CHICAGO — Saturday would have been Rekia Boyd’s 27th birthday, so activists and artists gathered to remember the life the Chicago woman whose death became a symbol of the growing problem of police violence.
Boyd was killed by an off-duty Chicago cop four years ago. The case garnered national interest amid heightened concerns over about police killings of unarmed black people. Today, her family and friends want to create a lasting memorial for female victims of violence.
With balloons, a buffet, music and mingling, Saturday’s memorial had the feeling of a birthday party, but the guest of honor was not there.
“When you’re missing your sister or you lose a loved one, you have the feelings that come over you – the loss, the grief,” said Boyd’s brother, Martinez Sutton. “Instead of me feeling sad and hurt, and grieving, I’m celebrating. I’m celebrating the life of Rekia.”
So the party took on a new purpose, to spotlight the growing problem of violence against women. Friends say one of her big wishes was to create a safe place for women and children.
Boyd never got to make her dream come true. Back in march of 2012, Boyd was in a group walking past off-duty Chicago police officer Dante Servin’s west side home.
He asked the group to quiet down. Servin said someone in the group pulled an object from his waistband and pointed it at him, the officer opened fire from his car, hitting Boyd in the head. That object turned out to be a cell phone. The outrageous nature of her killing struck a chord with young black women in Chicago.
“She was just having a good time with her girlfriend and couple of guys, and she was shot and killed in an alley,” said Crista Noel, Women All Point Bulletin.
“I connect to it, in a way, because that could have been me. She was just at the park, you know?” said Trinity Allen of A Long Walk Home.
Prosecutors charged Servin with “Involuntary Manslaughter,” saying his actions were reckless, but the detective was acquitted in April of 2015. The judge decided prosecutors had brought the wrong charges.
“I think it was a mistake for the State’s Attorney to charge me,” Servin said.
Servin remained on the police force until he resigned last May, but Boyd’s death galvanized a group of activists to push for justice in her case and others like it.
“Her legacy is to spotlight what is invisible,” said Salamishah Tillet, A Long Walk Home.
“She woke up Chicago. Her death woke up Chicago, it woke up the world,” Noel said.
Her family hopes soon a memorial will be placed in Douglas Park near the site where she was killed.