Her name was Aiyana Jones and she was only 7 years old.The dimples in her chocolate cheeks and that hand on her hip tell a story. Maybe she was a little joker, all giggles and big on fun–inquisitive, energetic, and a bit of a smarty pants, with a tip of nutty thrown in for good measure. I can almost see those fancy twists flying in the wind–hear her colorful barrettes clacking and dancing to the rhythm of her little girl dance. She reminds me of my Lila, who, also age seven, is all of these things and then some.

Aiyana could have easily been my child.

This matters to me because Aiyana is dead.

Earlier this week, she was felled by a police officer’s bullet during the execution of a no-knock warrant at her grandmother’s home. The police, acting on a tip that a homicide suspect was staying there, ran in to the house, flash grenades and guns ablaze, with all of the bully tactics of a stealth marine troop storming a terrorist hideout in Fallujah. By the time the smoke and gunshots and chaos cleared, Aiyana lay on the couch where she had been peacefully sleeping under her favorite Disney blanket, bleeding to death from a gunshot wound to the neck–yet another senseless casualty of police aggression in urban (read: black) communities. Her daddy, forced to the ground by the cops and denied the request to see about his daughter, lay in his little girl’s blood as he watched the light slowly, surely, fade from her eyes.

Aiyana joins a long line of black folk whose lives were cut short by aggressive police tactics that, pumped with adrenaline, heightened fear, and a laundry list of double standards reserved for communities of color, make for the lethal hail of bullets that claimed the lives of black folk across the land–Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell, Timothy Stansbury, Eleanor Bumpers, Katherine Johnston, the list goes on. When it comes to people of color and their communities, it never, ever seems to matter that this is a country that stakes its claim on the basic judicial tenet that citizens are innocent until proven guilty. It seems always to be shoot to kill now, sort it out later.

This philosophy never seems to apply in communities like Buckhead and Beverly Hills and Scarsdale and Gross Pointe, where, I assure you, police brass are not authorizing and encouraging their officers to use military tactics to apprehend suspects, thus putting entire communities–including 7-year-old babies–in extreme danger.

When will this madness stop? How many more times must innocent people die before someone decides that it is simply unacceptable to continue to give police departments carte blanche to run roughshod through black and brown communities, patting down and gunning down as many people as they see fit–no matter their involvement, no matter the danger, no matter the cost–in the name of “justice” and “law and order”?

Of course, the police officer who shot Aiyana would have rather his bullet didn’t end that baby’s life (though he and his fellow officers do get a serious side-eye for storming Aiyana’s grandmother’s house with TV cameras in tow, with the hopes that their dramatic apprehension of a murder suspect would make it into the Cops-styled TV show, 48 Hours. There have been claims, too, that before the officers stormed the house, they were told by neighbors that children were present, as evidenced by a cadre of toys strewn about the lawn). But the officer’s intentions aren’t the issue here. What does need to be questioned, challenged, and rallied against are the policies that allow police departments across the country–specifically in urban neighborhoods–to use military tactics against their own citizens, as if they are not a part of the fabric of this land–as if they are living in an occupied state where people in uniforms have the ultimate right to violate your home, run roughshod over your most precious possessions, and hurt fellow human beings, then hide behind reckless policies to justify such cruel, inhuman actions.

Stray dogs get rounded up with more humanity.

The bottom line is that kids don’t pick their parents or their communities or their homes or the people who care for them. It is an accident of birth that put Aiyana in that Detroit neighborhood, and not in, say, the White House. And so it is incumbent upon the grown-ups–particularly the caretakers, and especially those who are charged with serving and protecting us–to, in all the things that we do, protect the babies first.

At all costs.

Because the baby on the couch might be the next Sasha Obama.

Or my Lila.

Or a child you know.

Maybe even your own.

Please, Lord, no more of this. Tonight, I say a prayer for Aiyana and her father and her grandmother and their family; pray that they’ll find the strength to carry on after becoming the latest victims of the war being waged in black and brown communities the world over.

I pray, too, that Aiyana, the pretty little chocolate girl with the bouncing twists and the dimpled smile, did not die in vain.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. SeeingBeyondThis

    I looked through some of the other posts on The Parenting Post, and wholeheartedly decided that I further admire you for having the courage to post this article there. The other moms are not talking about discrimination and social action, although I'm sure what they are writing about is just as important to them as this is to you.

    I love this blog, not just for this article but for your consistency in providing great reading material about all things "Brown Babies". Just wanted you to know a younger sister admires what you're doing.

  2. My heart has been so heavy after seeing what happened to Aiyana on the news. She could have easily been my cousin, my niece, my FAMILY. I'm from Michigan, not extremely far from Detroit, and I have seen stories like this in the paper, and on the news WAY too often. It hurts even more, as I sit here, a little over two months pregnant, rubbing my barely there baby bump and thinking about what a cruel world I am bringing a child into. How a few years from now, it could easily be MY child that is slain at the hands of reckless police officers. How it could be MY family that is torn apart by such an tragedy. I pray that this family finds peace, and I pray the these officers, who vowed to "Protect and Serve" actually figure out what the meaning is behind those words. May Aiyana rest in peace, and may we all hug our loved ones a little tighter tonight.

  3. Thank you for your post about sweet little Aiyana. I've been so upset about this since I heard about it. It's maddening and horrific. May God be with her father and her family.

  4. Smh. *sigh* this is so sad. Aiyana is in a better, safer place now. God bless and protect her family in this time of grief.


  5. Kat @ For the Love of Chaos


    As someone whose commentary normally consists of a bounty of words, I'm at a loss for them now 🙁 What's sad, Denene, is that people who don't LIVE this nightmare will never BELIEVE there is such a huge difference in the way authorities deal with black suspects in comparison with white. People make the comparison all the time – "It happens to white families too…"

    The issue is how HABITUAL this is and how careless authorities are when it comes to their dealings with people of color. This child is an example of the existence of the perception of a "lower tier" of humanity in these officers' minds. I also have a 7 year old and I don't even want to think about it… but we have to because it could have been any of our children.

  6. Justice Fergie

    I saw this news story earlier this week and was sick to my stomach. it seems like these tragic stories are becoming more and more frequent. the unchecked power of the police needs to come to an end. i'm with you: ENOUGH.

  7. Chocolate Covered Daydreams

    I can't put into words the feelings that ran through my mind when I heard about Aiyana. There is nothing that makes her dying, right…nothing.

    This is not the first time nor will it be the last time. The question is, how will it end?

    My heart is heavy for the family.

  8. My heart goes to her family.
    Oh, GOD… when these kind of brutalities will end! Her life is taken because of police brutalities in black communities. Reading the story all that came to mind was apartheid and segregation. And to think that we are in a supposed post-racial era, this does not make seem but it is reality.

    May God keep her soul in peace!

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