“What happens when the child of a slave writes over text that has been digitally archived?” In this powerful essay that’s part of Scalawag‘s grief & other loves series, Victoria Newton Ford reflects on and pushes back against the media record that continues to dehumanize her mother, Tamara Mitchell-Ford, years after her death.

I’d believed for years the presence haunting our lives was a specter dwelling in the yard. But this isn’t a ghost story. The abjection my mother endured was organized and funded by the city—from the police officers, to the judges, to the reporters who circled our house, hungry to add to their narratives. Tamara’s humiliation and punishment were profitable and entertaining. It was made possible by structures and a paradigm of surveillance fortified by antiblackness, which claimed her life—as an ex-wife, an addict, a prisoner, a main character, my mother. None of these were even stable identities for her to claim.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.