The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

She’s spent years tracking the killings of Black women and girls. Now, she’s planning a D.C. march.

Rosalind Page, a nurse and mother of four daughters, spends her days scouring websites for the names and photos of women and girls lost to violence

Family members mourn 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson who was fatally shot in 2018 as she walked to an ice cream truck. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

The social media accounts Rosalind Page created are not easy to scroll through. On them, the names and photos of Black women and girls lost to violence appear one after another.

There you will find the smiling face of Hope Cutts, a 43-year-old woman who was killed on Christmas Eve.

There you will find the barrette-framed face of Aziya Matthews, a 3-year-old who was murdered on Dec. 20.

There you will find the faces of 26-year-old Tabitha Collard, 54-year-old Jeazell Woodruff and 16-year-old Azariah Miller, all taken too soon from their communities.

Page is a 52-year-old nurse who has been working in the health-care industry since she was 20 years old. She is also a Black mother of four daughters and someone who noticed about seven years ago that Black women and girls seemed to be dying at the hands of others at an “unacceptable rate.”

“Not that any rate is acceptable,” she tells me on a recent evening. “But it was such a high rate I couldn’t understand why nothing was being said or done about it.”

She also couldn’t understand why it wasn’t easier to find clear, accessible information about the victims. The numbers collected by federal agencies seemed an undercount to her, based on what she was seeing in the medical field and in the news. She also noticed the names and stories of the women and girls were scattered across news sites and often squeezed into briefs that said little about them.

Frustrated, Page could have vented through a tweet and moved on. She decided instead to collect her own data.

She started scouring police websites, media homepages and online sites that track homicides for the names and photos of Black women and girls.

She started compiling that information on the Twitter page “Black Femicide — America” and the Facebook page “Black Femicide — U.S.”

She started trying to get people to take notice of an issue she saw as a crisis, and she hasn’t stopped doing that.

Even when she’s at her job, she is using her free moments to search and post. She has also made connections with people elsewhere in the country and the world who are doing similar work and hopes they can eventually put their data together to create a searchable database.

“This is really a mission for me,” Page says. “I’m doing it seven days a week. Whenever I’m awake, I’m working.”

Page has done most of her advocacy work from Arkansas, where she lives. Now, she plans to take the issue to the nation’s capital. She is organizing a march that will occur in D.C. later this year.

“D.C. is the hub of political activity in America,” she says. “D.C. is where people go to discuss issues in America.”

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Her hope, she says, is that the march will draw support from the local Black community, coverage from national media outlets and the attention of lawmakers who hold the power to make policy changes.

“I started this project as a labor of love and it has turned into something much bigger than I foresaw,” Page wrote on a GoFundMe page aimed at raising money for the march. “Since starting this endeavor, I have never asked for donations nor received any funding but as the momentum has grown, my pride has to take a backseat so I am asking that those who believe in me and the mission, to assist me financially so that the work can continue and eventually lead to legislative changes that will protect Black women and girls in America.”

Page’s effort comes at a time when people across the country are taking notice of racial disparities in all aspects of life, including schools, workplaces and labor and delivery wards. In the United States, Black women are three times more likely than White women to die from pregnancy-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also found that Black women, pregnant or not, have been “overrepresented in the number of deaths reported among women” confirmed to have covid-19.

Those lopsided numbers are concerning. So, too, are the ones Page has collected. By the last week of December, she had gathered information on 1,472 Black women and girls whose lives ended violently and too soon. That number was an increase from the year before, which was an increase from the year before that.

In September, the FBI released data that showed that about four Black women and girls were killed per day in 2020.

That same year, Baltimore saw a record number of women killed. A story published in the Baltimore Sun on Dec. 31, 2020, featured the photos of several Black women and described the toll in this way: “So far this year, 48 women and girls have been slain, more by far than any other year in the city’s history and double the total of just three years ago, even though the overall number of killings is roughly the same.”

The story describes the victims as “schoolchildren, mothers, the elderly and even babies.”

This is the time of year when media outlets run those types of stories — the kind that sum up loss and place numbers in context. Those stories aren’t easy to report and less so to read, but they are important. They help us, as a community, know whether streets are growing safer or more deadly, whether efforts are proving successful or failing, whether certain groups are disproportionately bearing the brunt of the losses.

We can’t begin to disagree on policies and where resources should go until we know the numbers.

Page’s effort has not gone without criticism. She has received angry messages from people who want her to stop. And the legislative changes she would like to see happen would no doubt cause controversy. Among them, is the creation of a registry for people convicted of domestic violence. But you don’t have to agree with her to appreciate the effort she has put into pulling into one place cases from across the country that might have otherwise gone unnoticed outside of their communities.

When we talk, Page makes it clear that her effort is not a statement about those deaths mattering more than others. It is a plea to get people to see that a disproportionate number of Black women and girls are being killed and that the issue warrants attention and action.

“I’m trying to get the message out there that this is something that really, really needs to be addressed,” she says.

In September, she and several women organized a march in Atlanta. They made signs and goody bags, hoping to draw a large crowd. Only about 50 people showed up.

Page expects more to come to D.C.

“Now, word seems to be spreading and Black women are starting to share the stories,” she says. “They are asking what can they do and when will the march be.”

On the GoFundMe, one comment reads, “Black women and girls deserve protection, provision, and peace.”

Another: “I want us to stop being killed.”

Page knows it is easier to ignore the topic than to talk about it. She knows it is easier to avoid clicking on that Twitter page than to scroll through those photos.

And yet, on a Tuesday, there she was adding three more. They belonged to Vernetta Dyer, Dillan Burton and Crystal Abdullah.

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