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“I woke up like this”: Beyoncé, CeCe and the fight for justice for black women

CeCe McDonald, a transgender black woman, was released from prison yesterday after being forced to serve 19 months of a 41-month prison sentence for stabbing the man who brutally attacked her. In the months leading up to her trial and the 19 months that she has served, intermittently she has crossed my mind, summoning me to whisper a prayer that prison, brutal as it is, might not be sobrutal. I’m sure such prayers are evidence of my naiveté.

But my prayers also come from a place of knowing what it means to have your loved ones locked away, feeling powerless to protect them from a system of ultimate discipline designed to strip them of their humanity, while giving them nothing in return. I don’t have to know CeCe to know what imprisonment does to black people.

But CeCe is free now. And I feel exultant. Another black girl who was never meant to survive made it out alive. She lived to tell the tale. To testify.

She was greeted at the prison by Laverne Cox, another transgender black woman, who plays a transgender character on the show "Orange Is the New Black." Cox is doing a documentary about CeCe. But in her first few moments of freedom, McDonald and Cox took to Instagram, snapping selfies and tweeting that they were listening to Beyoncé’s latest, “the visual album.”

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