October 26, 2020 at 1:17 pm EDT | by Parker Purifoy
Baltimore Safe Haven music video to highlight murdered Black trans women
Baltimore Safe Haven on Oct. 23, 2020, recorded a music video in front of Baltimore City Hall that will highlight the murders of Black transgender women. (Photo courtesy of Iya Dammons/Baltimore Safe Haven)

Baltimore Safe Haven on Friday gathered at Baltimore City Hall with members of the community to shoot a music video to raise awareness for Black trans women who have been murdered in 2020. 

The video will show different struggles that Black trans women go through, including homelessness and drug addiction, founder and Executive Director Iya Dammons said. Participants showed up wearing all black and carrying protest signs and posters. 

Dammons said she hopes the video will address and bring awareness to the struggles her community faces. She said her community struggles to get health care, employment and housing because of the systemic racism and transphobia they face on a daily basis. 

According to Dammons, she started the Black Trans Lives Matter movement over the summer because the trans community was still facing discimination within the Black community. Baltimore Safe Haven has been holding protests since the killing of George Floyd in May. An image of their protest on June 2 was featured on the cover of Time magazine.

“Black lives can’t matter until all of the Black lives matter, including Black trans people,” Dammons told the Washington Blade. “We felt like we didn’t fit in their spectrum but we also understand the movement and we stand in solidarity with the movement. We’re not taking anything from the Black Lives Matter movement. But we’re out here dying at alarming rates, especially during the pandemic. So I took to the streets to put that message out.”

Dammons and one of her friends formed Baltimore Safe Haven in 2018. They were both sex workers at the time and Dammons said they wanted to make a difference in the city and provide resources for other trans people. The organization distributes food and provides housing to those in need in Baltimore. 

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in four trans people have lost a job due to bias, and more than 75 percent have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.

“Does my Black, trans life matter?” Dammons said. “I do not feel like I’m a part of this world, with a president who makes me feel like I’m not a part of anything like I can’t go to a health care provider, without being misgendered or without someone checking my genitals.”

At least 33 trans or gender nonconforming people have been murdered in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Human Rights Campaign. 

Dammons said these murders have made her more afraid for her life.

“I stay right under the lights if I have to walk out at night because I’m scared I could be next,” she said. “We are in a state of emergency when it comes to Black and brown trans women of color. So I’m afraid for myself, I’m afraid for any of my trans counterparts who are out there living in society, anywhere throughout the United States.”

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