The first photo many of us saw of Breonna Taylor was her in an EMT uniform, standing proudly with flowers in Louisville Metro Hall. It was a happy photo, a beautiful one. It’s just not the only photo that Ju’Niyah Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s sister, wants us to see of her.
“I don’t like that you only see her in her work uniform. I want people to see when she didn’t get dressed up and she would be outside. Or when she’s dressed up and going outside. I want y’all to see that she’s more than this person that worked as an EMT, she was still just an average person,” said Ju’Niyah Palmer.
This was part of the reason that Ju’Niyah Palmer started posting pictures and videos of Breonna Taylor to her Instagram (@ju.niyah). The posts show Breonna Taylor in her car, singing to the camera under the glow of Snapchat filters. They depict her dressed up for a night out and chilling on the couch with her beloved Granny.
They show the different facets of Breonna Taylor, a completed portrait of who she was as a person. Not just the story of her work history and death — a Black woman at home, shot and killed by Louisville police in a horrifically botched and unnecessary raid.
Another reason Ju’Niyah Palmer started filling her feed with photos of her sister was to combat a narrative that Breonna deserved what happened to her.
“I keep posting to get people to understand she really was this innocent person,” Ju’Niyah Palmer said. “It’s not like we were fabricating. Because some people will lie. And it’s not that we were fabricating or anything. I just want them to know that anything we do and say about her is genuinely true. A lot of people are still going off, based off what LMPD said. But a lot of people aren’t paying attention. That has already been called out that LMPD has lied and continues to lie.”
Then, there’s a part of Ju’Niyah Palmer who posts about Breonna Taylor for herself: To remember her sister, even if it hurts.
“Sometimes, it makes me sad,” said Ju’Niyah Palmer. “Sometimes, I look at them, and I just want to be able to be grateful that, A) she was my sister, and I actually got to her know her. I mean, at the end of the day, it still makes me sad.”
As the anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s killing approaches, one year without her, we would like to show you Breonna the person, Breonna the sister, Breonna the caretaker and more — through Ju’Niyah Palmer’s words and photos. Her quotes have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
My mom was 16 when she had Breonna. Breonna was a very good baby. She wasn’t anything like me because I was a crybaby. [Mom] said Breonna was a quiet and observant baby. If I’m not mistaken, my mom had moved out and got her own place. But it was her and Breonna. Of course, she always had my Granny, though.
Mom always did our hair. I don’t know as far as Breonna but for me, I didn’t like getting my hair done. I always didn’t. I didn’t like it. Well Breonna, even though, for the most part, from what I could remember, Breonna actually liked getting her hair done. If she could walk around with ponytails, she would.
I think we were at Muskegon Beach in Michigan. We were still living in Michigan. So Muskegon Beach is actually pretty close to Grand Rapids. Because I know growing up that we used to drive to the beaches a lot because that’s all we had. Like, that was our beach for us. You know how most people have Florida? That was our Florida for us.
We would swim, play in the sand. We would stay at least four to five hours. It would be me, my mom, my grandma and my aunties and their kids. It’s very much spontaneous. It just depended on off-days. We both were waterbugs. So we loved the fact that we were at the water. And we would go and swim. And we actually would get in trouble because we wouldn’t get out of the water.
My aunt used to say that Breonna used to think I was her baby, though. Like, Breonna, in her mind, she was my mom. Even though my mom was my mom.
I’m pretty sure she got caught having snacks, because that arm is behind her back. I swear she got caught getting in the snacks. And I’m pretty sure my Granny just took the picture and was like yeah, we caught ‘ya. It was spontaneous. Breonna didn’t usually always take snacks. I was the snacker. [Breonna] would have laughed it off and would’ve just kind of made a joke about it. My grandmother would have thought it was funny.
My sister, I don’t know. She was always quiet growing up. She was always quiet. She’s observing what’s around her, but she’s also in her own world.
I can just say, me and my sister were complete opposites.
That was her first computer. She had got it for her birthday. In this, I think she was on the internet actually in this picture. She used to just get on her computer and do whatever she wanted to do. We definitely had games, because I used to play Life. And then she used to get mad because I wouldn’t get off the computer because I was playing Life.
She played Life, Monopoly, that one little game, where you’ve got to, I don’t know what it’s called. Pinball? Pinball, yeah.
When I used to play in our room, Breonna did not play with me, I know that much. She used to read a lot. She used to read Harry Potter, and I used to think she was very weird. Those books are too thick. We’d be in the same room, but she’d be occupied with what she was doing and I would be occupied with what I was doing. I had a lot of toys. Every time we went to the store, I came home with a toy. I do know I tried to play with her Easy-Bake Oven one time and she told me no.
I can tell we were at my cousin’s house, because that’s her in the background. And I’m pretty sure my Granny was like, I don’t know, get the siblings next to each other. Because I know in the photo album, all my cousins were in a picture together. So I’m pretty sure my granny was just taking pictures. That, oh my god. That lady, oh my god — take pictures of every and anything. Capture every moment.
We all lived in the same apartments. I know food used to be involved. We’d cook. All the kids would play together. It was a lot of fun. Because at one point, I guess all of our family moved to the same apartment complex. And we would all just play together. It was like five older kids, which would be Breonna’s age. It was like five of them, and but, it was like, no exaggerating, 20 of us younger ones. Everybody used to separate to their age group. And everybody would split. I know the older kids used to be on their phones. I don’t know what they used to be upstairs doing, because I used to be downstairs playing. Breonna is the oldest. But it seems like all the cousins, they all was born that same year, it’s just after Breonna.
I remember this Christmas for some odd reason. We had opened our Christmas gifts and all we heard at the door was a knock. And me and Breonna were like OK, whatever. My mom came, went and opened the door and in came that motorcycle box behind us. And the motorcycle I’m sitting on, I got a motorcycle from my granddad. Breonna got the DVD player, and she got some canvas stuff. We got a whole bunch of stuff from my granddad. This was like early afternoon. We was those 7 o’clock kids that got up.
The day was more of, my Granny used to cook. Of course, we opened presents. And everybody would come over to my Granny’s house, because my Granny was the most spirited when it came to Christmas. She used to have the big, big trees. She used to decorate the house, the trees, the things. She used to have Christmas music playing.
Holidays were big. People celebrate Easter, but I don’t think anybody used to do Easter as big as my family. Like, it was the dyeing of the eggs, the Easter egg hunts. It was my Granny baking cakes, my Granny cooking a full-course meal. It was big.
As I got older, it became my sister. The way when I was younger, it was always my Granny that kept everybody together and made everybody do everything. As we got older, it was always Breonna trying to make sure the family got together for every holiday. ‘Cus my granny got older and then eventually she passed, so it turned into Breonna’s job. She made sure we got together for holidays. She didn’t even care if it was a regular weekend. If ain’t nobody doing nothing, we should all just come together. Breonna was just very, she loved family.
My aunt Tiffany had just got married to her husband Mark. And we were living in Kentucky at the time, but I know we had traveled back to Michigan. We traveled to Detroit for the wedding.
We moved to Kentucky… 2008. We always went back. We went back a lot actually. We had family here, too. But, the majority of the family was in Michigan.
That was a really big day. Because that was, to my knowledge, that was our first wedding ever going to. We were real happy, because, you know, we got to wear makeup, these beautiful dresses. We were very excited about that day.
Breonna got her hair cut her senior year. So Breonna had to be 18. She still was quiet, but at this time, she started being more social with her friends. She would go out. But the one thing about Breonna, she would never stay the night at her friend’s house. She would always come home. All the time. She just wasn’t big on staying the night over at other people’s houses. She just wanted to be at home in her own comfort.
So, she had moved away to college. Breonna had left and gone to college at University of Kentucky that August. And, of course ,we used to Skype and stuff. But after she came home that next semester, we got extremely close. Like, super duper close. I became her shadow. I literally became her shadow. If it was anything that I could possibly do, I would go with her. Unless she told me no. I used to go to the mall with her. I used to hang out with her and her friends. I just did everything with her.
She was home. She didn’t last at college, because Breonna…she didn’t like UK. She came home and went to JCTC. But Breonna, she didn’t like staying anywhere but home. So her being not at home wasn’t for her. She was gone for a semester.
Breonna and my grandmother, if we had to say my Granny had a favorite, it would be Breonna — between Breonna and my other cousin. Breonna and my grandmother were very close. Because, of course, my grandmother was a diabetic, so Breonna used to help take care of my Granny even growing up. Like, Breonna used to give my Granny her insulin shots. She used to check my Granny’s blood sugar. Anything to make sure my grandmother was staying afloat. My mom said Breonna would pretty much just did it on her own. It just came in life. She literally just done it. It was never a, ‘Breonna, can you do this?’ She used to ask my Granny could she take her sugar and stuff.
They’re very much similar. My Granny was very nice. So was Breonna. They both were sweethearts actually. And they both wanted the best for everybody, literally. They both would take their shirt off and give it to people. They actually, pretty much if you ask me, were kind of like the same person. But, my grandmother wasn’t as shy and reserved as Breonna was.
My mom and my sister are opposites, too. Me and my mom are alike, and Breonna and my Granny are alike. Very spunky. My mom is very well outspoken. My mom is very outgoing. She’s more mean than Breonna is, or was. So, my mom has her sweetheart moments, but she’s very, I don’t know, she intimidates people. She doesn’t intimidate me, but she’s very intimidating. And her and Breonna were opposites. It’s just weird.
I mean, everybody bumps heads with their parents. It was never anything. It was never nothing not normal. It was the normal parent relationship. But, I will say Breonna and my mom were closer than me and my mom are. It had a lot to do with —they kind of, like, grew up together.
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Ju’Niyah, 17; Breonna, 23
We were listening to “Squares Out Your Circle” by Rocko. Anytime I had music on my phone, she used to make me download it on hers. We would listen to music on the regular in the house.
That day, I actually went out with her and Kenny [Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend] and a friend of theirs that they had together. We hung out at the park this day. And here in Louisville on Sundays, a lot of people gather at the park and hung out. So we had actually hung out and went out to eat that day and went to the park. I think we went to, what’s the name of that park, Chickasaw? Yeah, Chickasaw. There, it’s just a big, everybody comes out, they bring their good cars out. We actually parked in the parking lot. My mom was there, too, actually. We parked in the parking lot, and we were watching the cars and just talking.
I actually liked living with my sister a lot. I enjoyed living over there. I liked everything, literally. There’s nothing I could just pinpoint. I liked living over there. I mean, I always had a lot of freedom, but I just, I don’t know. I just loved staying over there. I didn’t have my mom getting on my nerves all day every day.
That day, she stressed me out. I wanted to pull my hair out. She stressed me out. She just wanted to make sure everything went great and that I enjoyed it. This picture was taken downtown here in Louisville at the Belvedere.
She was really excited for me, because, like, I had had — senior year was a hard year, because I lost my Granny. We had just lost my grandmother that November, and I was already having a hard time. And I was very ambitious on me paying for everything. Like, I paid to get my hair done, my makeup, my nails, my dress. I wanted to be very independent, and she kept wanting to put her two cents in, put money in. And I was like, no, let me just do this myself. The only thing I let her do was put my rental in her name. But other than that, I didn’t want her doing anything. Like, I wanted to be very much independent for that year.
Now, if I could go back, I would have let her. If you asked anybody in my family they’d say that day I was being very a big a-hole, because I wanted to make sure everything was precise. And, I just wanted to make sure everything was the way I wanted it to go. If I could go back, I would let her have helped me, because I was broke after that.
And she took so many pictures of me that day. I had to fake smile, because she kept taking pictures. Before I ever got to the actual prom venue, she had sent me 1,000 pictures. I think it was just because she loved dressing up, and I don’t. I think that was her thing.
It was my mom’s motorcycle club. They were having a party on The Belle of Louisville. And, I was actually able to go for the first time in my life. So I went and I went with them. Actually, we had pretty much a lot of fun that night. My mom and my sister kept dancing, and I kept trying to tell them they couldn’t dance. I told them they were embarrassing. They can twerk, but they can’t dance.
The motorcycle club is basically a group of people. They ride motorcycles together, they do events together. It’s kind of like us having a second family and brothers and sisters.
So they were just all close. And they always treated me and Breonna like we were their nieces. And that picture, Breonna has on my mom’s jacket, and I had on my mom’s friend’s jacket.
That night, my sister and Kenny was in the car rapping. Rapping in the car on their way home. It was funny. We got home at one that night. He was there that entire night, too. He was asleep on the boat.
If I could, I would go back and enjoy the moment even more.