Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Black LGBTQ Affirming Church in Dallas Acts to Counter Religious Homophobia

Apostle Alex Byrd, Senior Elder and Pastor, Living Faith Covenant Church

Dallas, TX – In response to a vitriolic anti-gay sermon preached at a major Black preaching conference at a Dallas Black mega-church, Apostle Alex Byrd’s flock boldly resolves not to back down. In a congregational meeting on April 18, Living Faith Covenant Church, a predominantly Black and LGBT church, voted officially to oppose religious homophobia and promote dialogue on behalf of LGBTQ and SGL (Same Gender Loving) people of color.  On Monday, April 12, 2010, Prophetess Janet Floyd, a featured preacher at the Urgent Utterances Conference, denounced gay and lesbian people, vigorously declaring that members of the sexual minority, regardless of their church affiliation, had “demons” that needed to be “cast out” of them by God.  The conference, jointly sponsored by a coalition of churches and Black Church scholarly groups, including Vanderbilt University Divinity School’s Black Church studies institute, was a three-day event hosted at the high-profile Friendship-West Baptist Church, pastored by one-time candidate for the presidency of the NAACP, Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes III.  Black church leaders from around the nation attended the conference on Monday night, including students from Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN and Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX.  In the second sermon of the evening, the prophetess claimed that God sent a “storm” upon the nation, in the form of Hurricane Katrina and the Columbine High School shooting tragedy.  As Rev. Floyd launched into her indictment of “demon-possessed” LGBT people, some 20 attendees walked out of the service in silent protest against pulpit homophobia.  From eyewitness reports, the whole Brite Divinity School contingent and half of the Vanderbilt students walked out of the service.  News quickly spread throughout the Metroplex and around the internet.  A Rally for Love to pray for all parties affected by the sermon and to frame a response calling for dialogue and accountability gathered on Wednesday evening, April 14, jointly hosted by Living Faith Covenant Church and Promise Metropolitan Community Church.  A multi-racial gathering of forty LGBTQ people and their allies decided to form a coalition to call on Dr. Haynes, the conference, and Friendship-West Church to distance themselves from the homophobic content of the sermon.  Apostle Byrd issued a communication to Dr. Haynes, but at the time of this writing there has been no response to Byrd’s appeal.  Taking the next step, the Living Faith congregation officially issued their resolution, “Commitment to Non-Violent Resistance to Spiritual Abuse” (full text of the Resolution may be accessed here).  Briefly, the resolution calls on Black affirming Christians to “stand in solidarity with the more than 20 courageous individuals who stood up and left in peaceful protest during Reverend Janet Floyd’s sermon,” and to “acknowledge the spiritual, psychological, emotional, and social harm from ill-informed preaching, whether well-intended or malicious, inflicted upon many of our LGBTQ and SGL brothers and sisters.”  The SGL affirming congregation, affiliated and backed by The Fellowship, an international movement of radically inclusive Christians headed by San Francisco Bishop Yvette Flunder, both endorses the Black Church tradition of the freedom of the pulpit and at the same time criticizes any action or speech from the pulpit that demeans, demonizes or harms people because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, class or disability.  In the event that efforts at dialogue with other religious leaders fails to produce meaningful responses, the resolution concludes, “we will engage in peaceful and non-violent resistance for the dignity and value of all of God’s creation, including LGBTQ and SGL individuals within the Community of Faith.”  Significantly, a church and movement deeply and proudly rooted in the African American Church tradition and community now has joined the issue of active and passive homophobic speech in Black churches,helping to debunk the usual claim made by some Black Church leaders that LGBTQ rights is an expression of white racism and exclusively a “white man’s issue.”  Apostle Byrd’s congregation, The Fellowship, and supporters from last week’s Rally for Love have made it clear that “spiritual abuse” aimed at LGBTQ people from any source will

Prophetess Janet Floyd

be publicly, compassionately and firmly opposed.  Apostle Byrd understands the mindset of heterosexist/homophobic ministers.  In an interview with Operation Rebirth, he said, “For the majority of preachers who bash [gays], I’d say the root is sincere compassionate ignorance. They truly want to see people saved and in their understanding, they believe homosexuality is wrong. They have to send that message so people will ‘come out’ of it. It’s a hard task for them to do. The more resistance from the homosexual(s), the more they preach it. They are ignorant, but sincere. They are ignorant in understanding the homosexual as a person. They’re ignorant in their understanding of the general context, cultural climate, history, language and translation of scripture. They are ignorant in how to appropriately apply historical text to the current needs of our society, with its likenesses and differences. But ignorance isn’t a bad thing…it simply means, ‘I don’t know.’   But stupidity IS bad. It says ‘I don’t know, and I don’t care to find out.'” While some report encouraging pulpit statements made by Dr. Haynes at Friendship-West’s April 14 evening worship service opposing the demonization of LGBTQ people, as of this date nobody from Dr. Haynes’s office, from the leadership of Friendship-West Baptist Church, or from the Urgent Utterances Conference Leadership has officially distanced themselves or their organizations from the homophobic content of Prophetess Floyd’s sermon.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Bisexual persons, gay men, Lesbian women, Racism, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Brutal Stabbing Death of Puerto Rican Transwoman Possible Hate Murder

Corozal, Puerto Rico – Ashley Santiago’s mother pressed police to investigate why she had not heard from her daughter since Sunday, April 18.  When law enforcement entered Santiago’s home on April 19 in Corozal, a municipality just 25 miles southwest of San Juan, they found her naked body in a large pool of blood collapsed on the kitchen floor.  She had been stabbed 14 times, according to the report of authorities to El Nuevo Día.  Police also reported that they could not find Santiago’s 2009 Toyota Corolla parked outside her home.  EDGE Boston picked up the story overnight, and has flashed it across the United States’ LGBT blogosphere.  Santiago, 31, was a popular hair stylist at a local salon. Echoes of the savage dismemberment-killing of gay teen Jorge Steven López Mercado in November 2009 still reverberate around the island.  His alleged murderer, Juan A. Martínez Matos, has yet to stand trial for the beheading, butchery, and attempted immolation of his victim.  After several postponements, Martínez Matos is docketed to stand trial for the murder of López Mercado in Caguas on May 3.  While law enforcement officials have not yet designated Santiago’s murder as a hate crime due to the perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of the victim, LGBT activists across the region are calling on police to invoke Puerto Rico’s seldom-used hate crimes statute which covers anti-LGBT hate crimes.  Pedro Julio Serrano, noted San Juan activist who represents the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, told EDGE, “The authorities have a legal obligation to investigate this hate angle. We urge the police and the prosecutor to appropriately investigate this murder; to determine whether it was motivated by prejudice and if there is enough evidence to classify it as a hate crime at this moment.”  As Transrespect Versus Transphobia, a TVT monitoring agency in Europe reports, a transperson’s murder is reported every third day throughout the world, on average. for the last year and a half.  Authorities acknowledge, however, the deep under-reporting of the actual number of transphobic murders.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, home-invasion, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Brutal Stabbing Death of Puerto Rican Transwoman Possible Hate Murder

Judge Rules Mistrial in Duanna Johnson Civil Rights Case: One Juror Hangs Federal Jury

Duanna Johnson, slain transwoman

Memphis, TN – A federal judge in Memphis has ruled for a mistrial in the case of former Memphis Police Officer Bridges McRae, on trial for violating Duanna Johnson’s civil rights.  Memphis LGBT advocates are calling the decision “a failure of the justice system,” according to myeyewitnessnews.com.  Johnson, a transgender woman of color, was repeatedly punched and beaten by McRae with handcuffs wrapped around his knuckles and pepper-sprayed as she was being processed for a prostitution charge at a Memphis police station on February 12, 2008.  The beating was captured on a police surveillance tape, and reaction to the video prompted an immediate investigation resulting in the firing of McRae and a second officer, James Swain.  Johnson had filed suit against the city on the basis of the videotape and the testimony of witnesses who declared that the brutal beating was unprovoked.  Nine months later, as the New York Times reports, Duanna Johnson was shot to death with a bullet to the head on the night of November 9, 2008.  Johnson’s murder, which remains unsolved, prompted intense scrutiny on the original beating case, and charges were filed in federal court for violation of the transwoman’s civil rights.  Besides the controversial videotape of her beating, five witnesses testified in court that the attack on the 6’5″ 250 lb. Black transwoman was wanton, there being no reason for it in her behavior.  Will Batts of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center, who had watched the surveillance tape repeatedly, said to myeyewitnessnews.com, “[The beating] looked to be unprovoked. It looked to be excessive on the part of the police officer. It looked to be just an attack on someone in a police station with other people standing around. And it was just incredibly violent.” McRae’s attorney argued that his client was simply exercising necessary force to subdue Johnson, blaming her for resisting arrest.  Eleven jurors were convinced of McRae’s guilt.  One was not, however, and after the jury deadlocked, the judge declared the mistrial. The Memphis LGBT community refused to take the news lying down.  A rally in protest of the judge’s ruling will take place April 20 in front of the Federal Courthouse.  “Would it have been different if Duanna were not transgendered,” Batts asked in a press interview. “If it were just an average person from the suburbs that happened to be sitting in that jail room on that day and had this kind of response from the police, would the decision be different?”  Both the prosecution and the defense are to meet with the judge to determine a date for a new trial for McRae.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, police brutality, Protests and Demonstrations, Tennessee, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Judge Rules Mistrial in Duanna Johnson Civil Rights Case: One Juror Hangs Federal Jury


%d bloggers like this: