New Orleans Violence #2: Two Black Gay Men, 1 Transgender Bodies ID’d

A few weeks ago, a friend in New Orleans, a Black gay man, emailed me about a very dustrubing scene. He was in the French Quarter, and ran into a young boy, no older than the age of 12, hustling on the street. My friend spoke to the boy, and emailed me asking me what he should do. I told him that he probably couldn’t stop the boy from turning tricks if that’s what he had to do for whatever reason, but he should make sure the kid had his number in case of emergency and that he should try to keep tabs on him until some plan of action could be employed. Letting the New Orleans Police Department throw this 12 year old in jail, in a state that’s been sued for abuses inside its juvenile facilities by the US Justice Department was simply not an option either of us wanted to use, which would likely make the situation worse. It’s not a choice anyone wants to have to make.

In any case, the next time my friend saw the boy, he was being punched and slapped around by his mother, on the street somewhere. My friend intervened, and seeing that the mother was high on some substance, it became clear to my friend why the boy, as he told my friend the first night, bursting into tears, he could not stand to be at home.  My friend a few days later ran into the mother, who had sent the boy to live with his father, and broke into tears about the need to clean up from her addiction. She promised for forward along my friend’s info to her son.

Unfortunately, this is not the last bout with violence this child, if he is in fact gay or queer, is likely to face. The threat of violence is omnipresent for us, and is too often manifest in the most gruesome of ways.  Around the same day my friend made a new friend of this mother after her son was sent away, two Black gay men, and another Black queer (maybe transgender, maybe just in drag) were found murdered in the house they were renting in New Orleans. As Rod 2.0 originally reported, apparently the three were originally from Mississippi, and were identified as Felix Pearson, 19; Kenneth Monroe, 27; and Darriel Wilson, 20. According to the news piece in the Times Picayune, the bodies were discovered when someone saw half of a “man’s” body hanging out of one of the windows.

There is speculation as to whether this was a hate crime or not–a distinction that makes little sense to me. But the facts of the case, besides the fact that all three were killed, look like the very ways that most gay men and trans women die:

1. No signs of forced entry. Usually this means it was a person that the victim knew in some way. Often for gay men, it is men who they’ve already had some kind of sexual relationship with.

2. Usually there is extra-violence or desecration done to the bodies, or the victims are killed execution-style.

One of my mother’s best friends, a Black gay man, was murdered similarly in 1986, and I’ve seen this pattern way too many times over the years.

Speaking of things I am tired of living through and writing about, few days before the New Orleans murders, a lesbian in Richmond, California was raped by four men, and seems to have been specifically targeted because of the rainbow flag on her car.

Shock of The Week: Remy Ma Gets 8 Years

The hip-hop world had better get it together. Fame and celebrity will not protect your ass from the prison if you’re Black. Wesley Snipes just learned that lesson (OK so he’s not a hip-hop star, but he’s Black and he’s famous, so stay with me!), and Lil Kim and Foxy Brown have as well, and Snoop Dogg seems to get pulled over by the cops every time he leaves his driveway. The list could go on.

The latest hip-hop star to face prison time is Remy “I look too good to be fcukin’ you” Ma for shooting her homegirl in the gut over $3000 and fleeing the club in the meatpacking district of Manhattan where the incident took place. She was sentenced to 8 long years in prison. The details from E-Online:

In March, a jury convicted her on four counts, including assault, weapons possession and attempted coercion, for shooting Makeda Barnes-Joseph in the gut last July in a dispute over $3,000. She faced more than 25 years behind bars.

After State Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller handed down the punishment, Ma’s fiancé, fellow hip-hopster Papoose, sparked a melee as he screamed invective at the victim, who took the stand earlier asking for a harsh sentence.

“Get the f–k off me. F–k y’all. F–k jail,” the performer [Papoose] yelled as the hearing ended and bailiffs escorted him out of the Manhattan court. “I don’t care. Lock me up. Lock me up. Take me to jail. Arrest me. It’s all about money.”

Papoose was caught by Rikers Island corrections officers last week allegedly trying to smuggle his betrothed a handcuff key as the two were about to tie the knot in a jailhouse wedding. He wasn’t charged, but the nuptials were nixed.

That key smuggling bit is so sad I can’t even laugh at it–obviously an act of desperation, if in fact it’s true. I do feel bad for her. I don’t think prison will solve anything–and I am not big on punishment as a form of social redress more generally. But can we just not shoot people?

Come on, people!

Just kidding.

But really. It’s been very clear that hip-hop stars are being widely surveilled (sp?) over the last several years, and the police, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are clearly sending the message that if you’re associated with hip-hop and do some shit out of the bounds of “law,” you’re going to prison. Besides that, I find myself in between a rock and a hard place. I know the systemic issues at play that creat accessibility to guns and the kinds of urban poverty (in the face of gluttonous and violent wealth accumulation) that drives the kinds of acts of violence that seem senseless. I am from the same kind of community. I get the fact that I only made it “out”(not that I, as a Black gay man, escape the scrutiny, disgust, and violence of the state) because of the push of family, friends and some teachers who decided I was the one worth giving a damn about.

But sometimes I am at a loss for defending or even trying to put to words this kind of foolishness. What is the language for critiquing institutional racism, sexism and capitalism while also critiquing the fact that these systems support and drive individuals to be alienated, disaffected, and violent? I want to see a way out of this mess, but I sometimes come up short.

Housing, Gentrification and Queer Safety Actions in NYC Tomorrow

There are three really interesting actions taking place this weekend in NYC to bring attention to issues that are critical to poor & working class people, blacks and Latinos—particularly women, and queer/gender non-conforming people (and all the places where those identities intersect). If you’re in NYC I strongly advise trying to make it to one or more of these if you’re able:

11am, Harlem, NYC. “Hands Across Harlem”
The Coalition to Save Harlem is holing a Hand Across Harlem demonstration to protest the city’s plane to re-zone 125th Street, which would effectively kill most small independent black/Latino-owned business along 125th, and drive rents in Harlem even further into the stratosphere, opening the area up for increased gentrification. Protesters are planning to meet at 11am at 125th St and Broadway, and form a human chain at noon across 125th Street, river to river. At 1pm a rally will begin at 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell. For more background read the NY Observer Article. (The photo above is of Sikhulu Shange, owner of Harlem Record Shack, which has become the symbol for the types of long-held indigenous businesses in danger of closing). I think this campaign is worthwhile, but for nearly as long as Black people have been in Harlem, I would venture to say we have not ever owned a majority of the businesses.

1pm, Downtown Brooklyn, NYC. “Fed Up Homeowners ‘Auction Off’ Brooklyn Supreme Court”

Hardworking homeowners being devastated by subprime mortgages and foreclosures are placing the Brooklyn Supreme Court (360 Adams Street—front steps facing Cadman Plaza W.) up for public auction on Saturday April 12th at 1:00pm. Frustrated by financial institutions’ unwillingness to negotiate solutions to the current crisis, New York City homeowners who are a part of CHANGER’s 300 strong city wide organizing campaign, DO SOMETHING, in partnership with United Community Centers will rally, hold a home foreclosure auction, and release new data on the inner workings of foreclosure auctions. Visit Community CHANGER online for more information.

1:30-6:30pm, Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, NYC. “Safe Neighborhood Summit.”

The Summit will kick off the Safe Neighborhood Campaign with speakers, workshops on preventing violence and challenging police violence, and community strategy sessions.

The Safe Neighborhood Campaign is a program initiated by the S.O.S. Collective of the Audre Lorde Project, which works to address an increase in violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit. And gender nonconforming people in communities of color. The Summit takes place in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton St. (between Brooklyn & New York Ave.) C to Kingston-Throop, A to Nostrand Ave, B43, B44, B25. Register now online, Or by phone at: 718-596-0342 ext 22, ask for Ejeris.

S.O.S. is currently inviting organizations, businesses, religious institutions, and schools to become “Safe Spaces” which pledge to intervene in and prevent harassment or violence on their premises. Some “Safe Spaces” also agree to be “Safe Havens” which agree to provide sanctuary to community members escaping violence. We are guided by the belief that we can create violence free neighborhoods one Safe Space at a time.

There are a couple things happening next week you should know about too! Stay tuned!