Michael Suguitan / Sun Staff Photographer

Students open a dialogue around the lives of transgender women in a vigil on Ho plaza on Wednesday.

March 23, 2017

Nearly 100 Express Solidarity With Transgender Women at Vigil

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Nearly 100 students, faculty members and Ithaca residents attended a vigil on Ho Plaza this Wednesday to honor the lives and memories of transgender women who lost their lives this year.

Chyna Gibson, JoJo Striker, KeKe Collier, Jaquarrias Holland, Ciara McElveen, Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow and others — “lost their lives at the intersections of racialized, gendered and anti-queer violence,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

The vigil’s organizers — Black Students United, Haven, TANGO and Mosaic — came together “not only mourn, but to begin an ongoing conversation about ways to actively advocate for and support members of our communities affected by these multiple forms of oppression,” said the Facebook page.

The event began with live music from Cornell Jazz Voices. Participants formed a circle in front of Willard Straight Hall, holding candles and calling out the names of the fallen women.

“We are here today because so far in 2017 at least seven trans women have been murdered in acts of racialized, gendered and anti-queer violence,” said Haven President Ashton Cooper ’18. “We are not here to feel bad. We are here in solidarity. We will not sit in silence and we will not normalize these acts.”

Alfie Rayner ’18, marketing and publicity chair of Haven and member of TANGO, added that the trans movement would not exist without trans women of color and warned against the dangers of marginalization as far back as the 1960s.

Students from the Black Students United read the names of the victims, followed by a moment of silence. The floor was then opened to anyone interested in speaking.

“We are your comrades. you have our love and support,” said Prof. Russell Rickford, history, who spoke on behalf of Black Lives Matter Ithaca.

“The national Black Lives Matter movement was founded by queer women,” he added. “LGBTQ folks represent the forefront of its fight for racial justice and human rights. We recognize special perils by recognizing vulnerable members of the community. We gather here tonight to recognize their struggle.”

A collection was taken up to be given to an organization directly focused on the needs of the trans community.

Rickford stressed the importance of agency in such a troubling time.

“The disciples of hatred and fear resent our pride, our resilience, and our sense of self worth,” he said. “We must also do battle with the larger society …  in love and solidarity.”