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.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Homophobic Attack in Jamaica

The following message comes from Colin Robinson, steering committee member of the Caribbean Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. The region-wide coalition's sterring committee represents 7 different countries.

By now most of you have heard of the mob attack on a drag queen in Falmouth, Jamaica Friday morning. Or maybe you haven't and are confusing it with any of the three similar attacks you may have heard of in the past 11 weeks, in greater Kingston (Feb. 14), Montego Bay (Apr. 2) and near Mandeville (Apr. 8). This time there is a photo and video. There have been no public announcements of arrests in any of the incidents. Please circulate widely to bring broad attention to the specific dangers gay/Trans folks in Jamaica face, on top of a climate of general violence and murder, and the general inattention of the police and government. In response to the attacks, Jamaica's public defender (the chief constitutional ombudsman and anti-discrimination official) recently publicly suggested that gay men recognise that "tolerance has its limits," not be so "brazen", and "confine their activities to their bed chambers."

Thanks for your actions!! So many of you showed tremendous leadership in protesting recent dancehall peformances in New York; this is so much more serious. Please let those at the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) know what you are planning and how they can work with you. You can contact them at admin@jflag.org.

News story: Mob Beats Cross Dresser

Video: http://jumpcut.com/view?id=4B19EFB8F78711DB9003000423CEF5F6

Friday, April 27, 2007

Heterosexism and the African American Community

by Constance Lavender

The purpose of this paper is to examine how anti-gay violence, heterosexism and homophobia are related to racism and other forms of oppression as they exist and are manifested in the United States. The paper will seek to define what is meant by heterosexism and homophobia, to understand the similarities, differences and connections between heterosexism and racism, and to survey the currently existing research on the relationship of heterosexism and race.

Read More.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stab victim's mourners call for hate crime bill

(originally published on gay.com)

Nearly a thousand people gathered in Florida over the weekend to commemorate the brutal slaying of Ryan Skipper, who died last month of more than 20 stab wounds.

Memorial services were held in 14 cities across the state calling on the federal government to pass the federal hate crime bill, the Matthew Shepard Act, which was introduced last week into the Senate and on March 20 in the House.

The two men accused of the murder, William David Brown Junor, 20, and Joseph Bearden, 21, face the death penalty if convicted.

Skipper's body was found March 20 on a rural road in Polk County, Fla.

Polk County sheriff's spokeswoman Donna Wood said Skipper was killed because he made an advance toward Brown, in a striking resemblance to the Matthew Shepard story. Shepard's killers also suggested that he made made unwanted advances toward them.

The night of the murder, Skipper was driving around the town of Wahneta and offered Bearden a ride around midnight, police said. The two went back to Skipper's house, where they smoked marijuana.

The two left Skipper's house and went to another home, where they met Brown, then all left in Skipper's car. It was then that Brown and Bearden allegedly attacked Skipper in his own vehicle. The pair attempted to clean the bloody vehicle and even confessed their crimes to friends, police said.

Skipper's car was found abandoned in nearby Winter Haven. Brown's fingerprints were found inside.

"Ryan's murder was not an isolated incident, but rather the latest in an epidemic of hate violence targeted at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Florida and across the nation," said Brian Winfield, communications director for Equality Florida.

"Hate crimes have as their target more than just the victim. They are intended to send a message to an entire community of people and to strike fear into that community. That is why the silence of our state leaders must be challenged."

"Two days ago, that Federal Hate Crimes Bill was renamed the Matthew Shepard Act and was introduced in the Senate," said Winfield.

"I encourage you to contact your congressman and senators and demand that they support the bill. If they ask why, tell them, 'We have our own Matthew Shepard here in Florida; his name was Ryan." (Hassan Mirza, Gay.com U.K.)

Two sentenced in N.M. attack on gay teen

originally posted at: gay.com

Two young people have been sentenced in the brutal kidnapping and beating of a gay teenage boy after a July 2006 house party in Edgewood, N.M., the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Cecily Gonzalez, 17, pleaded guilty Thursday to aggravated battery and false imprisonment and will spend one year in the custody of the Children, Youth, and Families Department. Gonzalez wasn't eligible for a hate-crime enhancement of an extra year because she was sentenced as a juvenile.

Uriah Smith, now 18, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping and was sentenced to four years in prison.

State district Judge Michael Vigil initially sentenced Smith to three years in prison plus an extra year for the hate-crime enhancement. But Smith's attorney, Steve Aarons, vowed to appeal because minors, even if they are sentenced as adults, are not covered under the hate-crime statute. So Vigil changed the sentence and gave Smith four years outright.

Prosecutor Donna Dagnall said that everyone involved identified Smith as the leader of the attack.

Charges are pending against two other men charged in the beating, William York, 21, and Leroy Segura, 21.

The four assailants are alleged to have kidnapped a woman from the same party, holding her in a camper and beating while the gay man was tied up and brutalized for hours, allegedly to turn him straight.

Dagnall said the male victim suffered bleeding on the brain and a concussion as well as facial lacerations and bruising.

While his physical injuries have healed, the victim's mother told the New Mexican, the emotional scars have not.

Harassment that had already begun in high school for the teen became even worse after his beating. "People were coming up to him and saying 'gay' and 'queer,'" his sister added. "No one should be punished for the way they are."

The teen stopped attending his school and in an unfortunate turn of events was later diagnosed with Huntington's disease, a syndrome that causes degeneration of brain cells.

"I still feel all this pain," his mother told reporters. "It's been a living nightmare."

The victim did not attend Thursday's hearing. (The Advocate)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Projects bring attention to 3 gruesome killings of gay victims

Projects bring attention to 3 gruesome killings of gay victims

Associated Press Writer

April 1, 2007, 11:21 AM EDT

NEW YORK -- On Valentine's Day two years ago, the dismembered body parts of Rashawn Brazell, a 19-year-old bisexual man, were found scattered in bags across Brooklyn.

Two years earlier, Sakia Gunn, 15, was stabbed to death at a Newark bus stop after she rejected her killer's advances by telling him she was a lesbian.

J.R. Warren died in similarly grisly fashion. Two teenagers beat, kicked and stomped the 26-year-old gay man from West Virginia before running him over with a Camaro.

Rashawn Brazell. Sakia Gunn. J.R. Warren: Victims of three of the country's most brutal killings of gays and lesbians in recent years. Yet their deaths received little attention and their names somehow don't evoke the intense resonance that followed the 1998 killing of Matthew Shepard, a gay man from Wyoming.

But a documentary maker, an artist and an Ivy League doctoral candidate hope to change that. Separately, the three _ all strangers to the victims _ have created a scholarship fund for college-bound students, an independent documentary, and an art exhibit to not only highlight the killings but also re-ignite larger discussions about homophobia and bias crimes.

"They've done so much to make people aware of what happened and they won't let it drift to the side," Desire Brazell, Rashawn's mother, said of the men behind the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund and Web site. "They've been fantastic."

The memorial projects come as a new federal hate crime bill has entered Congress and other recent anti-gay attacks have also brought new attention to the issue.

Last week, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., interdicted a bill that seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing hate-crime law and give resources to state and local authorities to investigate and prosecute suspected bias crimes.

Nationally, the number of reported bias crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people remained virtually unchanged in 2006, according to the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. Still, recent assaults and killings across the country disturbed some people.

Three men are facing trial on hate-crime murder charges in the 2006 death of Michael Sandy, a 28-year-old interior designer from New York who met the defendants in a gay chat room. Last week, four men pleaded guilty to assault as a hate crime for attacking gay singer Kevin Aviance last year in New York. In Florida this month, Ryan Keith Skipper, 25, was robbed and fatally stabbed, and police arrested two men on hate crime-related charges.

The Conyers legislation seemed to gain momentum from the case of Andrew Anthos, a 72-year-old gay man from Detroit. Family members say a pipe-wielding man killed Anthos during a bus ride home from the library because he was gay. Investigators now say he died of natural causes, but advocates are suspicious of the surprise turn of events; they do not believe it was an accident.

Advocates want to see the hate-crime bill signed into law, in part, because more than a dozen states, including Michigan and many in the South, have either no hate crime laws or ones that don't protect sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Human Rights Campaign has called Brazell's killing a hate crime, although investigators haven't officially classified it as one and Desire Brazell doesn't believe her son's killing stemmed from his sexuality.

But police have yet to make an arrest. And an official cause of death, like the motive, is unknown _ blanks that deny Desire Brazell closure. The case will re-air this year on "America's Most Wanted," show officials said.

Larry Lyons, 25, had never met Rashawn Brazell. But when he heard about the case, he was so "repulsed" that he began blogging about it. From blogs, vigils and meetings came the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund, which will award its second $1,500 scholarship in June to a New York City student committed to fighting homophobia, racism, sexism or other forms of injustice, Lyons said.

"It's crazy there's someone out there who can kill and dismember a young man and spread his body parts and not be found and walk the streets among all of us," said Lyons, an English doctoral candidate at Princeton University. "It boggles my mind.

"It's disappointing it's not a more high-profile case."

The 2000 murder of J.R. Warren made TV and newspaper headlines but attention abated after two men were convicted of murder and sentenced to prison. The killing didn't qualify as a hate crime under West Virginia or federal laws.

Still, artist Rory Golden decided to create an exhibit to stir debate over the definition of a hate crime and bigotry.

In "See Related Story: The Murder of J.R. Warren," the Ohio native used wax and mulberry paper to create 52 two-sided images evoking the feeling of a disturbing dream or memory. The exhibit was recently on view at Fairmont State University in West Virginia.

Curator Marian Hollinger said she "had expected someone to get upset or unnerved, but no." The overall response, Hollinger said, was "amazingly positive. People asked sensible questions, enjoyed it and were moved by it."

Golden, 40, hopes to take the exhibit to other college campuses and other venues across the country.

Like Golden and Lyons, Chas B. Brack never met the subject of his project. But despite funding challenges, Brack hopes to finish a documentary this year about Sakia Gunn.

In 2005, Gunn's killer acknowledged calling the teenager a "dyke" and pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter with bias intimidation. He was sentenced to 20 years.

Brack believes his film will help reverse the "continuing invisibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people of color," an invisibility Lyons and Golden believe shrouded the Brazell and Warren killings. Gunn, Brazell and Warren were black.

"I don't think any of them have received the attention that they need," Brack said.


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