Richmond’s 8th Transgender Day of Remembrance Marked with Police Chief Appearance, New Location, and Local Names Being Read
Nearly a stones throw from the Capital Building in Downtown Richmond, about 200 people gathered at St. Paul’s Church to celebrate the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR).
TDoR is an annual event that celebrates and remembers the lives of those lost to horrific transphobic violence. The names of many of the victims, and their brief stories, are read during the ceremony. It is often detailed and brutal, but also a powerful reminder of the struggles faced by the trans community around the world.
This year marked the first time the event took place at the new location – but the ornate, Civil War era Episcopal Church was both beautiful and welcoming to the large number of attendees.
“On this day, on this night, we are especially mindful that each one of us is a child of God… as we stand together, as we pray.” said Wallace Adam Riley – Director of St. Paul’s Church. He opened the ceremony and welcomed the sizable crowd to the event. “Everyone regardless of age, race, sexuality, gender, where ever they are in their lives and whatever their identity, each and everyone of us is precious.”
The theme of valuing life and supporting those around you was repeated through out the night. JL Pressley, of Black Trans Men Incorporated, spoke at length about his own experience as a member of the trans community and the struggles he’s faced and seen.
“We have a right to be proud. Too many of our sisters and brothers have been murdered at the hands of ignorance and taken their own lives,” said Pressley. “But today we must take a stand and know there is a reason and purpose.”
Wes McWillen, one of the TDoR organziers, explained the history of the event. It began as a web project inspired by the unsolved death of a trans-woman from Boston in November 1998. By November the next year, the web project, “Remembering Our Dead” had grown in its power and influence, and the first candlelight vigil was held in San Fransisco – it has been held on November 20th around the world ever since. The Remember Our Dead project continues to collect names of those trans folks who have been murdered.
Locally, the event started when the Richmond Queer Space project gathered a small group of trans activists and allies in 2005. They held an outdoor vigil and small march through the Fan neighborhood. In 2007, the community gathered together and began a more structured TDOR event. Its been held every November 20th ever since.
This year’s name reading was particularly heavy as several names from Richmond were read at the event. Sage Smith, a Charlottesville trans women who went missing last November 20th, Tara Hill, a Richmond area trans women who took her life in July of this year, and finally, Amari Hill White, a South Side Richmond trans women who was found murdered last week.
Photo by Kontra RVA
At the end of the ceremony, attendees were invited to bring lighted candles to the steps of the church and hold them toward the capital building.
This display was made all the more powerful when Richmond Police Chief Ray J. Tarasovic and RPD LGBT Liaison Maj. Odetta Johnson appeared before the crowd and read a proclamation from City Council and Mayor Dwight Jones that declared November 20th Richmond Transgender Day of Remembrance.
“Odetta and I are honored to be here.” said Tarasovic before reading the proclamation.
“To recognize the honor, and celebrate the diversity, shared humanity, and civil rights of our entire community and all of its residence,” read Tarasovic.
“It’s important to not pretend that Richmond is exempt from that, and acknowledge that fear exists.”November 16, 2016
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