You have to all combine and fight a head-on battle — in the name of justice and equality. –Bayard Rustin
February is Black History Month. It’s a time to remember the central role of African Americans in US history and to honor black LGBT leaders like Audre Lorde and Bayard Rustin. It’s also a time to recognize that our movement’s struggle for racial justice is far from over.
Black, undocumented, and LGBT people face unique oppression. For our clients, the intersecting systems of racism, homophobia and transphobia are near-insurmountable obstacles to living freely and authentically. Black transgender people often live in the margins. In honor of Black History Month, and because the faces and stories of those directly impacted are at the core of our work, we wanted to introduce you to Erick.
Our client Erick is a young black transgender woman, who was trapped in detention and is currently seeking asylum, so that she can finally have a safe place to call home. She wanted to share her story with you today.
I decided to come to the US in search of safety because of the transphobia and racism in Honduras.
I was detained at the border. I was tossed around between many different detention centers: from California, to Texas, to New Jersey, and then New York.
I had very ugly experiences in these detention centers. They would insult me because of the color of my skin and for being transgender, and when I reported the harassment, the government did nothing to protect me. It’s sad and painful to be in that place, isolated, without seeing daylight or night.
After I was finally released from detention, life became better. But, I still encounter ignorance from others simply for being a black trans woman.
Immigration Equality successfully fought to secure Erick’s release from detention. We are still working with her to win asylum.
Every day, we work with black transgender women like Erick who are marginalized and disproportionately detained due to gender policing, racial profiling, workplace discrimination, and family rejection. We answer desperate calls for help from black transgender women trapped in male detention facilities, an inhumane and dangerous practice.
Just eight weeks into 2015, at least seven transgender women have been murdered in the United States; five of the seven individuals brutally killed were black trans women. Each one was a precious member of our community. These brutal acts of violence show us how far we still have to go until every human being can live with the dignity and respect they deserve.
We must continue to raise our collective voice to declare that #BlackLivesMatter and #TransLivesMatter.
We honor the lives lost due to transphobia and racism, and we commit to ending the systems that oppress us because we know the struggles for LGBT and racial justice are bound together.
National Field Officer, Immigration Equality