VCU Students and community members gather to honor lost black trans lives
Richmond’s Black Action Now held a Black Trans Lives Matter Rally last night and VCU students community members from as far as Charlottesville came out to show solidarity against trans violence affecting communities of color.
In a year where trans lives have already been lost to ignorance, prejudice, and unwarranted violence, this march brought out a powerful crowd who made their stance against trans violence clear.
As the New York City Anti-Violence Project noted in February, at this time last year there were zero known homicides of Trans women in the US.
As of now there are at least seven.
2015 also marks two years since the disappearance of Black Trans woman Sage Smith in Charlottesville, whose case is only just beginning to gain national attention after years of rallying and petitioning by Smith’s friends and family members.
Sage Smith’s disappearance and the shooting death of Black Trans woman Lamia Beard in Norfolk in January of this year show how violence against trans lives of color has permeated into Central Virginia, and how much last night’s march meant to not just our campus but our state.
The group first gathered at VCU’s Compass, where the organizers took some time to honor the lives that had been lost. JI Pressley, a local activist and Black Trans man, spoke about the need for students, organizers, and local community members to bind together and work together against hatred in society.
“Today we stand to commemorate all of those lives. Not necessarily as a sad moment, but just as more fuel to our fire, because we have more work to do. We have to get out there, we have to be seen, we cannot just go to the club and call it a day because that’s not where all the work stops. We got to get out in the streets, we got to talk to the young people, we got to let them know that their lives matter,” said Pressley. “Whether they be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, questioning, intersex, all of it. The whole scope of it. We got to get into this fight together, we got to erase the dividing lines.”
From there, the march went down up Harrison Street and down Broad Street, and ended in Monroe Park.
This march also came at the heels of the most recent instance of police violence against people of color in the United States, where in South Carolina, police officer and now convicted murderer Michael Slager shot and killed an unarmed Black man, Walter Scott, over a traffic stop.
“Even when we discuss specific issues that affect the black community, they tend to focus on black cisgender heterosexual men,” said Ashleigh Shackelford, one of the group’s organizers. “Black Action Now seeks to represent issues that affect all black people and all identity politics.”
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