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As Pride Month kicks off, black trans activists want their stories centered

June is Pride Month, the anniversary of the 1969 riots by the LGBTQ community against police brutality at New York City’s Stonewall Inn. Now, with a recent wave of violence against black, transgender people, activists are demanding those stories be centered in the “Black Lives Matter” movement. NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano spoke with Imara Jones, creator of Translash Media, to learn more.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This week marks the start of Pride Month, the anniversary of a different rebellion that took place 51 years ago, when LGBTQ people rioted at New York City's Stonewall Inn after a series of police raids and acts of brutality inside the bar.

    Now, in the midst of renewed protests against police, a recent wave of killings and violence against black, transgender people has many activists calling for trans voices to be centered in calls for "Black Lives Matter." NewsHour Weekend's Ivette Feliciano spoke with Imara Jones, a Soros Equality fellow and creator of Translash Media.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    This is the start of Pride Month. Obviously, it's the 51st first anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. How does that moment in LGBTQ history connect to this moment we're having right now?

  • Imara Jones:

    Yeah. Not only is it the fifty first anniversary of Stonewall, right? It's also the fiftieth anniversary of the first march. So it's also significant in that way.

    We never would have had a Stonewall if it wasn't for a black trans women saying enough due to police brutality and police misconduct. And the tragedy is that black trans people have not benefited from the movement that they started. And that means that we cannot replicate that.

    In a moment when the lives of black people are being centered in a movement that focuses on equality, the ending of police violence and the centering of black people's humanity. Black trans women, black, trans people cannot be left out at that moment. We cannot replicate and wait another 50 years for us to be able to try to have some way of creating equality.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    Most recently, you've been calling attention to the brutal beating of Iyanna Dior. Can you please describe who she is and what happened to her?

  •  Imara Jones:

    What we know about her is that she is a young black woman who is in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region. I believe that the incident took place at a convenience store actually in St. Paul. We know that there was some kind of altercation over a vehicle. And that ultimately ended up with her essentially being cornered and bum rushed by a group of it appears to be more than 10, 10 to 15 people who set upon her in this store. And they were deliberately miss gendering her identifying her as gay, which she's clearly not. And so her gender identity was clearly a part and a driver in the way that she was savagely beaten.

  •  Ivette Feliciano:

    So why is it so important to highlight Iyanna's story? I mean, it was not a police involved killing. The people seen in the video perpetrating the violence against her are black. You know, how does this incident fit into this national conversation we're having around Black Lives Matter and police killings?

  • Imara Jones:

    Because overwhelmingly when people hit the streets as we've seen since 2014, it's in the deaths of black men. And the death of black men at the hands of police is mythologized due to its long history and attachment with lynching.

    But it's also really important to understand that black women were lynched, that black children were lynched, and that those stories of death at the hands of the police of all black people are not highlighted. Not to mention the death that's caused at the hands of other black people. So, for instance, last summer we had a spate of violence against black trans women, where in many ways the rage that's being felt and shown on the streets is what I felt for my community. And yet there was not this response and there's never this response.

    And this lack of equanimity means that there is not sustained pressure on the systems that oppress us, that we value certain lives more in the community than others. And as long as that's the case, it's very hard to make progress.

  • Ivette Feliciano:

    We also had the recent killings of Nina Pop in Missouri and Tony McDade in Tallahassee. As a black trans woman and as a journalist, what has this moment been like for you? Are black trans voices being centered during these protests?

  •  Imara Jones:

    No. And I think that that's a problem. I think that one of the issues with what we saw from the video and the way in which Iyanna was treated is that not all black life, even within the black community, is valued the same. And there's no way that we're going to be able to transform this moment into one of true liberation until we understand that fact and embrace that fact.

    One of the things that this incident has raised among a lot of black trans activists is this tension that people feel in this moment of how hard do you take to the streets and fight for people who don't show up for you? There's so many instances when women overall, but specifically black trans women and our murders and our pain are totally erased by the larger black community. And that has to end.

  •  Ivette Feliciano:

    Imara Jones, thank you so much for joining us.

  • Imara Jones:

    Thank you so much for having me.

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