About 50 transgender activists and their supporters held a prayer vigil outside D.C.’s Walter Washington Convention Center on Saturday, Sept. 27, on the final day that the Congressional Black Caucus held its annual legislative conference there.
Organizers said the event was part of a newly launched campaign called Black Trans Women’s Lives Matter and was intended to honor black and Latina trans women who were murdered this year, some of whom were victims of hate crimes.
Lead organizer Ashley Love, a black and Latina woman who identifies as a transsexual and intersex advocate and journalist from New York, said the event was also aimed at sending a message to black lawmakers attending the conference that the mainstream black social justice movement often ignores the plight of trans women of color.
“We held white roses to symbolize a ‘call for peace,’” Love told the Blade on Monday. “Eventually, all 50 of us joined hands in a circle and prayed not just for our fallen sisters and their loved ones, but for the elected officials inside the Convention Center to find the courage and morality to let go of their fear that often causes them to ignore this grave injustice,” she said.
“All black lives should matter, not just some,” she said.
Love was referring to the campaign called Black Lives Matter, which was organized by mainline black civil rights groups and black churches. The campaign emerged in response to the Aug. 9 incident in which a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, triggering a nationwide uproar.
“Black Trans Women’s Lives Matter, a national call for peace, is a social justice campaign drawing attention to America’s epidemic of male violence and hate crime murders targeting African American young girls and women in the transsexual and transgender communities,” a statement from organizers of that campaign says.
“We aim to defend our sisters from the misogynistic, transphobic and racist forces that fuel our oppression and to challenge the discriminatory laws and unjust courts that often fail us,” the statement says.
Among others that spoke at Saturday’s vigil at the Washington Convention Center was Ruby Corado, founder and director of Casa Ruby, an LGBT community center in D.C. with a special outreach to the trans community.
“There’s an epidemic of violence against trans women of color,” Corado told the Blade in a statement. “We suffer from disparities such as social exclusion, insufficient educational opportunities and economic marginalization. There needs to be more preventative measures and access to funding resources,” she said.
Others participating in the event included local trans activists Jeri Hughes, Darby Hickey, Caroline Temmermand, Tyler Grigsby and Karen Holmes.
The vigil took place shortly before the Congressional Black Caucus held its annual gala dinner in which President Obama was the keynote speaker. Obama made a reference to LGBT equality in his speech.
Love said the vigil was scheduled for Saturday rather than on one of the three previous days in which the Black Caucus held its meetings because many vigil participants would not have been able to attend during the week due to work schedules.