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.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Choir Director Killed


Donald Young, 47, a choir conductor at the Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 W. 95th, was found dead in his South Side apartment Dec. 23. He suffered several gunshot wounds and police are investigating his death as a homicide.

It was the second major loss at the church in the past two months. Anthony Hollins, a Hazel Crest resident who helped lead the HIV/AIDS support ministry at Trinity, passed away Nov. 25 in Stroger Hospital of complications from AIDS.

For the past two decades, Young, who was gay, led the choir at Trinity, which is the home church of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and their family.

Young was also a teacher, guiding fourth-graders at Guggenheim Elementary School, 7141 S. Morgan, The Chicago Tribune reported. He was planning to become a Chicago Public Schools principal.

According to The Chicago Sun-Times, Michelle Obama called the passing “sad,” adding “ [h]e was very well-known in the church family.”

A wake and funeral for Young were held Sat., Dec. 29, at the church. Over 3,000 people attended.

Chicago police have released a Crime Stoppers poster offering a $1,000 reward for information in Young's slaying. Anyone with information should call 311 or 800-535-STOP.

South Side march against hate

Story and photos by Tracy Baim and Amy Wooten
Source: Windy City Times

Outraged that last year's New Year's Eve shooting at a party primarily attended by Black gay men on the city's South Side remains unsolved, members of the African-American LGBT community and their allies marched against anti-gay violence.

The Dec. 31 march, taking place over a 2.8-mile stretch of 79th Street between Wabash and Jeffery, was in cold and snowy conditions. The march was organized by Critical Caucus; Chicago's Black Gay Lesbian Bi Transgendered Leadership Council; and the Coalition for Justice and Respect.

About 20 people managed the distance, receiving strong protection from Chicago police.

Prior to the march, participants received words of strong support from political allies, including Alderman Ed Smith ( 28th ) , State Rep. Karen Yarbrough and Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, followed by a prayer.

“It's warm enough for all of us to stand up against any kind of injustice,” Yarbrough said.

Smith expressed his anger at violence against “minorities of a minority,” and said something needs to be done to “stop this madness.” He vowed to stand with his community and see that justice is served.

“We're all here because we have to understand we have to stand up and not tolerate this inhumanity,” Sufferdin said, adding that until the hate and violence stops, the community and allies need to continue to march. Longtime activist Willie Barrow did not end up joining the effort, despite organizer's statements saying she would be there.

The march mostly included African Americans, plus four white supporters. Along the route, there were mostly stares, plus a few raised fists and honks from cars in support. There were a few jeers, and one obsessed fiftysomething African-American male screamed about the Bible condemning gays. However, once was not enough, as he kept moving his car along the route, getting out, hollering and pointing his finger, saying everyone in the march was going to hell. “Get out of our neighborhood!” he shouted, not acknowledging that some of the marchers were, in fact, from this area of town, and that the march was held there because of anti-gay violence committed in a gay-occupied home on Woodlawn and 79th.

The marchers shouted, “Stop the violence, stop the hate,” and “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” to patrons of beauty shops, liquor stores, Sears and small retail shops along the busy business district on New Year's Eve. The group ended its cold trek on the steps of the Winnie Mandela Alternative High School, 7847 S. Jeffery, feeling confident from the reception and emboldened by the statement they made in the community. Some had feared for their safety, and felt that completing the march was in itself a heroic act.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Black Gay Activists Fear Violence Pattern

Black Gay Activists Fear Violence Pattern
by Amy Wooten
Source: Windy City Times

Local Black LGBT activists are concerned about the recent murders of two openly gay Black men on the South Side, and in light of the passing of the anniversary of last year's New Year's Eve South Side shooting, they are calling for the city to step up on combating what they fear is a pattern of violence against the community.

“We are calling on the police department to let the community know what's going on,” said the Coalition for Justice and Respect's Mark Loveless. He and others feel that the city and police haven't adequately responded to the killings.

Critical Caucus—a coalition of LGBT organizations such as the Coalition for Justice and Respect—as well as event planners and businesses, held a press conference at City Hall Dec. 27 to issue a community alert in response to the news of the murder of an openly gay choir director as well as the mid-November killing of a Black gay man. Loveless feels that the killings show a continued pattern of violence against Black gay men on the city's South Side.

Since the press conference, the Chicago Police Department has contacted Critical Caucus and requested a meeting. Loveless said that the meeting will take place early January.

“We are here because we are scared,” Loveless said. Black gay activists are calling on the Chicago Police Department to provide the community with more information. They also want city officials to help stop what they consider a pattern of violence, although police have no information linking the cases, which are still under investigation. Police also have no information as to whether or not the killings were motivated by hate.

On Nov. 17, 24-year-old Larry Bland was shot to death in his Englewood home. His family has voiced concern that he was possibly targeted because he was openly gay. Donald Young, 47, was found shot to death in his South Side apartment Dec. 23, and several items from his home were stolen. He was the choir director for Trinity United Church of Christ, which recently confirmed his sexual orientation to a local news station.