WASHINGTON, D.C. – FEBRUARY 9, 2012 – Our community is now at a crossroads. Our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth are calling out to us. This is the moment we make it unequivocally clear that we are here, we are listening and we are ready to take action. In light of the recent anti-LGBT attacks and murders of our Black youth, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black LGBT people, is standing with community members to demand that this pattern of violence against our own end now.
Earlier this week, a video of Brandon White, a Black gay man in Atlanta, being brutally beaten went viral. The 30-second clip shows a group of men suspected to be members of the gang Pittsburgh Jack City kicking and punching the unsuspecting young man as they repeatedly call him anti-gay slurs.
Just last Thursday a Black transgender woman, Deoni Jones, was fatally stabbed in Washington, D.C. According to a press release from the D.C. Transgender Coalition (DCTC), an altercation between the victim and her attacker broke out at the bus stop, which resulted in the victim being stabbed in the face. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) suspect and is looking for a Black male, 30 to 40 years old.
Last month, new details emerged in the hazing death of gay Florida A&M University student Robert Champion, Jr. Friends have said they believe his orientation may have been a factor in the severity of the brutal beating that killed him. And those are just three of the incidents we know about. Many more attacks, assaults, and incidents of harassment go unreported.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has found that violence against LGBT people is up 23 percent, with people of color and transgender women as the most likely targets. Of the victims murdered in 2010, 70 percent were people of color, and 44 percent were transgender women.
“Enough is enough,” says Sharon Lettman-Hicks, NBJC executive director. “Our children are dying and they’re taking each other’s lives. Simply because it’s anti-LGBT violence doesn’t change the fact that it’s Black-on-Black crime. We need to act now.”
Black LGBT people are at the intersection of laws like the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which were passed to protect people like Brandon, Deoni and Robert. But federal law enforcement alone will not address the systematic and societal realities around violence in our community.
This tragic string of attacks is a clarion call that more deliberate action within the Black community is needed now more than ever. Anti-gay violence is not only a civil rights issue; it is a Black issue. It is a Black issue because violence against gay and transgender individuals is disproportionately affecting our Black youth. The civil rights community can no longer stand on the sidelines while our LGBT sons and daughters continue to suffer in silence.