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, March 26, 2008

DA: Suspect Shouted Anti-Gay Taunts, Deadly Stabbing Came After Chasing Fleeing Victim

By Charles Sweeney
Source: Brooklyn Daily Eagle

JAY STREET — Hate was on the docket Friday when an 18-year-old charged with intentional murder in the stabbing death of a 20-year-old gay man last spring appeared in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Wednesday. He appeared at a pre-trial hearing as the case moves toward a trial.

The defendant, Omar Willock, is charged with a hate crimes offense for the May 12, 2007 murder, a distinction that raises the charge against him to first-degree murder, according to Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.

Read more.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Victimization of gays get little attention in the media

By William Butte
Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

"Are you looking at me, you faggot? You know what I do to faggots? I break their necks!"

Melbourne Brunner heard this expression of irrationality, fear and hatred just moments before he was attacked by a stranger last month in front of a restaurant on Fort Lauderdale's toniest street. Brunner's partner had the temerity to say "Good morning" to the would-be assailant when they made eye-contact as he passed by their table.

But Brunner was lucky, so to speak. He survived the assault, since his assailant only used his fists, not a gun.

Across town, Simmie Williams Jr. wasn't as fortunate. The day before Brunner was attacked, the 17-year-old who favored the name Beyonce and was dressed as a woman, was shot and killed on a stretch of Sistrunk Boulevard known for transgender prostitution. Witnesses had heard an argument between Williams and two men that may have included anti-gay slurs.

That Fort Lauderdale's mayor hasn't said anything about either incident isn't surprising, since he still seems more passionately obsessed with men's rooms than Larry "Wide Stance" Craig.

But if you're surprised that these two incidents could happen on the supposedly über gay-friendly streets of Fort Lauderdale, perhaps it's because very few gay-related hate crimes receive mainstream media attention.

Ten years ago, the media's focus on the murder of Matthew Shepard made him an iconic symbol of hate crimes against the GLBT community, but since then, some equally shocking crimes have flown beneath the national media radar.

Ten days before Williams was killed, a 15-year-old boy, Lawrence King, was shot in the back of the head in his eighth-grade junior high school classroom in Oxnard, Calif., by a 14-year-old classmate. While he had been taunted throughout the year in every class as a "faggot," most of his teachers ignored the ongoing abuse.

Inexplicably, this horrific, tragic story has yet to receive the national media attention it deserves. If it had, perhaps the public would be less susceptible to the claims that an organization such as GLSEN wants to enter the public schools to "indoctrinate children into the homosexual lifestyle." Perhaps more people would realize instead that GLSEN wants to educate administrators and teachers that ignoring their students' homophobia can have deadly consequences.

Students at several school shootings — including Columbine, for example — admitted they'd taunted their killer classmates as gay, though this was rarely mentioned by mainstream media.

If the media paid more attention to King's murder and the homophobia behavior that permeates our public schools, perhaps there'd be a public outcry here in the Sunshine State against the Legislature's removal from the proposed Safe School bill language that addresses harassment of GLBT students.

Off-campus, gay-related hate crimes continue to pollute our society, yet go almost unseen by national media. One year ago in Polk County, 25-year-old Ryan Skipper was abducted and stabbed 20 times before he died; 19-year-old Steen Keith Fenrich of New York was murdered by his stepfather, who wrote an anti-gay, racist slur on his skull; and 3-year-old Ronnie Paris of Tampa died of child abuse at the hands of a father who feared his baby might become gay.

If the same level of attention given to Shepard's murder were given to these and all the gay-related hate crimes that have occurred since, our society might be shocked and perhaps outraged that Congress hasn't passed a GLBT-inclusive hate crimes bill.

And perhaps even more Americans would be repulsed by Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern's recent remark that homosexuality poses a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism.

Speaking about Lawrence King's murder on her TV show, Ellen DeGeneres said, "…when the message out there is so horrible that to be gay you can be killed for it, we need to change the message."

But that will only happen when the violent deaths of people killed for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender receive the same national media attention as the rants of the homophobic.

William Butte is a commentator on issues affecting the GLBT community. His column appears the third Friday of each month. E-mail him at wmbutte@bellsouth.net.

Copyright © 2008, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Years later, two mothers shed tears for slain gay sons

The mothers of two slain gay men have been close friends — and grieving — for years

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Five years and a half-mile separate the violent deaths of two young gay men who were dressed as women along Sistrunk Boulevard.

Timothy Broadus: 22, shot dead on Jan. 8, 2003.

Simmie Williams Jr.: 17, shot dead on Feb. 22, 2008.

Their mothers have been close friends for years.

"I can't believe it happened again," said Broadus' mother, Veta Calloway, 66. Now, she is hoping Williams' case will draw attention to her own son's death.

She tries to comfort Williams' mother, Denise King, 38, whom she met around the time Broadus was killed. Both families lived in the same Hollywood apartments at the time, and King dated Broadus' brother.

Williams was just 12 when Broadus died, and the two young men never met, the mothers said.

Both cases remain unsolved and do not appear to involve the same killer, police say, although there were similarities. Both victims identified themselves as gay and sometimes dressed as women, and they were both shot by killers who may have made anti-gay slurs.

Both victims were careful to use street names to shield their families from their activities on Sistrunk Boulevard. Broadus was known as "Cinnamon," and Williams was known as "Chris," "Beyoncé" and "Lil' Rick."

Broadus worked as a prostitute along a portion of Sistrunk favored by cross-dressing prostitutes and their customers, and Williams may have been doing the same, police said.

There is a suspect in Broadus' case, police said, and King said she has received several anonymous phone calls from people who think they know who shot her son. Williams' death is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Police say it's possible that Broadus' death may also have elements of a hate crime.

Williams was dressed as a woman when he was killed, wearing a white T-shirt knotted up to reveal his midriff, police said. His black Addidas bag, which he took everywhere and contained his ID, is missing, King said.

Both mothers recall how their sons, rather than go out with friends, surprised them shortly before their deaths with a day of close bonding.

Broadus did not live with his mother at the time but made a daylong visit to her home on Christmas Eve to talk and watch TV together.

"He said, "Momma, I'm going to spend the day with you,'" Calloway recalled, smiling.

Williams spent the day before his death cooking for his mother and talking about food, King said.

"My son was my best friend," she said, sitting on a couch in Calloway's Dania Beach home, wearing a white T-shirt printed with her son's photo and date of death. "You could tell him anything and he would tell you anything," she said, crying.

While Williams' recent death made headlines locally and in the national gay media, Broadus' killing garnered little attention.

Broadus died along Northwest 21st Avenue wearing a blond weave in an elaborate up-do that he had someone style the night of his death, Calloway said.

A man driving a gray or silver Honda Accord cruised Sistrunk, waving over a couple women and then motioning them away when he saw Broadus, police said. Broadus, about six feet tall and 200 pounds, strutted up to the car, put his arm up the roof and ducked down to the window. The driver fired a .38-caliber gun, and the bullet pierced Broadus under his arm, traveling through to his chest, Calloway said. Broadus fell dead in the street, his purse and cash scattered behind him, police said.

Over the course of the next month, police investigated anonymous tips and ran forensic tests on a seized car and the bullet that struck Broadus. But they never had enough evidence to warrant an arrest, officials said.

Detectives suspect Broadus may have been targeted in retaliation for a fistfight he had with another man at a gas station about two weeks before he was killed. It's unclear what that dispute was about, but Broadus' mother is convinced that someone was picking on her son because he was gay.

Mark Broadus, Timothy Broadus' brother who dated King, agrees about the possible motive. He had seen his brother working in the Sistrunk neighborhood. "A lot of people in that area don't like gay people," he said. "I was definitely worried something was going to happen."

Police arrested Broadus 15 times since 1998, six of the arrests involving prostitution charges, according to state records.

When news of Williams' death reached both families last month, each was collectively thinking "not again."

Both mothers say they find solace and strength at Lighthouse Church of God & Christ, in Fort Lauderdale.

As they sat together in Calloway's home earlier this week, both looked to the ground and shook their heads.

"They're dead," Calloway said.

"And they're not coming back," said King.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Mark Breen at 954-828-5708, Detective John Curcio at 954-828-5529 or Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.

Staff researchers Barbara Hijek and Bill Lucey contributed to this story.

Sofia Santana can be reached at svsantana@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4631.

Copyright © 2008, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Uniting To End Hate Violence

Author: Nadine Smith
Source: The Daily Voice

We have to make ending hate violence - no matter the target - a national priority. We have to speak up, at the top of our voices every time. We need a national hate crime law that sends a new and unmistakable message that we as a society will not allow any class of people to be terrorized by hate violence.

Two weeks ago, 17 year-old Simmie Williams, Jr. was gunned down on a street corner in Broward County. According to family and friends, the African-American teenager identified as gay and had reportedly reached out to transgender support groups in recent weeks. Police are investigating Simmie's murder as a possible hate crime based on the words they say were exchanged before the shooting.

On Friday, hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Broward residents gathered along with civil rights leaders, elected officials and Simmie's family and friends to remember the slain teen. Speakers offered condolences, denounced hate violence and passed the hat to help Denise King cover the cost of burying her son and offered reward money to help find his killers.

It was a beautiful display of love and unity in the face of unspeakable tragedy. It is the kind of unity and outrage that we need every day if we are going to end the epidemic of hate violence in our country.

Days after Simmie's murder, a gay man was beaten while leaving a local restaurant by an assailant who screamed "You know what I do to faggots? I break their necks."
The same day a noose was left in a nearby school cafeteria in what may have been a hate crime aimed at a student who'd done a report on Black History month. The student said she'd heard a joke going around campus earlier in the week: 'What do an apple and a black man have in common?'" The answer : '"They both look best hanging from a tree.'"

Simmie's murder came in the wake of national attention drawn by the classroom murder of Oxnard California 15 year-old Lawrence King, a constant target of harassment and ridicule because he wore makeup. Lawrence was shot in the back and in the head by a 14 year-old classmate who told friends in advance that Lawrence was "having his last day."

Now comes news that another Black transgender teen has been murdered in South Carolina.
"That Adolphus Simmons dressed like a woman was of no consequence to his neighbors at the Bradford Apartments in North Charleston. To them, his shooting death Monday night was a senseless loss of a beloved friend."-

Police would say these crimes are unrelated, carried out by different people but we know they are tied together by a common enemy: a willingness to do harm to those who are different. The brutal acts spring from common attitudes that are too often going unchallenged. For every national outcry in the wake of a hate crime, hundreds of equally brutal hate motivated attacks and murders occur without condemnation.

We have to make ending hate violence - no matter the target - a national priority. We have to speak up, at the top of our voices every time.

We need a national hate crime law that sends a new and unmistakable message that we as a society will not allow any class of people to be terrorized by hate violence. But we must do more than seek harsher punishments, we must address hate violence at its root, in the place it is thriving right now, our schools.

We know the perpetrators are overwhelmingly teenagers and young adults.
What begins as taunting, teasing and harassment at school quickly escalates into violence on our campuses and in our streets. Too few schools address the problem, instead waiting until blood is spilled and police are called.

We can begin to end hate violence by passing a federal anti-bullying bill that requires schools to address hate violence through prevention and education. By preparing teachers so they know how to respond and create a safe learning environment for all students.

We can change the culture of hate in society by banding together and refusing to be silent even when the victim doesn't look like us, believe what we believe or come from the same background.