It has been nearly three years since God enabled me to keep my radio talk show going, which airs each Friday at 6 p.m. on Radio One’s WYCB AM 1340 on your radio dial. The show shares good news about health, inspirational stories and politics.
On my radio show last week, I interviewed one of the major organizers, Aleta Alston-Toure, as she leads the charge to help Marissa Alexander. Calls are increasing for the total release and exoneration of Alexander, the African-American mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she maintains was a warning shot at her abusive husband. Alexander was prosecuted by Angela Corey, who also oversaw the case against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin killing. Alexander said she was defending herself when she fired a shot into a wall near her husband and attempted to use Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in her defense.
The 20-year conviction of Alexander in the Old Duval County Courthouse was unreal for all of us that witnessed this atrocity.
Hearing Alexander’s daughter’s plea for her mother to the jury was more than an emotional cry but a humane beckoning. Then, “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest” filled the courtroom as the Dream Defenders belted out the lyrics as a nonviolent protest. The song spoke to the true sentiment that we all shared, despite the urging of police and the judge to remove these freedom fighters from the courtroom and the courthouse. After 12 minutes of deliberation, a jury of six convicted Alexander of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon with no intent to harm. Her sentence was set at 20 years partly due to the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
Alexander had just given birth eight days prior to this incident. She left the hospital after breastfeeding her premature infant in the intensive care unit and returned to her home that she had purchased with her previous husband, the father of her twins. She was attacked in her bathroom by her abusive husband, a man who had assaulted her many times before. She fired a warning shot into a wall in the hope that her husband would leave her alone.
Alexander won an appeal in September 2013 and was released on bail in November. Her trial will take place in December. Her bail and leg ankle brace saddle her with a debt of $2,500 per month; if found guilty, Alexander could be sentenced to a mandatory 60 years in prison.
Alexander proved to be one of the 324,000 pregnant women in the U.S. that are physically or sexually assaulted by an intimate partner every year. Eighty-five to 90 percent of women in prison have a history of being victims of violence prior to their incarceration, including domestic violence, sexual violence, and child abuse.
Black women aren’t seen as victims because the courts are not empathetic to the fear black women have for their lives; they are always asked, “Why did you not retreat?”
Alexander’s case is one glaring example of how black women have been severely scrutinized by police and underserved. Alexander’s abuser was able to become a “domestic violence survivor” in the Hubbard House (a battered women’s shelter in Florida) while she faces 60 years in jail for defending herself against abuse. Within domestic violence advocacy circles, black women may be seen, but rarely are their voices heard, which allows our communities to overlook the fact that domestic violence is the leading cause of death among black women.
Black women are seen as expendable, replaceable, and easily forgotten. In March 2012 the jury convicted her after only 12 minutes of deliberation. Alston-Toure, who has visited Alexander in jail, is also calling for Corey to resign.
Lyndia Grant is an author, inspirational and motivational speaker, radio talk show host and columnist; visit her new website atwww.lyndiagrant.com and call 202-518-3192. Tune in Fridays at 6 p.m. to the radio talk show, 1340 AM, WYCB, a Radio One Station.