On August 16, 2020, a special event was held in Chapel Hill, NC, entitled “Raising Our Voices”.
The purpose of this was to bring more awareness to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) in North Carolina, with a special focus on the UNC Student, Faith Danielle Hedgepeth.
Faith was a UNC Sophomore who was just beginning the school year. She was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian tribe.
On September 7, 2012, Faith was found dead in the apartment she was temporarily staying in with her friend, Karena Rosario. To this date, no one has been arrested.
It’s been 8 years. That is 96 months, 417 weeks, 2922 days, 4,207,680 minutes ago. No matter how you measure it, it has been too long to not have justice for Faith. Unfortunately, this is why this issue needs to be addressed. In many cases where our Indigenous women are involved, the results are very different for their Caucasian friends, classmates and associates.
and face coverings were mandated and enforced, due to Covid-19. The audience of about 50 people included family members of many MMIW in North Carolina, UNC Students, and members of Alpha Pi Omega Sorority, INC. (which Faith was named a member of, posthumously), the REDRUM Motorcycle Club (a Native American motorcycle club), and other activists, local media and community members. I was honored to be the Mistress of Ceremonies at this event.
One-at-a-time, individuals close to MMIW victims spoke about their Lost One(s).
The first speaker, Rolanda Hedgepeth, Faith’s older sister, began the program.
“This is really hard,” Rolanda began. “Coming here today, to this place, where we visited so many times when Faith was here, was just really hard. And I have only spoken about my sister once before since her passing, and the one emotion that comes to mind is just anger. Anger that she is not here. Anger that we have to even speak of her in this way,” Rolanda said as she fought tears. She took a breath and said, “But we must continue to speak her name.”
After Rolanda realized she just could not speak any longer, I hugged her and proceeded to tell the visiting public more about Faith, and why this was so incredibly hard for everyone to be here.
“Nobody wants to be here,” I said. “But we have to. We must speak the names of our stolen sisters. We must until justice is served.”
The very talented Alexis Raeana, who served as Miss Lumbee several years ago and then was a contestant on American Idol last year, came to perform her award winning song, “Keep My Memory”. The song was written for Missing and Murdered Women, with the hope that their memories will never die.
Connie Hedgepeth, Faith’s mother, was the next speaker.
“You know, I miss Faith every day, but I recently had a relative lose their baby of a few months, and all I could think as I prayed for her and the loss of her child, was gratefulness for having 19 years with Faith,” Connie said. “But Faith accomplished more in her 19 years, than I will ever do,” Connie continued. “And the thing is, she wasn’t done.” Connie stopped for a second and then expressed gratitude. “Because of events like this, we know that she will never be forgotten. And we are so grateful for that.”
The song, “Hometown Hero”, performed by Dark Water Rising was then played. Charly Lowry, lead singer for DWR, came to the Hollister community in 2013 to record the video and dedicated this song to Faith.
Jane Jacobs from the Tuscarora Nation spoke then about the loss of her sister, Katina Locklear, who was found raped and
murdered in December 2018, by people that she knew. According to Jane, she was killed over the thought that Katina had stolen $100, but that money was later recovered. Even though those responsible were caught, Jane still finds it necessary to speak about MMIW. “When a Caucasian person is missing or murdered, there are search parties that go out and everyone gets involved,’ she said. “But unfortunately, if one of us go missing or murdered, you have to hear it from us.” Jacobs serves on the board of the MMIW NC Coalition and is passionate about keeping the spirit of the NC MMIW alive.
Heartfelt activist and model Aminah Ghaffar, who is also on the board of MMIW NC Coalition, spoke about how this issue needs to stay relevant, and Sarah “Pony” Francois spoke about why this was the type of event that was needed. This was followed by members of the REDRUM motorcycle group speaking, who targeted their words directly to the men in the group.
“Men, we must do better to protect our women,” Barry from the REDRUM MC said. “I have learned a lot today, but the biggest thing I have learned is that we must step up and speak up, and we must protect our women better now.”
The audience members were all encouraged to wear MMIW t-shirts, or red in general, and after the program, congregated in the
parking area which had been reserved for the event for pictures and greetings.
“Raising Our Voices” was sponsored by The Lost Ones, a true crime podcast examining the unsolved 2012 homicide of 19-year-old Native American UNC student, Faith Danielle Hedgepeth. The series will follow an unnamed ‘Ghost Host’ as she attempts to unlock the answers of Faith’s case. Other sponsors included Vecino Brewing Company, MMIW NC Coalition, and other community partners.
In the United States, Native American women are more than twice as likely to experience violence than any other demographic. One in three Native women is sexually assaulted during her life, and 67% of these assaults are perpetrated by non-Natives. Contributing to this difficulty is the fact that many times when Indigenous women and girls go missing, or when Indigenous murder victims are unidentified, forensic evidence has not been accurately collected or preserved by local law enforcement. Cases have been allowed to quickly go “cold”, and crucial evidence has been “lost”, or never forwarded on from local law enforcement to the appropriate agencies.
*Photos are courtesy of Ivan Richardson
A. Kay Oxendine is from the Haliwa-Saponi and has been writing since she was eight. She just published her first two novels in 2019, and is working on her third, and has a set of children’s books about her family.