Health + Wellness

‘Power of Black Sisterhood’ –

Robles recorded the footage on April 18 after she encountered the situation while driving to a George Floyd memorial, as Derek Chauvin’s trial was still in session, and decided to step in an attempt to deescalate what she knew could be a potentially fatal interaction.

“I recognized she was in a state of distress [and] I knew why she was in a state of distress immediately, so I just, in that moment, wanted to focus on her,” Robles, who has degrees in human service and social work, tells Yahoo Life. “In my head, when I got out of that car, I knew I was either going to get them [to go] away, or one of us was going to die today. … I knew that they potentially were going to give me a hard time [and] that was going to be one of their options.”

While Chauvin was found guilty on all counts on April 20 for the killing of George Floyd, the New York Times had reported that “since testimony began [for the Chauvin trial] on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead,” averaging over three killings a day. Among those killed by police during this time period have been 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant and Adam Toledo, 13. 

Further, a recent study has found that “on average, Black Americans reported an increase in ‘poor mental health days’ during weeks where more than one deadly racial incident was in the news,” adding that although these incidents included hate crimes, “most involved police killings of Black individuals or legal decisions to either not indict or not convict an officer involved.” The same study “found no change in white Americans’ mental health ratings during those weeks.”

Dr. Ajita Robinson, a Maryland-based therapist with expertise in grief and trauma, explains to Yahoo Life, “The unique and unshared experience of Black people, particularly in this country, is a collective, ancestral trauma [and] a full body experience.” 

With that in mind, and despite being afraid, Robles knew it was imperative that she continue to advocate for Monari, lambasting both the officers and bystanders for not doing the same.

“She is protesting for your Black lives!” Robles shouted at onlookers, “You’re too complicit! More Black people should be out on the street with her! You’re video recording instead of protecting her! Protect Black women! Protect Black lives!”

Robinson says that plea “Protect Black women” carries deep meaning, and a need to “truly give us a place where we feel emotionally and physically safe.” Further, it asks that people do that in a way that includes, but is not limited to, amplifying Black women’s voices without judgment and “holding white men and women accountable for the ways in which they weaponize our bodies, our hair, our features and our skin tone.” She adds that it also entails “accepting the full range of their emotions,” and allowing Black women to be “the experts in their experience.”

That protection given to Robles by Monari, and the show of solidarity between them, clearly resonated widely. The image of the two sitting in the street, as captured by a Reuters photographer, was praised as one of the best photos of the day in The Guardian. On Instagram, many expressed how they were moved by the standoff.

“God bless this warrior protecting our sister who was unarmed and peacefully protesting. We need more of THIS,” wrote poet, recording artist and founder of “Black Women Rock!” Jessica Care Moore as she shared the video. Spoken-word poet, playwright and LGBTQ-rights activist Staceyann Chin also reposted the footage, with over 21,000 views there, noting, “It made me weep for the power of the Black sisterhood.”

It’s just the latest moment in an ongoing public conversation about protecting Black women. Last year, actress Keisha Knight-Pulliam told RevoltTV, “We have to protect ourselves,” adding, “I feel like it starts with us and protecting one another, and not always necessarily relying on it to come externally. Yes, it should be globally where people are protected, where all people are taken in the same regard. But we know that’s not the case, and we also can’t wait around for someone else to do it.”

Robles, who heeded that call, explains to Yahoo Life that if Monari was indeed experiencing a mental health episode, officers and EMTs crowding around her was not the way to help.

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