I Just Wanna Say My Sisters’ Names

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You know that feeling when you look at your phone, and you just got too many missed calls, and you get those like butterflies in your stomach?

That’s how this day was.

It was 2014, summer after my rookie year with the Clippers. I had just finished working out in L.A. with one of my best friends, and when I checked my phone I saw that I had missed a bunch of calls. I had one from my sister Keiosha. One from my mom. And then one from a Baltimore number I didn’t recognize. And there was a voicemail, too. Like, Yeah, this is Detective so and so. I need you to call me back at this number when you get this message.

I called my sister back first. She was crying. She said my older sister, Mia, was dead. Somebody had taken her life. 

Just like that, she was gone. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it to this day.

I don’t care who you are, how tough you think you are. Hearing something like that will tear out your whole heart. You not the same after that call. Never.

I flew home to North Carolina to be with Keiosha, my mom, and everybody immediately. I was obviously devastated. I was struggling. But I had to keep it together. I was Big Bro, you know? I knew I didn’t have time to break down, if that makes sense. I had to be there for them.

When you lose somebody in your life, that’s always hard. But when that person is taken from this earth?? 

Man, let me tell y’all something real quick about me and my sister. Mia was my homegirl. My big sis. She was so comfortable in her own skin that, I think in a way it just made me be more myself, too. I knew that there was trans hate out there, but I just wish I had known more about what my sister was going through on the daily. When she died, I felt like I had failed to protect her. Like I had failed to be the big brother.

When you are grieving something like that, the only thing you can do is lean on your family, the people who are going through it with you. No one else can understand that kind of heartache.

So after Mia passed, my little sister Keiosha became my rock. She moved in with me a couple years later, when I was in Detroit, and started traveling with me to all my games. She would always be in the front row cheering me on, and I’d see her every day when I got home from practice. We processed Mia’s death together and as painful as it was not having her with us, we started picking up the pieces and finding a way forward.

Then in 2019, everything changed. 

It was October, and we were on the road in Orlando. I was actually hurt, so I wasn’t playing that night. Keiosha stayed back in Baltimore, but I had my two youngest siblings at the game with me.

We processed Mia’s death together.

Reggie Bullock

You know how in the movies, when there’s like an explosion or something, and all the sound disappears, and there’s just like this really loud ringing noise?? 

That’s what it was like. That’s pretty much all I remember from that night. 

I still haven’t been able to put all the pieces together. All I know is, one minute, Keiosha’s on FaceTime with my youngest sister. They talking about the game and everything’s good. Next thing I know, it’s halftime and my sister is telling me, “Keiosha got shot, Keiosha got shot, Keiosha got shot.” 

And my whole world is stopped. 

I’m just like ... floating in space. The fans probably yelling. My siblings crying. But I didn’t hear nothing. Just that loud-ass ringing in my head.

No words. No tears. Just that sound.

Sometimes looking at a picture or smelling something will bring back a memory of either Mia or Keiosha, and I’ll close my eyes tight and try and hold it there.

Like I’ll smell some perfume or something and have a flashback to the church we all grew up in.

My grandmother was a minister and her last name is Williams, so everybody at church used to call us the “Williams kids.” Yo, I remember my grandmama always tried to have us sittin’ up at the very front of the church! Every preacher’s kid know what I’m talking about, man. I wasn’t really tryna do all that, so I’d always sneak to the back in the middle of the program. Sometimes, when it was time to bow our heads and pray, I would just fall asleep. I would be out.

Church was just not my thing as a kid. But it was Mia’s. That’s where I remember her being the happiest when we were growing up. I think that’s why those are some of my most vivid memories. I remember the red pulpit, where the pastor would stand, with red chairs and one really big one that looked like a king was supposed to sit up there. The white ceilings. The red seats where the choir would be. The deacons standing off to the left-hand side. I mean, I can remember it down to the smell. How all the old ladies’ perfumes would kinda mix in the air with the smell of the old wooden pews.

Mia was the head of the praise dance team, so she was always more focused on Sundays. I think she understood the sentiment a lot more because she was a little older, but all I know is she loved church. That was her thing. 

I remember a lot of her church performances. But there’s one specific one that really sticks with me. When I close my eyes, that’s the memory I’m trying to bring back. I don’t remember the song that was playing, but I know it must have been some Black church hymn. And I don’t really remember a lot of the moves. I just remember this one moment, where Mia was in front of the pulpit, and she just went running and twirling like a ballet dancer up and down the aisle of the church.

I can’t even explain why that sticks out in my head. It’s just like ... she was just her full self in that moment, you know? No shame, no fear. No burdens or nothing. That’s the kind of person Mia was. She could completely let go, without any fear. It was like we weren’t even there watching her. It was like she was free, which I think was just different from her daily reality. 

Reggie Bullock | New York Knicks | The Players' Tribune
Courtesy of Reggie Bullock

We were originally from Baltimore, and moved to Kinston, North Carolina, when we were little. But we’d go back during the summers and everything.

Everybody knows what Baltimore is like. I don’t have to say it was a rough area. I don’t have to get into it. It’s Gun Central. Shit, it’s Violence Central, period. Just knowing about what happened to my sister Mia, what happened to so many other transgender women all over the city of Baltimore…. There’s a lot of cold cases that haven’t even been solved. Never will be. They ain’t done nothing about it for years and still ain’t gon’ do nothing about it.

So that’s where we’re from. That’s just what it was. But my sisters were strong and could stand up for themselves. I was proud of the women they were. Mia was very outspoken. She didn’t take no junk. She was a lover at heart, but she protected her own. People knew around the town that she wasn’t playing no games.

There’s a lot of cold cases that haven’t even been solved. Never will be.

Reggie Bullock

And Keiosha could hold her own, too. She actually wanted to be a boxer for a while. That’s how Keiosha was in life, man. Just a very strong woman. She had my nephew Carson at 19, and I watched her grow so much. She and Carson’s dad really tried to buckle down and make a better life for their son. They were great parents to my lil nephew.

You know what’s funny? The memory that comes to mind the quickest with Keiosha is that she was always on that phone lol. She stayed on Facebook. That was probably her favorite app. You gotta remember, she was just a baby herself. And she took a lot of pictures.

I didn’t understand it at first, all the pictures and everything. I thought it was just young people stuff. But I get it now. And I’m so thankful that she captured all those moments, even the goofy selfies we would take together.

You never know when it’s all gonna be gone.

My sisters are gone. Really gone from this world. 

Mia was 26. Stabbed to death in Baltimore.

Keiosha was 22. Shot to death in Baltimore. 

I’ve lost two sisters in the past seven years of my life to senseless violence. The kind of stuff we grew up around, the kind of stuff I tried to protect them from.

To this day, it feels so crazy to see that in writing. It doesn’t seem real. 

There was a suspect in Mia’s murder, and the case went to trial, but that person wasn’t convicted. They couldn’t find the exact murder weapon or something. It’s all so blurry. I don’t understand it. I really don’t understand it still to this day.

That’s the thing ... when someone gets killed, it doesn’t play out like on TV. It don’t all get resolved in the last episode. All the court stuff is just really messy, and maybe you never get justice, and you can either let that eat you up inside, or you can find ways to honor the lives you lost.

And, you know, I guess that’s why I wanted to write something about my sisters for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

I don’t want to preach or nothing. I don’t have some big public service announcement about gun violence. And I don’t have all the answers about how to make communities safer. I just wanna try and treat this as a day of remembrance, if that’s alright with y’all. 

I just want to say my sisters’ names. That way they live on through their memory.

Reggie Bullock | New York Knicks | The Players' Tribune
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Mia was trans, and she dealt with a lot of negativity because of that. And I think she probably died because of it, too.

One of the hardest things about her passing is realizing that even though, as her family, we all showed her love and support, there’s just so much we didn’t know. So much that maybe we should have asked her more about. Like what she went through on the daily. I think she probably bottled a lot in. She didn’t want us to know about different issues that she was going through in her private life.

It’s the not knowing that keeps me up at night, you know? 

I had a lot of questions in my head after she left this earth. Late at night I’d just be lying in bed thinking like, What did she actually deal with? What were her frustrations?

And so, I just want to use my platform to try and shed light on the issues transwomen face as well, especially Black transwomen, and keep fighting for them.

Look, this stuff I’m writing about…. It’s really, really hard to go deep into these dark memories over and over again. You naturally just want to compartmentalize it. To move on as quickly as possible. You don’t wanna close your eyes and picture the ugly parts. You just wanna remember the light. But as hard as it is to dig this stuff back up, I can’t see this happen to someone else I know. I can’t get another phone call. I can’t close my eyes and picture somebody else, gone too soon. 

Nobody should ever have their life taken from them at 22, at 26.

How to stop all the violence and the death that goes on in Baltimore is beyond me. But I’m just sick and tired of it. I just wish that things were different.

Nobody should ever have their life taken from them at 22, at 26.

Reggie Bullock

I guess my question to the men and women in Congress is really just ... WHY? 

Why won’t you take more action on gun reform? Background checks, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act … There’s so much that could be done to make a difference and save lives!

That’s all I got, man. 

I wish things were different. I wish I still had my sisters here. 

But no matter what, nobody can ever take away the memories I have of the good times we had. The joy, the laughter. Those are mine.

I remember on draft night, we rented out this lil gym at the community center in Kinston. I stayed home, with all my friends and family, and we watched it together. I will never forget the look on Mia’s face when they called my name. I’ll never forget it. Reggie Bullock. Just knowing what I was going to be able to do for our family now, I just looked at her, and I could see on her face that pride

She had a big smile.

A big smile.

Memories like that, you can’t take them away. They live forever.

Reggie Bullock | New York Knicks | The Players' Tribune