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Black trans woman Amarey Lej killed in Pennsylvania

A person identified by a local Trans activist and support group SisTers PGH as Amarey Lej, a 21-year-old Black trans woman

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Photo courtesy Facebook, SisTers PGH

WILKINSBURG, Pa. – Homicide detectives in Allegheny County are investigating the shooting death of a person identified by a local Trans activist and support group SisTers PGH as Amarey Lej, a 21-year-old Black trans woman.

CBS News Pittsburgh affiliate KDKA 2 reported that police say they responded to 1300 block of Wood Street around 6 a.m. Saturday morning, New Year’s Day in this suburban Pittsburgh borough for reports of a woman lying in the street. Police said she had suffered a fatal gunshot wound.

“Amarey was a bright woman and former student at Woodland Hills. We at SisTers PGH would like to send her fellow classmates our deepest condolences, but also our deepest gratitude, as you rose in protection of Amarey when she needed it most,” SisTers PGH said in a statement on Facebook.

Pittsburgh’s independent press outlet, The Pittsburgh City Paper noted:

Lej, who is also known as Myara, is one of at least a half dozen trans people of color to die untimely deaths over the last 12 months in the Pittsburgh region. Chyna Carrillo was killed in Lawrence County, an hour north of Pittsburgh, on Feb. 18, 2021 and siblings Jasmine Cannady and Jeffrey “JJ” Bright were killed in Ambridge, just 30 minutes from the city, on Feb. 22, 2021. Audura Belle also died earlier the same month due to lack of health care, according to statements from her friends and family. Angel Naira was killed in Aliquippa in November.”

Nationally this past year with 50 deaths of Trans people, especially of color, was the worst year yet in violence perpetuated against Trans Americans the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks the data recorded.

“Amarey was not the first, but it is up to every one of us to fight like hell to make sure she is the last,” reads the statement from SisTers PGH. “This is our time, as trans people and activists, to gather and engage in conversations regarding safety and policy. It is our time to demand not only justice for Amarey, but for all of us.”

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Pennsylvania

Philadelphia man sentenced to 15-30 years in prison for gay journalist’s murder

Robert Davis pleaded guilty to shooting Josh Kruger last October

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Josh Kruger (Photo courtesy of Kruger's Facebook page)

The man responsible for murder of gay journalist Josh Kruger, 39, last October in Philadelphia was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison on Monday.

Robert Davis, 20, who lived the city’s Point Breeze neighborhood, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and related offenses in a plea bargain worked out with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office prosecutors.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Davis’s guilty plea before Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Barbara A. McDermott also included counts of aggravated assault and illegal gun possession for firing a gun at someone on a SEPTA platform in late September.

Davis’s lawyer, Andrea Konow, could not be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner acknowledged Davis’s sentencing, but declined further comment.

Lieutenant Hamilton Marshmond of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Unit at the time of the shooting told reporters that Kruger was found lying in the street outside his Point Breeze home suffering from seven gunshot wounds. Responding officers rushed Kruger to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Davis’s older brother Jaylin Reason, told the Inquirer his brother appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and was acting erratically. While trying to calm Davis down, Reason said, they got into a fight. He realized, he said, that the best assistance he could offer his brother was helping him surrender to police.

“I didn’t want him to keep living outside and going around and doing something to put himself in a deeper hole,” he added. Reason told the paper that he calmed Davis down, and then asked his other brother to call the police. Together, they went outside, sat on the steps, and waited for 17th District officers to arrive. Davis surrendered and was taken into custody.

In a series of interviews in early October with the Inquirer, Davis’s family told the paper that a years-long sexual relationship involving drugs factored into the murder. Davis’s mother and older brother are alleging Kruger began a sexual and drug relationship with the teenager four years ago when Davis was 15.

Robert Davis, 20 (Booking photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Police Department)

Kruger wrote for publications like the Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, the Philadelphia Citizen, and the Philly Voice about LGBTQ rights, addiction, AIDS, and homelessness. He worked for the city of Philadelphia, including at the Office of Homeless Services, for five years.

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Pennsylvania

Malcolm Kenyatta could become the first LGBTQ statewide elected official in Pa.

State lawmaker a prominent Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign surrogate

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President Joe Biden, Malcolm Kenyatta, and Vice President Kamala Harris (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Following his win in the Democratic primary contest on Wednesday, Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is running for auditor general, is positioned to potentially become the first openly LGBTQ elected official serving the commonwealth.

In a statement celebrating his victory, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President Annise Parker said, “Pennsylvanians trust Malcolm Kenyatta to be their watchdog as auditor general because that’s exactly what he’s been as a legislator.”

“LGBTQ+ Victory Fund is all in for Malcolm, because we know he has the experience to win this race and carry on his fight for students, seniors and workers as Pennsylvania’s auditor general,” she said.

Parker added, “LGBTQ+ Americans are severely underrepresented in public office and the numbers are even worse for Black LGBTQ+ representation. I look forward to doing everything I can to mobilize LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians and our allies to get out and vote for Malcolm this November so we can make history.” 

In April 2023, Kenyatta was appointed by the White House to serve as director of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

He has been an active surrogate in the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign.

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Pennsylvania

Blade editor’s book reading canceled after threats in Lancaster, Pa.

Weekend bomb scare led to evacuations, drag story hour disruption

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(Book cover image courtesy of Amazon)

An April book reading in Lancaster, Pa., featuring author Kevin Naff, editor of the Washington Blade, and Nick Benton, owner and editor of the Falls Church News-Press, was canceled this week following bomb threats targeting the Lancaster Public Library on Saturday.

Police evacuated an area of downtown Lancaster on Saturday after multiple bomb threats were made targeting a drag queen story hour event at the Lancaster Public Library. After the threats were made, the event was canceled, according to a report from WGAL-TV. 

“We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our community as we work to process today’s events together,”  read a statement from Lancaster Pride. “While we support the freedom of speech, we stand firm and cannot and we will not let hate, fear, and intimidation stop our collective movement for love and support for all.”

Naff was scheduled to read from his book, “How We Won the War for LGBTQ Equality — And How Our Enemies Could Take It All Away,” at a Lancaster-area library event moderated by Benton on April 18. A library official declined to comment on the cancellation.

“I am disappointed by the cancellation but it was the right call given the recent threats targeting the LGBTQ community in Lancaster,” said Naff. “MAGA Republicans must dial back their rhetoric and their attacks on our community; they are dangerous and draconian and will cost lives.”

The event was planned as a fundraiser for the Quarryville Library after Fulton Township revoked its funding because the library carries LGBTQ-themed books. 

“I think everyone is a little bit surprised. We are in a conservative area so everyone has their own beliefs but as the public library we are here to serve everyone,” interim director of the library Sarah Bower told WHTM News in November after the funding was canceled.

Johnny Weir, the Olympic figure skater and commentator, is from Quarryville and later donated $1,000 to the library. Weir was supporting Naff’s April 18 event and promoting it on social media. 

“It is a sad reality that fear generated by threats of violence that have escalated in the Trump era is stifling the public’s access to a free and open sharing of views, an outcome that is in absolutely no one’s best interest,” said Benton.  

To donate to the Quarryville Library, visit: https://quarryvillelibrary.org/get-involved/support-your-library/

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