Baltimore Safe Haven, a nonprofit organization that provides food, shelter and other services for the area’s LGBTQ community, held a Black Trans Lives Matter protest rally and march on June 5.
The event was one of many held in Baltimore and nationally following the killing of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Murder charges were filed against them, including Derek Chauvin who faces an additional second-degree murder charge for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for close to nine minutes, resulting in his death.
Iya Dammons, founder and executive director of Baltimore Safe Haven, led the diverse audience in a series of supportive chants while a panel held up images of slain black trans individuals and spoke to the crowd.
“We need the community of black people to step up,” Dammons told the Washington Blade. “This is not just about Baltimore Safe Haven, this is about the community as a whole.”
A crowd of around 200 attended the event, reported The Baltimore Sun. Ruby Corado, the executive director and founder of D.C.’s Casa Ruby, was also present and assisted organizers.
“It’s time that we say Black Trans Lives Matter are in Black Lives Matter, too,” said Rev. Merrick Moses, a Baltimore religious leader and LGBTQ activist who was invited to read a prayer at the rally. “Because oftentimes we feel left out and we are interjecting ourselves right now that we matter, too.”
Akil Patterson, an advocacy consultant for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation who said Baltimore Safe Haven receives funding from the foundation, also assisted with the rally and march.
“I’m a gay black man that’s cisgender and who uses they/them and he/him pronouns,” Patterson, who ran for the Baltimore City Council in last week’s Democratic primary, said. “I feel there needs to be more black people here because I feel that if we’re not here for our brothers and sisters and siblings of gender-nonconforming identities, then where will we be at when they are murdered?”
One trans woman speaker on the panel during the rally said she was there to “say our final goodbyes to our brother Tony McDade,” while another asked “Why doesn’t my life have value in their eyes?”
McDade was a black trans man killed by police officers in Tallahassee, Fla., two days after Floyd.
WTXL, a local Tallahassee news station, on Friday reported the city is moving forward with releasing the officer’s name after initially stating the officer’s identity was protected under a crime victim law.
Keyayshia, a black trans woman and Baltimore native who participated in the event, also spoke to the Blade.
“You cannot have a Black Lives Movement unless every black life is valued. And these black trans women’s lives,” she said while pointing to the pictures scattered in the grass which included Ashanti Carmon and Zoe Spears who were murdered in Fairmount Heights in 2019. “Were not valued.”
“We’re not changing the narrative,” Dammons said after the march had ended. “We stand together as a community. Include us. We’re including you.”