In response to the murder of Jessica Hampton, 25, onboard a Red Line train in June, last Saturday afternoon activists used the ‘L’ system as a venue to speak out against violence against African-American girls and women. The event, called “Beautiful Resistance,” was hosted by A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based national nonprofit led by Scheherazade Tillet, and drew dozens of people to draw attention to the issue.
According to prosecutors, Hampton was riding a southbound Red Line train on the afternoon of June 23 when she got in an argument with Arthur Jones, 29, a man she had previously dated. As the train approached the 47th Street station, Jones stabbed Hampton, the mother of a six-year-old girl, multiple times and then slit her throat. After Jones exited the train at 47th, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
The activists sought to draw attention to Hampton’s case, as well as those of other domestic violence victims and survivors. “As part of the #sayhername campaign, we plan to lift up the names of Jessica and other black girls and women who have experienced violence in their homes, schools, and communities,” read the rally invite. “Jessica's last words were ‘help me’ -- help us be upstanders, not bystanders when community violence ensues, and march with love as we fight to make our world safer and more beautiful for us all.”
Kofi Ademola, 37, a lead organizer for Black Lives Matter Chicago, which partnered with A Long Walk Home for the event, offered to provide a report on what took place. BLM Chicago raised money to help pay for Hampton’s funeral expenses and introduced her family to A Long Walk Home, and Ademola previous participated in an African drum ceremony at the 47th Street station to honor the victim.
“Beautiful Resistance” began at the Firehouse Community Arts Center, 2211 South Hamlin in Lawndale, with a dialogue around domestic violence issues. “Social workers and others spoke about how they feel police, judges, and the criminal justice system are ineffective when it comes to preventing violence against women,” Ademola said.
From there they marched to the Pink Line, chanting phrases like “Say her name: Jessica Hampton." Aboard the train the activists did a “teach-in,” distributing hand-outs on domestic violence and discussing the issue with passengers.
At State and Lake the activists transferred to the Red Line, where street musicians were performing on the train platform. The musicians joined the marchers in chanting, and dedicated the Sam Cooke ballad "A Change Is Gonna Come" to Hampton. “That was very powerful,” Ademola said.
Hampton’s family met them at 47th Street, where they held a rally outside the station. “The family members told loving stories about Jessica and told us who she was as a person,” Ademola said. Hampton’s favorite color was purple, so attendees tied purple ribbons around the station’s fencing and launched dozens of purple balloons to honor her and others affected by domestic violence in 2016.
“Jessica’s story raises larger questions around safety, privacy and intervention,” Ademola said. He noted that while train passengers filmed Hampton’s murder on their phones, no one tried to stop the attack. “On the CTA we’re focused on our music and our phone. The culture is not to intervene but to record. Challenging that culture can potentially save lives.”
Ademola added that Arthur Jones had a long history of mental illness. “Mayor Emanuel has closed mental health clinics and Governor Rauner has frozen spending on social services,” he said. “All of those things contribute to the potential for violence to occur.”
The rally was effective in its goal of showing support for Hampton’s loved ones, Ademola said. “At the beginning it seemed like they didn’t feel too comfortable speaking, but by the end they felt empowered and spoke freely,” he said.
He was also moved by the welcoming response the activists received from CTA riders. “There was just this warm, positive acceptance from the passengers,” he said. “They just naturally understood the importance of what we were doing and applauded it.”
In addition to editing Streetsblog Chicago, John writes the transportation column for the Chicago Reader weekly paper. A Chicagoan since 1989, he enjoys exploring the city on foot, bike, bus, and 'L' train.
On Thursday, disadvantaged business enterprises attended a meeting hosted by the Chicago Transit Authority to learn more about the Red Line Extension and the subcontracting opportunities available. The event took place at the CTA’s West Loop headquarters.