The following appeared as a special piece on AOL Black Voices by Krystal Freeman. Krystal is a native New Yorker now based in Los Angeles. Krystal is a Media Fellow for Communities of African Descent at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. She holds a B.A. in Urban & Environmental Policy with a minor in Critical Theory & Social Justice from Occidental College.
This piece moved me so deeply. There are moments that seem as if they were taken directly from my life. I plan on addressing this later on in the week when everything around me slows down, but I thought you should read it. Thanks for your words and your courage Krystal.
When Intolerance Breeds Murder
by Krystal Freeman
I learned to sag my jeans just right by watching the men around me. I studied the way they rocked tilted fitted caps over crisp tapers and deep waves, eyeing my father most intently. He was so precise about matching his kicks with neatly creased jeans and "throwback" jerseys. By fifteen I'd nearly stolen his style and his swagger.
It never occurred to me that having such insider knowledge was enough to get me killed, until I read about the brutal murder of Sakia Gunn.
Five years ago, Sakia, a 15-year old girl who "dressed like a boy," was attacked while waiting for a Newark, New Jersey bus after a night out with friends. The girls were approached by two men in a car who made uninvited sexual advances. When the girls declined, stating that they were lesbians, 30-year old Richard McCullough fatally stabbed Sakia while shouting homophobic slurs. She bled out at the intersection of Broad and Market during the wee hours of Mother's Day morning.
This May is the fifth anniversary of the murder of Sakia Gunn. She would have just celebrated her 20th birthday.
Too few of us know Sakia's name, but we all know girls like her -- young women like me who are often mistaken for teenage boys because we have the courage to dress the way we feel inside. We are your daughters, sisters and nieces. We are also young black lesbians who, in having the courage to live authentically, make our communities uncomfortable.
Sadly, the lives of many black youth have been taken because of intolerance and that very courage. Their names are also unknown. There's Ronnie Antonio Paris, dead at 3 from brain injuries inflicted by his dad who boxed with him so he wouldn't become gay. And openly gay Rashawn Brazell, 19, who's dismembered body parts were found in garbage bags strewn throughout Brooklyn. Simmie Williams, 17. Nireah Johnson, 17. Stephanie Thomas, 18. Ukea Davis,19. And many more. Each and every one of them belonged to someone.
My family doesn't understand why I'm more comfortable in button-ups instead of blouses or why I'd choose a pair of "dunks" over stilettos. Nor are they comfortable with my attraction to women, but I belong to them too. In his bigoted sexual aggression, McCullough never stopped to think that Sakia belonged to someone. She was someone's family member and, more importantly, someone's child.
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