This time of year, Mardi Gras and New Orleans are in my mind – I lived in Louisiana for three years in the early nineties. I was terribly saddened (and angry) to learn that another trans sister of color has lost her life to violence in New Orleans. Earlier today, police found the body of Penny Proud at 1:30 AM with multiple gunshot wounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Penny was misgendered by police and the media. Penny was 21 years old.
This is the fifth known death of a transgender woman of color in 2015
- Lamia Beard was found shot to death on January 17th in Norfolk, Virginia.
- Ty Underwood was found shot to death early Monday morning on January 26 in Texas.
- Yazmin Vash Payne was discovered fatally stabbed to death on Saturday, January 31st at the scene of a house fire in the Van Nuys district of Los Angeles.
- Taja Gabrielle de Jesus was discovered stabbed to death on a stairwell in San Francisco’s Bayview District on Sunday, February 1st, 2015
- Lamar Edwards, a gender non-conforming individual, was killed in Louisville on January 9.
- Candra Keels, a lesbian of color, was stabbed and killed by her girlfriend in Rochester, New York on January 18.
- Ashley Belle, 22, was shot and killed by her girlfriend in Atlanta on January 26.
- Jessie Hernandez, 17, a queer Latina was killed by police in Denver also on January 26.
Nine queer trans people of color (QTPOC) have died in 2015 – that we know of from media reports. Nine people in 41 days or an average of one person’s life ended every 4.5 days. That’s horrifying. Beyond horrifying, almost numbing but giving in to a sense of numbing is not acceptable. BreakOUT! a New Orleans based organization issued a statement.
BreakOUT! is a proud member of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs,which found that in 2013, transgender women of color were the majority (72%) of victims of reported hate violence and also 7 times more likely to experience police violence and physical violence from law enforcement.
In our 2014 report, We Deserve Better, BreakOUT! found that 84% of transgender people reported experiencing police profiling on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation in New Orleans, with 57% reporting being harassed during the encounter. Further, 42% of LGBTQ people of color reported calling the police for help and being arrested themselves, compared with zero percent of white respondents.
Transgender women of color need to feel safe in our communities. Instead of more police, we need more investment in education, jobs, and housing for LGBTQ people, particularly Black transgender young women.
We know what we need to feel safe.
We aren’t listening well enough. We aren’t making the world safer for our trans siblings. We have to figure out how to listen better and to signal boost the knowledge and wisdom with our resources and privilege.
A candlelight vigil for Proud will be held tonight 7 p.m. at the site of her death, on the 1100 Block of North Claiborne Ave., in the Treme district of New Orleans, according to the Transgender Law Center.
Authorities ask anyone with information on this crime to contact Homicide Detective Robert Barrere at 504-658-5300 or Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111. You could receive a cash reward of up to $2,500 for the information leading to the arrest and indictment of the responsible person(s). You do not have to give your name nor testify to receive the reward. Citizens can also submit an anonymous tip online to Crimestoppers at www.crimestoppersgno.org
Rest in power, Penny. Your beautiful life ended much too soon and we will continue to call out your name while we seek a safer, just world for your sisters and brothers.