13 Aug Black Women Fight for Brittney Griner’s Freedom
By: Orion Rummler
A Russian judge on Thursday sentenced WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner to nine years in a penal colony for drug possession and smuggling, in addition to a $1 million ruble fine, after being held for months in what the U.S. government has classified as a “wrongful detainment.”
Griner’s case, which was first reported in March, has been followed closely by queer Black women and nonbinary activists, who told The 19th that her plight is personal to them. The WNBA star is one of the most famous, and most visible, Black lesbians in the world — and her case highlights the racial disparities that Black women are subjected to.
“What she’s experiencing isn’t foreign to us,” said Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found in 2017 that one-third of women in U.S. prisons identify as lesbian or bisexual — and people of color, especially Black people, have long been over-policed, especially when it comes to drug charges.
York said that Griner’s case feels personal to her and other Black LGBTQ+ people “because she’s one of us” — but also because of the circumstances surrounding her detainment. That Griner was stopped to begin with and detained while wearing a hoodie that said “Black lives for peace” only drives those feelings deeper, she said.
By: Zachary Schermele
Nearly 1,200 Black women urged President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to “make a deal” with Russia to “immediately” bring home WNBA star Brittney Griner in a letter delivered to the White House on Tuesday.
The letter, dated July 4, was signed by many prominent Black women described in the letter as intersectional and intergenerational. The group includes civil rights and faith leaders, athletes and business executives.
Among the letter’s signatories are Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., three state senators and former NAACP president Hazel Dukes. (Joy Reid and Tiffany Cross, both MSNBC hosts, and Amber Ruffin, a Peacock host, also signed the letter.)
The group chastises the Biden administration for not acting quickly enough to negotiate the release of Griner, who was detained in February. Russian authorities said she was in possession of cannabis-derived vape cartridges and charged her with drug smuggling.
“We are concerned that the rhetoric does not appear to align with the actions taken to date,” the women write. “We urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home swiftly and safely.”
The group alleges Griner is “being used as a political pawn” and is being denied consular access and outside communication while suffering “inhumane conditions.” The letter also claims the State Department recently failed to put Griner in touch with her wife, Cherelle, on their wedding anniversary for their first phone conversation since she was detained.