We Heart: Oprah Steps Aside to Make Way for Breonna Taylor

For the first time in her magazine’s 20-year history, Oprah has announced she is stepping aside from her usual place on the cover of “O” magazine for the month of September, to make way for a face and name that have dominated the headlines in recent weeks: Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman murdered by police in March.

“We can’t be silent. We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice,” Oprah wrote in a statement on Thursday.

Taylor’s name has received attention in recent weeks after an outpouring of calls on social media for her killers—Louisville, Ky., police officers Brett Hankison, Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgroveto—to face consequences for her murder.

Taylor’s name has also been invoked alongside the #SayHerName hashtag and movement, which aims to draw attention to Black women who are victims of police brutality—who are often forgotten and receive less media attention than Black men.

As of July, only one of the police officers implicated in her murder—Brett Hankison—has been dismissed from the Louisville police force. The other two officers have been placed on administrative reassignment, and none have faced criminal charges.


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However, her name has spurred action on the part of city officials: Since protests began, the city of Louisville has approved “Breonna’s Law,” which bans no-knock warrants—the type of warrant that allowed the officers to enter Breonna’s apartment and take her life.

Oprah’s use of her media empire to foreground Breonna Taylor’s name highlights the importance of powerful media figures in driving the narrative, and calls upon other celebrities to use their platforms to call for justice. The cover—drawn by Black digital artist Alexis Franklin—also highlights the importance of supporting Black artists.

In order to create lasting anti-racist change in the U.S., those in power must continue to advocate for the names and stories of Black women specifically. Figures like Oprah are paving the way for institutional change to happen—now it’s time for politicians to do the same.

“She was just like me. She was just like you,” Oprah said, in her announcement. “I cry for justice in her name.”


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About

Oliver Haug is an Editorial Intern with Ms. Magazine and a recent graduate of Smith college. Their writing has previously appeared in Autostraddle and the New York Times' newsletter "The Edit." You can read more of their work here, and follow them on twitter here.