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Real ‘Woman of the Year’

1/1/2016, 10:13 a.m.
Jannie Ligons is an Oklahoma City grandmother who left a friend’s house to drive home. She collided with Daniel Holtzclaw, ...
Julianne Malveaux

Those who defended Daniel Holtzclaw took a page from the historical playbook when they paraded the backgrounds of his rape victims before the all-white jury. They were on drugs. They had arrest warrants, sometimes for simple parking tickets. Well, someone who has dabbled with drugs can be raped. Someone with outstanding warrants should not be victimized. The women with police records may have been reluctant to come forward, but Ms. Ligons had no record and no warrants. She was a grandmother minding her business and her speaking up opened the door for others to speak. She reminded other women that they could stand up to injustice.

Too many black women have been forced into silence. Those who speak up pay consequences. Ms. Ligons deserves to be acknowledged because she took a risk and may pay a price for outing a rouge police officer. He took advantage of women simply because he could. Ms. Ligons, the self-described “ wrong woman to stop,” was willing to spotlight Mr. Holtzclaw’s abuse. She is my Woman of the Year, and she deserves all acknowledgements.

I am encouraging our African-American organizations to lift this sister up, to give her high props, to give her every award available. She stands on the shoulders of Recy Taylor, Betty Owens and countless others. She has helped serve Mr. Holtzclaw a steaming plate of justice. She fought the fight and so must we. In the words of Mari Evans, “look on her and be renewed.”

The writer is an author and economist based in Washington.