“I believe in black trans power”, said Raquel Willis to a sea of 15,000 people who had collected to protest for “Black Trans Lives Matter” on June 14, in front of Brooklyn Museum of New York. They echoed Willis’ ideas as they peacefully claimed for fundamental rights of black trans people.
An ongoing pandemic of violence against trans people has continued for ages. Last year alone, the number of transgenders murdered across the globe was 331. Even after 30 years of death, the murder of Marsha P Johnson, the matriarchy of the LGBTQA community of New York, is unresolved.
On the Frontline of the black transgender movement is activist Raquel Willis, a 29-year old black trans woman, media strategist and writer. She established the “Black Trans Circles” as the former national organizer of the Transgender Law Center. This is a programme aimed at providing safe spaces to black trans women in Midwest and South US.
Raquel Willis also worked as the executive editor of the Out magazine where a “Trans Obituaries Project” was created by her to honour the trans women of colour who lost their lives in 2019. She told Vogue, “It was important for me to look at the fullness, the wholeness of their lives and not just reduce them to the tragedy that came at the end.”
Shortly after being appointed as the director of communications of Ms Foundation for Women and in the middle of authoring a collection of essays about her identity and activism- The Rise it Took to Bloom-she spoke to Vogue about her life and her commitment for empowering trans people.
On being asked about her feeling while delivering her captivating speech before thousands infront of the Brooklyn Museum, she said that it was cathartic and energising. “It was as if something shifted that day as we saw the sheer number of people present, who see us as black trans people, see our experiences, our struggle, our power and the importance of our dignity. I appreciated that so many allies came together to support the black trans community, whether it was through planning or participation. It’s a moment that I will never forget.”
She’s surprised at the overwhelmingly positive responses to her speech. She mentioned that she “grew up with a bevvy of black historical figures to look up to” but the plight of several queer and trans people is that, their experiences are lost in history. She revealed that as she grew up, she realized the age-old fight for existence and identity of the trans people. She got to know that black and brown communities had accepted the complexity of gender and have been fighting for centuries. With respect to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, she is happy to call out elitism, white supremacy, cissexism, homonormativity, capitalism and assimilation fueling toxic dynamics, even within progressive spaces.
“We have more language to name all of these different dynamics that have plagued the black trans community for so long…”
“We have a great future ahead”, says Raquel hopefully…