Breonna Taylor is on the cover of 'Vanity Fair' as her mom still searches for justice: ‘Somebody has to help me’

·5 min read
Breonna Taylor's mom, Tamika Palmer, is still seeking justice, more than five months after her daughter's death at the hands of police. (Photo: Amy Sherald/Vanity Fair)
Breonna Taylor's mom, Tamika Palmer, is still seeking justice, more than five months after her daughter's death at the hands of police. (Photo: Amy Sherald/Vanity Fair)

Breonna Taylor appears on the cover of the latest issue of Vanity Fair, as the publication teams up with Ta-Nehisi Coates on its September issue to highlight the life and loss of the 26-year-old.

The special issue, titled “The Great Fire,” features a painting of the young woman by Amy Sherald — the same artist behind former first lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Inside the issue are the words of Taylor’s mom, Tamika Palmer (as told to Coates), who had big dreams for her daughter.

“Breonna was a good baby. She wasn’t a crier. She was a happy baby. She started walking early — like at nine months, so she was just a little person early. I always say she had an old soul,” Palmer said of her first of two daughters. “Everybody loved Breonna. Who wouldn’t love a baby? But literally she was everybody’s baby.”

Palmer explained that she became pregnant with Taylor at the age of 16, although she had already decided that she didn’t want children. But Palmer’s family was there to help raise the little girl. “Breonna was never really a troublesome kid,” her mother said. For as long as she knew Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who witnessed Taylor’s death at the hands of police officers in Louisville, Ky., Palmer said that he was a good kid, too.

“He just was funny to hang around and he worked. His parents were married, so he had a pretty good upbringing himself,” Palmer shared. “In the beginning, they were just friends. Even before they got into a relationship, Kenny would say, ‘I’m going to marry her.’ I’d be like, ‘Be careful what you wish for, Kenny.’ I want to say they were together about five years. They had talked about having a baby at some point.”

According to Palmer, her daughter was in no rush, as she was working as an emergency room technician with hopes to become a nurse. “She loved being in the hospital, she loved her job, and she loved the people she worked with,” Palmer said. “Clearly, they loved her. They would always be leaving her little notes about them loving her and loving to work with her. Even when she passed, some of them came to the funeral. We just can’t believe this, we love her so much. We’re just going to miss her.”

It was shortly after midnight on March 13 when Taylor’s apartment was broken into and Palmer received a call from Walker to say that Taylor had been shot. Palmer had explained the confusion to follow when she drove over to the apartment and was met with questions about anybody who might have been looking to harm Taylor or Walker while being denied the opportunity to see her daughter.

“It’s about 11 in the morning when the officer comes over and says that they are about done and they are wrapping up, and we will be able to get in there once they are finished. I say, Where’s Breonna, why won’t anybody say where Breonna is? He says, Well, ma’am, she’s still in the apartment. And I know what that means,” Palmer explained.

It wasn’t until a few days later that Palmer would see a news story explaining what had happened that night. “And I am like, Why would they ask if somebody wanted to hurt her? Now I’m confused. Because you asked me whether I knew someone who wanted to hurt my daughter. But you did it. Why couldn’t you have just told me that the police did this? You asked me if somebody wanted to hurt ‘them,’” Palmer recalled, noting that Walker was taken into police custody as a suspect. “I am telling you it kills my whole family.”

Over five months after Taylor’s death, Palmer is still in agony over her daughter’s killing and the news stories that surround it. “They are saying it’s a drug raid gone bad. And it’s so common to hear these things—drug raid. Cops met with gunfire. One suspect dead. The other in custody. And that’s how they’re describing what happened with Breonna,” Palmer said. “I am pissed off because I know how hard Breonna worked. I know that Breonna ain’t about that life. Breonna couldn’t tell you where to buy a dime bag of weed. She isn’t that person on the news. Neither is Kenny. So somebody has to do something. Somebody has to help me.”

Palmer explained that she’s had a couple of calls with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer — one in response to the lawsuit that Taylor’s family filed against the police officers involved in her death, and the other for Fischer to ask that Palmer tell people to stop protesting and rioting. “That’s his fight, not mine,” she said. And while she’s been advised not to attend protests in response to her daughter’s death, Palmer can now acknowledge that Taylor is a big part of why people are fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement today.

“People want to see me. They want to say they’re sorry. They want to apologize for the police. They want to offer their condolences. They want to apologize for not listening. I can’t believe it. People are begging for forgiveness like, I’m sorry we weren’t listening. I just can’t believe it. I felt like with the whole pandemic, Breonna would be forgotten, and we would just get swept under the rug,” she said. “And how do I feel then? Like, my God, somebody heard me. Like I finally caught my breath. That’s how I feel. Like I finally caught my breath.”

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