On December 30, 2017, United States Civil Right Activist Erica Garner passed away at the age of 27 after suffering from a heart attack the week before that put her in a coma. Garner is most known as the daughter of Eric Garner, whose death sparked outrage after police killed the 43-year-old man in a chokehold. Since her father’s death, Erica Garner continued to be an active member of the Black Lives Matter movement and worked hard to stop police brutality and hold police officers accountable for their actions.
Many activists are mourning the loss of Garner, who they describe as a strong friend filled with compassion. Public figures such as rapper Common, actress Rosario Dawson, the ACLU, and Senator Bernie Sanders, who worked with her during his presidential campaign, all issued statements wishing her family well and praising her life and her legacy. Activist and writer, Shaun King, wrote on Twitter, “Our dear sister Erica Garner has just passed away. When you were her friend, you her friend through all adversity. She was a fierce protector of her friends and family. A truth teller. As genuine and authentic of a soul you’ll ever encounter. We’re less because of this loss.” Other activists also emphasize the ways in which racism and trauma contributed to not only Garner’s life but her death as well. According to activist Preston Mitchum, “This is tragic. State violence NEVER just stops at the initial interaction. It spreads into families, friends, and communities, Erica Garner should still be with us and I’ll always blame the NYPD for killing her father and now her. Rest In Peace and power, sis.”
This heart attack was not Garner’s first; a few months ago she suffered a minor heart attack after the birth of her son. Some activists are pointing to Erica Garner’s death as just a symptom of a larger problem; the United States healthcare system neglects women of colour, specifically new mothers of colour. Patrisse Cullors, an artist and activist, tweeted, “Erica Garner suffered from two heart attacks post pregnancy. This is about a healthcare system that completely neglects pregnant Black people.” According to the CDC, black people are more likely than white people to die of heart failure. Additionally, the stress of racism also impacts health in numerous ways. Jasminne Mendez, a poet and activist wrote, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women of colour. Heart disease often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed until it is too late. Yes, I believe you can die of a broken heart. I too, at 27 almost lost my life to heart disease. Like Erica Garner, I had a broken heart.”
Erica Garner died too young and too soon. She leaves behind a legacy that fights against the systems that killed her father. She will be remembered for the amount she gave to fight against racism and how ultimately, social inequalities and the trauma of police brutality led to her premature death.