Punishment for Being Black and Lesbian
by Dayiisi Alaba
May 25, 2007
On May 26, Sakia Gunn would have been 20-years old if she had not been killed May 11, 2003. A 15-year old African American lesbian from Newark, New Jersey, Sakia, her girlfriend and another friend spent a Saturday night in New York City's Greenwich Village, like other gay and lesbian youth in the area. They were returning home early Sunday morning when two men in a car propositioned them as they were waiting at the bus stop. Gunn told the men they were not interested and that they were lesbians. The two men jumped out of the car and attacked the three girls aged 15 to 17.
Gunn was fatally stabbed as she defended her girlfriend who was being held in a headlock by one of the men. She died in her friend's arms on the way to the hospital.
Gunn was murdered because she was a girl and lesbian who was not interested in having sex with her attacker. Clarence Patton, director of the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs explains, "This wasn't some school mate or neighborhood kid. This was a grown . . . man who killed this little girl . . . he killed her in part because she was a lesbian, but he also killed her because she was rejecting his sexual advances."
Gunn is only one of many young black women who have been assaulted because of their sexuality. Last November, the 63-year old pastor of the Prayer House of Faith church in Texas was indicted for twice raping a 22-year old member of his congregation to excise a "sex spirit" and "lesbian demon," reported Associated Press. After one of the assaults, Owens made the woman wash her face in the name of Jesus and read Psalm 105:15, which says to do no harm to prophets.
Last summer in Milwaukee, an 11-year old girl was raped repeatedly by 19 boys and men. The sexual assaults were orchestrated by a 16-year old girl upon whom she had a crush, and a 15-year old boy. An adult woman, who was in the house at the time, said and did nothing to protect the child. The child's sexual abuse is a result of misogyny, homophobia and silence in the black community.
These crimes against Gunn, the 11 year old girl with an innocent crush, the 22 year old church-goer and others are crimes against our entire community; we must always demand justice for the survivors. Survivors of these kinds of abuses and silence are brave.
LaTona Gunn says of her daughter, Sakia "was not afraid to be [herself] . . . my daughter is going to make a difference because she's still here within everyone's heart." These young women are vocal about who they are, deserve to be protected, respected and remembered as valuable parts of our community.
Dayiisi Alaba is an environmental research scientist and co-facilitator of Sisters of Sakia, a Los Angeles-based, Black lesbian youth group.