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Many lawmakers wore black in solidarity with the #MeToo movement to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night and some congressional members also adorned their clothes with pins in honor of Recy Taylor.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Democratic Caucus wore red "Recy" pins, and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., who organized the tribute, told NBCBLK in an email Tuesday evening that Taylor’s story “represents that of many marginalized women who have spoken up, spoken out and have long been ignored.”
“The transformative movement that’s happening in this country around sexual misconduct must include amplifying the voices of victims that we, in some cases, chose not to hear,” Watson Coleman said. “Beyond her terrifying experience, Ms. Taylor, herself, is a representation of the many communities this Administration has chosen to leave behind.”
On a summer evening in 1944, Taylor was abducted and raped by six white men while on her way home from church; she was 24. She was told she would be killed if she reported the incident to authorities.
She made national headlines after going forward anyway. The NAACP sent civil rights activist Rosa Parks to advocate for Taylor, years before Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. Taylor's rapists were never prosecuted, and she passed away in December at age 97.
Taylor's granddaughter Mary Joyce Owens, 59, was a guest of Alabama Rep. Terri A. Sewell at the State of the Union address. Owens said she was speechless and overwhelmed by the amount of support her grandmother has received.
“It’s a privilege and honor. Who would’ve thought my ma’dear would be this popular after death,” Owens said. “I’m humbly grateful.”
Owens, her daughter Alicia Walker and other members of her family met with members of Congress in Washington on Tuesday ahead of the address. Owens said she has never watched a State of the Union address in person and wishes her grandmother were alive to witness the recognition.
Sewell said in a statement that Taylor was an “American hero and an Alabama treasure who spoke up in the face of racism, hate and sexual violence.”
“By standing up to injustice over six decades ago, Recy Taylor inspired generations of men and women to hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable,” Sewell said. “Mary Joyce Owens’ presence at the State of the Union is a symbol of the bravery of all those who are speaking out and a reminder that we will not be silent in the face of injustice.”