The BBC has named Ieshia Evans to its list of the 100 most inspirational and influential women of 2016. Evans shot to worldwide fame in July after a news photo went viral showing her standing down police who were wearing tactical gear at a demonstration protesting the police killings of unarmed black men Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Her calm and peaceful defiance in the face of a scary situation resonated far and wide, making her something of a folk hero. To mark the inclusion on its exclusive list, the BBC visited Evans in New York City, where she works as a nurse and is mother to a young boy.
Evans talked to the BBC about the surreal experience and also delved into her backstory. “Brave? If you told me to describe myself in five words or less, that would not have been one of my words,” Evans told the BBC. “Yeah, I’m the person that’s in this iconic photo, but it’s beyond me. It’s bigger than me. Look at the reason why I had to be there in order for this photo to be taken. Philando Castile lost his life. Alton Sterling lost his life.”
Evans said that the photo provides a very accurate depiction of what unfolded that day in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “I stood their looking at these police officers’ faces with this quizzical look on my face — this curiosity as to ‘how do you sleep at night? How is this OK for you. What is going through your mind?'” After she was detained, Evans said she was subjected to a strip search. “That was … degrading, at the least,” she recalled. “I don’t feel iconic,” Evans said, adding, “I just did what I felt like I had to do.” But does she like the photo? “I do like the photo,” Evans said. “There’s feminine power there. There’s black power.”
Evans also gave the BBC a tour of the neighborhood where she was born and raised — “I’ve been a survivor since birth” — and discussed her thoughts on protesting for social justice and why, during previous protests against the police killings of unarmed black men, she remained on the sidelines. Watch the video below for the full profile.
See the complete list at the BBC.