Black Trans Lives Matter

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Dominique Rem’mie Fells. Photo by Amanda Swiger of Swiger Photography

This week has been a difficult one for Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community, as we lost another Black trans woman, Dominique Rem’mie Fells. We shouldn’t have to be in the streets saying that Black Trans Lives Matter, that Black Lives Matter. These two sentiments should be a given. There should be no countrywide debate. The fact that we are even having a national conversation about Black lives mattering means that a tremendous amount of work needs to be done. Dominique Rem’mie Fells was loved. She had passions. She was talented. She was human. Her life matters. This city lost Tameka Michelle Washington just last year to a violent death. And we have been waiting 18 years to know what happened to Nizah Morris after an encounter with Philadelphia’s Police Department. It seems we are continuously mourning the violent death of Black trans women in this city. But, during these times, it is also important to acknowledge and celebrate Black trans excellence. Without the Black transgender folks in this city, many of our LGBTQ institutions wouldn’t exist or would not be pushed forward. Celena Morrison, now executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, was a driving force to establish the Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center at the William Way LGBT Community Center. Philadelphia Pride Presents decided not to organize a parade for Black Lives Matter, which brought much criticism. But, local nonprofits and grassroots organizations came together to make sure we had one, which will occur on June 21, beginning at Love Park. Black trans community organizers have been working tirelessly since COVID-19 began to provide resources to LGBTQ folks, people of color and undocumented immigrants. Then, after the brutal deaths of Tony McDade, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Black trans and queer organizers went to the streets to lead a revolution. The history of Black trans folks fighting for equity is rich, from Compton’s Cafeteria Riot to Stonewall to STAR, a radical political collective that provided housing and support to homeless queer and trans youth and sex workers in New York City, founded by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Let’s be humble, learn from and listen to Black trans organizers as we move forward.