Moment of Reflection: Beep! Beep! Beep! The sound of my work alarm signaled the beginning of the work week. The date reads on my iPhone as Monday, June 5th, 2023. I start my morning routine by checking for missed calls and messages and reading inspirational messages to balance my day.
I contacted my father to wish him a happy birthday. I made plans to visit him after he arrived home from his evening classes to commemorate his special day surrounded by loved ones. I also contacted my coworker, sending her a happy birthday text message. I anticipate her return to work – viewing her birthday photos and hearing details on how she celebrated her birthday with her family in New York City.
Birthdays are more than parties, happy birthday calls, and gifts. It represents the celebration of a person’s earthly existence. Each year makes it more special as it marks one’s longevity. June 5th was not only a day of celebration for my father and coworker’s birthday but also should be a day of celebration for Breonna Taylor and Tyre Nichols.
Reaching 30 is viewed as a turning point in one’s life. It represents the beginning of middle adulthood, establishing your career, having your own family, and getting married. For Taylor and Nichols, their 30th birthdays were cut short by acts of violence. Taylor was fatally shot and killed on March 13th, 2020, after police forced entry into her Louisville apartment. Approximately three years after Taylor’s death, Nichols was beaten severely by Memphis Police Officers during a minor traffic stop. He died three days later after being hospitalized for his injuries. Their untimely deaths at 26 and 29 left a void with their loved ones and a public outcry against police misconduct.
My mind ponders how Taylor and Nichols would’ve celebrated their special day. I wonder if Taylor would’ve spent her special day with her family and friends if her coworkers in the medical field had thrown a birthday get-together or if her boyfriend would’ve popped the “Will You Marry Me?” question, making the day commemorative. If Nichols had taken the day off from his job at Fed Ex, had an intimate birthday get-together with his mother and stepfather, carefree surfing his skateboard to honor the big 3-0, and snapping the photographic pictures of the Memphis blue skies. Unfortunately, we will never know how their birthdays would have unfolded, as they were taken from us by law enforcement, who pledged to protect and serve the community. Their deaths have left a lasting impact on their loved ones and supporters, who seek justice for these lives lost too soon.
I read stories of various efforts to honor Taylor and Nichols. These include a voter engagement campaign against Attorney General Daniel Cameron (now bidding for Kentucky governor), who yielded no charges in the criminal investigation of Taylor, and a birthday celebration in downtown Memphis to commemorate Nichols’ 30th birthday. Taylor and Nichols are no longer here to celebrate their birthday milestone as we envision it if they were still alive. These actions aim to keep their names alive and advocate for justice against unlawful police practices. It calls for solidarity to continue fighting for justice, police accountability, and preventive measures to ensure no more families are left inundated with thoughts of how their slain loved ones’ birthdays would have been celebrated if they were alive.