NCAVP mourns the death of Brooklyn DeShauna Smith, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman in Shreveport, LA

NCAVP mourns the death of Brooklyn Deshauna Smith, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman who was shot in Shreveport, LA on Oct. 7th. Brooklyn’s loss comes during a year of loss and grief, compounded by the global pandemic, in which we have tracked the deadliest year on record for TGNC people in the U.S.

Brooklyn was a student at Bossier Parish Community College, and studied cosmetology. Friends and family of Brooklyn have taken to social media to grieve her passing – her profile picture has been reposted over 30 times, with well wishes and calls for justice. “I can’t believe I’m seeing and hearing this,” writes one user. “This real deal touched me , rest up love,” writes another.

Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at (318) 673-6955 or Shreveport Police’s main number, (318) 673-7300 x 3. Tips may also be submitted to Shreveport-Caddo Crime Stoppers at (318) 673-7373, one, via the P3 Tips app to offer information anonymously.


NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Sara Blackwood, a 29-year-old transgender woman in Indianapolis, IL

NCAVP mourns the death of Sara Blackwood, a 29-year-old transgender woman who was fatally shot in Indianapolis on October 11th. Sarah was walking home from a shift at Long John Silver’s, where she worked, when she was killed.

Someone close to Sara reached out to publication Planet Transgender to provide some context around the attack and what authorities have communicated to her long-term domestic partner Avery Ellis Blackwood.

“Last night, Sara Blackwood was walking home when she was shot and killed. The homicide detectives have not told Avery much about what happened exactly, so they don’t know for sure.”
.
“What they do know, is that Sara was shot, and alive at the scene. However, she died during emergency surgery at the hospital. This is the extent of Avery’s knowledge on what happened.”
.
“I am writing this on behalf of Avery Ellis Blackwood, to make this devastating situation a little easier for them by not having to repeat the news over and over again.”

Friends described Sara to that same publication as “shy” and someone who loved anime, also indicative of her Facebook, in which several of her profile pictures are that of anime characters. On her social media, she describes herself as “A MLP:FiM [My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic] obsessed town girl fed up with capitalism. Also I miss role playing & videogames.” As of yesterday, Avery’s profile picture has been updated to a character from the cartoon show crying. On her death A former coworker of Sarah’s told a local news station “The world at large is missing a very kind, responsible person.”

Anyone with additional information has been encouraged to call IMPD at 317-327-3811.


NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Felycya Harris, a 33-year-old Black transgender woman in Augusta, GA

NCAVP mourns the death of Felycya Harris, a 33-year-old Black transgender woman who was fatally shot and found in a park in Augusta, GA on October 3rd. Felycya’s death marks the 3rd killing of a transgender woman in that area in this year alone.

Felycya was a self-employed interior decorator, who on her Instagram promised to “take the distance to save $,” promising that “it don’t cost much to give your home glow.” On Facebook, loved ones of Felycya are grieving her loss, commenting “Such an awesome person. I pray you get Justice!!!!” and “Unbelievable news. God rest your soul and prayers of comfort to your family. Rest In Heaven.” Felycya enjoyed to livestream on her personal pages, which people are also missing – “Im so gonna miss laughing at your lives. I did not know you personally but I enjoyed looking at your lives,” says one viewer. Another commented on her latest one, stating “Wow friend I’m watching this crying. I miss you so much already.”

Ricola Collier, a friend of Felycya’s told local TV stations: “Everybody’s going to remember Felycya … That laugh. The smile — the smiles. The talks. The arguments. The attitudes. Everybody is going to remember who Felycya Harris is. Nobody would ever forget who that is.”

Police originally deemed her death as “suspicious” when her body was found on Saturday, but by Monday had classified it as a homicide. Richmond County investigators are still searching for a suspect in this case and ask anyone with information to call them at 706-821-1000.

NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Mia Green, a 29-year-old Black transgender woman in West Philadelphia, PA

NCAVP mourns the death of Mia Green, a 29-year-old Black transgender woman who was fatally shot in West Philadelphia, PA on September 28th. Mia was discovered in the passenger seat of her assailant’s car after police pulled him over for running a stop sign. She was rushed to the hospital, but pronounced dead on the scene at 8:30 am. Her assailant is currently being charged for her murder and other related offenses.

On her death, Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs released a statement, describing the death of “yet another trans community member of color” as “especially painful.” “[We are] committed to ensuring that acts of discrimination, bigotry, and hatred are never tolerated in the city of Philadelphia,” the statemet adds.

Members and allies of the transgender community have taken to social media to mourn Mia – “My deepest condolences to Mia Green and her family … I’m sick to my stomach and filled with rage,” writes Rob Thornton. “We need to RUSH and PUSH to end violence against transmen and transwomen. Their lives are precious and they matter✊🏽” says F. Langston on Instagram.

NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of 33-year-old Puerto Rican, transgender woman, Michellyn Ramos Vargas, in San Germán, Puerto Rico

NCAVP mourns the death of Michellyn Ramos Vargas, a 33-year-old Latinx transgender woman who was found on an isolated road after suffering gunshot wounds on September 30th in San Germán, Puerto Rico. Police say they are unsure what motivated the fatal shooting.

Michellyn was a factory worker in Sabana Grande who lived in El Carmen de Mayagüez. On Facebook, one of her close friends mourns her death, stating (translated from Spanish): “Rest in peace dear friend Michellyn … Thank you for all the good laughs and for sharing your ideas.” Her friend then goes on to use the Spanish hashtags #NotOneMore and #JusticeForMichy

Michellyn’s death marks the 6th hate violence related death of trans and gender non-conforming people in Puerto Rico – a particulary violent year for the island. The other victims were Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Alexa Ruiz, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, Layla Pelaez Sánchez, and Yampi Mendez Arocho. On her death, human rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano holds the Puerto Rican government and upcoming candidates responsible for her muder, citing their lack of empathy and sensitivity towards an education with a gender perspective.” “They are responsible for these murders and should be ashamed,” he adds.

Amárilis Pagán, Executive director of women’s rights org Proyecto Matria encourages the Puerto Rican government to investigate the death as a hate crime, claiming that Michellyn was well known in San Germán. She states “the lives of transgender people matter and their violent deaths must be investigated.”

We know it can be hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilngual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Massiah Berkley, a 20-year-old Black queer man in Far Rockaway, NY

NCAVP mourns the death of Massiah Berkley, a 20-year-old Black queer man who was fatally stabbed in Far Rockaway, NY over Labor Day weekend. His attacker is currently being charged for murder as a hate crime – reports reveal Massiah’s assailant called him a homophobic slur which prompted the altercation.

Massiah was a muralist, and worked with Groundswell, an arts-based nonprofit organization that motivates young community members to use art as a way to beautify their surroundings. One of his mural’s is prominently displayed on a vacant building on the corner of Pitkin Ave. and Strauss St.

Massiah’s family is greatly mourning his loss, which comes exactly a year and a day after his father died due to a heart attack. A Brooklyn resident, the reason Massiah was in Far Rockaway was to assist his cousin’s mother who was sick – “Massiah was a sweetheart. He helped everybody. That’s why he was in Far Rockaway, so he could help (his cousin) take care of her mother, because her mother was in a nursing home,” his mother, Kim Berkley said. “That’s what he do, he help everybody. But nobody was there to help him.”

“(He) always wanting to be a part of the solution,” says Berkley’s cousin. “He was a strong young man to have survived this community.”

On Instagram, someone who knew Massiah posted a video of one of his mural’s, paying tribute to his legacy. “he was a king, he was a good man S.i.p” writes the photographer and artist, Keez.

We know it can be hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Aerrion Burnett, a 37-year-old Black transgender woman in Independence, MO

NCAVP mourns the death of Aerrion Burnett, a 37-year-old Black transgender woman who was fatally shot in Independence, MO in the early morning of September 19th. Family members believe she was a victim of anti-trans hate violence, but are awaiting further details.

Aerrion passed the day before her 38th birthday, and her friends and family honored her life with a balloon release the following day. They reportedly were planning to throw Aerrion a surprise party.

At the vigil, Korea Kelly, who knew Aerrion sang her praises. “Aerrion was a Barbie,” said Korea Kelly. “She was a goddess. … If you wanted to have a good day, you need to smile, Aerrion was the person you wanted by your side.”

Aerrion had a best friend Darnell “Dee Dee” Pearson who also died to hate violence in 2011.“As a friend, and both of those are my friends who both got killed the same way, and being a black trans woman myself, that hurts like hell,” Kelly said.

On the murder, Aerrion’s cousin stated: “It’s about time to stop the crime and stop the murders. Stop taking our lives. Lives matter.”

Police ask anyone with information to contact the TIPS hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

NCAVP mourns the death of Kee Sam, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman in Lafayette, LA

NACP mourns the death of Kee Sam, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman who passed in Lafeyette, Louisiana. Kee was the victim of a fatal shooting at a hotel on August 12 – she passed from injuries received in the shooting the following day. Police currently have a suspect in custody for the shooting.

Loved ones are mourning Kee’s death on her personal Instagram page, writing comments such as “this can’t be true” and “you[‘re] in my heart forever.” One person shared the hashtag #LongLiveKeeSam.

**Please note that the article referencing Kee’s death deadnames her. AVP prioritizes outlets that accurately represent the names and pronouns of transgender people, but there were unfortunately a limited number of reports surrounding Kee. AVP believes it is best practice for all journalists to correctly identify trans murder victims.**

NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

Family of Layleen Polanco Settles Civil Suit With New York City, Continues Advocacy #JusticeForLayleen

Media Contact:
Eliel Cruz, Director of Communications,
New York City Anti-Violence Project
ecruz@avp.org,
917-727-2107

David Shanies, Attorney representing Polanco family
david@shanieslaw.com
212-951-1710

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Family of Layleen Polanco Settles Civil Suit With New York City, Continues Advocacy #JusticeForLayleen

August 31, NEW YORK, NY The family of Layleen Polanco, a 27-year-old Afro-Latinx trans woman who died while being held in solitary confinement in Rikers Island in June 2019, has settled their civil suit with the City of New York. The civil suit for reckless indifference for Layleen’s life was settled for a financial settlement of 5.9 million dollars, the largest settlement paid by the City for a death in custody. 

“My family made the difficult decision to settle our lawsuit with the City of New York. Despite the settlement, my family isn’t done fighting. This lawsuit was only one way we were seeking justice for Layleen and this is only just the start.” Melania Brown, Layleen’s sister said. “To this day, despite evidence of negligence, no one has been held accountable for my sister’s death. The guards who were responsible for caring for my sister must be fired.” 

In June of 2020, both the Department of Investigation and the Bronx’s District Attorney Darcel Clark released reports of their investigations declining to press charges against Rikers officials for Layleen’s death. The reports, which initially deadnamed Layleen, claimed they found no criminal wrongdoing or negligence. A week later, the Polanco family released footage inside Rikers which showed Correctional Officers opening Layleen’s cell and visibly laughing just moments before she was pronounced dead. 

In response to the reports, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that seventeen correctional officers would be disciplined as well as the City’s intent to end solitary confinement. 

“Justice for Layleen is ending the conditions that led her to her death. It’s ensuring no other family has to experience the grief my family now has to live with for the rest of our lives.” Brown said. “My family would like to thank David Shanies and his firm for representing us, the New York City Anti-Violence Project for their tireless advocacy and support, and to every person who has demanded justice for Layleen. Our fight continues.” 

The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) echoes Polanco’s family’s continued calls for justice and demands all of the Riker’s officials responsible for Layleen’s death be fired. 

“The neglect and utter disregard for Layleen’s life by prison officials is reprehensible. Solitary confinement for all must be ended immediately and concrete steps must be taken to ensure the safety of all trans and gender nonconforming people incarcerated, “ Beverly Tillery, Executive Director of AVP said. 

“Unfortunately, we know what happened to Layleen is reflective of thousands of transgender people who are regularly subjected to neglect and violence and stripped of their humanity within our nation’s jails and prisons. These acts of state violence have to stop and we are calling on our city and state officials to take action now to ensure accountability for Layleen’s tragic death, and to end the criminalization and disproportionate incarceration and abuse of transgender New Yorkers.”

The New York City Anti-Violence Project calls for:

  • The Mayor’s Office and/or the Department of Corrections fire correction officers and their captain involved in Layleen Polanco’s death in solitary confinement at Rikers Island
  • The Department of Correction to create and maintain a database of records of Correctional Officers who have committed misconduct. 

Representatives for the Polanco family, their attorney, and spokespersons from AVP are available for comment.

About Layleen: At the time of her death, Layleen Polanco was caught up in the violent bureaucracy of New York’s criminal legal system. She died on Rikers Island on June 7th, 2019 while being detained on $500 bail on a misdemeanor charge. Polanco was being held due to a few missed court dates as part of the services she was mandated to in an alternative to incarceration program due to a prior arrest in a sting operation for sex work in 2017. Furthermore, she was being punished with solitary confinement even though officials at Rikers knew she had a serious medical condition that caused life-threatening seizures, as well as schizophrenia.

About AVP: The New York City Anti-Violence Project empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through free counseling, legal serivces, advocacy.

 ###

 

NCAVP mourns the death of Ashley Moore, a 26-year-old Black transgender woman in Newark, NJ

NCAVP mourns the death of Ashley Moore, a 26-year-old Black trans woman found dead outside the YMCA in Newark, NJ on April 1. The Newark Police Department did not make any attempt to contact her family, and ruled the death a suicide, claiming Ashley either jumped from the roof or was hit by a car, despite strangulation marks on her neck. A witness reported seeing Ashley run out of her room and downstairs that night at 3:47 am, ruling out the former, and camera footage confirmed there were no vehicles nearby at the time of her death that could have struck her. Moore was cremated before an autopsy was conducted, and a death certificate has not been issued, even 4 months after her passing. Both the police report and obituary misgendered and deadnamed Ashley. Due to pushback by Ashley’s mother Starlet Carbin and advocates, an investigation has finally been opened by the police department in connection with the county’s Homicide Task Force.

“Ashley loved people” said her mother in a phone call with NJ Advanced Media. She had a passion for writing, an enthusiasm that was sparked after she read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a child, she also worked as chef at One World Trade Center. She had a younger brother, Elijah, and “always led with connection.”

Sadly, negative response from law enforcement is not exclusive to Ashley’s death – in 2018 a video she posted on Instagram chronicled an experience she had with the Newark Police Department in which they refused to file a police report after she was mugged, instead calling her a homophobic slur upon discovering she was a trans woman.

The demand for justice for Ashley is due largely in part to efforts by the Newark LGBT Community Center, and its founder Beatrice Simpkins. The org has arranged a website where supporters can learn more about the case and contribute to the fund set up to create a legal retainer, hire a lawyer, and push for an investigation.

NCAVP stands in solidarity with Black trans women, and we know that it is always hard to read these reports of violence against our communities. We know this can be even more painful when there continues to be an unchecked epidemic of homicides of Black trans women, as police violence is escalating against Black and brown people, and our nation continues to be grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic that highlights long standing healthcare disparities for Black and brown communities. If you need support in these difficult times, you can always reach out to your local NCAVP member. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach our free bilingual national hotline at 212-714-1141 or report online for support.

NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.