Erica Garner, who became a fierce activist after her father died at the hands of New York City police, died at age 27 following a heart attack. Her official Twitter account announced her death this morning.
Erica's father, Eric Garner, died in 2014 after a New York City police officer put him in an illegal chokehold. Garner, who had asthma, was seen on video saying "I can't breathe" 11 times before he died, leading to the phrase becoming part of the activist lexicon amidst the waves of protests and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement that followed the event and too many others like it. The officer who put Garner in the chokehold has never been indicted on any charges related to Garner's death.
Erica became an activist herself in the wake of her father's death, advocating for civil rights by marching in protests, leading bi-weekly sit-ins in Staten Island where her father was killed, and speaking out on the issues plaguing the criminal justice system and the work of activists frequently and with depth and candor. She released a song in 2015 with relative Steven Flagg, "This Ends Today," as a tribute to her father.
Activists, politicians, celebrities and friends of Erica mourned her death today, and took the opportunity to touch on the well-documented impact systematic and daily racism have on the mental, physical and spiritual health of the people it impacts most:
Today, the Garner family requested via a tweet on Erica's official page that only black journalists contact them for comment, which inevitably led to a warring of words online.
Take a deep dive into that tweet's replies, and, predictably, you will see a wide spectrum of people who are completely baffled by the request. But it's a request that calls out the well-documented reality that black people are often misrepresented by a mainstream media that is overwhelmingly populated by white reporters, editors, writers and producers.
Research by the University of Illinois done this year found that during the last election cycle, media outlets at best promoted racially biased portrayals and myths that, according to the commissioners of the study, "pathologize black families and idealize white families with respect to poverty and crime."
They added that "at worst, media outlets amplified those inaccurate depictions for political and financial gain. Such reporting reinforces debunked narratives, helping to justify actions from police brutality to economic policies that will hurt not just black families but all families for generations."
Even in a time of mourning, the Garner family took the opportunity to shine a light on what's broken in our system and offered a simple solution to begin to address it.
The late activist's official page also suggested that those looking to honor the activist's memory support the foster care system, a cause she was personally invested in as it was an institution she went through.
And others jumped in with some suggestions for how to do that:
Image via Getty