Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Speech For Britney And Crystal Memorial Vigil

Here's the text of the speech I'm delivering at tonight's memorial candlelight vigil for Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson

Giving honor to God, Pastor Turney, the families of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, civic leaders, my fellow Cougars, my SGL and LGBT family, friends and allies. 

Despite the reason we are gathered in this space this evening,  I am honored to be here this evening at the invitation of Laila Khalili, the Student Feminist Organization at UH , Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at UH, Global at UH, the UH LGBT Resource Center, the NAACP UH Chapter and the UH Women's Resource Center

I sincerely thank you for the opportunity to say a few words at this vigil as an ally and a member of the Houston transgender community.  

Normally when I get the opportunity to come back to the UH campus as a proud alum, I'm elated and happy to do so.   But unfortunately, this is not one of those times my heart is filled with joy to be on my Cougar stomping grounds, but a moment tinged with sadness.   It is a feeling that is far too familiar to me as a longtime member of the trans community when I walk into this same AD Bruce chapel and remember the brutal and excessively numerous deaths of my trans sisters here and around the world every November 20.

We are gathered here tonight to honor the memory of two 24 year old women who had barely begun the journey of living their lives and experiencing all the world has to offer.   Britney and Crystal had barely begun the evolutionary process of determining the type of women they wanted to project to the world before they were called home to be with the ancestors.  

And just like in November when I have to contemplate that so many of the transwomen we memorialize during TDOR are Black, Latina and under 30,  I'm pissed off about it.

And why am I angry about that?   Because we will never know how the rest of Britney and Crystal's lives would have turned out.  We won't get the opportunity to discover what kind of contributions these young women would have made to their families, our society or our community.   We won't get to see with the passage of time how they would have evolved as young women and fellow human beings.  

I'm also pissed off because it plays into a longtime problem of violence being directed at LGBT women of color.   On May 11, 2003, Sakia Gunn was with a group of friends returning to Newark from a night of hanging out in New York City.  She was murdered because she didn't respond to the advances of two African-American men, and was just 15 years old.when she died.

Three months later Shani Baraka, the daughter of the late poet Amiri Baraka and her partner Rayshon Holmes were murdered by an African-American male who disapproved of their relationship  

According to a 2012 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) study on Hate Violence, 73% of the anti-LGBT murder victims that year were people of color, and 53% of those murder victims were African-American.   

I bring up those stats because it's time for a little telling it like it T-I-S is truth telling in this AD Bruce house tonight.  I'm tired of seeing the homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and hypermasculinity in Black community ranks manifesting itself into us burying our kids and more distressingly, African-American women be they cis or transgender. 

That disgusting pattern needs to stop.
  If you claim to love all Black people, then that includes those of us in the LGBT community ranks as well.  The bottom line is that none of us in the African American SGL, bi and trans communities gave up our Black cards or our humanity simply because we are living our authentic lives.   Neither is living our authentic lives a crime punishable by the sentence of death. 

And as Audre Lorde eloquently said, "Black women sharing close ties with each other, politically or emotionally are not the enemies of Black men."

So my fellow Houstonians, what would be the best way to honor Britney and Crystal's memory this evening?  
We start that process by driving home the point that the 628 square miles of Texas territory that we call Houston is home to all of us, be we same gender loving, bi, trans or cisgender.

We honor Britney and Crystal by
teaching our young men that violence against women no matter what their age is wrong, and there are better ways to project your masculinity to the world than imitating media created crotch-grabbing sagging pants wearing cartoon characters.

We honor Britney and Crystal by
working diligently towards permanently eradicating the foul stench of anti-LGBT attitudes and hate speech that have the deleterious effects of ending the lives of LGBT young people either by their own hand via suicide or by the misguided hands of someone else.
We honor Britney and Crystal by committing to have an ongoing dialogue with the goal of coming up with concrete solutions to end the off the charts violence aimed against women in the LGBT community

I'm going to close with the words of one of our great Houstonians in Barbara Jordan,who once stated, "One thing is clear to me: We, as human beings, must be willing to accept people who are different from ourselves'.
And in memory of Britney and Crystal, we need to get busy not only accepting people who are different from ourselves, but unconditionally loving them, too.

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