Actress Thandie Newton alleged America’s law enforcement community is guilty of deliberately targeting and killing black women.
At Essence‘s annual Black Women in Hollywood awards luncheon in Los Angeles on Thursday, the Pursuit of Happyness actress wore a T-shirt bearing the names of more than 20 black women killed in recent years while either in police custody or during altercations with police.
“Black women are killed by police too,” read the shirt, which included names such as Gabriella Nevarez, who was shot and killed by police after she rammed multiple police vehicles with a stolen car following a high speed chase in Fair Oaks, California in 2014.
The shirt also read, “Can you see them?” and included the hashtag #SayHerName.
The actress shared an image of the shirt on Twitter:
— Thandie Newton (@thandienewton) February 25, 2016
Newton told USA TODAY on the red carpet at the event the shirt was given to her by the African American Policy Forum, and she explained she felt compelled to wear it because, “I think that in film we have such an incredible influence over the public, and influence in the world.”
“[As black entertainers] the stories we tell have the power to change people’s lives,” she said. “And the women that are named on this t-shirt are dead women who were dead at the hands of police enforcement in this country.”
“These women are our women. They are our fans,” Newton added. “They’re no longer alive and in death they have got to have the power they deserve. And I just think that for the good of humanity as a whole, not just for people of color, we have got to dig out the poison of violence against women of color by our law enforcement.”
Newton also noted that racism must be viewed from the female perspective and said issues relating to alleged police brutality and groups like the Black Lives Matter movement concern both men and women.
“It’s not just men that this happens to,” she said, “(women) need our own Fruitvale Station, we need our own 12 Years a Slave if we want to get historical. Because we have to see racism from the perspective of the female. We have to have a female perspective on that.”
She added: “Cruelty against a woman is species suicide. And that’s why I see it all as being beneficial to humanity, not just to people of color.”
The African American Policy Forum, which gave Newton her shirt, concluded, along with Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectional and Social Policy Studies in a 2015 report, that black girls were disproportionately affected by school suspensions and are also more likely to spend time in prison than white women as adults.