Kalief Browder speaks to Marc Lamont Hill in an interview with Huffington Post. (Photo screen captured)
Kalief Browder became a face of the civil rights movement when, after spending three years in prison without being convicted of a crime, he died by suicide in June 2015. Over the weekend, the story took another tragic turn.
Venida Browder, Kalief’s mother, died on Friday from complications of a heart attack, lawyer Paul Priesta told New York Daily News. She was 63 years old, and died at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.
Browder was arrested at age 16 while walking home from a party, under accusations of robbing someone for a backpack. His family couldn’t afford the $3,000 bail, and he spent three years in Rikers Island prison without ever being convicted of a crime. According to a profile in The New Yorker, he spent nearly two years in solitary confinement, and told his relatives stories about how he was beaten and starved by guards while in prison. Footage of one such attack was released by media.
He attempted suicide “five to six times” while in prison, and tried again in November 2013, six months after he was released. Despite enrolling in Bronx Community College, he suffered from depression, and in 2015 he died at 22 years old after hanging himself with bedsheets in his Bronx home.
Now, Browder’s mother has died. Priesta described her as “a woman of incredible grace and compassion who tirelessly fought for justice for her son Kalief and who championed the civil rights of others in our city.”
“But the stress from this crusade coupled with the strain of the pending lawsuits against the city and the pain from the death were too much for her to bear. In my opinion she literally died of a broken heart.”
Browder’s story has become a rallying cry for the civil rights, prison rights, and prison abolitionist movements. Ava Duvernay documented his story in her new documentary 13th, and Jay Z recently announced that he was producing a documentary series about him.
is a journalist who covers music, pop culture, film/TV, race, culture and social justice. He is an editor at Okayplayer, and his work has appeared in Complex, Billboard, Guardian, NPR, MTV, Ebony, HipHopDX, The Flint Journal-MLive, and other publications.