The local LGBTQ community gathered in the Norwood section of the Bronx on September 19 to speak out against hate after a mural that brought attention to the plight of Black trans lives was defaced with homophobic and transphobic messages.
A local group called Black Trans Media was originally involved in painting the mural at the corner of Bainbridge Avenue and East 204th Street over the summer. The mural sent an inclusive message to the local community in Norwood, stressing the importance of Black trans lives while also underscoring the general premise of the Black Lives Matter movement. It also included other intersectional messages in support of immigrant communities.
In the blink of an eye, all of that worked was smeared.
“Someone, no one knows who, defaced the mural and wrote lots of hateful speech and bigoted comments on the top of it in red spray paint,” Elisa Crespo, an out trans candidate for City Council in the Bronx, told Gay City News in a phone interview on September 21.
Black Trans Media mobilized the community to paint over the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, while Bronx Assemblymember Nathalia Fernandez organized a press conference on September 20 to denounce the act of hate.
Black Trans Media reminded the city that community education and resources for housing and healthcare, not police, should be driving the response.
“This sacred mural where we honored our ancestors will live on,” Black Trans Media noted in a tweet on September 19. “Whoever defaced our mural, you cannot drive out our power or our message.”
Crespo said others on hand included Princess Janae Place’s executive director, Jevon Martin, as well as Destination Tomorrow’s executive director, Sean Coleman.
“The vandalism we saw in our community is emblematic of the erasure black and brown bodies face on a daily basis,” Fernandez said in a written statement. “We will not be silenced. We will uplift the voices of the most vulnerable and not allow them to be cast aside.”
Crespo noted that advocates made it clear that they sought “more than just performative justice” from local leaders.
“We want our leaders to be proactive and not reactive,” Crespo said. “We are demanding solutions that improve the quality of life for Black and brown trans people in New York, such as access to education, jobs, and housing. These are all things that are important to the average person, but if you look at the numbers, you know that Black and brown trans people suffer at disproportionate rates.”
Photos of the repainted mural were posted on social media by Black Trans Media and featured the names of Black trans individuals who have lost their lives, including Elie Che, a trans individual who died at the Bronx’s Orchard Beach on August 31, as well as Layleen Xtravaganza Cubilette-Polanco, who died at Rikers Island last year in solitary confinement.
“Well in five hours we bought our mural back to life,” Black Trans Media wrote in a Facebook post on September 19. “Art, as all things, is transformative #blacktransloveiswealth #blacktranseverything #blacktransfutures.”
Multiple young trans individuals have lost their lives across the city over the summer, including in the Bronx. In addition to Che, Tiffany Harris, a 32-year-old Black trans woman, was fatally stabbed at an apartment building in the Bronx on July 26, and Isabella Mia Lofton, who was also Black, was found dead in Brooklyn under mysterious circumstances on September 7.
Black Trans Media did not immediately return an email seeking comment on September 21.
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