D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and four members of the City Council joined more than 100 people Saturday night for the second annual memorial rally for slain transgender woman Deoni JaParker Jones.
Jones’ family members organized the event at the parish hall of St. Luke Roman Catholic Church at 4925 E. Capitol St., S.E., less than two blocks from a bus stop where Jones was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2012, in a development that shocked the city’s LGBT community.
Judean Jones and Alvin Bethea, Deoni Jones’ mother and stepfather, said they have sought to channel their pain and sadness over the loss of their daughter into a positive effort to change hearts and minds and build understanding and support for trans people and the LGBT community.
“God chose to take Deoni,” Bethea told the gathering. “That’s the way we look at it. And we continue to see to it that transgender people get a fair shot at life and a fair shot at jobs,” he said.
Bethea announced the launching of the Deoni Jones Foundation, which he said his family and supporters plan to use to help strengthen efforts to combat anti-LGBT violence.
Saturday’s memorial gathering took place one day after a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled that Gary Niles Montgomery, 57, the D.C. man charged with first-degree murder while armed in connection with Deoni Jones’ death, is mentally competent to stand trial.
Judge Robert E. Morin’s decision on Friday reversed an earlier ruling that Montgomery was not competent to stand trial. He said his latest ruling was based on the findings of a mental competency exam conducted at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the fourth such examination given to Montgomery since the time of his arrest two weeks after Deoni Jones’ murder.
Morin scheduled the trial to begin on Oct. 6, 2014.
Some LGBT activists have joined the Jones family in expressing concern that the U.S. Attorney’s office didn’t list Deoni Jones’ murder as a hate crime. Video footage from a city surveillance camera shows Montgomery stabbing her in the head with a knife and then taking her handbag. Bethea has said the brutality of Montgomery’s action went far beyond a simple robbery and had all the makings of someone targeting a trans person for murder.
“Deoni was going to be who she wanted to be,” he said, in noting that she chose not to hide her status as a trans woman. “She was not going to walk out of the house being something she was not.”
The City Council members participating in the Deoni Jones memorial rally on Saturday were David Catania (I-At Large), David Grosso (I-At-Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Each of them joined Gray in calling for continued efforts to secure the full rights and dignity of trans people by working hard to overcome hate and prejudice.
Also attending the event were Capt. Edward Delgado, commander of the D.C. Police Department’s Special Liaison Division, which includes the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit; and Officer Juanita Foreman, a member of the GLLU.
Others who spoke at the event included veteran trans activists Earline Budd and Jeri Hughes; Hassan Naveed, co-chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence; Je-Shawna Wholley, program manager for the national LGBT rights group National Black Justice Coalition and Ronald King, staff assistant to D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7).
Last August, Gray signed what activists have called a landmark bill approved by the City Council called the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013. Catania, the bill’s author, said chose the name to honor Jones. The bill removes obstacles to the process through which trans people change their birth certificate to reflect their new gender.