“In the US, black women are being killed by police at a rate of one a month,” says presenter Femi Oke in The Lives of Black Women, an upcoming Faultlines documentary on Al Jazeera. “One in four are unarmed. Their stories have often gone untold.” In The Lives of Black Women, the former Nigerian media personality of the year explores the stories of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd and 55-year-old Bettie Jones, a mother of five and grandmother of nine. Police shot and killed both women in Chicago. Boyd was unarmed when she was shot dead by off-duty cop Dante Servin. Servin had called 911 to complain about the noise Boyd’s friends were making, and then confronted the group at around 1am, firing five shots.
One of these hit Boyd in the head, killing her. Servin was acquitted after claiming that one of Boyd’s friends had pointed a gun at him. Police never recovered the gun Servin says he saw. On the day after Christmas, Jones was shot in the doorway of her own home, after opening the door for police who were responding to a domestic dispute in the apartment above.
Officer Robert Rialmo says Quintonio Legrier, Jones’ 19-year-old upstairs neighbour, swung a baseball bat at his head, so he shot him in self-defense, and killed Jones by accident. The movement known as “Black Lives Matter” continues to call for police accountability as a rising number of shootings of unarmed people of color has roiled Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore, and other cities across the U.S. The names of the victims are now part of the national consciousness: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray. But the names of unarmed black women like Rekia Boyd and Bettie Jones are less well known.