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Kim Jones’ killer has a name. So does her wife.

A social worker is killed in broad daylight by a trusted co-worker. Are we guilty of another crime against her life?

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A random article fell across my path yesterday, in the way that things do on the Web. A social worker, Randolf Sanders, 36, had confessed to killing his boss. According to the report by the police, Sanders’ boss, Kim Jones, 56 years old, had discovered that he had stolen tens of thousands of dollars from the Philadelphia children’s charity for which they both worked. The morning that he killed her was the day she had planned on turning him in to the authorities.

The pictures that accompanied the article arrested me. He: black, bearded, with a slight smile. She: black, staring into the camera with dark sunglasses on, small hoop rings dangling from her lobes, her hair shaved to the scalp.

A black woman. With a closely shaved head.

The article said that she’d married in December. Yet there was no mention of a statement from her spouse.

A black woman. With a closely shaved head. With an unidentified spouse.

The Vagina Monologues

In the last number of days, I’ve been in a riotous online fight about gender. It started with my Facebook post about the Mount Holyoke student group that had decided to cancel this year’s production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. The focus of womanhood on the vagina is too narrow, claimed the group, and neglects the experience of transwomen.

I posted the news about the cancellation under a quote from Eve Ensler herself, who said, “I never intended it to be a play about what it means to be a woman. It is and always has been a play about what it means to have a vagina.” She went on to note that there was an all-trans production of the play that even spurred the development of a new stage piece.

The rest of her statement, which I hope you will all take the time to read, includes this:

Inclusion doesn’t come from refusing to acknowledge our distinctive experiences, and trying to erase them, in an attempt to pretend they do not exist. Inclusion comes from listening to our differences, and honoring the right of everyone to talk about their reality, free from oppression and bigotry and silencing. That’s real inclusion — to listen to different stories, with curiosity, and love, and respect, in all their particular and distinctive human individuality.

So when my friend responded to my Facebook post with terms like “women born women” and “individuals born male,” I was shocked.

I’ve known her for two decades – a relationship that has survived my girlfriends, my boyfriends, my husbands, my lovers, and my partners. While we’ve had our political disagreements, it’s been largely nuance. It’s not whether oppression exists –“Post-racial”? Come on. – but how it insists and persists despite all that we do.

So this – a fight about a right to claim one’s identity and to have that identity respected – floored me.

Granted, I’ve never been in her shoes. Her decidedly comfortable shoes and her decidedly comfortable clothing – she’s battled for her right to simply be comfortable in her own skin without someone claiming that she’s not woman because of it.

Surely you get this, I poked and prodded. How ridiculous it is that we attribute so very much to the most superficial of things. Things like …

A black woman. With a closely shaved head. With an unidentified spouse.

What the articles said … and didn’t

I read article after article after article on Kim Jones. I’ll admit that I was looking for the clues that would back up what my gut was saying.

I learned about her love of God.

I learned that she was the mother of two.

I learned that she dedicated her life to helping the city’s neediest children.

Hell, I even learned that she was listening to gospel music when Sanders calmly placed a bullet in the back of her head. She was wearing her Dr. Dre headphones, said one article. There in broad daylight at her regular bus stop where Sanders knew she would be. She had a routine, you see.

Philly.com reported, “Jones’ Facebook page says she was married last month.”

No name of spouse. No “survived by.”

But her Dr. Dre headphones and gospel music? Worthy of a mention.

A black woman. With a closely shaved head. With an unidentified spouse.

The Church of the Advocate

Her son was quoted as saying that his mother had just married her longtime partner in December at the Church of the Advocate, at 18th and Diamond streets.

That Kim Jones made her home Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate is telling. This is the home of the late Reverend Paul Washington, a controversial figure in the history of the Episcopalian Church. One of its first black priests, he fought racism within the Church and demanded it take a stand in the racism fight outside its own doors. He opened the church’s French-Gothic doors to the Black Panthers in 1970 and to the first ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in 1974.

The Church of the Advocate has been described as a “stone-vaulted French medieval Gothic church dropped in to a North Philadelphia neighborhood that is now physically and economically devastated.” Inside, Washington himself commissioned the murals that adorn its walls – murals painted by local artists Walter Edwards and Richard Watson to represent the stations of the Civil Rights Movement.

Among the reasons for commissioning the murals, said Washington,

“There were people who came into the church, and as they looked around they saw nothing and no one, including the figures in the stained glass windows, with whom they could identify.”

Naming names

It’s not that the articles didn’t dare name names.

Her neighbor has a name: Wes Hatton.
Her sons have names: Andre Jourden and Jean-Paul Jourden.
Her nephew has a name: Steve Jones.
The supervisor of the charity she worked for has a name: Mike Vogel.
The police officer who reported the confession: Homicide Capt. James Clark.
And her killer has a name: Randolph Sanders.

All of these men were readily identified by name. They were asked to speak on their loss. They were asked to speak to the community’s loss.

Even her murderer was interviewed on camera, getting his opportunity to express his shock. Before, of course, he was discovered to be her killer.

But the spouse who survived her?

The CEO of her charity was quoted as saying that Jones had married in December, just before Christmas.

“She’s somebody that was loved and will be missed,” Vogel said.

Somebody that was loved. Her love gets the passive tense.

Her somebody has a name.

I feel for her somebody. Because her somebody is human. And her somebody lost Kim Jones to a senseless act of violence.

But because that somebody was not the father of Jones’s two sons, not the male head of the nonprofit that Jones worked for, not the man who killed her and not a man at all, that somebody – she – who loved her over the years, her long-term partner whom Kim Jones married in December because Pennsylvania’s law banning same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional in May 2014, she goes unmentioned.

She is somebody.

Love, marriage, and identity

On December 13, 2014, Kim Jones changed her Facebook status. Got Married, it says. One of her friend’s posted back with enthusiasm, Congratulations to you and Cindy!!!!

Cindy.

With four exclamation points.

On the website of the Church of the Advocate there is this:

“The goals of the Advocate have always been to move towards one world, one people, and one love concept. We are not afraid to take any step or measure that will make that concept a reality.”

On January 13, 2014, Kim Jones, aged 56, a social worker with Turning Points for Children was murdered by her colleague, Randolph Sanders, whom she discovered was stealing from the charity.

Killed. In broad daylight. Listening to her gospel music on her Dr. Dre headphones. On her way to work to make things right.

She is survived by her wife and two sons.

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