Call Notes: White People Taking Action for Black Trans Lives Call

August 27, 2015

Click here to download the White People for Black Trans Liberation Action Kit

Click here to listen to the call. (Audio starts at 21:21 mins).



Carla Wallace: We are in solidarity with the struggle for Black people's lives and Black trans women in particular. This is a base building call for local groups to share the work they are doing around the country. These basebuilding call topics emerge from the people in our movement. Danni and Z! are going to give us framing for white people for Black Trans Lives.


Image from Micah Bazant


Danni West organizes with TGI Justice in SF: We are here to discuss what white people can do building for the liberation of Black trans folks. TGI Justice is an organization run by and for black trans women in particular incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. There is a genocide happening against black Trans women in the country. We are grounding in the lives that have been lost just in this year. [Danni read off all the names of the trans women who were killed just in this year and asked everyone to repeat Say Her Name afterwards.]

We acknowledge all those who names we do not know but who's lives have been cut short. The majority of those women, 16 of the 18, were Black trans women. We are seeing a genocidal rate of 1 in 2 black trans women incarcerated in their lifetime. This Black August has been one of acute murder and that is some of what is bringing us together tonight.

Z! Haukeness from Madison, Wisconsin: On Tuesday there was a day of action for Black trans lives and we will hear about two of those actions from folks in St. Louis and Ohio. SURJ put out a tool kit. We are in a state of crisis for Black trans women. Many of us have showed up for Mike Brown and other folks who have killed. We want to show up for the lives of people who names have been lost. BLM has been pushing to focus on Black trans women. When Black trans women get free we all get free. They are at the intersection of oppressions: healthcare, incarceration, housing/homelessness, school push out. Black trans women are adversely affected by these issues. SURJ has grown exponentially and as we continue to grow, many of the people joining are LGBTQ people. It is important that we push for the liberation of queer people, but in particular for the lives of Black trans women.

I grew up in a small town in rural Wisconsin. I didn't know there were other trans people there besides myself, but there are and they are. I hope that white trans people can be out and be our full selves in this work. Even if there are not Black trans people organizing in your area, there are folks doing work nationally that you can get involved with.

Danni: White people need to create a culture where Black trans lives do matter, and where white people can work effectively and accountably to not impose white culture in Black trans space. This is an opportunity for us to chase our humanity. How do we create a culture that pulls more and more people into the work? What are the vehicles for us to culturally shift? What work do we have to do within ourselves? How do we create a world and move in the world where Black trans lives matter to us as white folks? 

Carla: Thank you for lifting us that this is a transformational and liberatory process. We are not there yet. We have a lot of work to do but this is a journey we can welcome because it is part of our liberation too. On these calls we lift up concrete stories of folks in the work because accountably and solidarity has to be seen in action. What does some of the work look like to shift culture within our organizations?


St. Louis

Alison Brewer: Organizes with the GSA Network of Missouri. This past weekend a group called The Sisterhood of young trans women of color, 13-24, wanted to organize a vigil during the day of the trans women who have been murdered. There was a good turn out. There was 90 people who showed up. It was planned a led by a young trans women. The way she opened it helped to ground the action. She said that tomorrow was her 18 birthday, and normally that is a time for celebration, but the life expectancy for Black trans women is 35 so that means I have already lived half my life. I wake up everyday wondering if I will become a victim. She is only in high school. These statistics are a reality for many people. To get the support of people with privilege was affirming for her. As a young organizer, it's not just the fear of violence, its the reality of getting pushed out of school, being labeled as having disabilities, of being in spaces safely. White folks showing up is big because the fight needs to be carried on everyone's shoulders.

Emily Bland: The action was very visual. It was in a diverse part of town but there are a lot of people who harbor racist sentiments. A banner that said Black Trans Lives Matter was hung from a historic water tower that could be seen from the highway and seen all over St. Louis.

Alison Brewer: They are talking about doing this action once a month because so many Black trans women are being murdered. We can't wait for Trans Day of Remembrance. They will have a different leader each month because they have to continue to put these in the minds of people who this doesn't affect everyday



Lewis Wallace: Works with Black and Pink and they have started a chapter in Southwest Ohio in Yellow Springs, near Dayton. Black and Pink does letter writing and education within their communities. They are lifting up the political education about people who's bodies are not visible, but exploring the intersections within and outside the prison system. Over the past six months Black and Pink has been building connections with BLM in response to the murder of John Crawford III who was killed inside a Walmart a year ago. They are talking about starting a SURJ chapter because they are in a predominately white area. They want to support BLM and are in flux with figuring that out. There is a Black trans group in Ohio and Elle Hearn came and spoke to their group.

Lindsay: They had an action on Tuesday. They got a call from Elle and the action was organized by three cisgendered men who heard the call and went out and organized the whole thing. The call came from BLM and the idea being that when Black trans women win, we all win. The action was in Dayton and the turnout was 25-30 people. It wasn't a huge event but it was central and downtown. People who were there were enthusiastic. There were no Black trans women present because visibility is incredibly low. There is a community here that needs to be served but they are in a conservative area. The hope is that there will be more visibility when people feel more supported. There were actions within Columbus and Cincinnati, but we wanted to show up for the community that is there and doesn't have a voice. The hope is that there will be more space for leadership for Black trans women in our area.

Lewis: The organizers of the action brought in some words and readings by Black trans women, Janet Mock and Elle Hearn and held up that this was a vigil, saying people's names, and also this is a protest and recognizing the leadership in the movement right now. Interested in hearing from other folks working in rural areas, how do we center the voices of people who are not present but how do we honor  them?

Lindsay: We passed around a bullhorn and everyone spoke their commitment to supporting the trans community, which was great.

Lewis: Black and Pink is looking into reentry support. There are a lack of basic resources and we are thinking about how we can offer concrete support.

Carla: Thank you for bringing into the piece about the Prison Industrial Complex, such an important piece. We are going to have a Q&A session now.



Danni: One of the key points about the call that went out from BLM said that it isn't trans folks killing trans folks. It is cis folks killing trans folks. There is a lot of work and leadership that needs to happen. As a white woman, they aren't killing white women, they are killing women of color. We need to be honest about where we are coming from so we can humbly come to this work. The issue of trans murder rate is not a trans issue, its a cis gendered issue. The issue of the Black murder rate is a white issue. Being privilege is not the same as being free. I appreciate the leadership.

Rebecca Barker from CA: The psychology of people who are being violent against transgender Black women is that we can get away with it and those women are not worthy of being treated as humans. Making your voice heard raises the consciousness of the community and tells people to wake up and join the 21 century. I am wondering if there have been empowerment workshops, buddy systems, self defense for the LGBT community so folks can protect themselves?

Emily: Metro Trans Umbrella Group in St, Louis, whenever they have events and people ride public transportation, the MTUG will offer escorts to and from the bus stop. There was also an event that required people to show IDs at the door and that can be really marginalizing for folks. Find out in advance if an accommodation can be made with the security team? If you have surveys, make sure they are inclusive as well.

Alison: Violence looks a lot of different ways and come from ignorance. In schools, GSAs have worked towards raising awareness and educating teachers about what they can do to make spaces as safe as possible. There are many ways we can combat violence on the day to day.

Pike: We can't control random acts of violence but this violence is not random. We need to show up and educate other cisfolks. Many of us come from communities where transphobia is rampant and we need to work in those communities. I have a friend who is offering self defense for trans women. We don't have to wait until someone says something messed up for us to put it on the table and let people know that we are not going to tolerate transphobia.

Carla: Just as we have to break white silence, we have to break white cisgendered silence. The SURJ toolkit is helpful and useful. At the SURJ retreat, folks from rural areas were saying that we may not be aware that there are Black trans folks in our communities but we need resources and the toolkit is a good resource.

Danni: We are in a moment where we get to redefine what it means to be of European descent, and also to redefine masculinity. We need to make it OK to be in love with trans women, explicitly. Part of this call on Tuesday was about putting the T back in Black. There is cultural work for all of us to engage in.

Sasha Atkins: We are interested in community policing and what are resources that can help make those efforts sensitive to Black trans women?

Danni: In Oakland in Critical Resistance is working to make Oakland a police resistant city so you can call first responders who are not tied to the prisons. Look into the Oakland Power Project of Critical Resistance.

Lewis: I can send you resources to community alternatives to policing.

Carla: We are going to break into smaller groups. They are by region and we have facilitators for those groups tonight. The question we would like you all to ask is how will your work to organize white people for racial justice respond to this call for solidarity for Black trans lives matter? This is just a piece of the conversation to transform our work and our lives for Black solidarity.


Closing Appreciations

Z!: Appreciating everyone on the call, behind the scenes and everyone who worked on the toolkit. I appreciate BLM for putting out this call.

Danni: Appreciating Z!, BLM, and the Latina trans women in the Not One More campaign. Black trans women and Latina trans women are leading us in the chase for humanity and a chase for a better system. I believe that we will win.

Z!: I want to appreciate Carla and all her amazing work in her community around immigration.