And those are just some of the attacks we know of. Many more go unreported and garner little to no media attention. Aug. 12 marked the 10-year anniversary of the deaths of Ukea Davis and Stephanie Thomas, two transgender teenagers who were murdered execution style in Washington, D.C. Each of them was shot 10 times in the head and upper body.
By the time medical rescue workers arrived at the corner of 50th and C streets SE, both victims were dead. They died at the same corner where Tyra Hunter, another African-American transgender woman, lay dying after a car crash in 1995 as fire department medical technicians laughed and withdrew emergency care upon discovering that she was transgender.
Davis’ and Thomas’ murders remain unsolved.
“I’m appalled at how little has been done by the black and civil rights communities to fight for and protect transgender women,” says the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus. “It’s time to break our silence and mobilize the way we did for Occupy Wall Street and Trayvon Martin.”
Some mobilization has been taking place within the black LGBT community. For instance, the TransFaith in Color Conference, an empowerment-and-networking summit for transgender people of color and their allies, recently took place in Charlotte, N.C.
But the black LGBT community cannot and should not have to do this work alone. When transgender women do fight back in an attempt to defend themselves, they risk being criminalized by a system that doesn’t have their best interests in mind. A system that has for centuries ravaged communities of color. A system we must all challenge.
Take CeCe McDonald, for instance, a black transgender hate-crime survivor currently being housed in a men’s facility. After being verbally and physically assaulted, McDonald fatally stabbed her attacker in alleged self-defense. She later accepted a plea deal to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 41 months in a male prison, where she will be subjected to physical and sexual assault — a blatant example of institutional biases against black and transgender people.
“It is unfortunate that in CeCe’s case, as in so many, the hate crime itself was overlooked entirely,” explains Kylar Broadus, executive director of the Trans People of Color Coalition, an NBJC board member and the first transgender person to testify before the Senate about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. “On top of blaming and prosecuting the victim, she is placed in harm’s way once again. We won’t rest until there is justice for our fallen black trans sisters who are disproportionally targeted and killed because of who they are. We won’t rest until there is justice for CeCe, Tiffany, Kendall, Ukea and Stephanie.”
Enough is enough. We must speak up and speak out. Now. How will you ensure that our family is not forgotten? Learn more about the upcoming OUT on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit here. It’s time to come together and own our collective power.
Kimberley McLeod is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer and LGBT advocate. She is director of communications and press secretary at the National Black Justice Coalition, as well as creator and editor of Elixher.com, a resource for multidimensional representations of black LGBT women.
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