Each story is told in a matter of seconds and marked by the lighting of a candle, but the weight of the words floats to the back of the room with the scent of burning wicks. They are brutal dispatches describing unimaginable acts that reach from Brazil to Richmond. Two stories involve decapitation and a mob that tortured and then burned its victim. There’s mention of suicide and the unknown fate of Sage Smith, a Charlottesville resident who vanished in 2012.
Some 300 people have gathered in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to hear these 21 stories, part of the eighth annual international Transgender Day of Remembrance in November.
Just days before, Amari Hill, a 22-year-old trans woman, was gunned down in South Side. Her story and candle come last.
The crowd files outside to light more candles while it faces the State Capitol. Two police uniforms appear in the group’s midst to present a proclamation honoring the event: Richmond Police Chief Ray Tarasovic and Maj. Odetta Johnson, the department’s first liaison to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.