Breonna Taylor's mother and Tina Knowles-Lawson urge Congress to expand voting access with HEROES act

More than 100 days after Breonna Taylor was killed by police in her own home, her mother Tamika Palmer joined Tina Knowles-Lawson, mother of singers Beyoncé and Solange, in her bid to help Americans vote during the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has been ravaging the nation's black communities, and has forced areas with already-low access to voting to make it even harder for disenfranchised people to cast their ballots. 

Knowles-Lawson wrote an open letter urging Congress to pass the HEROES Act, which among other things would fund absentee voting and make voting more accessible. Palmer signed the letter and is also working to get Breonna's Law passed, to ban no-knock warrants in an effort to curb the police brutality that killed her daughter. While Palmer said she was "happy to hear" one of the officers involved in Taylor's death was fired, she said there was still "so much more to go" on the road towards justice. 

Palmer and Knowles-Lawson joined "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King to talk about why voting is crucial to meaningful reforms, and the worldwide reaction to Breonna Taylor's death. 

Read a portion of their conversation below:


Tina Knowles-Lawson: It's just that I am outraged, you know, just like everyone else. And I wanna do my part …I'm not a politician, I'm not, you know, an activist in that public sense. But I just felt like I had to do this.

Gayle King: So tell us what does the letter say and what do you want it to do?

Knowles-Lawson: The letter is speaking of all the pain that's going on in the country and how, you know, just sick and tired of it we are… and that if there is something that can help it like the HEROES Act… why is it a question? It should be done in an instant.

King: What would the HEROES Act do?

Knowles-Lawson: …well, it would supply gloves. It would supply masks. It would supply voting machines so that people are not in line. Because the longer you're in line, you're more apt to catch COVID. I mean, that's just simple mathematics. You know, it all comes down to having the polling places open. Where is that money gonna come from? Is that gonna be the excuse? We didn't have the funds to print up enough absentee voting ballots. Or we didn't have enough funds to pay people to come out or have more polling stations. It all comes down to money. And that is what this bill is gonna provide.

King: I would imagine though, Tamika, this is also very personal for you. You are, of course, Breonna's mother… Why did you sign the letter?

Tamika Palmer: Just because it is important that people vote. And that they're given this opportunity… Definitely that we need to get out here and vote. That we are able to have the resources to do it.

King: There was news that one of the officers involved in the shooting of your daughter has been fired. What was your reaction to that?

Palmer: Mixed. Of course I'm happy to hear that he was fired. He should've been fired. It's just the beginning though. It's so much more to go. There's so many other people involved.

King: Yeah, I know you're working on passing Breonna's Law which would ban those no-knock warrants.

Palmer: It's a start for other families. It doesn't help Breonna's situation. But I will be grateful that it doesn't happen to someone else… Somebody still has to answer for what happened to Breonna, though.

King: How do you want us to remember her? And what do you miss most about her?

Palmer: Her smile. Just her smile. And just remember that she didn't deserve this. And she would do anything for anybody.

King: Listen, I know, Tamika, you never planned to be sitting here doing interviews, talking about this. I can only imagine how difficult this is for you… you know it's interesting, Tina, I think many people don't really understand the link between voter suppression and justice for people like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Can you connect those dots for us, please?

Knowles-Lawson: I mentor kids. And I was sharing with Tamika yesterday that I talked to my kids about what was going on. And there were a lot of tears, there was a lot of frustration… And so they, you know, their response was, "It doesn't matter if we get our family to vote. It's not gonna make a difference. It never has." 

And they are very hopeless. And I think a lot of black people feel that way… And how I connect the dots with them… if you vote, you vote for the mayor. And the mayor hires the police chief and the district attorney and all the people that are in power to make those changes in your community. And so if you don't vote, then you don't have a voice.

King: Beyonce wrote an open letter to the attorney general of Kentucky. She also mentioned calling for these officers to be charged… So you've got Beyonce Knowles-Carter, you've got Tina Knowles-Lawson, you've got a one-two punch in your corner. What does it mean to have that kind of support?

Palmer: It's amazing to have so much support from so many different people. And all over the world. People who don't know me or don't even know Breonna. But they know that what happened wasn't right. And that they're willing to stand and demand justice… I'm so eternally grateful to so many different people.

King: People keep saying though, Tina, this feels different.

Knowles-Lawson: It absolutely feels different. I think people's humanity is showing… when you have seen this many people out marching? And our white brothers and sisters out marching and standing as shields for people. I get emotional about it because my friends have supported and they've called… And they stepped up. And I do feel like it can be a change. I really do.

King: I think it's —

Knowles-Lawson: I have so much hope.

King: I do too. I do too, Tina. I think it's been a wake-up call for many people. And Tamika, I'd like to end with this... they are now saying the name of Breonna Taylor all over the world. It's not just in the United States. It's not just in the state of Kentucky. It is all over the world. What would be most helpful to you at this time?

Palmer: To continue to say her name… we're still just in the beginning. There's still so much work to be done. So just please continue to say her name. Please continue to march and demand justice.