UPDATED: The Horrible Death of Mikayla Miller, a Black LGBTQ+ youth, in Hopkinton, Massachusetts & The Role of a Biased System — Adds GLAD’s Statement & Call To Action
By: Audrey Cole/TRT Reporter—
MASSACHUSETTS—Today, hundreds of people rallied while chanting “say her name” and holding signs reading “Black Lives Matter” once again for a black life taken in the country, this time it was for a Black LGBTQ+ teenager from Hopkinton, Massachusetts. The rally was led by former City Councilor Tito Jackson and Violence in Boston’s Monica Cannon-Grant, according to WBZ Boston.
The body of Mikayla Miller, 16, was found hanging from a tree on April 18 in her suburban hometown, one day after her mother, Calvina Strothers, said she was jumped by a group of five white teenagers.
Strothers remembered her daughter and wants answers from a town known to be affluent and whose population of 15K — according to the Census 2010 — is mostly white. The town is about 30 miles west of Boston and is known as the place where the Boston Marathon starts each year.
According to Strothers, the police showed little interest in investigating Mikayla’s death and threatened Strothers with exposing her daughter’s sexuality publically if she reported the matter to the media. A press release by the National Black Justice Coalition, NBJC, stated that Strothers emphasized that a case involving a white child in Mikayla’s position would have received immediate attention.
Don’t go to the media
“Miller’s mother has stated that police told her not to go to the media because doing so would out her daughter as LGBTQ. Such an allegation is appalling,” Said GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders Senior Staff Attorney Polly Crozier via a statement on May 7. “As Ms. Strothers said at the vigil and rally yesterday, Mikayla’s LGBTQ status was known. She was a much-loved and cherished child in all of her many dimensions. Anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination destroys lives and devastates communities. We must address it swiftly, seek accountability and work relentlessly for change.”
Other organization officials had also issued similar statements and support a few days prior.
“The way that we come into our sexual identities is deeply personal and young people, in particular, deserve the protection and support required to find complete comfort in who they are and how they show up in the world. The fact that police officers potentially sought to weaponize Mikayla’s sexuality in addition to abdicating the responsibility they have to investigate her murder saddens and enrages me,” said David J. Johns, executive director of the NBJC, a leading national civil rights organization.
Mikayla Miller deserved to grow old. She had so many basketball games, road trips and HBCU homecomings ahead of her. She deserved childhood — uninterrupted.
There needs to be a full, transparent, independent investigation into her death.
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) May 5, 2021
Preferential attention to some crimes?
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan held a press conference stating that Miller’s cause of death had not been determined and that the investigation into both Miller’s death and her assault the day before is ongoing. Ryan denied the case was neglected because of Miller’s race or sexuality.
“The reason this town is considered one of the safest in America, in my opinion, is not because crimes do not occur, but because crime is only selectively reported in this community,” Strothers said as reported by the Boston Globe, as the crowd applauded.
In tears, she also noted what she had to do while also losing her child.
“I’ve had to not only be the grieving mother but also put pressure on Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan, who I did not hear from until 12 days after Mikayla’s death,” Strothers said to the Globe in tears. “I don’t want to have to spend all day on the phone getting evidence and passing it along in order for justice to be served. What I want is for the criminal justice system to work.”
Ryan said they were exploring all leads in the case.
Miller was last seen on April 17 and had allegedly been in a quarrel with a group of teen boys and girls, Ryan said to another publication. The teenager was supposedly having a romantic relationship with one of the girls, reported Boston’s Fox News. Strothers mentioned that she thought her daughter had been persuaded to go out with them that night.
Miller was a gifted student and talented athlete who dreamed of attending a historically Black college or university (HBCU) and becoming a journalist. She has been described as beautiful, passionate, and a loving daughter, sister, cousin, niece, and friend.
In a GoFundMe campaign, the mother wrote that she had no reason to believe her daughter was suicidal, heartbroken, and confused when police knocked on her door on April 18 and allegedly told her that Miller had committed suicide in the woods.
“It is unacceptable that my daughter’s death was considered a suicide without an investigation,” she wrote.
Support for independent investigation
Since Miller’s murder, Cannon-Grant, of Violence in Boston, has called for an independent investigation into her death.
Congresswoman Ayanna Presley has also joined calls for an independent investigation into the teen along with Ibram X. Kendi, head of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Representative Liz Miranda, Senator Edward J. Markey, state Senate President Karen Spilka, reported the Globe. Other organizations have added their names to the list too.
“Mikayla Miller deserved to grow old. She had so many basketball games, road trips and HBCU homecomings ahead of her. She deserved childhood — uninterrupted,” Pressley tweeted Tuesday night. “There needs to be a full, transparent, independent investigation into her death.”
Cannon-Grant was also instrumental in the rally’s organized and diverse crowd, instructing them to call on Ryan’s Office to remove herself and to call for an FBI investigation. They also said that Violence in Boston would cover the cost of an independent autopsy for Miller.
“We stand in support of Ms. Strothers, and we lift up her call for DA Ryan to recuse herself from the investigation in favor of an independent investigation,” said Crozier from GLAD.
But Ryan expressed that they were still waiting to determine the cause of death, pending the medical examiner’s conclusion and testing. She denied any accusations that her office had neglected or covered up anything pertaining to the case.
Via a Tweet, Mayor Curtatone stated: “Massachusetts should come to a STOP over the death of #MikaylaMiller. Something horrific happened in Hopkinton, and her family and the public deserve answers.”
— Joseph A. Curtatone (@JoeCurtatone) May 3, 2021
To donate to the family’s GoFundMe campaign, a plea from Mikayla’s mother to “raise funds” so that they have “the resources to continue this fight for accountability, transparency, and #JusticeforMikayla,” click here.
To learn more about changing local laws and increasing protections for trans and non-binary community members, look here. The NBJC Stolen Lives’ list of trans and non-binary individuals killed by violence and hate can be found here.
[This report was written using excerpts from a National Black Justice Coalition’s press release.]