Massive Protests Erupt In Response To Multiple Murders Of Black Transgender Women In America

Riah Milton was 25 and Dominique Fells was 27; both were black trans women, and both were murdered.

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Riah Milton was 25 and Dominique Fells was 27; both were black trans women, and both were murdered. The two victims were discovered a couple of weeks ago within the same week of each other in what advocacy groups are calling the latest deaths in an epidemic facing transgender people; but more specifically black trans women. 

The Black Lives Matter movement has seen countless daily protests among all fifty states within the past month. Now it’s June, aka Pride month, so the movement has shifted to emphasize that “All Black Lives Matter”, to make the statement more inclusive for black women and black trans women who statistically face an even greater level of violence from the police and citizens in general. 

Recently thousands of New Yorkers stood outside the Brooklyn Museum in New York in solidarity with black trans lives. The peaceful protest was one of the largest advocacy events for trans lives in history with over 15,000 individuals showing up. Other major protests took place in Chicago and Salt Lake City the same day as well. 

While black individuals do endure systemic racism and police brutality almost everyday, advocacy groups are now asking us to recognize the very specific acts of violence that are occurring, who these acts are directed at, and why. Black trans women have to battle racism, misogyny, and transphobia, this very intense and real type of bigotry has been ingrained into all races and socioeconomic levels of society, so advocacy groups, such as the Black Trans Travel Fund, are working to emphasize that message, along with all the other calls to change the system in which America functions.

“2020 has already seen 14 transgender or gender non-conforming people killed by acts of violence. In 2019, the number was 26, the majority of whom were Black trans women. “

This past Sunday the Black LGBTQIA Advisory Board Council organized a march through Los Angeles that ended in Hollywood Boulevard in honor of Tony McDade. The Brooklyn protest not only honored Milton and Fells, but also the countless other black trans lives that were taken by the hands of violence. 

The Brooklyn protest was organized by the Okra Project and the Marsha P Johnson Institute, among a few others, and both groups specifically honored the life of Layleen Polanco, who was a 27-year-old black trans woman who died last year after experiencing multiple epileptic seizures while in solitary at Rikers Island. According to her family security footage has recently been released that showed security guards on the island failing to provide Polanco with medical care that could’ve saved her life. 

However, after an investigation from the Bronx District Attorney and the New York City Department of Investigation, officials claimed to find no evidence to support criminal charges in Polanco’s death. Investigations into Milton, Fells’, and McDade’s deaths are still ongoing. 

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“The murder of transgender people – especially those of color – is truly an epidemic, and a crisis that we cannot afford to allow to persist any further.”

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According to a report from the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition, trans women in general are four times more likely to become victims of homicide than cisgendered women; that likelihood also increases exponentially for trans women of color. As previously mentioned, the Black Trans Travel Fund (BTTF) is just one of the many organizations out there that’s specifically aiming to end this epidemic that’s claiming the lives of so many trans individuals of color. 

Within the past year alone, the BTTF has distributed over $60,000 to Black trans women in New York and New Jersey; typically the organization helps assist about 50 women per month, but luckily the protests have gotten the organization’s name out there more, leading to an influx of donations and support. The BTTF is now helping around 100 women a month. 

“I think it’s easier for someone to say they understand and to donate and to share than to actually implement things. So I think once the conversation shifts from where do I donate to how can I support implementing safety into our communities, so that we ideally don’t have to exist in a space where we need the Black Trans Travel Fund to exist,” said Morticia Godiva, one of the founding partners for BTTF. 

The BTTF has been participating at every protest by providing rides home from the rallies to protesters. Godiva also recently discussed with the media that their main goal within the protests is the same as everyone else; “the police need to be defunded…The history of the police force acting and moving as predators in the Black community redefined what it is to be patriotic.”

Godiva’s more immediate goals with her organization and the movement to protect black trans women’s lives involve bringing the BTTF to other states throughout the country. She urges individuals to donate to the fund but also the multitude of sources that directly benefit black trans women all over the country. There are many resources, petitions, donation pages, etc. circulating social media right now that all could use some extra help as well. 

Eric Mastrota

Contributing Editor

Eric Mastrota graduated with a degree in English, Creative Writing, and Journalism. His goal is to create content that readers find entertaining, informative and most importantly, beneficial.