10 Brilliant Dallas Women: Olinka Green Is A Fierce Crusader for Justice
Black lives matter, and Olinka Green makes sure that message is heard in Dallas.
courtesy Olinka Green
Welcome to 10 Brilliant Dallas Women, a pop-up online series about 10 awesome women making Dallas a better place to live.
Over the past year or so, the issue of police brutality has, some would say, finally seeped into the mainstream consciousness. The tragic deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland at the hands of law enforcement officers have made the Black Lives Matter movement much more than a hashtag. In Dallas, you’ll find Olinka Green on the front lines of this fight for justice and the lives of young people of color.
Over the past twenty-plus years, Green has been directly involved in activism of one kind or another. At 21-years-old, Green was a domestic violence victim fresh out of serving a seven-month stint in the Dallas County Jail for domestic violence. “I was a victim of domestic violence, and my crime was that I struck my abuser back,” says Green. “I went to jail, but I never went to trial. Not knowing anything about the law and not having a woman who understood domestic violence to advocate for me, I took a plea to avoid a 5-10 year sentence.”
From there, though, Green’s future began to look up. After being released from jail, she obtained her GED, began college, and raised her children. In the meantime, she also met two young men who were heavily involved in the Dallas chapter of the New Black Panther Party, right around the time that Rodney King was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers, inspiring protests across the country. “I got involved in the struggle because of Rodney King, and I’ve been going ever since then,” says Green. “From then on, every other incident that came along, I was involved. From 21 to 46.”
In that time, Green has seen a great deal of change in the visibility of police brutality cases, even if they are still as common as ever. “When I was coming up, police were beating and shooting African Americans and there was no accountability. You couldn’t see it on camera,” she says. “We knew about it, N.W.A. was talking about it, but now everything is on camera. People saw what happened to Jordan Davis and Eric Garner and Freddie Gray. Everything can be seen, but the police still aren’t being held accountable in the way that they need to be held accountable.”
The issue is particularly close to Green’s heart because she alleges that she has been a victim of police brutality. Earlier this year, Green was protesting the deaths of women of color, particularly transgender women, at the hands of police in the West End, when she was arrested in the middle of a one-woman protest. “I planned a silent protest based off the protests that were held in Harlem every time a black man was lynched. No sound, just people marching with signs,” says Green. “I walked through downtown with some young people, and had pictures of young women killed by law enforcement.”
From there, Green alleges that a DART officer on a Segway asked her if she had permission to hand out flyers, which she promptly put away. Standing there with her sign, Green was told by the officer that she must leave DART property. “I went back around the corner to ask for her badge number, and when I did she said “I told you to get off DART property,” says Green. “She put me under arrest, and pinned me underneath the Segway.”
Green, who has a lingering injury from reconstructive spinal surgery, held on to a barrier fence to prevent the Segway from pushing her to the ground. “I have eight pins and a rod in my back, and I thought Dear Jesus, if I get on the ground, I know she’s going to put her knee in my back,” says Green. “I wasn’t about to go on the ground. She starts screaming and hollering stop hitting me, how am I hitting you when my hands are firmly on this fence? That is when she maced me, and the other officer grabbed my wrist so hard that I still have his fingerprints on my arm and handcuff burns on my hand. They tried to throw me in the DART police car like Freddie Gray, with a face full of Mace. I start screaming I can’t breathe, I’m someone’s mother, black lives matter. It was out of control.”
Later, Green would find out that she had been charged with assault on two public servants, and was facing a $30,000 fine, a crime that she notes is identical to the charges that Sandra Bland, the Illinois woman who died in police custody earlier this year. She was placed into a psychiatric facility, where she found divine inspiration in the middle of her own crisis.
“It was the most beautiful thing being in this psych ward,” says Green. “I was in there with ladies who had been prostitutes, women with mental issues, and once they found out who I was, they wanted me to go out into the world and tell them that women like us were not disposable. That we were in jail because of things that had happened to us. Those women empowered me and gave me strength.” A few weeks later, Green learned that all charges had been dropped, but she didn’t stop fighting.
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While she was jailed, Green’s supporters started a GoFundMe campaign, which raised the $3,000 necessary for her bond. Donations poured in from across the country and beyond, but once she was released from jail, Green’s Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security assistance had all been denied due to her incarceration. From there, she sought to prove that she had never assaulted the DART officer, and that her incarceration was unjust.
“They said that they had no evidence that I had assaulted the officer, but when the police report came back, she said that I had jumped on her and called her a “white cracker bitch.” She said that we [Green and her group of silent protesters] had come to the DART station angry and upset. It was just me. I didn’t cuss that woman out,” says Green defiantly. “We’ve asked for audio and video to be released, they say no because of privacy of the officer. She had no injuries. But I have them. I had a bruised shoulder, had to wear my arm in a sling. I still got the marks on my arms and hands that I’ll have the rest of my life due to them trying to subdue me. I don’t regret it at all. If my voice can be hard in talking about transgender women of color and women of color, that matters.”
When the death of Sandra Bland began to attract national attention just a few months later, Green was quick to note the similarities. “That was so personal to me, because I am Sandra Bland. The only difference is that someone came for me,” says Green. “We had the same charges, we were treated the same way. Both activists, both outspoken. All we were doing was speaking up for what we know is right. It cost Sandra her life. It cost me a couple of hours of freedom. But that’s why I do what I do — if I see anything wrong, any type of injustice, I’m on it. It’s a lot of sisters that came before me and when I look at what they had to do just to have their voices heard? Man, I’ve got to do the work.”
Green’s work has certainly not gone without notice. In 2013, she was given the Dallas Peacemaker of the Year award by the Dallas Peace Center, and was recognized again in August by Cathedral of Hope as an Ambassador of Justice for her committment to the movement. She is quick to note, though, that she doesn’t do the hard work for recognition, but for the future. “I do this not just for Sandra Bland, but also for my granddaughter, Mariah. I want her to grow up and be able to feel free and speak her mind,” says Green. “I want her to know that her grandmother fought for justice so she can have some parts of it.”
More than that, though, Green hopes to inspire the up-and-coming generations of young women of color, who she frequently sees as some of the most energized organizers in the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond. “I just want Black and Latino females that are coming up right now to be brilliant, be brave, be badass, be something,” says Green. “Don’t be afraid just because you’re a woman or you’re low-income. You shape your future. I think back to how many times men told me that I couldn’t be, and every time I opened up my mouth I got hit in it. I got told I was too dumb, too stupid to do anything. But look at me. You can’t let anyone define you. You make your own door, and you go in it. You make your own destiny.”
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