We at the Unfinished Lives Project convey our deepest sympathy to the Rev. Chris Buice and the members of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. We are concerned especially for the children of the congregation who were putting on their stage version of “Annie, Jr.”, and for the families of Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger, who have both died as a result of gunshot wounds. Our prayers and thoughts are with the six other members of the church who were wounded in this senseless attack.
Tennessee Valley UU has been courageously advocating for LGBT people and for other social justice causes since the 1950s. In grief at the loss they have endured, and in hope for a better world, we stand together with them.
Stephen V. Sprinkle
The Unfinished Lives Project
View an Associated Press video reporting the violent incident:
Timothy Kincaid, a commentator for the Box Turtle Bulletin, says Newsweek’s July 28 cover story about Lawrence “Larry” King invites readers to conclude King provoked his own murder. Kincaid’s response to the Newsweek article says author Ramin Setoodeh employed biased language, anti-gay catch phrases, and one-sided reporting to make King appear culpable for the fatal gunshots fired by classmate Brandon McInerney. “Other than the briefest of disclaimers,” says Kincaid, “there is little [in Setoodeh’s article] to suggest that King was not fully to blame for his own death.”
In his Newsweek article, Setoodeh says “the reason Larry died isn’t as clear-cut as many people think.” To support his claim, he goes on to say that King was “a troubled child who flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon.”
Kincaid’s Box Turtle Bulletin rebuttal expresses confusion about the Newsweek article’s author and purpose. “I don’t know Ramin Setoodeh’s orientation or his personal tastes or biases,” says Kincaid. “Nor do I know his reasons for writing an article that serves as little more than a press release for the defense on this murder case.”
July 21 marks the birthday of Satendar Singh, the victim of a 2007 anti-gay hate crime in Lake Natoma State Park in California. Russian evangelical Christians mobbed Satendar, shouted homophobic slurs, and beat him severely enough to cause a fatal brain injury. What began as a day to picnic and dance with friends is now a day of mourning for the LGBT community.
On Satendar’s birthday, we remember and celebrate his life. Singh would have been 28 years old today.
This “Being Gay Today” video describes the events leading to Satendar Singh’s death:
Unfinished Lives is proud to receive endorsements from two prominent and respected American advocacy groups. Paul W. Dodd of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and Harry Knox of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation have recognized the Unfinished Lives project for its work to reclaim the memories of anti-gay hate crime victims in the United States.
Dodd expresses the urgent need for a project like Unfinished Lives: “For their sake, for the sake of shattered families and grieving friends, and for the sake of all that is decent and moral in civil society, we can finally hear their stories, honor their lives, and take steps to stop the hate and violence.” Additionally, Knox says our effort “is the most important one of which I am aware seeking to illuminate the lives and struggles faced by gender-variant and transgender people in the United States.”
Both endorsements honor our efforts, and, in return, we work every day to remember and celebrate persons whose lives were unjustly and violently torn from us. We at the Unfinished Lives project are truly grateful for the recognition by these two organizations, and we are proud to stand with them in the effort to guarantee dignity and respect for all people.
On this day in 2004, Scotty Joe Weaver fell victim to an anti-gay hate crime in Bay Minette, Alabama. He died at the hands of his own roommates, people who on the surface represented friendship and trust. Yet Scotty Joe was murdered while pleading for his life in front of people who betrayed that relationship and bond.
Today, join the Unfinished Lives project as we remember Scotty Joe, mourn his loss, and celebrate his life. In our memory, we restore to Scotty Joe the dignity and worth that rightly belongs to every individual, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.
Read a September 2007 news story carried by WKRG about the prison sentencing of Weaver’s assailants, and view the related television news report:
[NOTE: The veracity of the teen’s claims are now under investigation. See this July 23, 2008 update to the story. – The Unfinished Lives Project team]
An article in the Anderson Independent-Mail (South Carolina) reports that a father assaulted his own son for having attended a gay pride parade last Sunday.
The article says “the teen’s 49-year-old father yelled, cursed, swung a baseball bat, prayed and tried to ‘cast the demon of homosexuality out of him,’ according to the teen’s version of events.” A second incident occurred when the son returned home to collect some clothing.
Both occurrences are under investigation by deputies in Anderson County.
According to a July 8 Out & About Newspaper article, the murder of transgender woman Ebony (Rodney) Whitaker has raised concerns about anti-gay violence in Memphis, Tennessee. As Whitaker’s body was laid to rest on Monday, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) called upon the Memphis Police Department to be more responsive when it comes to crimes committed against the transgender community.
Whitaker’s murder is considered the latest in a string of violent crimes against transgendered persons in Memphis. TTPC president Marisa Richmond said that the unsolved murder of Tiffany Berry and the police beating of Duanna Johnson point to an unacceptable trend of violence. “The lack of response by the Memphis Police Department,” says Richmond, “has set a tone in the community that the lives of transgender people, especially African-American, are irrelevant.”
Watch the video of Duanna Johnson’s beating by Memphis Police in February.
For more information about Ebony (Rodney) Whitaker, read a related article at the Memphis Eyewitness News website.
July 7 marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of Charles O. “Charlie” Howard’s murder in Bangor, Maine. As Charlie and his friend Roy Ogden walked on a downtown street, three teenagers accosted Charlie and his friend, shouted homophobic slurs, threw Charlie to the ground, and then punched and kicked him. The three youths decided to force Charlie over a bridge railing and into the Kenduskeag Stream twenty feet below. Ogden, who had initially fled from the assailants, looked back to see them throw Charlie over the railing. After sounding an alarm for help, Ogden, together with firemen and police, looked for his friend, whose body would not be found until hours later. On that same night, at a party, the three teenagers bragged about having thrown Charlie into the stream.
Today the Charles O. Howard Memorial Foundation and the City of Bangor are working to establish a granite monument to mark the place of Charlie’s murder. Despite earlier disagreements about the proposed memorial, the City of Bangor approved installation of the monument by unanimous vote during a City Council meeting last November.
Today the Unfinished Lives Project also remembers Charlie. The tragedy that befell Charlie twenty-four years ago still touches lives today, and as we remember him we also hope for a world where hate-crime violence no longer occurs.
Today marks the ninth anniversary of the death of hate crime victim Barry Winchell. He served in the United States Army and held the rank of Private First Class. Following a period of ongoing harassment directed at Winchell for having dated a transsexual showgirl, fellow soldier Calvin Glover used a baseball bat to bludgeon Winchell as he slept on a cot in the barracks of Fort Campbell. Winchell died of massive head injuries the following day.
Winchell’s brutal murder prompted President Bill Clinton to review the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy, which many cite as a factor in the hate crime.
Today we remember Barry Winchell, and in our memory we restore to him the dignity and respect belonging to every person, regardless of sexual orientation.