Breonna Taylor covers September issue of Oprah's magazine

It will be the first time that anyone other than Oprah Winfrey has appeared on the magazine's cover.
The September 2020 Cover of O, The Oprah Magazine pays tribute to Breonna Taylor.
The September 2020 Cover of O, The Oprah Magazine pays tribute to Breonna Taylor.Alexis Franklin / O, The Oprah Magazine

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By Janelle Griffith

Breonna Taylor will cover the September issue of O: The Oprah Magazine, Oprah Winfrey announced Thursday.

It will be the first time anyone other than Winfrey has appeared on the cover of the magazine since it was launched 20 years ago.

The cover image of Taylor was created by Alexis Franklin, a 24-year-old digital artist, who Winfrey said "captured the essence of Taylor."

Winfrey explained the decision in a statement on the magazine's website titled, "Why Oprah Gave Up Her Cover for the First Time Ever to Honor Breonna Taylor."

"Breonna Taylor. She was just like me. She was just like you. And like everyone who dies unexpectedly, she had plans. Plans for a future filled with responsibility and work and friends and laughter," Winfrey wrote.

The media mogul said that "not long ago" she spoke with Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer.

"She was having a particularly bad day dealing with the loss and the grief of knowing that her daughter is gone forever," Winfrey wrote. "Those of you who've lost loved ones know that the pain comes in waves and that any little thing can trigger it. A song. A scent. A word. A thought."

Winfrey wrote that on the day she called Palmer, "she was dealing with the emotion of it all."

"She told me, 'I can't stop seeing her face. Her smile. It's what I miss most about her. I still can't grasp the concept of her being gone. It feels so surreal. I'm still waiting for her to come through the door,'" Winfrey recounted.

Taylor, 26, a licensed emergency medical technician, was shot and killed during a police raid in March.

Plainclothes officers arrived at Taylor's apartment after midnight on March 13 to serve a no-knock warrant in a drug case.

At a news conference, police Lt. Ted Eidem said officers had knocked on the door several times and "announced their presence as police who were there with a search warrant."

Attorneys for Taylor's family say her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fearing a home invasion, called 911, grabbed a gun and fired, shooting an officer in the leg. He had a license to carry and kept firearms in the home, and Taylor was unarmed.

A lawsuit by the family accuses the officers of "blindly firing" more than 20 shots into the apartment.

Winfrey wrote in her statement, "Only in the wake of George Floyd’s filmed execution was national attention brought to the shooting death" of Taylor, two and a half months after she was killed.

"Pleas for justice have fallen on deaf ears. As I write this, in early July, just one of the three officers involved has been dismissed from the police force," Winfrey wrote, referring to Brett Hankison. "This officer blindly fired ten rounds from his gun, some of which went into the adjoining apartment."

The other two officers in the raid were placed on administrative leave.

The Kentucky attorney general is investigating the case.

Winfrey quoted Taylor's mother as saying: "The fact that no one has been charged. It was so reckless. They did all of this for nothing, and she lost her life."

She said Taylor was someone who had a sense of meaning and purpose in her work as an emergency room technician.

She was saving to buy a house and had plans and dreams, Winfrey wrote.

"They all died with her the night five bullets shattered her body and her future," Winfrey wrote.

Winfrey said she thinks of Taylor often. She was the same age as two "daughter-girls" from Winfrey's school in South Africa who have been quarantining with her and her partner Stedman Graham since March. "In all their conversations I feel the promise of possibilities," Winfrey wrote.

"Their whole lives shine with the light of hopefulness. That was taken away from Breonna in such a horrifying manner."

Winfrey added: "Imagine if three unidentified men burst into your home while you were sleeping. And your partner fired a gun to protect you. And then mayhem."

She concluded her statement by saying: "What I know for sure: We can't be silent. We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice."

That is why Taylor is on the cover of O magazine, she said.

"I cry for justice in her name," Winfrey said.