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    Saturday, December 03, 2022

    Inaugural Vigil to Honor Black Trans Lives held in New London

    From left, Derek Tavares of New London, friend Mara Gutt and his mother, Robin Harris, listen to a speaker during a vigil to honor Black trans lives on Sunday, June 28, 2020, at New London City Hall. The inaugural event, organized by OutCT, honored queer and trans people of color, both past and present. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    New London — At least 16 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have died in the U.S. due to violence in 2020, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

    OutCT sought to honor these people, as well as queer and trans people of color, at the inaugural "Vigil to Honor Black Trans Lives" on Sunday afternoon at City Hall.

    The nonprofit organization presented a series of speakers, a singing performance, a vigil and a ceremonial raising of an LGBTQ Black Lives Matter flag at City Hall, which is now flying opposite the American flag and will stay up until the end of the month.

    About 45 people gathered in front of the City Hall steps for the event, which was organized by Chevelle Moss-Savage, an OutCT board member. OutCT began in 2013, when a group of LGBT people and allies tried to plan a New London Pride Festival. Now, the organization runs the New London Pride Festival, puts on events and runs a youth program.

    OutCT President Kia Baird introduced Mayor Michael Passero to begin the event.

    Passero mentioned the recent Supreme Court ruling protecting lesbian, gay and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex as a reason for optimism, “just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse.”

    “I don’t think it could’ve been more of a surprise,” Passero said. “It was the morale boost that we needed.”

    Passero also spoke of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, who was killed by police in Minneapolis, saying he thinks it will spark change throughout the country.

    “The City of New London stands here to lead the way, and I’m proud to be the mayor at this moment in our history,” Passero said.

    City Councilor Curtis Goodwin delivered remarks next. He framed his speech in a personal manner, saying it was coming from a “Black male queer city councilor.”

    “We’re a city that gets it. We’re a city that’s inclusive,” Goodwin said. “Whether you’re Black, whether you’re queer, whether you have an identity that you wear, just understand that being Black here in America is something that we don’t get a choice to do. We don’t choose to be Black. We don’t choose to fight oppression. We didn’t choose nor create racism here. It takes all of us collectively to change the injustice that’s happening here.”

    Before the vigil, singer-songwriter Erycka Ortiz performed for the slowly growing crowd. Then, attendees fell silent for the vigil, which consisted of placing flowers, with the name of one of the transgender or gender-nonconforming people who has died since the beginning of the year, on an altar bearing a poster board with a list of their names — Johanna Metzger, Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Nina Pop, Tony McDade and others. After each name was read into a microphone, a bell was rung.

    Moss-Savage said that of the transgender or gender-nonconforming people killed this year, only two were not Black or brown, and the average age of those killed is 35. It’s likely that more transgender or gender-nonconforming people than the 16 — or 17, as asserted by OutCT at Sunday’s event — were killed this year but were misgendered in media or police reports, Moss-Savage added.

    “We need to keep showing up so we can stop this madness,” Moss-Savage said.

    On June 14, tens of thousands of Americans took part in public demonstrations following the killings of two Black trans women — Dominique Fells and Riah Milton — who were killed within 24 hours of each other.

    Baird said she believes this is the first time the LGBTQ Black Lives Matter flag was raised at New London City Hall. She applauded city officials for their institutional support of OutCT.

    “New London has been wonderful, the Pride flag has been flying for weeks, but we wanted to symbolically add the Black Lives Matter Pride flag,” Baird said. “It means everything that the city is committed to all of the people that live here. It’s a reiteration that we have community here. We aren’t isolated, and we aren’t alone.”

    Moss-Savage said she’s a therapist who primarily works with people in the LGBTQ community. She noticed people weren’t paying as much attention to Tony McDade, a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by police in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27 as they investigated a fatal stabbing, as they were to Floyd or to Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Kentucky on March 31.

    “The Stonewall Riots happened 51 years ago today, and the first Pride celebration happened 50 years ago today, so today is intentional,” Moss-Savage said. “I hoped to bring attention to someone like Tony McDade because we weren’t saying his name as much as George Floyd or Breonna Taylor.”

    Moss-Savage also touched on the presence of public officials at the event.

    “It gives teeth to the movement to have the mayor and the city councilor here, that shows us that we’re not alone,” Moss-Savage said. “In order to make laws and change within the system, you need that support.”

    s.spinella@theday.com

    Minna Murphy of Middletown looks up wearing rainbow eye makeup as she listens to a speaker during a vigil to honor Black trans lives on Sunday, June 28, 2020, at New London City Hall. The inaugural event, organized by OutCT, honored queer and trans people of color, both past and present. Murphy is a makeup artist and founder of cosmetics company Zeni Beauty. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    New London Councilman Curtis K. Goodwin, left, and Mayor Michael Passero work to hang a new Pride flag during a vigil to honor Black trans Lives on Sunday, June 28, 2020, at New London City Hall. The inaugural event, organized by OutCT, honored queer and trans people of color, both past and present. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Lindsay Gillette hands out flowers to represent lives lost during a vigil to honor Black trans lives on Sunday, June 28, 2020, at New London City Hall. The inaugural event, organized by OutCT, honored queer and trans people of color, both past and present. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Singer-songwriter Erycka Ortiz performs during a vigil to honor Black trans Lives on Sunday, June 28, 2020, at New London City Hall. The inaugural event, organized by OutCT, honored queer and trans people of color, both past and present. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Jess Clouse of New London lays flowers during a vigil to honor Black trans lives on Sunday, June 28, 2020, at New London City Hall. The inaugural event, organized by OutCT, honored queer and trans people of color, both past and present. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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