Commentary, LGBTQ+, Park Forest

#TurnUp4TT: A Public Statement from the Organizers


A portrait of TT Saffore by Melisa Stephen of For The People Artists Collective

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–October 5, 2016.  On September 11, 2016 TT Saffore, a young, Black, trans woman was found murdered in a park on Chicago’s West Side. Today, a coalition of Black, trans and gender-nonconforming community members have organized a vigil and march in the Lakeview neighborhood to honor her death. Here is their public statement:

Another Black, trans life has been violently taken.

Last month TT Saffore was killed on Chicago’s West Side. Her passing marked the 20th trans murder of 2016. Today, members of the Black, trans and gender-nonconforming community of Chicago and our allies join together not only to mourn the loss of a sister, but to collectively imagine a future for Black, trans people free from violence in all its insidious forms.

We know that the state does not mourn the loss of Black lives. We know the names of Black women lost to violence are held up even less than those of Black men. We know queer, trans and gnc deaths are often hushed by Black communities in addition to being ignored by the state. We accept none of these realities.

Less than a week after TT was stolen from us, Crystal Edmonds, another Black, trans woman was shot and killed in Baltimore, MD. Bresha Meadows, a fifteen year-old cis, Black girl currently sits in jail in Warren, OH, charged with murder after defending her mother from an abusive partner. The epidemic of violence against trans and cis Black women and girls must be treated as an emergency, and a charge for the entire Black community to take up.

State violence is more than just police shootings. It is the policing and prison systems themselves. It is the criminalizing of sex work, of the survivors of abuse. It is a legal order which treats Black, trans and cis women who defend their lives as insolent, in need of punishment. It is homelessness. It is the calculated impoverishing of Black communities. It is the closing of public schools and mental health clinics, the slashing of HIV prevention and other healthcare services, while militarization devours the lion’s share of public funds. It is gentrification. It is the poisoning of natural resources. It is all the structures—including the police and prison systems—which uphold and depend on violent masculinity, reinforcing the disposability of women and femmes, of trans and gnc communities, of the earth itself.

Today, we are gathering in the Lakeview neighborhood to love and support each other, but also to flex our collective power. The choice of location is not coincidental: Though this area of the city is one of the most accessible to the trans community–and where some of the only trans-specific resources are centralized–it is also the site of the hyper-policing of queer and trans homeless youth, the racist displacement of poor, Black and Brown communities, a meeting place for the crossroads of oppression at which Black, trans women find themselves.

We are here not to showcase our pain–though we will express it–but instead to make our demands audible to all our Black, trans and queer family members. This is what the Black, trans and gnc community needs right now:

  • Education On Our Issues – Pronouns are not enough! A massive project of education is needed to teach our employers, our neighbors, community members and other activists about the oppressions faced specifically by Black, trans and gnc people. We demand our people dedicate themselves to learning about Black, trans misogyny, and the unique barriers that keep Black, trans people from living full lives.
  • Employment – We support the Fight For 15, and demand living wage jobs for Black, trans and gnc people in all fields of employment, especially in leadership roles within organizations that claim to fight for trans issues.
  • Safer Spaces – Black, trans and gnc people need inclusion in existing movement spaces, but we also need spaces of our own. We demand resources be allotted to projects and organizations run by Black, trans people for Black, trans people.
  • Housing – We demand shelters and affordable housing designated specifically for trans youth and elders, in the neighborhoods in which they choose to live.
  • Free, Affirming, Accessable Healthcare: We demand free access to hormones, needles, gender affirming surgeries, STI testing, and all our other basic health needs, provided directly in the neighborhoods where we live. We include in this free access to mental health services–provided by other trans and gnc people–which view us as in need of healing, not fixing.
  • Decriminalize Sex Work – We reject the criminalizing of Black, trans and gnc people for choosing their own means of survival. We demand the decriminalization of all sex work. We include in this vision the revoking of anti-sex trafficking laws–disguised as feminist endeavors–which target trans and cis Black women, resulting in their incarceration.
  • End Solitary Confinement – Solitary is torture, not protection. We support the national #PrisonStrike, demand trans and gnc inmates stop being held in solitary under the guise of safety, and that solitary be ended as a practice for all incarcerated people.
  • Abolition Now – We demand that, to make these other demands possible, money be cut from police, prisons, detention centers and the military, and invested back into Black, trans and gnc communities.  We demand the police, prisons and military be defunded, disarmed, and ultimately disbanded, replaced with resources that support Black, trans growth.

Every time a trans person is murdered, it is an act of state violence, no matter who commits the act. The legal stigma of sex work, the denial of housing and worker’s rights, the shaming of those who love and are attracted to trans people, and the endless cutting of needed services all send the constant message that Black, trans lives aren’t worth protecting, aren’t worth fighting for. We are here today to reject that message.

The New Orleans-based trans youth empowerment organization BreakOUT! has a well-known slogan: Give us our roses while we’re still here! We are tired of mourning Black, trans deaths. We are here to celebrate Black, trans life, and remind ourselves of the power we have to fight for a world where trans murders are as obsolete as the police, the prison system, and the order of social, economic and environmental exploitation that relies on them.

We will see that world. We are strong and numerous enough to build it.