NCAVP mourns the death of Jayla English, a 28-year-old Black queer woman in Cleveland, OH

NCAVP mourns the death of Jayla English, a 28-year-old Black queer woman who was fatally shot in a parking lot on August 29th in Cleveland, OH. Jayla was involved in an argument with 23-year-old Brittany Lynn and one other woman when things escalated and Brittany opened fire.

A Change.org petition has been filed for Jayla by her partner Justine Harris, claiming that Brittany–Justine’s ex–was accompanied by a woman named Orniesha Levinson. The petition is demanding a more severe charge for Orniesha, changing it from manslaughter to aggravated murder.

Additionally, a GoFundMe was started for funeral costs for Jayla, raising over $2000. In a gun memorial site created for her, over 500 virtual candles were lit in her honor.


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.

Ahead of tomorrow, we remain hopeful

As we prepare for tomorrow’s inauguration, AVP is inspired and hopeful for a shift towards healing, justice, and accountability for our nation. We are optimistic about the intentions of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to repair many of the harms President Trump inflicted on the most marginalized in our communities. In his first ten days in office, President-elect Biden has already committed to begin addressing the multiple crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis, climate change, and issues of racial equity.

The Biden Administration is poised to make history, not only by electing the first Black and Indian woman Vice President and assembling the most diverse team of appointees and nominees ever, but by pushing forward bold initiatives needed to address the epidemic of violence that grips our country.

Biden and Harris are taking office two weeks after right-wing extremists and white supremacists took over the Capitol building threatening members of Congress and attempting to halt and overturn the certification of electoral votes. This attack was the inevitable outcome of four years of hate-mongering, conspiracy theorizing, and incitement to violence led by President Trump, fueled by many Republican members of Congress, and carried out by white supremacist terrorist groups. The administration’s first actions must include steps to hold all of the actors in the Capitol attack accountable including rooting out and disarming the white supremacist groups that mobilized thousands to descend on Washington and continue to threaten the core of our very democracy.

At the same time, we must acknowledge that our criminal legal system causes harm to Black and brown people and commit to finding new solutions for accountability that do not rely on inflicting additional violence and harm. The stark differences between the police responses to Black Lives Matter protests this summer and the Capitol insurrectionists have provided once again, clear proof of the two systems of injustice in the United States. On June 1, DC police arrested 316 people associated with the BLM protests in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, compared to just 61 arrested during the Capitol riot on January 6. Those most harmed by violence are also most harmed by our systems of punishment.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, have a difficult job ahead. They must tackle the enormous challenges we currently face in a highly volatile and polarized society. On Wednesday they will hit the ground running and at AVP, we are excited to share our vision for a just future with the new administration. In the coming weeks, AVP will share more of our national policy priorities which include: equitable COVID relief, funding for survivor services, hate violence prevention, divestment from police and investment in community services, support for immigrant survivors, and safety for sex workers and survivors of trafficking.

Even with a friendly administration, the work ahead to address and end violence will be difficult and long. Threats from the alt-right will continue and may rise. Attacks on our community will not end overnight. We will not agree with every step this administration takes. There will be setbacks. But the way forward is clearer and our resolve is strong. We hope you join us tomorrow in celebrating the possibilities of the Bidden/Harris administration and continuing to shape a world in which we can all be safe and free. In the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

In peace and solidarity,

Beverly Tillery

 

 

NCAVP mourns the death of Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a Latinx transgender man in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico

NCAVP mourns the death of Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a Latinx transgender man who was found dead on a highway in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico on January 9th. A woman driving in the early morning struck Samuel’s body, thinking it was an object–upon closer inspection she discovered she had hit a dead person. Samuel had suffered multiple gunshot wounds in different parts of his body. A

Details on Samuel’s age and personal life have not yet been disclosed by media outlets, but activist orgs are actively fighting for justice for Samuel, including initially contacting the Puerto Rico Police Department to amend reports misgendering Samuel, and urging them to investigate his death as a hate crime. In a statement released by Puerto Rico-based LGBT rights org Para Tod@s, executive director Pedro Julio Serrano writes that the Justice Departments inability to identify LGBTQ people in its incident reports remains one of the community’s “most serious issues.” The police and justice department, according to Pedro, “wants to ignore ignore, make invisible and minimize the serious problem of the wave of homophobic and transphobic violence that haunts us like never before.”

An investigation is currently ongoing–Samuel’s death marks the 2nd death by violence of an LGBTQ person in 2021.


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 Tyianna Alexander, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman in Chicago, IL

NCAVP mourns the death of Tyianna Alexander, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman who was fatally shot by a gunman in a moving vehicle on January 6 in Chicago, IL. Tyianna was pronounced dead on the scene, while a man who was with Tyianna, Brandon Gowdy, was transported to the hospital after being struck in the arm, and was later pronounced dead.

Tyianna marks the first death by violence of a trans person in 2021 – just over a week after another Black transgender woman, Courtney “Eshay” Key was murdered by gun violence in the same area. Several activist orgs have spoken out on Tyianna’s death, both on its closeness to Courtney’s and on the epidemic of violence ravaging the trans community. “I am really tired of seeing us get killed,” said Beverly Ross, a trans advocate who knew Tyianna personally. Beverly adds that Tyianna “loved to dance, had a great sense of humor, enjoyed life when she could, and just wanted to be able to ‘vibe and thrive,’”’ in a statement released by the National Black Justice Coalition. On social media, friends write that they love and miss Tyianna, “the life of the party.”

A memorial service is being planned for Tyianna on January 15th, and an investigation into the crime is currently being conducted.

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.

AVP condemns the violence occurring in our nation’s capital

AVP condemns the violence occurring in our nation’s capital, and any and all attempts to overturn a free and fair election. In failing to recognize the results of the election and commit to a peaceful transfer of power, the administration and the president have undermined faith in our democratic process, sowing doubt that now threatens our democracy. The mob laying siege to the capitol building is a direct culmination of escalating violent rhetoric that is the hallmark of the Trump platform. Yet again, today, instead of ceasing his baseless claims of election fraud, President Trump has instead continued to spread disinformation and incite more violence. 

The relatively restrained police response so far to this attempted coup is in stark contrast to the violent and militaristic response to protests against racist police violence that swept the nation over the summer.  If these were Black, brown, queer, and trans people demanding justice, it seems unlikely they would have made it onto the capitol steps, let alone onto the floor of the legislature.  

We know this is a frightening and infuriating time for our communities, after what has been an exhausting year. Forty years ago, AVP was founded in a time of violence, when our community came together to support and stand with one another, when no one else would. 

AVP documented a spike in violence after the election of 2016, and we know that more incidents may occur in the next few days and weeks. We urge you all to take care of yourselves and each other. Stay home and away from where violence is happening if you can. Check in on your friends. If you choose to join in any actions or protests against the violence, please stay safe and check out our protest safety tips.  You can always reach out to AVP for support and to report any violence you witness or experience, to our 24/7 English/Spanish hotline 212-714-1141 or online avp.org/get-help

NCAVP mourns the death of Courtney “Eshay” Key, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman in Chicago, IL

NCAVP mourns the death of Courtney “Eshay” Key, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman in Chicago, IL, who was fatally shot in the late hours of December 25. Friends and family of Courtney believe the death was a hate violence.

Friends and family of Courtney have only discussed her loss with one news outlet, stating that she was “the life of the party – hilarious and determined.” Her lifelong friend Beverly Ross called out the Chicago Police Department for deadnaming and misgendering Courtney, stating ““We are human. We are real … we’re tired of Chicago police misgendering trans people.” “She wanted to be something … she wanted to beat the odds,” says Beverly.

Brave Space Alliance, a Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ Community Center has also spoken out on the death of Courtney, commenting on the insulting and demeaning nature of deadnaming and misgendering trans folk: “We become disposable because there’s a lot of us [who] are in need of help. [We] think you’re telling us we’re worthless, that we’re not worthy of living life, because of the way we’re misgendered. This is a continual thing.” The org is also helping Courtney’s family with funeral costs.

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 Jaheim “Barbie” Pugh, a 19-year-old Black gender non-conforming person in Prichard, AL

NCAVP mourns the death of Jaheim Pugh, also known as Bella Pugh and Jaheim Barbie, a 19-year-old Black gender non-conforming person in Prichard, AL. Jaheim was fatally shot on December 13.

Bella, according to friends and family, went by both he/him and she/her pronouns. Their Facebook page is flooded with support and grievances from friends and family, including folks sharing their own selfies noting Jaheim Barbie gave them the confidence to wear certain outfits, or live their best life. Parties are being hosted in her honor, and the hashtags #LLJaheim (Long Live Jaheim), #JusticeforJaheim, and #JaheimMattered frequently appear on her Facebook. Messages include “We love you Jaheim Pugh nothing will ever change that,” and “going into a year without you is nothing I’m gonna ever get use to.” According to Bella’s family, Bella was a fan of Nicki Minaj, and wanted to travel the world.

Jaheim’s family demands justice for their passing, emphasizing the fact that the attack was a hate crime – their mother says Jaheim was killed for wearing a rainbow jumpsuit, telling a local news outlet “They took somebody special because he wore a dress.” Jaheim’s family was very supportive of their gender expression, stating “I loved him with everything in me … that’s why he could shine like he did. Everything I had I poured into Jaheim.”

A suspect has turned themselves into the police, and is currently being charged for the crime.

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 Chae’Meshia Simms, a 30-year-old Black transgender woman in Richmond, VA

NCAVP mourns the death of Chae’Meshia Simms a 30-year old Black transgender woman found dead in her car in Richmond, VA on November 23. Simms was suffering from a gunshot wound, and collided into a garage in an alley when authorities discovered her body. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Friends and family have been mourning Chae’Meshia’s death on social media. Her latest profile picture has been shared over a dozen times, with messages of grief and memories – “you will be truly missed” writes one. “Rest Up Baby ” writes another. Chae’Meshia’s father is publicly demanding justice for her death, telling one publication: “I ask [whoever did it] to turn yourself in … we’re never going to stop looking.” On ChaeMeshia’s disposition, he says she was a “well-loved individual” who was “always caring for others.”

Richmond police ask anyone with information about Simms’ death to call Major Crimes Detective M. Godwin at 804-646-5533 or Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.

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 Skylar Heath, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman in Miami, FL

NCAVP mourns the death of Skylar Heath, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman who died on November 4 in Miami, FL. Her death is currently being investigated as a homicide.

In Skylar’s obituary, which unfortunately misgenders and deadnames her, she is described as “kind and gentle soul” with a “friendly spirit.” Skylar was born and raised in Miami, and raised by her grandmother and great grandmother.

Friends of Skylar report that the cause of her death was a shooting – local police ask that anyone with information contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers by calling (305) 471-TIPS (8477)

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.

40 Change Makers: Andy Austin and Michael Sonberg

This interview has been shortened and condensed for clarity.

In 1978, Andy Austin moved to New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood and found community in the Chelsea Gay Association (CGA), a social group for gay men. He invited his long-time partner, Michael Sonberg, to join and together, they became founding members of the NYC Anti-Violence Project.

When queer men began to face violent attacks coming to and from the gay bars on the west side of Manhattan, some members of the CGA rallied to support the survivors. As members, Andy and Michael supported the formation of AVP’s hotline by launching a home answering service to support people who had been attacked. Read more about the beginnings of what would become the Anti-Violence Project (AVP) 24/7 hotline for LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors. 

Can you talk about the beginnings and the founding of AVP?

Andy Austin:

AVP grew out of the Chelsea Gay Association (CGA), where I was very involved from the time I moved to Chelsea in about 1978. Of course I was interested, I discovered it and there wasn’t a lot else for gay men in the city at that point. CGA did a lot of community events and offered nice social opportunities. I soon became a member of the steering committee of CGA. I think it was within a year or so after that, probably 1979 if I remember correctly, that there had been a number of incidents, attacks on gay men going to and from the bars along 11th Avenue in Chelsea.

I hadn’t even been to those places at that point, I did later. But they were nasty attacks. We decided to respond. I believe we first started with flyers, to let people in the community know that there was this problem and then before too long, we had a phone number for people to call if they were the victim of an attack. That was kind of the beginning, as part of the steering committee, we made this a project, the anti-violence project, of course.

When you initially put out the hotline number, what was the response when someone would call about an attack?

It was fairly casual, pre cell phones of course, but it was set up so that the calls could be forwarded to one of several volunteers who would be the designated person to receive the calls and would then respond with offers of help with resources. I think there was some, “We can accompany you to the police if you’d like,” that sort of thing. 

Michael Sonberg:

CGA was a means of publicizing what the issues were to more people.

Andy Austin:

And the newsletter.

Michael Sonberg:

And the newsletter, because people didn’t know that you shouldn’t walk down NInth Avenue at night.

Are there elements of AVPs work today that you feel connected to?

Andy Austin:

I’m really pleased that AVP continues to exist and serve. Unfortunately we continue to be in a time which is even a little worse in some ways, where taking on the additional issues like domestic partner violence services are really needed, and within our community as opposed to relying on whatever resources are available elsewhere. I think it’s still very important.

Michael Sonberg:

I spent 26 years as a judge, as a criminal side judge. In the Bronx, where I served, they would want to send gay men who were abusive to their partners to stay in a domestic violence program, and you would say to the prosecutor, “that’s not really a good place to send a man who’s in a relationship with another man. He’s going to have to be closeted when he discusses what’s happening or he’s going to get beat up, because he’s going to be sitting in this room with these people who regularly abused women and they’re going to see the fact that he’s an abuser is less important than that he’s queer.” You can’t put them in the room with straight men who have what you might consider similar problems, but they’re really very different problems and it’s not going to work.

AVP was also important because it was the community organizing to take care of itself. Which really hadn’t happened particularly before then. It was a community based group. It was a neighborhood based group. [AVP] saw our need and came to meet it and focused on it. As  the need expanded, the mission expanded. 

How has the founding of AVP changed your sense of justice or informed it?

Andy Austin:

It certainly made me feel then, and still makes me feel that someone is there for you. That was certainly one element that I know I was very pleased about, AVP really beginning to stand up and say, it’s not okay to beat up gay men on their way to and from bars. It’s not okay to randomly attack people on the street just because you think they’re gay. And honestly, I’m sure on occasion they weren’t even gay they just were assumed as gay. 

AVP showed there’s a community of people who will assist when they receive calls, who will assist by having events and programs when there are incidents of violence, and go to communities where people have been attacked and stage protests and handout materials and just be there and make it clear that people are not alone in this.

It says that as we’ve moved along as a society despite some of the things that are still going on today and probably will for a while yet, that there is movement, there’s been a positive change. Certainly I don’t feel uncomfortable walking in that part of Chelsea that was once considered to be really dangerous and you should avoid it at all costs.

Michael Sonberg:

But we might or might not hold hands.

Andy Austin:

Probably not. But we don’t hold hands in a lot of places, we do in some places.

What do you want to see AVP accomplish in the next 40 years?

Andy Austin:

It would be wonderful if there was no longer a need for AVP. I think that’s the ultimate goal. We thought back when we started it, that it was not going to be something that had to be done indefinitely. We’d respond to a situation, to a set of issues and that hopefully there would be no continued need. Except of course as we learned the need was far greater than we might have anticipated from a few local incidents that sparked it to begin with. And that’s how AVP is, as we learned it grew. It’d be wonderful if we lived in a world where people were not attacked or abused for being who they are or being different from others.

Michael Sonberg:

The reality is that even if you put street violence aside, domestic partner violence isn’t about to go away. That’s an inherent part of humanity, unfortunately. People get taught that the way to deal with stresses in their life is to use their fists, or even short of using fists. The other pressures that people do impose, financial pressures on partners, and make threats, and verbal abuse, and shaming people in public, and all sorts of nasty things that people who supposedly care about each other do to each other. That’s not going to disappear. I think what the role that organizations, like AVP, accomplishes is that it sensitizes people to the fact that it’s not healthy to live in a relationship where that’s the norm..

The societal pressures to stay in the relationship are huge, and economic pressures are even more huge, depending on whether the abuser is the moneyed spouse or was the one that had the job and therefore the one with the health insurance.

Andy Austin:

And therefore the one with the control. I would even broaden it to speak about the national convening of anti-violence organizations that AVP has spearheaded. We’re in New York and New York may be a place where things have gotten better in a lot of ways, but that’s hardly necessarily the case everywhere. So I think there will continue to be more. It’s still 40 years, it’d be nice to think things have gotten better.