Hollywood stars are using their platform to make sure the story of Nia Wilson, an 18-year-old Bay Area woman who was fatally stabbed at an Oakland train station on Sunday, July 22nd, does not go unnoticed.
Wilson and her sister, Lahtifa, 26, were transferring trains on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) when a suspect eventually identified as John Lee Cowell, 27, approached them. He stabbed both women, wounding Lahtifa and killing Nia, according to The New York Times.
Lahtifa told a local ABC affiliate that she and her sister, who was pronounced dead at scene of the crime at MacArthur Station, were “blindsided by a maniac.” In a statement, Cowell’s family revealed he was not receiving treatment for his schizophrenia and bipolar disorder at the time of the attack.
Following the attack, locals criticized the BART Police Department for the time it took them to locate the suspect (it took them one day), insinuating that they would have moved more rapidly if the suspected attacker was black. Online, many hypothesized that the murder was also motivated by race, since the Wilson sisters are black and Cowell is white.
BART Police Department Chief Carlos Rojas reacted to the implications of a hate crime at a press conference on Monday, saying, “While we don’t have any facts that suggest he’s connected with any white supremacist group, we are going to explore all options.” Rojas added that it was “probably one of the most vicious attacks that I’ve seen,” and Oakland Mayor Lobby Schaaf shared condolences.
“The senseless and violent stabbing of two young women on a BART train platform last night has shaken our community. Every parent who saw the father of Nia Wilson grieve for his daughter is heartbroken by this horrific act,” Schaaf said in a statement.
As the Times reported, protestors wondered why the two officers at MacArthur Station weren’t able to apprehend the alleged attacker, implying a double standard in the way authorities respond to white and black suspects. “There were two officers at that station, but it happened so quick,” a BART spokesperson said. “It all took 20 seconds.”
Since, stars like singer Kehlani, an Oakland native, have taken to social media to capture the racist undertones and bring attention to Wilson’s death. “#BART manages to catch riders who haven’t paid ticket fair, young graffiti artists, you can catch a murderer. give her family some peace and get a murderous white supremecist [sic] off of oakland streets,” she wrote in a tweet.
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Others are using the hashtag #SayHerName to call attention not only to Nia’s story, but to that of other innocent black citizens who have died as a result of racism. Scroll down for more celebrity reactions.