On Sunday, June 9, two LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter activists, Patrisse Cullors and Ashlee Marie Preston, paid tribute to the many black cisgender and trans women who have been murdered throughout history. In a powerful event held during Los Angeles Pride, the two activists spent the day spreading awareness about the women the world has lost to violence over the years.
As Beyonce's “Run the World (Girls)” played on repeat, Cullors and Preston showed off their signs, which read, “I will protect black trans women" and “I will protect black cisgender women,” respectively. At times during the demonstration, the activists walked in solidarity with Pride marchers as well, and handed out roses to passers-by meant to honor the lives lost.
"With the growing violence against our trans sisters, there is an ever required need to reach out and offer support and be in collaboration with the leaders of our LGBTQ movement," Cullors told Mic.
"While black trans women's self-expression may differ from that of black cisgender women, there’s parallel in our struggles and power in our promise to protect one another," added Preston.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), at least 26 transgender people in the U.S. were murdered in 2018 — most of whom were Black trans women. So far in 2019, "at least eight transgender people [were] fatally shot or killed by other violent means," says the HRC on its website. Just this past Memorial Day Weekend, a Michigan man was charged with murdering two gay men and a transgender woman.
A press release about Cullors and Preston's tribute called the event "a solidarity action focusing on the legacy of Stonewall and the work of Black Lives Matter and the civil and human rights movements that continue to be alive today." Both Cullors and Preston have a long history as activists in both the LGBTQ+ and Black communities. Cullors, who identifies as queer, is founder and co-chair of Black Lives Matter Global Network and a prison reform advocate, while Preston, a journalist, is the first female trans editor-in-chief of a national publication and the first openly trans person to run for California office. Additionally, she launched the #ThriveOver35 campaign in 2018, which brings awareness to the fact that the average black trans woman doesn't live past the age of 35.
"My hope for #ThriveOver35 and Black Lives Matter is that together we’re able to not only protect the underrepresented, underserved, and those constantly under siege at the margins of our society — but that we may become their extended family," said Preston. "We want to be here to love them through anything that comes their way."
Although Pride is meant to be an annual celebration of LGBTQ+ people's identities, journeys, and contributions to the world, it's also a time for protest and activism. With hate crimes against LGBTQ+ and non-white people on the rise (Politifact reports, in the most recent data on the topic, that the number of hate crimes committed annually increased every year from 2014 to 2017), and more discriminatory polices being proposed by the Trump administration, many people are choosing to use 2019 Pride to vocalize their anger and demand change.
"While pride has been traditionally marketed as a celebration of sexual diversity, there’s still space for identities that are shut out, silenced, and susceptible to erasure," said Preston.
As Preston tweeted on Monday, she and Cullors attended Pride as a way of "celebrating the lives of all the black trans women murdered this year and acknowledging Sandra Bland & other cis black women killed by police."
Cullors said, "When Black trans women get free, we all will [be] free."
Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct the date of the LA Pride event.