Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Slain Ecuadoran’s Supporters Denounce One Brooklyn Verdict; Await Another

Hakim Scott listens to closing arguments in his trial for the murder of José Sucuzhañay (Ward photo for the Daily News)

Brooklyn, NY – Hakim Scott, 26, killer of Ecuadoran Immigrant José Sucuzhañay, escaped conviction for murder, but was convicted of manslaughter by a jury in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Thursday.  No hate charge was sustained against Scott for the brutal slaying of the 31-year-old Sucuzhañay, who along with his brother Romel was mistaken as a gay man. The brothers were walking arm-in-arm against the cold early on December 7, 2008 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn when Hakim and Keith Phoenix, hurling anti-gay and anti-hispanic epithets, attacked them with a beer bottle, their heavily shod feet, and an aluminum baseball bat.  Family and friends of the victim swiftly denounced the verdict as soft and wrong-headed, according to several news sources.  The New York Daily News reports that José’s brother Diego, vigorously maligned the verdict, saying, “There was testimony that these words of hate were used. We believe right now would have been a perfect time to send a message against hate, intolerism [sic] and racism.” On Friday, the Columbus, IN Republic interviewed Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council, as she stood with Sucuzhañay’s three brothers outside the courthouse, “Look, two brothers were walking home. They weren’t bothering anybody. All of a sudden two guys jump out of a car and beat José and leave him for dead, calling him anti-gay and anti-immigrant names? That’s a hate crime,” she said. The Latin American Herald Tribune reported that Quinn further defined what kind of hate crime Sucuzhañay suffered: “Jose Sucuzhañay was murdered because Hakim Scott and Keith Phoenix did not like who he is and who they thought he was,” Quinn said. “And they attacked him, by all accounts, for no other reason than their hatred of the LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender) community and their hatred of Latinos and immigrants. That’s what killed Jose Sucuzhañay.” Quinn, Brooklyn Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, and a number of other elected officials believe that the manslaughter verdict, which may entail a 25-year prison term for Scott, to be too lenient for such a savage killing. Diego, speaking for the Sucuzhañays on the courthouse steps during a Friday press conference, said, “The judicial system has failed to send a clear message.  Our family still can’t understand how the jury has come to the conclusion that the attack on my brothers and the murder of José was not motivated by hate,” according to the LAHT.  The trial of Keith Phoenix, who allegedly swung the bat so hard that it burst his victim’s skull, is still proceeding.  The 30-year-old African American is being tried before a second jury seated in the same courtroom as the jury that convicted Scott of manslaughter.  Phoenix is charged with murder and murder as a hate crime in the case.  Members of the Scott jury who were willing to speak to the press speculated that Phoenix may likely be convicted of a hate crime for his part in the grisly bludgeoning of the Ecuadoran businessman.  A verdict in his trial is expected sometime next week. As supporters await the Phoenix verdict, Walter Sinche, Director of the international Ecuadoran Alliance told a reporter for the Daily News, “Someday maybe we’ll get justice. Hopefully, these types of attacks will stop.”

May 8, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, Ecuador, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latinos, Law and Order, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Slain Ecuadoran’s Supporters Denounce One Brooklyn Verdict; Await Another

Remembering the Mothers of Our Dead: A Special Comment

Pat Mulder at her son Ryan's graveside (photo credit unknown)

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.  For the women who have lost children to the unreasoning hatred of LGBT hate crimes, this may be the most trying holiday of the year.  Perhaps it is because I have met so many of them in the course of my travels and research, but I feel a particular debt of gratitude for the courage and loving tenacity of such great women, everyday, of course, but on this day of the year most of all.  I cannot tell you how much I admire these mothers, and the other women related by blood ties and choice to the women and men who died because of hatred.  All of them: the ones who kept their griefs private and out of the public eye, as well as those who found their voices to speak out for justice and against hate.  But is especially for those mothers and grandmothers, aunts and sisters who have become advocates for us that I feel a keener debt of gratitude.  None of these remarkable women dreamed they would ever become advocates for LGBT rights.  Outrageous fortune and the deeds of malevolent ignorance forced them to face the worst prospect a mother could possibly face: the loss of a child to hate crime violence.  All they wanted to do was grow old loving the children they brought into the world.  But the long, crooked arm of homophobia and transphobia reached into their family circles and broke those circles apart.  One by one, these brave women have found their voices, raised them in courtrooms, on the steps of city halls, in PFLAG meetings, at Pride events and vigils, before the glare of television klieg lights, and in the halls of Congress.  These are the redoubtable women who refuse to let us forget their children, and refuse to let themselves or us rest until justice for everybody’s child finally comes to pass in this nation.  They are the staunchest allies the LGBT community has, becoming the mothers of queer kids everywhere. Since they come from out of every class, religious tradition, ethnic background, status cohort, racial group, and region of the country, no single woman can possibly sum up them all.  But when Elke Kennedy speaks out in South Carolina for her son, Sean, when Pauline Mitchell appeals to us not to forget her two spirit boy, F.C. in her Navajo gentleness, when Billy Jack Gaither’s sister Kathy Jo pushes her scooter chair toward the podium in Montgomery, Alabama, and when Pat Kuteles refuses to let the U.S. Army get off lightly for the death of her dear Barry, somehow all the women united by such pain gather with them and stand beside them.  When Sylvia Guerrero, mother of transwoman Gwen Araujo, spoke in October 2009 on what would have been her daughter’s 25th birthday, she called upon us to honor our LGBT dead by reaching out to bring about a better world, “Light a candle, release a balloon, or do a good deed for someone less fortunate than yourself.  Thank you for keeping [Gwen’s] memory alive after 7 years” (Examiner.com).  The least that we can do is to honor the witness of these remarkable women by joining the struggle of justice and remembrance ourselves…and then one thing more.  We can reach out to these women with our love, as a Psychology Today article suggests we do: “People get so uncomfortable and often feel the need to ‘error on the side of caution’ so as to not upset the person they care so much about. This, however, often leaves the mom simply feeling forgotten. A card, a phone call – even an email – wishing her a happy Mother’s Day can go farther than you could ever know. While she’s on her own path of redefining where she now “fits” on this day, you are helping her to know. She fits where every other mother fits – in the spotlight. She’s still a mom, and she still needs to know that she is viewed this way by everyone else.”

Pat Mulder, Ryan Skipper’s mom, once told me that for a grieving mother who buried her slain child, “there is no closure.”  She and her husband, Lynn, soldier on, turning their sorrow into advocacy, wrapping their arms around gay and lesbian kids wherever they go to let them know everyone deserves to be remembered and loved.  On this Mother’s Day, reach out to the women (and men} who have borne so much, and remind them with acts of loving kindness that like their children, they, too, are not forgotten.  ~ Stephen Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project

May 8, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Condolences, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Protests and Demonstrations, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, transphobia, Uncategorized, Vigils | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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