Militant Journalism

Brooklyn banner drop honors murdered Black trans and queer women the media ignored


Liberation photo: Vincent Tsai
Liberation photo: Vincent Tsai

On March 3 members of the Audre Lorde Project’s Safe Outside the System collective, Trans Justice, 3rd Space Collective, Black Youth Project 100
(BYP100) and the ANSWER Coalition dropped an 8-yard banner on the Brooklyn Museum in solidarity with Black trans women and Black lesbian women who have been murdered within the past few months.

There has barely been any media coverage of the violent deaths of these women and their children. The racist, patriarchal, transphobic and homophobic system that controls the major news networks has chosen to ignore them. This is a pattern. Then, on Feb. 23, a trans and queer lounge in Los Vegas was attacked via rounds of gunfire and several people were shot. The attack went unreported by news outlets across the country. This made us decide to take control of the narrative, bring attention to these murders, and put them in a social context.

The banner drop highlighted this struggle and these attacks, and connected them to the community. The action took place during the Brooklyn Museum’s monthly first Saturday event, when the museum is open late, holds cultural events, and gathers the attention and participation of thousands of people. The audience is mostly LGBTQ, Black and other people of color every month. And with this month’s event being specifically women’s month- it was the perfect site for the banner drop.

When the banner was released bearing the words, “Our lives will not be ignored. Black Trans and queer women’s lives matter,” the “Say her name”
chant was started. The names of the known victims were also chanted. These names are: Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, Viccky Gutierrez, Tonya Harvey, Celine Walker, Phylicia Mitchell, Zakaria Fry, Kaladaa Crowell, Brandi Mells, and Kerrice Lewis.

Brandi Mells, 22, was shot down in Troy, NY, on Dec. 21. Kerrice Lewis, 23, was shot and burned alive in Washington, DC, on Dec. 28. Kaladaa Crowell, 36, was fatally shot along with her 11-year-old daughter Kyra Inglett in Tallahassee, FL on Jan. 3. Christina Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42, was killed in Boston on Jan. 7. Viccky Gutierrez was murdered in a ‘’suspicious” fire in Los Angeles on Jan. 12. Celine Walker, 36, was found murdered in her hotel room in Jacksonville Florida, on Feb. 4. Tonya Harvey, 35, was shot and killed in Buffalo, NY, on Feb. 6. Zakaria Fry, 28, was beaten to death and found stuffed into a trash container in Stanley, NM on Feb. 1. Phylicia Mitchell, 45, was murdered in Cleveland on Feb. 23.

Speakers put solidarity in the forefront when agitating the crowd. They made it clear that the same system that allows the oppression of LGBTQ folks to continue in our communities is the same system in which police brutality happens every 28 hours, and where killer cops are allowed to walk free.

The crowd outside chanted with us and cheered in solidarity with the banner’s message. We continued to chant as people exited the museum, and received even greater applause. A great empowerment was felt. One participant called the action “amazing… Y’all are so powerful!”

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