As jury selection for Bill Cosby’s retrial is set to begin on April 2, Black Women’s Blueprint has organized a justice ride from its Brooklyn, New York, headquarters to Norristown, Pennsylvania, to kick off its #CosbyWatch campaign.
The organization, which centers on the rights of women of African descent, is standing with the women who accuse Cosby of sexual assault and hope that the 80-year-old legendary comedian will be held accountable for his actions. Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand at his house outside of Philadelphia in 2004. In June 2017, his first trial ended with a hung jury.
“What we’re really looking at is defining what justice looks like from a survivor’s perspective,” Sevonna Brown, Black Women’s Blueprint’s human rights project manager, said.
The group will leave at 5:30 a.m. to arrive at the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas at 8 a.m, according to the event page. BWB will also be pushing the hashtag #SurvivorsDeserve created by Force, an organization with the mission to upset rape culture and to further center survivors’ visions for justice.
Monday’s action will be part of a larger conversation the group is pushing to create restorative solutions to end rape culture across society. It’s not just about Bill Cosby or R. Kelly — new sexual assault accusations surfaced against the R&B singer in a BBC report on Wednesday — Brown said.
“It’s not just choosing: Are you going to continue to support this artist? Are you going to continue to watch this TV show? Are you going to endorse this celebrity?” Brown said. “But what are the real conversations that we’re going to have within black communities to talk about undoing intercommunal violence? What does accountability look like? What does consent-based education look like?”
The group has been part of previous actions against men who have been accused of sexual assault. In February, Black Women’s Blueprint stood with the #MuteRKelly campaign, launched by arts organization managing director Oronike Odeleye and social activist Kenyette Barnes, by holding protests outside of the R&B singer’s New York City concert. In 2015, they stood with survivors of Daniel Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City officer, who was sentenced to 263 years in prison for sexually assaulting eight black women.
Brown said that with this work the group receives a lot of hateful messages. “I think that we are experiencing a culture shift in this moment, but there’s also so much left to do, and that’s evident if you just look around on our Facebook page and some of the comments and some of the victim blaming and the Cosby apologists,” she said. “We’re still working through that.”
As Women’s History Month ends in March and Sexual Assault Awareness Month begins in April, Samantha Master, the director of strategic initiatives at the organization, said it’s important to mobilize the cause of protecting black women and girls, as they are more likely to experience rape than other women. Data compiled by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2017 stated 21.2% of black women are raped during their lifetime, compared to 19.3% of women overall.
“I think it’s critically important that we keep believing survivors and trusting survivors and trusting black women,” Master said.