Say Her Name

Actress and producer Jasmine Batchelor recounts the emotional experience of attending a memorial for George Floyd, and its haunting aftermath.

Last night I dreamt they said my name.

But I wasn’t asleep. I was watching cell phone footage of three police officers viciously beating a peaceful protestor. It started with one officer; his baton striking the civilian’s back and legs, even as the victim avoided confrontation. Then two other officers rushed over; for a brief moment, I thought they’d condemn the offending officer for what was obviously an abuse of power. I was wrong. They immediately began beating the unarmed adolescent with their own night sticks, driving him to the ground. The woman behind the camera screamed, “Oh my God! Oh my God!”

I gripped the phone, my lips pinned tightly together; my breath caught.
And then I heard it.


My name.
My eyes flashed wide. I dropped the phone. Began to spiral.
My deepest fear. My deepest fear. My deepest fear.



It’s June 4, 2020: the memorial gathering for George Floyd in Cadman Park, Brooklyn. It’s my first in-person event since the pause was put into effect, and despite the anxieties I have felt for the past three months of social distancing, I have no problem standing next to my fellow protestors for this cause.

From the stage, a young Black organizer speaks directly to me and mine. “Black women: It’s OK to say how you feel! I’m not OK!”

A portion of the crowd roars.


He repeats, “I’m not OK!”

Tears stream down my face.

He repeats, louder, “I’m not OK!”


My voice breaks.

I break.

A sob catches in my throat and I gasp for air. I focus on drawing breath in through my nose and out of my mouth. I attempt to stand firm in the grass. The sun beats down and when I go to wipe my face of sweat, I realize that I’m sobbing. Pressed shoulder to shoulder with strangers, friends, and allies; I am not the only one with tears in her eyes. And yet, I’m embarrassed by this act of vulnerability. It feels selfish. I’m supposed to be here for George. I’m supposed to be here for Breonna. For Ahmaud. For Sandra. For Philando. For Alton. For Eric. For Kalief. For Tony. For Trayvon. For Tamir. For Emmett. For all of them. And I am.

But I’m here for me too.

And I am angry.

I am angry that we have been systematically abused, deprived of, stolen from, starved, murdered, and blamed for our own deaths and disadvantages for 401 years. I am angry that our calls for justice are met with white fragility, clever and disarming theatrics, well-timed tears, severed employment, blacklisting, devil’s advocates, 911 calls, chokeholds, batons, rubber bullets, pepper spray, shotguns, violent op-eds in major publications, dog-whistle politics from the executive branch, National Guard tanks, low-flying helicopters and AR-15s.

I am angry that some of us have been hoodwinked and beaten into believing that compliance with white imperialism is the only way we’ll survive. I am ashamed that the complicit, in turn, become tools of supremacy; oppressing those who choose not to participate in their own murder, whether by violent force or passivity.

I am angry that white imperialism has found so many ways to kill us.

It does not matter whether the execution takes 8 minutes and 46 seconds – by a knee on our neck; or if the attempted extermination spans years – by poisoning the water supply in Flint, Michigan. It doesn’t matter if the method is a bullet to the back as we run, or the systematic limiting of access to life-saving resources and quality education through redlining. It doesn’t matter if it’s by severing our spine in the back of a police van; or by sanctioning death penalties without a fair and equal investigation, presentation of evidence, or jury of our peers. It doesn’t matter if it’s from a chokehold in front of a corner store, or a three-year Rikers sentence sans conviction. Murder is murder.

I am angry that, knowing this, I am being asked to hold peace in one hand and justice in the other.

I am angry that we are always asked to do this – to quiet our feelings, soften our voices, create a smaller silhouette, speak less, compromise, coddle feelings, ask nicely, be respectful, attempt understanding, presume good intent, ignore our gut feelings, laugh it off, pretend it doesn’t hurt, and put others first when none of these kindnesses are extended our way.

I am angry that we are asked to do this by the very people with their knees on our necks.

I am angry that we are demanded to be peaceful by the powers that enable and encourage those knees to apply pressure.

I am angry that, right now, I am being asked to welcome and embrace a man who watched NYPD SUVs ram into civilians, and then publicly condemned those who were struck, into this sacred space dedicated to George.

I am angry that I am being asked to leave politics out of a memorial for a man who was killed by the policies of this country.

I am angry that we are always asked to do what the oppressors will not. We are asked to lead with empathy and leave behind our own visceral experiences.

I am angry that I am so damn angry.


Walking back from the memorial, my friend and I try to find a place to stock up on water and protest supplies. After consulting our phones, we redirect ourselves to walk east, and a group of 10 police officers head toward us. They make little room on the sidewalk to pass, and wear their face masks below their chins. I grip my phone. Is my camera easily accessible?

An echo rips through me.


My breath catches.
I can’t breathe.

My friend makes a joke about the officer’s improper mask etiquette and brings me back to life. I blink hard as one of them chuckles at what can only be a look of fear and frustration on my face. They, thankfully, pass by.

And I’m not OK.

Please don’t let them have to say my name.

Please don’t let them have to say my name.

Please don’t let them have to say my name.


Images by Jasmine Batchelor.

Jasmine Batchelor plays Jess in Jeremy Hersh’s The Surrogate, and is also an Associate Producer on the film, which is released by Monument Releasing on June 12. She is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Atlanta, Georgia. After discovering a love for acting in high school, Jasmine went on to study acting at Wright State University and The Juilliard School. Recent television credits include New Amsterdam, NCIS: New Orleans, The Good Fight, The Affair, Law & Order: SVU and Miss 2059. In addition to film and television, Jasmine’s recent theater credits include projects at Manhattan Theatre Club, The Playwrights Realm, The Public Theater, Two River Theater, and Baltimore Center Stage. In his December 2019 New York Times review of Measure For Measure at the Public Theater, Jose Solís wrote, “Batchelor, whose expressive face recalls the oft-doomed heroines played by Lillian Gish, turns in an Isabella for the ages.”