civilians; Travyon Martin immediately comes to mind, as well as Jordan Davis, Nia Wilson and Ahmaud Arbery.

Unfortunately, the tentacles of law enforcement invade spaces that should be safe for children, such as schools. This exhibit shows victims of school discipline that resulted in the outrageous handcuffing and the unconscionable arrest of babies as young as six years old, like Kaia Rolle and Salecia Johnson.

This Say Their Names – No More Names exhibit exposes the systemic nature of the racist penal system by showcasing the names of casualties, one of the most unforgettable victims being Kalief Browder. Many people think hiring more Black police will be enough to dismantle racism that is deeply entrenched throughout our criminal justice system. For the enlightenment of those people, this exhibit includes Prince Jones Jr. to represent the numerous Black victims who have suffered and died at the hands of a Black police officer. As the proverb states, “When the axe came into the forest, the trees said, ‘the handle is one of us.’”

This memorial exhibit includes fatalities that occurred under highly suspicious circumstances such as Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Kendrick Johnson, whose death was ruled an accident after his body was found rolled up inside of a rolled-up gym mat inside of his high school. An independent autopsy found blunt force trauma. Unbelievably, his is not the only such bizarre death. Another mysterious death was ruled a suicide by the U.S. Army. An autopsy report and photographs revealed that Private First Class (PFC) LaVena Johnson had a broken nose, black eye, loose teeth, burns from a corrosive chemical poured on her genitals to destroy rape evidence, a gunshot wound inconsistent with suicide as well as bloody footprints. Suicide? This is why we feel the need to say, “Black Lives Matter” and why we need everyone to Say Their Names.

This exhibit points out the frequent use of questionable traffic stops that result in the senseless murder of Black people, like those of Samuel DuBose and Philando Castile.

The 65 victims' names are on the director's office windows in Green Library.

This memorial includes names of victims whose infuriating deaths resulted in protests, riots or even massacres. Names that are recognizable for all the wrong reasons. Names such as Alton Sterling, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Jamar Clark, Akai Gurley, Mario Woods, Sean Bell, Walter Scott, Rodney King, Antwon Rose Jr., Stephon Clark, Terence Crutcher and Michael Brown.

This exhibit would not be complete if it did not also include victims of blood-thirsty lynch mobs, like Thomas Shipp and James Byrd Jr.

Banners at the entry to the grand staircase

This exhibit carefully selected certain names to represent larger groups of victims. Remarkably, one name selected is shared by victims in two highly publicized victim groups. What are the odds? Eugene Williams just so happens to be the name of another one of the nine Scottsboro Boys who were exonerated after languishing in prison after being falsely accused of raping two white women. Incredibly, Eugene Williams is also the name of the 17-year-old teenager who was killed after swimming in a “segregated” area of Lake Michigan. His death triggered the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, which became part of an outbreak of white supremacist riots across the nation, known as the Red Summer of 1919.

There are so many different types of attacks that are unique to Black Americans that we could never list them all. Nevertheless, we added onto the representative sample of names listed in this exhibit hundreds more names as well as names from some groups from the past that have been discussed a great deal recently. One group that has been discussed during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic included victims of the 1932 Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. This group has been discussed in relation to the Black community’s justifiable distrust of government administered medical treatments.

Banners in the East wing

Another group that has been discussed recently around Juneteenth’s Emancipation Observance Day included victims of the 1921 Black Wall Street Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma. These are a couple of examples that have increased calls for reparations for African Descendants of Slavery (ADOS). One group of Black Americans actually received Reparations from the City of Chicago in 2015. They were the legally recognized victims of systemic and barbaric torture, spanning nearly two decades, by Chicago Police.

This exhibit has dedicated space to encourage viewers to Say Their Names, because the aforementioned groups are three examples of nameless, faceless Black people whose lives have been amassed together thereby allowing individuals to vanish into the collective, at the cost of their individual identity. We hope that viewers will not only refer to the group’s title, such as the “Exonerated Five,” but instead will Say Their Names. Say each of their names, preferably out loud, so that all of the names of these people reverberate throughout the universe, ensuring that the entire world will Not Forget that these “Black Lives Mattered.”

Banners in the West wing

This exhibit highlighted more well-known names of victims, because even though people might have heard their stories, we want them to dedicate this memorial to honor their memories and to remember their names. That is why we strongly encourage you to Say All of Their Names, out loud. Not just the 65 names that we listed here, but as many names as you can find. There are thousands of names in lynching museums and historical archives, especially those dealing with race riots. Sadly, for the tens of thousands of names we may find, there are tens of thousands of names that we may never learn. Regrettably, new names will be added to this macabre list in the future.

This exhibit serves as a Forget-Me-Not memorial. As librarians, we are charged with the awesome responsibility of being keepers of the light and protectors of our shared memories. Therefore, we collect, collate and chronicle these names and stories of victims from the past and present. However, we hope the day will come, when instead of needing to create a memorial to Say Their Names, we will be able to rejoice and celebrate a world in which there are No More Names!

Before we as a society can “Know Justice” we must interrogate injustices.

In order to ensure that Black Lives Matter, we must see the victims of white supremacy and systemic racism.

All of us must Say Their Names, all of their names, until there comes a time when there are No More Names!

In order for healing to begin, everyone must acknowledge the truth about these targeted injustices in order to “know reconciliation.” This atonement is essential before we, as a society can ever hope to truly “Know Peace.”