Rashawn & Beyond: Anti-Violence News for Queer People of Color

The Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund aims to establish a sustainable tribute to Rashawn that promotes critical thought about the impact of violence and intolerance, particularly upon queer communities of African descent.

Through this blog, we provide action alerts, event postings and breaking news as a means of informing these communities in ways that enable them to combat racism and homophobia.

Friday, April 28, 2006

We Need You!

Why a Campaign for Black Gay Men’s Lives?

To Respond Differently to HIV!

As early as 1988 research studies have found high rates of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) among African American/Black men who have sex with men (MSM).
Now, in 2006 NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED! As you read this, the HIV epidemic is largely situated in communities of African American/Black MSM. The response to such devastating and heart wrenching news from Black gay & non-gay communities, and mainstream America is nominal, if it is there at all! The Campaign for Black Gay Men’s Lives is about challenging the belief that our lives do not matter and are not worth a saving. It exposes and confronts homophobia, which in this instance, rears it head in the form of inaction and silence concerning the lives of Black gay men. The Campaign seeks to interrupt that silence with voices stentorian: Black Gay Men’s Lives Matter!

To Value Black Gay Life in Black Communities

In 2005 Black Gay New York saw our lives devalued in our own communities. There were several reported shooting and stabbings of Black gay men in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. 24 year old Dwan Prince was severely beaten in front of his home in Brownsville. And there were at least four reported murders of Black gay men in NYC – Marvin Paige, Jamal James, Kenmoore Thomas, and most notably, 19 year old Rashawn Brazell. The Campaign for Black Gay Men’s Lives seeks to mobilize Black gay men and our allies in the community to end homophobia and the violence it spreads.


During the remainder of 2006, a Campaign for Black Gay Men’s Lives, led by the *NYS Black Gay Network, will roll out an intensive series of activities to respond to black Men who have sex with Men’s high rates of HIV infection and to impact the social value and the health and wellness of black Men who have sex with Men. The Campaign will employ structural interventions; social marketing and anti-homophobia community events; convene key community leaders; and work to increase the sustainability of HIV prevention efforts within black gay communities.
WE NEED YOU!! It is vital that as many Black gay men and our allies join this effort. Even if all you can give is one hour, your efforts will matter in the efforts to counter the messages, explicit and covert that our lives do not matter.

Join the Campaign! The workgroups will be short term and are starting very soon!

Email us at ourlivesmatter@yahoo.com or call us at 212.828.9393 x 137

*This campaign is being launched by the New York State Black Gay Network, its members, and ally organizations that have an expressed commitment to Black men who practice same-sex desire.*

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Stabbing of William Oliver

The following is an article written for the Daily News, originally published on 24 April of this year about the fatal stabbing of 61 year old, William Oliver, in Prospect Park.

[Cops were hunting yesterday for a cold-blooded killer who stabbed a 61-year-old man to death in Prospect Park - rocking the Brooklyn oasis.
William Oliver was knifed once in the chest and may have been robbed Saturday afternoon in a section of the park that's known as a gay pickup spot, cops said.

"I still have trouble getting over his death," said Wilson Oliver, 67, the slain man's brother.

The attack raised fears that the so-called ninja who prowled the same area of the park more than five years ago, preying on gay men, had returned. Cops said they did not believe the slaying was related to the ninja attacks.

William Oliver, a bachelor who bounced around between relatives' houses, had called his brother at 3:11 p.m. Saturday to say he was on his way to his house in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

But he never made it.

Two parkgoers stumbled onto his bloody body on a path in the lush Vale of Cashmere area of the park about an hour later. "Everything was fine, he was going to come by," said Oliver's brother. "He said, 'See you later.'"

Cops said they found William Oliver's wallet nearby and found some cash in his pockets.

The murder weapon was not recovered. Investigators were searching a nearby man-made pond for clues.

Relatives said Oliver kept to himself and never talked about his sexual preference, although his brother said it was "a good possibility" he was gay. "He was a good person, a kind person," said Willa Oliver, his sister-in-law. "If he could do something to help you, he did it."

The secluded Vale of Cashmere and the nearby Rose Garden are popular hangouts for gay men near Grand Army Plaza.

In 2000, a man dressed in a black ninja outfit stabbed, clubbed or slashed at least four gay men during a two-week crime spree. Another man was stabbed on Jan. 17, 2001, by a man dressed in black.

Oliver's murder was even more worrisome because it came in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, when the park was fairly crowded, even on a rainy day. "It's spooky," said William Davis, 42, sitting in the Rose Garden. "It's really scary because it's daytime."

Even though police said the killing wasn't linked to the ninja attacks, just the mention of the spree was enough to frighten one man, who said he once came face-to-face with the black-clad attacker.

"I hope they catch him," said a 48-year-old man who didn't want his name used because his family doesn't know he is gay. "I won't be coming over here by myself."]


Click this link to the original article.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Memorial March Coverage and Impact

(photo by Andres Duque)

The April 15th Rashawn Brazell Memorial March was a success in more ways than one. In addition to showing the NYPD our determination to find justice for Rashawn, we also showed the press and the public that we are not willing to allow the case to be denied the visibility afforded to the white heterosexual women whose unfortunate murders have dominated the press.

The Advocate, the award-winning national LGBT news source, covered the march in their April 25th issue. The article, features quotes from co-founder Mervyn Marcano and marks the RBMF's first spot in a national magazine.

To view a scanned image of "Staying True to Rashawn", click here.

The march was also covered on Fox 5 New York. After the story aired, a link to RashawnBrazell.com was added to the website's "Viewer Information" section. At long last, the scholarship established to honor Rashawn's legacy was added to the area that had formely housed similar programs for white, straight murder victims Immette St. Guillen and Nicole DuFresne.

To view the listing, visit the "Viewer Information" page of the Fox 5 News website and click on Rashawn Brazell Fund.

The march was also attended and reviewed by several New York area bloggers, activists and photographers. Check out the following sites for original photography and more!
Ocean Morisette (41 photo slideshow),
Donald Agarrat (24 image photoset),
Andres Duque (139 pictures), whose noteworthy blog entry can be read here
and TaylorSiluwe (28 pictures).

The RBMF would like to thank The Advocate, Fox 5 News, Andres, Donald, Ocean and Taylor for the crucial work they have played and continue to play in keeping the story alive in the hearts and minds of the community at large.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rashawn's Memorial March: A Success!


Anger, pain and tears mingled with determination for justice at the Rashawn Brazell Memorial March.

Chanting "Justice for Rashawn!" from the train station where his partial remains were found to the 79th precinct where the investigation of his murder has lulled, we gathered on April 15th not only to honor Rashawn’s memory, but also to support his mother, Desire Brazell, in her tireless fight to ensure that the NYPD devote the maximum amount of resources to finding her son’s killer.

Alongside representatives from the RBMF, City Councilmember Leticia James spoke out on Rashawn’s behalf, issuing the angry message that “homophobia kills!” Among the 200+ attendees were representatives from the Audre Lorde Project, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the New York City Anti-Violence Project, People of Color in Crisis, the Reverend Ralph "Chaz" Crowder, and Eric Adams of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement.

In a particularly moving moment, a close friend of Rashawn’s vowed that she would march every weekend if she had to. Another told an anecdote about Rashawn’s selfless nature and the unwavering support he offered his close friends. Some were unable to speak at all, overcome by the loss of their friend and the failure of the NYPD to prioritize the investigation.

The Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund thanks everyone who came out to support Desire Brazell’s plea for justice. It was an honor to assist in realizing the community’s goal of ensuring that neither the NYPD nor the general public allow this case to remain unsolved and underreported and a joy to be reminded how many people stand in support of our organizing.

The Campaign for Black Gay Men’s Lives

The Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund is a proud supporter of
The Campaign for Black Gay Men’s Lives

We invite you to join others who are concerned about the lives of Black Gay Men

We will be working together to:
· Respond to the city-wide silence concerning the lives of Black Gay Men
· Challenge homophobia in Black Communities
· Build community awareness on issues impacting Black Gay Men

Campaign Kick-Off Meeting
Tuesday, April 18th, 2006
6 pm – 9 pm

RSVP at: ourlivesmatter@yahoo.com or 212.828.9393 x137

Refreshments and light foods will be available

119 West 24th Street (btw 7th & 6th aves)
New York, NY 10011
Rooms 610/615 on 6th floor

*This campaign is being launched by the New York State Black Gay Network, its members, and ally organizations that have an expressed commitment to Black men who practice same-sex desire.*