Public Square Park Vigil for #BlackTransLivesMatter Draws More than 500

Photo by Emily April Allen

More than 500 #BlackTransLivesMatter activists gathered at Public Square Park for a vigil Saturday June 20 honoring Tony McDade, Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells, Riah Milton and several other black trans people killed by anti-trans violence this year.

Out & About Nashville first reported the scheduled event on Thursday June 18, and participation quickly grew on the event’s Facebook invite.

Speakers included Kayla Gore, Dr. Marisa Richmond, Desi Hall, Kai Campbell and Rell Freeman, who red a letter from Nashville activist Fredrikka Joy Maxwell. Nick Berkley emceed the event. Organizers say they are planning on building from the event to start a transgender organizing center.

“The vigil was a huge success. It was a moving and beautiful night,” says organizer Shawn Reilly. “Our communities came together under a pink and blue sky and the courthouse lit up in trans pride colors to say ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’. I am so proud of all of the organizers and all of the participants in last night’s call to action.”

So far in 2020 the Human Rights Campaign has tracked 15 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. At the current pace, this year is set to surpass 2019’s death toll of 27, the majority of whom were Black transgender women.

Some of the cases involve clear anti-transgender bias, while others may have been at risk in other ways, such as their status forcing them into unemployment, poverty, homelessness or sex work for survival. Activists say that fatal violence disproportionately affects Black transgender women, and that many of the victims are misgendered in local police statements and media reports.

Just last week, an estimated crowd of 15,000 joined the “Brooklyn Liberation” march Sunday, June 14 on the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum in New York and grew to take up several blocks.

The Friday before that rally, the Trump administration finalized a regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services, erasing protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies. The federal government does not at this time recognize gender identity as an avenue for sex discrimination in health care.

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Brian Sullivan is a reporter for Out & About Nashville. He has served nearly 2 decades in the television industry, with over 20 years experience as a print and broadcast journalist. Sullivan is an Emmy Award Winning producer, writer, lobbyist, activist and marketing strategist. He is active in several campaigns raising awareness in addiction treatment, equality and mental healthcare. He received recognition as a Nashville Emerging Leader of the Year at the NELA Awards. He is an Executive Board Member of the Prevention Alliance of Tennessee, a member of DrugFree Wilco, the Williamson County Anti-Drug Coalition, the Memphis Area Prevention Alliance, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Facing Addiction, Fed Up!, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Center for Nonprofit Management, Music City Theatre Company, LGBTQI Nashvillians of Faith, Covenant of the Cross Ministries, Human Rights Campaign, HRC Nashville, Team Friendly Tennessee, Tennessee Equality Project, Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, Wilson County Anti-Drug Coalition, National Fraternal Order of Police, the Nashville Filmmakers Guild and is an ordained Minister. Sullivan is a proud donor of the Memphis Hope House, Nashville Cares, Covenant Cupboard Food Pantry, and Second Harvest Food Bank. He has worked extensively on projects with several major networks including Fox News Network, CNN, Time Magazine, Washington Post, New York Times, Inside Edition and Mic.