Monday, February 13, 2006

Sakia Gunn, Rashawn Brazell resurface in media

I have often criticized why mainstream media sometimes turns a blind-eye to the murder of LGBT people of color so it's surprising to see two newspapers run stories today that make reference to the murders of Sakia Gunn and Rashawn Brazell (pictured).

Today, the North Jersey Herald News runs an interview with the only black lesbian couple suing the State of New Jersey to gain the right to marry. Alicia Toby-Heath and Saundra Heath-Toby talk about their involvement in the historic suit and say that one big reason why they decided to become visible advocates on the marriage front was the murder of 15-year old Sakia Gunn in 2003:

"That ... kind of sealed why I did this," Alicia tells the News, "There are young folk who need to know that there is promise and hope as young lesbian and gay kids... that there is the possibility of some solid commitment and family."

And, while Sakia's attackers were eventually brought to court, today's issue of the New York Times looks back at the yet unresolved and brutal killing of 19 year-old Rashawn Brazell, whose body was found dismembered and in separate trash-bags in two different Brooklyn sites a year ago.

In the Times article, Kareem Fahim and John Kolbin report that leads have led nowhere and tips have stopped coming in. What shines in the article is Desiree Brazell's unfaltering call for justice for her son. I was also struck by the fact that an officer from the NYPD spoke to the Times off-the-record regarding the case. NYPD policy is not to comment publicly on open murder investigations unless 1 Police Plaza says it's ok but sometimes police officers within the department truly watch over these cases and help to keep the investigations alive (as was the case in the murder of a friend, Eddie Garzon, back in 2001 although the case of his murder has also not been resolved).

On a related note, Larry Lyons and Mervyn Marcano, founders of the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund, also have re-launched the website which I encourage you to visit. Larry and Mervyn, as well as other community activists and bloggers have been also instrumental in keeping this unresolved crime in the spotlight.

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