Fatal Stabbing Of 18-Year-Old Nia Wilson In Oakland Sparked Outrage, Heartbreak Online & IRL

The fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson has sparked outrage in the community of Oakland, California and across social media, launching conversations around racial justice and the ways we talk about violence against black women.

As told by KGO-TV, Nia and her older sister, Leitifah, were attacked by a stranger with a knife on Sunday, July 22 as they were transferring trains in MacArthur BART station. While Leitifah was reportedly hospitalized for stab wounds in her neck, Nia died at the scene. The suspect, 27 year-old John Lee Cowell, was arrested on Monday night and charged with first-degree murder, according to The New York Times

While the motive for the crime remains unclear according to police, BART police chief, Carlos Rojas, told CNN that police “are investigating all angles.” However, many in the community of Oakland have come to the conclusion that the crime was racially motivated. As Writer and Organizer Ashley Yates told attendees of the vigil for Nia Wilson on July 23rd, per Teen Vogue:  “An attack like this that is so clearly driven by racial hatred, right, but also just unexpected, and out of nowhere.”

The vigil quickly turned into a march demanding justice for Nia and calling for the community to come together in solidarity against racism and white supremacy. Meanwhile, social media has been flooded with the hashtags #NiaWilson, #JusticeForNiaWilson and #SayHerName. The latter referring to a campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum in 2015 to raise awareness about violence against black women in the United States (particularly at the hands of white men and how it's all framed in cultural media narratives.) 

Whether or not this crime will be proven to be racially motivated, as police are still investigating connections between white nationalist communities in the area, the death of Nia Wilson comes at a time of unrest in the U.S. and heightened awareness of violence against black men and women. It is tragedies like these that highlight a pressing need for social change as Wilson's family and friends begin the difficult, heartbreaking process of mourning.