As the sad news of Nia Wilson's death continues to shock the nation, celebrity women of color have been sharing an outpouring of love for Wilson and her family on social media, while expressing outrage for the senseless tragedy and criticizing how the matter was handled by the authorities. Wilson, an 18-year-old black woman from California, was fatally stabbed at an Oakland train station on Sunday, July 22, as she and her sister attempted to transfer trains on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).
There have been many theories circulating which have indicated that the murder was a racially motivated hate crime, according to The Washington Post. And while the murder remains under investigation and many details are unknown, the situation most certainly hits home and continues to be a very personal matter to those in the black community who have, for decades, been under siege by racially motivated hatred from others — including the police.
After the news of Wilson's death spread, many celebrities took to social media to express their outrage and sorrow, noting the epidemic of violence against black women. And many women of color in Hollywood spoke loudest of all. How To Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis was just one of the many famous black women to express her heartbreak over Wilson's death, writing on Instagram:
"You know.....at what point will it stop? I'm getting tired of the heartbreak. Tired of needing to organize rally's to convince people that our lives matter. To the killer...I will NOT say your name. To Nia...we will shout yours from the rooftops!!!
Actor and music artist, Janelle Monae also paid tribute to Wilson in an IG post that featured artwork of the young woman, writing:
"The thing that feels right to me is to keep uplifting your name and the kind & loving human being you were . You had a family that loved you . You were a sister , a daughter , and meant something important to your entire family and community . You had a future . As you were helping someone else you were murdered . Your life mattered #NiaWilson . Your name means something to us and we won’t stop saying it . #SAYHERNAME #BLACKLIVESMATTER #BLACKWOMENLIVESMATTER"
Big Little Lies star Zoe Kravitz shared similar grief, taking to social media to write: "Say. Her. Name. ....heartbreaking to lose this beauty. #niawilson • #nojusticenopeace • #blacklivesmatter." As did Grown-ish actor Yara Shahidi, who posted artwork of Wilson with the caption: "Nia Wilson [broken heart emoji] #SayHerName." Fellow actor Sanaa Lathan expressed her devastation by simply writing, "I can’t take it
#JusticeforNia" along with the prayer emoji in response to a heartbreaking video which featured Wilson's father begging for justice for his slain daughter.
In recent years, social media has been used to highlight unjust attacks on people of color, with many being captured on camera. It allows the world a closer glimpse into the brutality which has plagued the community for years. Many of the assaults have been highlighted with the hashtags, such as #SayHerName, used in relation to Wilson. The hashtag was created by the African American Policy Forum in 2015 in an effort to raise awareness about black women who are victims of violence.
This most recent tragedy occurred when John Lee Cowell allegedly approached and stabbed two women in the neck, fatally wounding Nia Wilson and severely injuring her sister, Lahtifa Wilson. The alleged assailant fled the scene after the attack and was captured a day later at a BART system train station, per 6 ABC, prompting many to question local officials about their timing on locating Cowell's whereabouts with insinuation that if Cowell — a white male — had been black that their response time would have been much quicker — and the arrest very different.
Singer Kehlani, who hails from the Bay Area, took to Twitter to share her criticism for BART's handling of the situation, writing, "#BART manages to catch riders who haven’t paid ticket fair, young graffiti artists, you can catch a murderer. give her family some peace and get a murderous white supremecist [sic] off of oakland streets."
BART spokesperson Alicia Trost defended the police's handling of the crime, as reported by the New York Times, acknowledging that there were officers present at the station when the incident occurred. She explained, “People are saying, ‘Why weren’t there officers there? There were two officers at that station, but it happened so quick. It all took 20 seconds.” Nia's sister, Lahtifa Wilson, who was also attacked in the incident, confirmed that attack happened very quickly when speaking to ABC affiliate KGO-TV. She explained, “All of sudden, we transfer, and just to get blindsided by a maniac. For what, I don’t know why.”
As details continue to come in about the case, the outrage and call to action in Hollywood is growing, with statements coming not just come from people of color, but others as well. Busy Phillips, in a pledge of sisterhood, reposted a promise to stand by the side of black women amidst the fight for equal rights. Olivia Wilde, meanwhile, called on her followers to rise up against hatred. Anne Hathaway penned a passionate post on Instagram calling out white privilege while highlighting the fear that Black Americans are met with on a daily basis. Hathaway called on other white people to take action in the fight for equality and justice amidst her plea as she poignantly highlighted the disparity in what normalcy means for black and white people. She wrote:
"White people- including me, including you- must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS. White people DO NOT have equivalence for this fear of violence."
The world continues to mourn the death of Nia Wilson, whose murder BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas referred to as "one of the most vicious attacks" that he's seen in his 30-year police experience. We must be reminded that although racism may feel like an issue that only affects some, it hurts everyone. And it is our job, as citizens of the world, to change that. #JusticeForNia