June 27, 2020 at 9:54 am EDT | by Michael Key
Activists in Black Trans March call for justice
Black trans activists and allies march and ride in a caravan through the streets of Washington, D.C. on June 26, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Activists from No Justice No Pride, HIPS and Baltimore Safe Haven organized a march and caravan to celebrate the lives and efforts of Black transgender and gender non-conforming people on Friday. The march began near Gallaudet University at Brentwood Hamilton Park at the corner of Penn Street and 6th Street, NE and culminated in a rally at Freedom Plaza.

While marching though the streets of Northeast D.C., activists chanted, “Black trans, they matter here — Black queers, they matter here!”

Marchers voiced their objections to the actions and tactics of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the criminalization of sex work. Activists chanted, “hey hey, ho ho: MPD has got to go!” and “Back up, back up. We want freedom, freedom. All these killer-ass cops, we don’t need ’em, need ’em.”

Kimberlee Taylor of No Justice No Pride and the Black Youth Project 100 addressed the crowd, invoking the names of trans women murdered in the D.C. area, “my God has been with me every step of the way, and I just want to say, rest in peace to my trans sisters who did not make it from these streets. Black trans lives matter. Rest in peace Zoe, rest in peace Ashanti, rest in peace Shay, rest in peace Deoni, rest in peace Na Na Boo . . . and many more. How many more lives have to drop to get America to understand that we are human too? And we still manage to love through all the hate that we get. When is it going to stop?”

Shereese Mone of HIPS stood on a flatbed truck with a megaphone pressed to a microphone and said, “It takes a lot to be trans. It takes a lot to be Black. It takes a lot to stand forward in broad daylight and say I am a nine to five worker and I need income. It is hard to survive when you are on supplements and little bits of food that they are syphoning off to you. I don’t need a stipend. I want a 401(k)!”

The crowd roared in applause and Mone continued, “I want to learn to read grants, understand grants, write grants. I want to learn how to be productive for myself so I don’t have to do sex work. But in the meantime, sex work is getting me to where I need to be. I am not homeless anymore. I am not struggling anymore. I am understanding who I am and what my worth is! And this is my worth. My worth is trans community — uplifting the trans community, helping the trans community to go further, to work harder, to strive harder, to be seen, to be noticed, to be heard!”

MPD officers riding on police motorcycles and in police vehicles escorted the marchers, stopping traffic as the activists proceeded through NOMA and Penn Quarter, past Judiciary Square and then onto Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

Following the march, approximately 100 activists gathered at Freedom Plaza across from the Wilson Building which houses the D.C. government.

No Justice No Pride activist Taylor said to the crowd, “as far as being trans women— we didn’t choose this life, it chose us. Understand that within the Black community we have a gap within our own community. Us as trans people and the straight black community: we’re divided — not only with racism but with [trans]phobia as well. So, it takes on two points of the struggle. I just believe that if we can come together . . . as a people to have an understanding with each other to be able to live and love each other then we can move forward.”

Activists in the march and caravan held on Friday call for the decriminalization of sex work and the defunding of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Michael Key has worked as a photojournalist for the Washington Blade since 2009 and is currently serving as the photo editor. He has worked on Capitol Hill, in the White House, on the campaign trail and in cities along the East Coast taking iconic photos documenting the extension of marriage benefits to same-sex couples, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and other events of interest to the LGBT community. Follow Michael

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