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, January 26, 2007

Santa Cruz Mom Questions Transgender's Death

POSTED: 8:05 am PST January 25, 2007
UPDATED: 8:55 am PST January 25, 2007

The death of a transgender woman in a San Francisco hotel is raising big questions for her family, according to NBC11.

Daxi Arredondo's family, from Santa Cruz, told NBC11 she was born male, but lived life as a female.

In November 2006 Arredondo, 35, was found dead in a hotel room in San Francisco's Tenderloin District.

So far, investigators said they have not declared the death a homicide.

Arredando's mother Martha said investigators said her daughter was seen entering the hotel with a man, who was later seen leaving alone.

Arredando's mother told NBC11 she has hired a private investigator to help find out what happened.

She said she became suspicious when she saw bruises and cuts on her daughter's body when she identified the body.

Martha Arredondo said, "I want the truth. I want to know what happened. I want to know where she was, and I want to outreach to the community. If anybody can help … if anybody has information."

San Francisco police said they are waiting results from the medical examiner.

The medical examiner has not yet determined the cause of death, according to NBC11.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Don't Hate -- Tolerate!"

Black LGBTs March for Justice on MLK Day
Source: Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis

On Martin Luther King, Jr., Day—when millions of Americans remembered an icon who fought for equality—approximately 50 marchers walked across a stretch of Chicago’s South Side to speak out for justice on behalf of the Black LGBT community.


Participants gathered at the Carter Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church at 7841 S. Wabash ( just east of State ) and marched to Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church on 79th and Jeffrey ( 2000 East ) —a distance well over two miles.

The march was spurred by the Dec. 31 shootings that occurred at a party on the 7900 block of South Woodlawn; during that spree, six attendees were shot.

All have recovered; the shootings are still unsolved.

Contrasting with the violence that marred that party on New Year’s Eve, Monday’s march was peaceful—again, in keeping with King ( and his position of non-violence ) . With chants of “Don’t hate—tolerate!” and “What do we want? Peace and Justice! When do we want it? Now!,” the marchers, who braved cold and snow, elicited a spectrum of reactions from strangers, ranging f rom one woman who said “You wish,” to drivers who honked their horns in support.

A primary reason that the march was incident-free involved the presence of police. Several officers in cars convened at the starting point and provided a constant presence throughout the entire march, blocking off streets to let the activists cross.

Lt. Regina Evans of the Fourth District told the crowd before the march: “We know that people are ignorant and that’s one of the reasons you’re out here today. Hopefully, people will get your point. What you’re marching for is important. Everybody deserves to live in peace. We support you.”

During the march, Evans ( who marched the entire route, and on her “off” day ) told Windy City Times that the police presence was necessary to show that officers took the march—and the cause—seriously. “There are some characters in this area, so I want to make sure no one tries something,” she said. “We’re taking a no-nonsense approach. I told [ Marc ] Loveless that even after the march, you can’t just leave them alone.” Evans also said that the because of the unknown “threat level,” she wanted to be safe rather than sorry; the security issues for this march were somewhat different than a march that targets gang violence, for example.

She added that “any crime [ like the shootings ] is just heinous, period. We need to investigate why it happened, catch the offenders and find out the motive. If [ the motive ] involves hate towards a particular group, that needs to be addressed.” Evans also said that some of the comments from locals who were interviewed by the media were “disturbing. No one has a right to dictate where people can live because of someone’s race, gender or sexual orientation [ a reference to people who called the area ‘a normal neighborhood’ and who said ‘gays should move to the suburbs’ ] . We’re promoting peace and we’re not going to allow anyone to be attacked. We want to be proactive; we don’t want to come onto the scene after someone’s been abused.”


Concerned citizen Marc Loveless ( the primary organizer of the event ) told Windy City Times that “we, as Black gays and lesbians, have to stand up in our communities. We demand some respect. We think that all of that stuff that happened was based on a rush of judgment. There are Black people who don’t believe that there are gay people in their neighborhoods, so we need to make a statement and [ march ] . Also, we’re acknowledging the other elements of the Black gay community, such as the ball and women’s communities. That’s what’s great about this—I think the real story is the racial and [ age-related ] diversity we have here. Someone’s got to take notice of that and, hopefully, the people who [ committed the shootings ] will be caught and we can find out what’s going on.”

Tommy Avant Garde of Project VIDA told Windy City Times that he took part because the march was “for justice for the kids on 79th and Woodlawn who were attacked by the gunmen who came into the house. A lot of time the kids can’t and won’t speak for themselves because they’re not out. It only takes one to be a catalyst for movement and to show that there is someone out there who will speak for them.”

For a few minutes, the marchers stopped at 79th and Woodlawn—steps away from the house where the shootings occurred. At that point, a couple of the marchers talked with two residents of the house—who joined in the march.

At the end of the march, Ira ( one of said residents ) thanked the crowd. “I want to thank all of you for your support,” he said. “ [ The shootings were ] really tragic. I thank God that everybody’s safe and OK. I don’t know how far it’s going to go or if anything’s going to change, but I just thank you for the start. I didn’t know that so many people cared.”

Loveless told the marchers that the event was for “an issue that impacts all of us.” The response of women across the street, who yelled and clapped their hands in support, then led him to say that “you can see ... that hate is not the norm. Whatever those young men were thinking, they weren’t thinking for [ most of people ] in this community.”

Evans thanked the marchers for being peaceful and lauded them for being effective. “Sometimes it’s not in the numbers but in the power of the message,” she said. “I think you demonstrated that.” Evans also implored the marchers to let police know if they feel threatened, and asked them to attend police beat meetings. ( She advised people to call 311 if they don’t know their beat. ) “I don’t encourage to have separate meetings,” she added. “You’re part of the community; you’re not separate from the community.”

Politicians were scarce at the march. Among those present who provided some sort of political link were a representative from mayoral candidate Dorothy Brown’s staff; Bill Greaves, Mayor Richard Daley’s LGBT liaison; and Janice Jeffries, an aldermanic candidate for the 15th ward. Among the organizations represented at the march were the Black LGBT Allies for Equality; The Gay Liberation Network ( GLN ) ; and Chicago Black Gays and Lesbians.

A few people also circulated a flyer about the shootings. Included were a summary of the incident, descriptions of the offenders and an offer of a cash reward of up to $1,000. Anyone with information should call 800-535-STOP or dial 311.


Press conference

On Jan. 12 at City Hall, Loveless called a press conference to announce the march. “This is a true coalition of groups across the city,” he said. “This is a city of diversity ... and this is a call for justice. We came together to respond to some of the comments that were made regarding the shootings as well as the ‘rush to judgment’ statements made by the city disqualifying or marginalizing the impact of this incident.”

Will Lockett of Black LGBT Allies for Equality said that the march “represent [ ed ] a chance for gay people to stand up to [ anti-gay ] sentiment. ... Violence is not acceptable. We want to implement long-term goals for gay and lesbian people to be welcome in any community where they are.” He also said that “we will not tolerate silence anymore from Black leaders. Everyone must step up against hatred.”

Avant Garde, a co-founder of Chicago’s modern ball culture ( a subculture of LGBT youth ) , addressed a statement that the shootings were precipitated by different ball culture houses ( families ) at the party. “That’s not true,” he said. “I spoke with youth that morning who [ ran ] from the house. This was an incident that, in my opinion, was a hate crime. Anytime there are people in a space who are not bothering anyone and someone comes in with a gun and shoots, it’s a hate crime. ... For this to happen in a city that just hosted the Gay Games is just a tragedy.” Avant Garde also provided some insight into the local ball scene, stating that it’s primarily for African-American youths aged 13-24 who “release their gifts and talents in the ballroom” in competitions.

Bob Schwartz of the GLN also spoke. “We’re here to show solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters,” he said. He also talked about the hate-crime theory, and even called out a certain North Side alderman: “We recognize that the jury is still out regarding exactly why the shooting took place, but it’s troubling to [ the organization ] that officials from the city of Chicago, the police department and Tom Tunney ... have leaned over backwards to suggest that it wasn’t a hate crime ... . Daley and Tunney may want to present the city as being free of hate crimes, but we know better, and the level of anti-gay hostility expressed by some should have condemned by Tunney; African-American and white leaders; and Daley—but very few have had anything to say about it, and that’s extremely troubling. They would’ve been right out there ( as they should ) , if there had been a racist attack on African Americans.”

Thursday, January 11, 2007

So. Side Shootings: case wide open

Source: Windy City Times
Author: Andrew Davis

Police are still investigating the New Year’s Eve shootings of six males at a South Side party attended by mostly gay Black men.

Two masked individuals armed with semi-automatic weapons kicked open the doors of a home on the 7900 block of South Woodlawn and started shooting up the party. Six people were shot when the gunmen opened fire on about 100 partygoers about 5:30 a.m. The victims were all taken to local hospitals; two had suffered serious injuries.

The police Civil Rights Unit is helping to determine if the shooting was a hate crime, but it has not been classified as such yet. According to reports, neighbors repeatedly called the police concerning problems with the place.

In a statement to Windy City Times sent on Jan. 5, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said that “the investigation is ongoing. ... Detectives continue to talk to witnesses and victims. At this point in the investigation, we still have no information or evidence to investigate the case as a hate crime. However, [ the ] Civil Rights [ Unit ] is prepared to assist if needed.” She added that five of the victims had been released from area hospitals.

However, a Chicago politician—44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney—may have provided some insight into the case. Tunney told radio station WBBM that he has met with investigators and was told that the shootings possibly started as an argument between partygoers.

He said that “ [ w ] e will continue to work with [ investigators ] and ask them to make sure that they uncover every clue to give full credibility to their investigation and the fact [ is ] that, while it sounds on the surface that it could be a hate crime and potentially somebody out there that could cause further damage, they actually believe it’s an isolated incident.”

In a statement issued Jan. 5, Chicago Commission on Human Relations Chairman Clarence N. Wood condemned those who issued homophobic comments to the media. ( The statement specifically cited a Chicago Sun-Times article that quoted a local as saying, “We always be seeing them, and they always be looking at people ... They give you that gay look, like you’re a female or something. That ain’t cute. People be ready to fight ... I knew something was going to happen to that house.” ) “While the police have not yet determined the motive of the shooting, it is extremely disturbing that anyone could believe that the victims somehow deserved to be shot because they were gay or ‘acted gay,’” Wood said.

Forum held

On Sat., Jan. 6, a discussion about the shootings was held at Café 917, 917 E. 79th.

The event was attended by approximately 100 people and featured a panel that included 8th Ward Ald. Michelle Harris, who represents the area where the crime occurred, as well as police representatives. Among the media covering the event was cable news giant CNN.

“The community meeting was extremely well-attended, and it included many concerned citizens,” Bill Greaves of the Advisory Council on GLBT Issues told Windy City Times. “Everyone clearly and strongly expressed their concerns to the police, the alderman and to each other. It was one of the best meetings—in terms of community turnout and exchange—that I have ever been to.”

Michael O’Connor, who works with Connie Howard ( the state representative of the area that was the site of the crime ) and is a member of the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, said that he was “so glad to see an organized effort from the African-American GLBT community.” He also said that it was nice to see the younger generation “stepping up and doing what needed to be done.”

Keith Green of Test Positive Aware Network was also impressed with the turnout. “I was really glad to see people come out and with the mobilization,” he said to Windy City Times.

Among the items that were discussed was if the shootings were actually a hate crime as well as what constitutes a hate crime. Since investigations are ongoing, no hate-crime determination has been made. “I was disappointed that there was [ initially ] no clear definition of a hate crime,” Green said. “However, once there was some idea, it sparked some interested dialogue.”

Attendees also reacted strongly to the level of homophobia that local residents exhibited to the media when interviewed about the shootings. ( During one interview with a local TV station, one person said that the neighborhood is straight and that gays should live in the suburbs. ) In addition, people at the forum talked about the victims themselves, asking about the support or protection they are receiving.

During the forum, several solutions were proposed to counter the problem of anti-gay sentiment, including forming a task force with Harris and having a march on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday to promote awareness.

Another solution that was proposed was having some type of monetary reward for the person who provides important information about the shootings. “It’s only appropriate that people who make a profit from gay and lesbian people to put forth the money for [ a reward ] ,” O’Connor, who made the suggestion, said to Windy City Times. He also suggested that officials from all parts of city come together to raise money for a reward—underscoring the point that, ultimately, the situation that occurred affects everyone.

The fact that Harris showed up was not lost on anyone. “There were some things the alderman didn’t know, but I give her credit for showing up and [ attempting to learn ] ,” said Green.

Tommy Avant Garde of HIV/AIDS service organization Project VIDA said that the forum marked a turning point. “There was so much [ turnout ] and such a great response, it was overwhelming,” he said to Windy City Times. “It was a packed house. Everybody spoke very well.”

Avant Garde also mentioned another forum that was held Jan. 8 that was hosted by Project VIDA and which featured CNN talking with one of the shooting victims. Representatives from the Chicago Department of Public Health were present, and Harris was there as well.

Two more forums related to the crime will take place Jan. 18 at 3 and 6 p.m. at Youth Pride Center, 637 S. Dearborn. “Youths come out at two and three in the morning because they feel they can’t be themselves during the day,” Avant Garde said. “That has to change.”

At a campaign meet and greet on Jan. 6, Mayor Daley was asked about the shootings. Daley said he was not aware of the incident, but that education is the way to counter ignorance about gay people.

What really happened?

There are lingering questions about what exactly transpired the night of Dec. 31. Some have suggested that what happened was a hate crime; however, others have said that the shooters were partygoers themselves who came back to exact revenge after words were exchanged.

Green said that answers can come once the specific circumstances are determined: “It’s too soon to offer solutions because we don’t know what exactly happened.” He added, however, that general solutions such as creating safe spaces for LGBT youth are very important

Monday, January 08, 2007

'Person of interest' sought in shootings of six Chicago gay men

source: The Advocate

Local authorities investigating the New Year’s Day shootings of six gay men in Chicago have new leads that suggest it was not a hate crime but the result of a "personal feud or rivalry ." One of those new leads is a cell phone photo or video that has detectives searching for a "person of interest," Advocate.com has learned exclusively.

"Someone didn't like someone else," one city official close to the investigation told Advocate.com. "To settle the score, one young man left the party and returned with one or more friends and guns."

Six men were wounded after masked gunmen reportedly broke into a house party and opened gunfire on a crowd of up to one hundred men on New Year's Day morning. Police initially suspected a bias motive because the home was known throughout the South Side neighborhood as "the gay house" because of the frequent parties and its visitors.

(Rod McCullom, The Advocate)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Shooting of 6 at party may be hate crime

Gunmen bust in, start blasting in 'Gay House'

January 1, 2007 - Chicago Sun Times
BY MARK J. KONKOL Staff Reporter
Two masked gunmen kicked open the side and back doors of a South Side home known as the "Gay House" and started shooting up a party there early Sunday morning.
Six people were shot -- two hospitalized with serious injuries -- when the gunmen opened fire on about 100 partygoers about 5:30 a.m. at the house is in the 7900 block of South Woodlawn Avenue.

"They just bust[ed] through the door, and everything went haywire," said a partygoer, who would not give his name. "I hope to God they catch whoever did this."

Detectives canvassed the area Sunday morning, but no suspects were in custody.

"They came in and started shooting. The motive is unknown, and we haven't determined if it is gang-related or not," police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. "The difficulty is that the gunmen were masked."

The police Civil Rights Unit is assisting to determine if the shooting was a hate crime, but it has not been classified as such yet, Bond said.

The gunmen, who fired semi-automatic weapons, did not utter slurs or have any verbal exchange with people at the party.

But some neighborhood folks said they wouldn't be surprised if the shooting was motivated by anti-gay sentiments.

"We always be seeing them, and they always be looking at people," said Kevin Carter, 18. "They give you that gay look, like you're a female or something. That ain't cute. People be ready to fight . . . I knew something was going to happen to that house."

Other neighbors said the site of the shooting houses loud weekend parties that last into the wee hours of the morning. Police often respond to noise complaints, a neighbor said.

All victims male
The gun blasts sounded like "bricks being slammed against a garbage can," neighbor Greg Jackson said.
A man who identified himself as "Mr. Cartel" said his brother, who lives at the site of the shooting, has complained to him about being "harassed" for being gay since the summer.

"I know they have been having problems periodically. That's why I've been coming over here to check up on him," Mr. Cartel said. "I hope this was not a hate crime."

A man who lives at the house and only would identify himself as a "Chicago Tribune employee" declined comment except to say, "These are trying times, and s--- happens."

All six of the victims are males and were taken to area hospitals. Two were listed in stable condition with gunshot wounds to the chest. The other victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.

Police ask that anyone with information about the shooting contact Calumet Area detectives at (312) 747-8271.