A celebration of Black trans lives

Event attendees hold up a banner with the words “Black Trans Lives Matter” at the Trans Liberation Now Celebration in Hudson River Park, September 19, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking.

As the rate of violence against and murder of Black transgender individuals continues to rise in the United State, members of the community came together yesterday at the Trans Liberation Now Celebration to celebrate Black Trans lives while they are living. 

Event attendees gathered in New York City’s Hudson River Park to hear from community activists, watch live performances and drag shows, eat, dance and socialize. 

Ts Candii, founder of Black Trans Nation, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance and other support to sex workers looking to avoid the streets, said that the event was aimed at promoting joy. 

“The main purpose of this event was for Black joy, Black trans joy, Black trans liberation…to uplift and celebrate Black trans women while we are alive, because every hour, every day, at every turn, there is a Black transgender woman brutally murdered,” she said. “So due to all of the pain and suffering, we thought there was a need to have some kind of laughter.” 

The event was co-organized by nine different organizations, including Black Trans Nation, Housing Works, and The Brooklyn GHOST Project. Amongst the guest speakers was Tanesha Grant, founder of Parents Supporting Parents NYC, an organization providing parents with resources during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event comes at a time when violence against the Black trans community is at an all-time-high, with the Human Rights Campaign reporting 27 known transgender or gender non-conforming murder victims this year in the United States as of September 2020. Last year there were 26 known victims. The Human Rights Campaign also reports that transgender individuals frequently face mistreatment from law enforcement and high rates of assault while incarcerated. 

“The criminal justice system was not created to protect Black lives, and it sure as hell wasn’t created to protect trans lives,” said Candii. “We are ants under their feet…they don’t care about our lives.” 

Dianne Morales speaks with an event attendee, September 19, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking.

The Trans Liberation Now Celebration conveyed the importance of voting by having volunteers register attendees to vote in upcoming elections, and by hosting New York City mayoral candidate, Dianne Morales. 

Morales, originally from Brooklyn and the daughter of Puerto Rican parents, spoke of her campaign’s emphasis on giving voice to marginalized communities.

With tambourine in hand she said, “ I am running for mayor of New York City because it is time that we center and elevate the voices of those of us who have historically been silenced.” 

Candii believes that Morales is the candidate most ready and willing to fight for the rights of Black and transgender individuals. 

“She is on the ground with the most marginalized doing the work. When she gets into office I know that she won’t forget about me like the rest of the candidates,” she said. 

Attendees at the Trans Liberation Now Celebration, co-organized by Black Trans Nation, Housing Works, and The Brooklyn GHOST Project, September 19, 2020. Photo by Tori Luecking

The celebration is just the first of many more to happen annually, according to Candii. But between the celebrations she hopes to see more allies of the Black trans community consider the need. 

“Donate on a consistent basis, make Black trans people, Black Trans Nation, a part of your budget, and give us funds so that we can continue to invest back into the community,” she said.