Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Murdered Lesbian Couple: Did Daddy Do It?

James Cosby, father of  murdered lesbian Britney Cosby, and suspect in her murder along with her spouse, Crystal Jackson.

James Cosby, father of slain lesbian Britney Cosby, and suspect in her murder and that of her spouse, Crystal Jackson.

Galveston, Texas – The father of a lesbian has been arrested by the Galveston authorities in relation to the murder of his daughter and her spouse.  The bodies of the two young women  were dumped outside a Port Bolivar convenience store and discovered early on March 7, according to KHOU News.  James Larry Cosby, 46, father of Britney Cosby, has been arrested by Galveston Sheriff’s officers and charged with two counts of tampering with evidence related to the murder of his daughter and her life partner, Crystal Jackson.  Officials say that the charges may be shortly upgraded to murder.  KTRK 13 reports that incriminating evidence linking the murders of the lesbians led investigators to arrest Britney Cosby’s father, an ex-con and sex crime offender, and hold him in the Galveston County Jail on $500, 000 bond pending other charges.

The suspect was part of a large crowd of friends and family at a community vigil held on Wednesday for the two young women, and investigators interrogated him at the conclusion of the vigil.  “His house was a secondary crime scene, from the evidence that we saw when we went to interview him and we did recover certain parts of evidence that are here at our sheriff’s office now to be sent to the lab,” Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said to reporters.

Autopsy reports say that Britney Cosby died from blunt force trauma, and that Crystal Jackson was shot to death.  Investigators believe the two women, both 24, were killed at another location, and then transported to the quiet coastal town and left beside a garbage dumpster as if they were no better than trash.

KHOU’s reportage uncovered Cosby’s violent past.  His ex-wife Loranda McDonald said that she left him because he was so violent, and she and other Cosby family members say that he was “unhappy” about his daughter’s being a lesbian.  “He said it to me a few times that he did not like the idea of her being gay,” said McDonald.  Detectives indicated that, in addition to blood stains in Mr. Cosby’s home, they found a copy of the Holy Koran open to a passage some fundamentalist Muslims use to denigrate and condemn homosexual conduct.  Mr. Cosby is not cooperating with his interrogators, and since no motive has been officially established, no hate crime has yet been charged against him–but anti-gay hate crime charges are definitely on everyone’s mind who knew of Mr. Cosby’s animosity towards gays and lesbians.

Vigils and commemorations are being planned throughout Texas. Later in the coming week, a vigil is being organized in Dallas by c.d. kirven, a local advocate for LGBT justice and equality.  On a Facebook post, c.d. said, “I still plan to hold vigils next week and will keep those interested update! Please pray for families!”  The couple leaves a 5-year-old daughter behind to face life without her moms.

While the language of caution and hesitation is still being used in relation to this heinous crime, should the allegations against James Larry Cosby prove true, there should be little doubt of the horrific potency of heterosexism, patriarchy, and homophobia–powerful enough to invade the most sacred and intimate of human relationships, that of a father and his daughter, and to leave a small child parentless.

March 14, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bludgeoning, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Koran, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Murdered Lesbian Couple Dumped Like Trash in Texas

Crystal Jackson (l) and Britney Cosby (r), both 24, found murdered beside a dumpster.

Crystal Jackson (l) and Britney Cosby (r), both 24, found murdered beside a dumpster.

Port Bolivar – Suspicions are mounting in the double murder of a Texas Lesbian couple whose bodies were discovered by a dumpster in Port Bolivar.  KHOU Houston reports that the corpses of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found dumped beside a trash dumpster outside of Fisherman’s Cove store by a beer deliveryman taking out garbage early on March 7.  Galveston Sheriff’s Department officials say that the young women were in a romantic relationship.  Details of the murders remain scarce, but  officials have said that each of the victims was killed in a different way, and that the lack of blood at the scene suggests they were murdered at another location, after which their bodies were taken to the dumpster site.

KTRK Eyewitness News says that the young lesbians who lived with their great grandmother had gone to Galveston for Mardi Gras. Jackson, who is described by her relatives as loving her partner Cosby, leaves behind a five year old daughter.  The child considered Cosby and Jackson as her parents.  The families of both women are desperate for answers.  They are pleading for informers to come forward and give authorities leads as to who killed their loved ones.  McDade Cosby, Britney’s sister, begged the public via KTRK, “Just come forward, just to give us closure as a family. Just come forward, ’cause we need closure at this point.” Crystal’s sister, Lequita Jackson, sobbed as she decried the murder, “What did they do to you to kill my sister? You beat my sister up and you just, you messed her up to the point she can’t breath no more.”  

Police are searching for Britney Cosby’s 2006 Silver Kia Sorrento that appears to have been stolen.  Authorities believe whoever took the vehicle may be the key to this grisly double murder.  In an update on the case, a police sketch of a prime suspect in the murders has been released to the press.

The quiet beach town is rattled and on edge from the news of the murders.  Residents say they do not feel safe.  “Unbelievable, it’s scary,” Nancy Palley, a Port Bolivar citizen, said to Huffington Post. “You know, I told my husband we are making sure to lock our doors today. I’m not coming home to find someone in my house.”  Though an explicit statement that these killings are an anti-gay hate crime, that possibility looms large in the minds of the public and law enforcement.  This case recalls the double shooting of two lesbians in Portland, Texas, a Corpus Christi area town, in 2012.  Mollie Olgin, 19, was found dead at the scene of a gunshot wound, and her partner, Mary Christine Chapa, 18, was grievously wounded but survived.  No one has been arrested in the Portland murders.

March 11, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Murdered Lesbian Couple Dumped Like Trash in Texas

Harlem Transgender Woman Succumbs After Five Day Battle for Life: NYC’s Latest Hate Crime Victim

Islan Nettles, 21, removed from life support after brutal anti-transgender attack in Harlem.

Islan Nettles, 21, removed from life support after brutal anti-transgender attack in Harlem.

New York City, New York – A 21-year-old transgender woman of color was removed from life support after five desperate days in a coma from a savage hate crime attack in Harlem.  Islan Nettles, an aspiring fashion designer, was assaulted by a man allegedly enraged when he learned that Ms. Nettles was not a biological male.  She and her transgender friends were walking near 148th Street and Eighth Avenue on Saturday night when the barbaric attack took place at around 11 p.m..  One of her friends ran for help to a nearby police precinct as Ms. Nettles struggled for her life with the assailant, shouting transphobic and homophobic epithets, on top of her in the street, according to NY1.  She was rushed to Harlem Hospital where she was initially reported as conscious, but soon fell into a coma from which she never woke up.  NYPD reported that Ms. Nettles was determined brain dead, and she was removed from her ventilator on Thursday.

New York Police are investigating the assault as a bias-driven hate crime.  Mayoral candidate, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued statements decrying this latest violent incident involving LGBTQ New Yorkers, according to The Gothamist.  De Blasio said, “This is a horrifying and painful moment for our city. Ms. Nettles’ murder was crime rooted in hate and ignorance. My heart goes out to her family and her friends as they come to terms with this inexplicable act of violence.” De Blasio continued,  “Make no mistake: The denial of fundamental rights to transgender New Yorkers fuels the appalling violence this community continues to face. That must end. Delivering justice here requires we investigate this hate crime and hold the perpetrator or perpetrators fully responsible. But it also demands we finally affirm the rights of transgender New Yorkers as full and equal members of our city, state and country.”  Stringer added his outrage at the crime, “The savage beating death of a transgender women in Harlem this past weekend was an appalling and unacceptable crime that has no place in New York City. We pride ourselves on tolerance and generosity toward others in this City, but the murder of Islan Nettles is a reminder of how far we still have to go in ensuring that all New Yorkers can walk the streets with dignity and safety.”

A suspect named Paris Wilson, 20, was arrested by police and charged with the beating.  Wilson was initially charged with misdemeanor assault in the third degree and harassment in the second degree.  Since Ms. Nettles’ death, upgraded charges are expected on Friday.  The Black Youth Project called the murder “horrible,” and lamented the awful waste of a talented young transgender woman’s life.  Ms. Nettles, who worked for a time at Ay’ Medici, a Harlem design house.  On her LinkedIn page, she wrote movingly of her love of fashion design:  “Fashion became a definite decision for my life after my first show with my hand designed garments in high school at the 11th grade.”

Ms. Nettles’ hate crime murder is the second fatality in a wave of violence against New York City’s LGBTQ community that has racked up record numbers of violent attacks each year for the last three years in a row.

August 23, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, GLBTQ, harassment, Harlem, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, New York Police Department (NYPD), Slurs and epithets, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Remembering James Byrd Jr.: Hate Crime Murder 15 Years Ago Today

James Byrd Jr. (May 2, 1949-June 7, 1998)

James Byrd Jr. (May 2, 1949-June 7, 1998)

Jasper, Texas – James Byrd Jr., father of three children, never intended to become a key player in the struggle to protect LGBTQ people from hate crime violence.  But when he fell into the hands of three haters by accepting a ride from them on June 7, 1998, he became one of the most famous hate crimes murder victims of all time.

Byrd, 49, was looking for a ride home to be with his family.  Instead, his three abductors, Shawn Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John King, aged 23 to 31 years of age, drove him out to a lonely road outside of the small town of Jasper, Texas, beat him senseless, urinated on him, and tied his ankles to the hitch of their pick up truck–apparently for no reason other than race hatred.  It was a lynching-by dragging.  Byrd’s killers dragged him three miles along an asphalt road until he died.  Speeding along the road, his body struck a concrete culvert, severing his right arm, shoulder, and head.  Investigators located 81 sites along the route where remains of Byrd’s body were scattered.  Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray, said that the murder of James Byrd Jr. was the worst he had seen in over 20 years as a prosecutor.  Berry, Brewer, and King dumped Byrd’s body beside the cemetery of an African American Church, and went on to celebrate their deed at a barbecue–feeling that no one in Jasper County or the State of Texas would miss a lone African American.

They were desperately wrong.  Brewer and King, well-know white supremacists, were early suspects, causing DA Gray to investigate the murder as a hate crime.  The FBI was called in to assist in the investigation within 24 hours of Byrd’s remains being found.  Echoes of lynchings throughout the South amplified the outrage surrounding Byrd’s hate crime murder.  Brewer, King, and Berry were arrested, and eventually convicted of murder as a hate crime.  Brewer and King were sentenced to death, and on September 21, 2011, Brewer was put to death by lethal injection.  King awaits execution on death row.  Berry was sentenced to life in prison.  The Byrd Family opposed the death penalty for the men who killed their beloved James, believing that more deaths could never bring peace or closure to his murder.  Only justice for everyone could.

James Byrd Jr.'s gravesite.

James Byrd Jr.’s gravesite.

In May 2001, Texas enacted the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act into law. Because of advocacy within the Byrd Family, James Byrd Jr.’s name lent credibility to make the statute a gay-inclusive hate crimes protection law, and linked it to the Laramie, Wyoming anti-gay murder of Matthew Shepard. Then, after decades of advocacy, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, extending federal protections to LGBT people in America for the first time in history.  Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of Matthew, were joined at the White House by Betty Bryd Boatner and Louvon Harris, sisters of James, for the signing ceremony.  President Obama said:

“This is the culmination of a struggle that has lasted more than a decade.  Time and again, we faced opposition.  Time and again, the measure was defeated or delayed.  Time and again we’ve been reminded of the difficulty of building a nation in which we’re all free to live and love as we see fit.  But the cause endured and the struggle continued, waged by the family of Matthew Shepard, by the family of James Byrd, by folks who held vigils and led marches, by those who rallied and organized and refused to give up, by the late Senator Ted Kennedy who fought so hard for this legislation — (applause) — and all who toiled for years to reach this day.”

Then, the President underlined the ongoing significance of the Act named for James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard:

“You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits — not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear.  You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights — both from unjust laws and violent acts.  And you understand how necessary this law continues to be.”

So, today, we remember James Byrd Jr.  His death has not been in vain.  The road toward full equality for all Americans is a long one.  Many have died in the 15 years since the murders of Byrd and Shepard at the hands of irrational hatred.  More will die, succumbing to injustices of the worst kind.  But James Byrd Jr. is not forgotten, and his killers have not had the last word on his life.  The struggle continues, and right is on the side of life and inclusion.  This 15th anniversary of James Byrd Jr.’s death, we who believe in justice cannot allow ourselves to rest.  We who believe in justice cannot rest until it comes.

June 7, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Racism, Remembrances, Texas, White supremacist groups, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Remembering James Byrd Jr.: Hate Crime Murder 15 Years Ago Today

Cleveland Transgender Woman’s Body Found With Multiple Stab Wounds; Now 3 Trans Murders in April

Transgender woman Cemia Acoff, 20, stabbed to death and submerged in a pond west of Cleveland.

Transgender woman Cemia Acoff, 20, stabbed to death and submerged in a pond west of Cleveland.

Cleveland, Ohio – The badly decomposed body of a local transgender woman was found sunken in a pond on Wednesday, April 17.  The victim, Ms. Cemia Acoff, 20 years of age, also known as Ci Ci Dove by her friends, had been reported missing since March 27.  The pond, located in Olmstead Township west of Cleveland, was built to recycle runoff water from a once thriving greenhouse operation in the area.  Ms. Acoff’s body, riddled with stab wounds and naked from the waist down, was tied to a concrete block in order to weigh the corpse down to the bottom of the pond.  The Advocate reports that a resident of a close by apartment complex discovered the body, and notified police.  The coroner had to identify Ms. Acoff by testing her DNA, because of the state of the her remains.

Adding insult to the grief of family and friends, local news outlets heaped disrespect upon Ms. Acoff’s memory, sensationalizing her transition and employing a deeply insensitive reportage template to her story, referring to her as “a man in a dress,” a stock response of transphobic ignorance in situations like these.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Fox 8 were called to task by  GLAAD, faith leaders, and local LGBTQ advocates. For example, Fox 8 published a whole paragraph in their report demeaning Ms. Acoff’s character for having a police record, and describing the clothes found on her corpse.  The outcry against such negative coverage of the murder of a transgender woman caused both the Plain Dealer and Fox 8 to modify their previous stories, but GLAAD representative Aaron McQuade issued a statement to the press calling on both local news outlets to meet with GLAAD and members of the transgender community to learn what more they need to do to redress the damage they have already done to the memory of Ms. Acoff.  In part, McQuade stated: “The truth is, when someone like Cemia appears to identify as female sometimes and male other times, it’s because it’s still socially unacceptable (and often dangerous) to be transgender. The fact that some people in Acoff’s life didn’t know she sometimes identified as female, and the fact that her legal identification might not have reflected her gender identity, doesn’t change the fact that she was a transgender woman.”  

CemiaTransGriot points that the murder of Ms. Acoff is the third anti-transgender hate crime homicide of an African American transwoman reported in the month of April alone.  Besides Ms. Acoff, 29-year-old Kelly Young was shot to death in Baltimore on April 3, and 30-year-old  Ashley Sinclair of Orlando, Florida who was also found shot to death the next day, Thursday, April 4.  The murder of transwomen of color has reached alarming proportions throughout the nation in recent months–all the more reason to get the sad news of the loss of Cemia and her transgender sisters of color widely, sensitively, and accurately distributed throughout the media.  For a further report on the slow rolling decimation of the transgender population in the United States, see the landmark study, “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” which may be accessed in detail on the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force website.

As of this writing, Ms. Acoff’s killer or killers remain at large with no leads.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, Character assassination, Florida, gender identity/expression, GLAAD, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Maryland, Media Issues, Ohio, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Cleveland Transgender Woman’s Body Found With Multiple Stab Wounds; Now 3 Trans Murders in April

Transgender Woman Shot to Death in Baltimore

Kelly Young, 29, shot to death in a possible transphobic hate crime.

Kelly Young, 29, shot to death in a possible transphobic hate crime.

East Baltimore, Maryland – A beloved member of the transgender community of Baltimore was found shot on the floor of her apartment this Wednesday morning.  Kelly Young, 29, died in transit to the hospital.

The murder remains unsolved.  Baltimore City Police are investigating, but say that it is too early yet to determine that this homicide was a hate crime, according to WJZ TV, CBS Baltimore.  Officials say that they will make the determination about the hate crime status of the case as evidence warrants.  “Internally, we’ll investigate any incident as a hate crime if there is any sort of physical evidence that indicates it’s a hate crime,”  said Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk, Baltimore City police. “She had a lot of friends and a lot of loved ones who really want to bring this case to closure.”  Matt Thorn, spokesperson from the GLBT Resource Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB), said that the police were following every lead, and that the murder of Ms. Young might very well prove to be a transphobic hate crime meant to send a message to the LGBT community.

Community outrage at the murder is running high, and some of her friends are concerned with their own safety.  Dondria Naieem, a friend of Ms. Young, said to CBS Baltimore, “I’m scared to walk by myself and hang with a lot of people so people don’t get me.  It’s really hard to cope with her death.”  Ms. Young was born near where she died, and was a well-known and well-loved entertainer who performed regularly at a local club.  She had the reputation of being an accomplished dancer.

On Thursday, her family and friends gathered to remember Ms. Young and give thanks for her life.  Her sister, Monique Mack, told WMAR TV, the local ABC affiliate“The neighborhood embraced her — boys and girls, straight or gay she was embraced.”  “It wasn’t always a smooth road but I will say it was more smooth than not.”  Her mother spoke of her gifts and qualities, as well: “Everybody accepted her. That’s why everybody is here because everybody accepted her.  She kept it real.” 

Everybody except the person or the persons who gunned down Kelly Young, that is.  Neighbors, family and friends are determined to get to the bottom of why a person so beloved could be killed so cruelly.  Tanya Eley, Ms. Young’s longtime friend, said, “God knows whatever happened to her, God has them; they’re going to regret whatever they did to her because she was loved.”

April 6, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Maryland, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Candidate for Mayor Slain in Mississippi; Man Taken Into Custody

Marco McMillian, 34, murdered gay candidate for mayor.

Marco McMillian, 34, murdered gay candidate for mayor.

Coahoma County, Mississippi – Police have identified the body of a popular gay mayoral candidate, discovered beside a levee near the Mississippi River.  Marco McMillian, 34, was up until his death a candidate for the Mayorship of Clarksdale, Mississippi in a hotly contested race.  Investigators do not believe that politics played a role in the murder of the well-liked CEO of MWM and Associates, widely known as the first truly viable gay candidate for elective office in the State of Mississippi.  McMillian had been reported missing since Tuesday.

NBC News reports that a 22-year-old Clarksdale man who was behind the wheel of McMillian’s stolen sport utility vehicle when it wrecked, has been airlifted to a Memphis, Tennessee hospital.  Police have taken Lawrence Reed into custody, but refuse to say more about whether Reed is a person of interest in the murder investigation of McMillian.  Reed was involved in a head-on collision in Coahoma County, and is reported to be in good condition.

The Clarion Ledger has done major reporting on this story throughout the hunt for McMillian, whom Ebony Magazine listed in 2004 as one of the “30 up-and-coming African Americans under 30.”  McMillian sought to win the Clarksdale mayoral race to succeed Henry Espy Jr., brother of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, who is stepping down after serving the post for twenty years.  The news of McMillian’s murder rocked the Clarksdale community.  A spokesperson for the McMillian campaign, Jarod Keith, in a statement following the press conference where McMillian’s death was announced, “We remember Marco as a bold and passionate public servant, whose faith informed every aspect of his life. Tragically, that life has been cut short.”  One of his opponents in the race, Bill Luckett, offered his sympathies to McMillian’s family and supporters, calling him  “a very articulate, clean-cut young man. It’s a bizarre and tragic situation that deeply saddened [me].”  The Victory Fund, an LGBT political organization that supports gay candidates for public office, issued a brief statement of grief and condolence that read, “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly LGBT candidates in Mississippi.” 

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is on the case, according to The Advocate.  As best as is known at this time, McMillian picked up a man who subsequently killed him and stole his vehicle.  All eyes now turn to the man taken into custody from McMillian’s wrecked vehicle.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, GLBTQ, LGBTQ, Mississippi, Victory Fund | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Candidate for Mayor Slain in Mississippi; Man Taken Into Custody

Gay America and Martin Luther King Jr.: Why LGBTQ Equality Is His Unfinished Agenda

mlkflag-719751Atlanta, Georgia – In the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. and his family launched an activist Christian movement that changed the world, preparations are in full swing for the national holiday that bears his memory.  What about Dr. King’s legacy and the human rights struggle today?  Would Dr. King consider the lives and liberties of LGBTQ people his own unfinished business?

During his own lifetime, Dr. King’s record of public support for gay and lesbian people in his own movement was neither courageous nor even positive.  Dr. King, for example, often considered Bayard Rustin, the gay, Quaker activist who proved indispensable to the organization of the 1963 March on Washington, to be a liability to his movement.  The New Civil Rights Movement relates how Rustin was smuggled out of Montgomery, Alabama during the 1956 Bus Boycott with the assent of MLK because Rustin was thought to be a liability to King, the nascent movement, and other African American civil rights leaders. Commenting on the documentary film, Brother Outsider, made to advance Rustin’s legacy, his life partner, Walter Naegle wrote: “A master strategist and tireless activist, Bayard Rustin is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement, and helped mold Martin Luther King, Jr. into an international symbol of peace and nonviolence.  Despite these achievements,” Naegle went on to say, “Rustin was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.”  According to Rev. Irene Monroe, an African American lesbian who writes for the Huffington Post, Rustin once offered to resign rather than be seen as a liability to the movement.  She notes that King did not refuse Rustin’s offer, saying of Rustin and another gay associate, “I can’t take on two queers at one time.”  Surely, Bayard Rustin and other faithful workers in the non-violent civil rights movement deserved better.

Liberal Christian leaders disagree on whether Martin Luther King Jr. would have evolved into a human rights advocate, had he lived. Irene Monroe is convinced that he would not, fearing the loss of support in the Black Church. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush thinks that King would have eventually become an outspoken ally of gays and lesbians.  Raushenbush, heir to the mantle of his ancestor’s leadership as a progressive Christian, argues as Senior Editor for Religion in the Huffington Post that King’s attitude toward LGBTQ people, while drawing major aspects of the anti-gay ideology of his day, was surprisingly temperate.  Contemporaries among black and white ministers, such as Rev. Adam Clayton Powell and Rev. Billy Graham, were decidedly more negative toward “homosexuals” than Dr. King.

Mrs. Coretta Scott King [Equality Matters image]

Mrs. Coretta Scott King [Equality Matters image]

King’s own family is divided over the question, as well.  His niece, Alveda King, and his youngest and only surviving child, Rev. Bernice King, strongly deny that he would have supported the LGBTQ rights movement in any form.  In 2004, the cousins marched together in an Atlanta demonstration against same-sex marriage and gay rights. But King’s now-deceased widow, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, unequivocally affirmed that her martyred husband would have championed the rights of all people, including those of LGBTQ people.  In a famous remark made near to the 30th anniversary of the death of Dr. King, Mrs. King asserted, “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice.  But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’  I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”

Mrs. King understood that in order for her late husband’s dream to remain vital over the passage of the years, it had to be made relevant to the emerging struggles of modern oppressed minorities.  She, more than anyone else, reveals the genius of Dr. King’s Beloved Community: every generation enlarges it with new citizens of a freer, better, more perfect union.  With uncommon perception and insight, Mrs. King said to the audience at the 25th Anniversary Luncheon of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, “Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida, and many other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement.  Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own.”  Speaking vicariously for her husband, Mrs. King concluded, “And I salute their contributions.” 

As Mrs. King perceived and advocated, the struggle her husband gave his life to pursue runs parallel to the LGBTQ rights movement.  Racial justice, world peace, justice for workers and the poor, and the cause of non-violence are all still unrequited in the world today, and are the continuing responsibility of the Civil Rights Movement.  But as surely as her husband championed the cause of social change for the betterment of all, LGBTQ equality is just as surely Dr. King’s legacy and unfinished business.

Happy MLK Day from the Unfinished Lives Project Team!

January 21, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights Movement, Coretta Scott King, Georgia, GLBTQ, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Social Justice Advocacy, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay, Black Classmates Targeted in White Power Teen’s Bomb Plot

Derek Shrout, 17, alleged hate crime bomb plotter, escorted from Russell County Court on Monday (Ledger-Enquirer image).

Derek Shrout, 17, alleged hate crime bomb plotter, escorted from Russell County Court on Monday (Ledger-Enquirer image).

Seale, Alabama – Eastern Alabama police announce that a hate crime bomb plot targeting gay and black classmates of a 17-year-old white supremacist has been foiled in Russell County.

Authorities arrested Derek Shrout, a self-proclaimed white power advocate,  last Friday, responding swiftly to threats to bomb Russell County High School written in Shrout’s own personal journal.  The journal, carelessly left behind in a classroom by Shrout, fell into the hands of a teacher, who rushed the document into the hands of police investigators. According to WTVM-TV, Shrout threatened in his journal to harm six students and one teacher, citing hatred of blacks and gays as his motive.  Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor told reporters, “The journal contained several plans that looked like potential terrorist attacks, and attacks of violence and danger on the school.” Five of the students Shrout specifically named were black.  Shrout believed the sixth student he named was gay, also a class of persons the 17-year-old professed to hate.

Sheriff Taylor said that the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut were an inciting factor in Shrout’s intention to bomb the high school. The first entry showing the student’s intent to attack his school is on December 17, only three days after the horrific Sandy Hook massacre. Fox News reports that law enforcement officers discovered over 25 smokeless tobacco tins and two larger cans with holes drilled in them in Shrout’s rooms on Friday.  The tins were filled with pellets, partially outfitted as homemade bombs and grenades.  One of the tins was labeled “Fat Man,” and another “Little Boy,” apparently in emulation of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.  The improvised bombs were only “a step or two away from being ready to explode,” the Sheriff observed, going on to say that the quick thinking of school officials averted a horrible outcome. “The system worked and thank God, it did,” he said. “We avoided a very bad situation.”

In his own defense, Shrout claims that the entries in his journal were fictions, and that he never intended to harm classmates or the teacher.  He was held in custody on $75,000 bond on a felony charge of assault until a court appearance this Monday, when he made bail. The presiding judge released Shrout under the following conditions:  he must remain at home; wear a GPS locator bracelet on his ankle; refrain from initiating contact with anyone connected to the school; and be monitored by a parent while on the Internet.  A court date for the teen has been set for February 12.

Shrout planned to attack gay and black classmates at his high school (Russell County Sheriff's Office mugshot).

Shrout planned to attack gay and black classmates at his high school (Russell County Sheriff’s Office mugshot).

Shrout, who moved to Alabama from Kansas with his military family, had become well-known in Russell County High for his anti-gay and racist views.  Classmates noted that he and a circle of other white supremacist friends often espoused white power propaganda, and gave each other the Nazi salute. Senior Class President David Kelly is quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “In the hallway, at breakfast, at the lunch tables, after school where we have our bus parking lot, he’d have his big old group of friends and they’d go around doing the whole white power crazy stuff.”

Authorities say that the teen was involved in neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, and had learned bomb making from the internet.  Now his classmates are expressing anger and frustration at Shrout’s intended attack on their school.  David White, who used to hang out with Shrout after JROTC meetings, exclaimed to reporters, “Why would you want to go to a school and blow it up?  You know you’re going to hit somebody else; you’re not just going to, in particular, hit one person.  You’re going to injure more than one.”

January 8, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, Alabama, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bombs and explosives, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy, Racism | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gay Hairstylist Brutally Attacked In Baltimore: Christmas Hate Crime Suspected

Christmas gay bashing victim Kenni Shaw, 30, before and after attack. (Instagram image posted by the victim.)

Christmas gay bashing victim Kenni Shaw, 30, before and after attack. (Instagram image posted by the victim.)

Baltimore, Maryland – A popular gay hairstylist was savagely beaten by a gang of men outside an East Baltimore liquor store on Christmas night.  The motive?  Kenni Shaw, the victim of the attack, has no doubt that the random attack was because of his perceived sexual orientation. Police are still investigating the alleged anti-gay hate crime in the “Charm City.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, Shaw, 30 years old, was simply walking past the East Baltimore beverage shop near his home at approximately 9 p.m. on Christmas when the assault started.  Shaw said he tried to beg his attackers to stop, but the blows kept coming so hard and fast he couldn’t get the words out of his mouth. The punches pinned him to the pavement. ”I was just beaten in my face. Nothing was taken. No words were exchanged before the incident, so to me, I think it was a hate crime,” Shaw told The Sun.  People in his neighborhood had previously called him “faggot,” but Shaw, a six-foot-tall cosmetologist and hairstylist, never believed homophobic attitudes would issue in such violence.

His mother, Sheila Shaw, told The Sun that Kenni had immediately called her.  “I can’t even describe that moment for me. I thought my world was ending,” she said. “No parent wants to get that phone call. The tone of his voice … I thought, ‘He’s strong enough to make the phone call, but I’m probably going to lose my son.’”  When she rushed to the hospital and finally got to see her son, Ms. Shaw said she could hardly recognize who he was.

While he was on the phone, paramedics came to transport him to Johns Hopkins, the famed Baltimore hospital, where he was treated for his wounds.  Despite the bruises, cuts, and lacerations on his face and knees, there were no fractures. Shaw suspects that bystanders called for help, an indication that not all residents of the neighborhood agree with anti-gay violence.

Shaw said to WBFF Fox News 45 that he was simply glad to be alive. During his recovery at his mother’s home in Baltimore County, Shaw posted an Instagram photo of himself, before and after the assault, showing the horrific effects of the attack. According to Pink News, hundreds of responses supporting the hairstylist poured in from around the country and the world. As he healed from the physical injuries of hate, Shaw decided to speak out against the homophobia that victimizes so many in Baltimore. “It makes me angry and upset, but at the same time, I am here and I made it through,” he told The Sun. “I just want to stand and make sure I have a voice, so this doesn’t happen again to a loved one or anyone.”  His relatives are standing strong with Shaw, as well, supporting his outspoken efforts to stop anti-gay hate crimes in their community.

“This needs to be spoken to because somebody needs to take a stand,” he said. “Hate crimes happen every day.”

Shaw firmly believes that anti-gay bias motivated his attackers, spoiling the Christmas spirit for him, his family, and the City of Baltimore.  Police have been receptive to Shaw’s allegations, and say that, even though they are not ready to assign a motive to the assault at this time, they have already received several “good leads” in the case.  When arrests are made, Baltimore Police say that they will communicated with the Attorney General of the state to determine the nature of the charges they will file.

Meanwhile, Shaw says he will not stop speaking out.  In an interview with The Sun, he told reporters, “I’m glad I could share my story and people could empathize with the story, because I’m getting a lot of feedback from people who have been through it or who have had family members who have been through it,” Shaw said. “I’m glad I could be a spokesman, because a lot of people don’t make it through situations like this.”

December 28, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Maryland, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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