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Brave Space Alliance holds transgender anti-violence rally
by Vern Hester

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On Sept. 21, Brave Space Alliance held a rally in front of Trump Tower at the intersection of Wabash Avenue and Wacker Drive to address the ongoing epidemic of murder towards transgender women of color.

The event, called "#SayHerName," was meant as a wake-up call following the death of transgender woman Dejanay Stanton, who was found dead with a bullet in the head in an alley in Chicago. Stanton was the 17th trans female resident in the United States to be murdered this year—and the number has increased since then.

Speaking to the crowd that numbered about 100, trans woman and activist Stephanie Skora said, "There have been so many [this year] that I have lost track ... but I can tell you: The trans community—we own our dead." She also said, "When a cis man or cis woman gets murdered, people hit the streets in hours. When a trans individual dies, nobody will claim them. When we want people to say, 'trans lives matter,' we want them to mean it. Our deaths deserve marches, too; we deserve to shut down highways, too [referring to Rev. Michael Pfleger's anti-gun rally that closed sections of the Dan Ryan Expressway and Lake Shore Drive this summer]. I want to make sure that trans women are included in this outrage." Skora concluded, "There would be no gay civil rights without trans women [of color]. Trans women have always been at the forefront."

Brave Space Alliance CEO LaSaia Wade said, "This is for our sisters who are afraid to come out. ... We would have more people here, but people are afraid to come out." Addressing cis allies, Wade said, "You want us to stand by your side but you refuse to respect us and stand by ours? We are not asking for handouts saying 'please, please, pretty please.' I am the CEO of our own organization on the South Side of Chicago and we have the right to say how we want it, if we want it and if we don't want it." She then asked those present, "When you leave this space, what are you going to do? How are you going to support?"

Activist Karari Olvera Orozco said to the crowd, "I'm 34 years old. The life expectancy for trans women of color is 35, and you may be marching for me next year." Orozco pointed out that in this situation, "It does not matter who is in the White House; it matters who is on the streets."

At the close of the rally, those in attendance observed a moment of acknowledgement for victims by reciting their names in unison followed by the phrase, "Say her name." The names of the victims included London Moore, Diamond Stephens, Sasha Garden, Keisha Wells, Catalina Christina James, Antash'a English, Amia Tyrae Berryman, Tonya Harvey, Phylicia Mitchell, Vontashia Bell, Shantee Tucker, Celine Walker, Janelle Ortiz, Roxanna Hernandez, Vicky Gutierrez, Dejanay Stanton and Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien.

Other speakers at the event included activists Tanya Cordova and Toni Marie Preston .

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