Thursday, April 13, 2006

Updates: Caribbean violence, Chad Ferreira, Gwen Araujo, Rashawn Brazell

Over the weekend I was interviewed for an independent documentary on hate crimes in LGBT communities of color. As is the norm with interviews, sometimes you worry that something you said will be edited in a way that misrepresents your arguments or that you actually did not necessarily make the best arguments, even if you trust the filmmaker as I did in this case.

In any case, I touched on some of the issues I have written about from time to time in Blabbeando and I thought I would post some updates:

On homophobic violence in the Caribbean:
LGBT blogs, national gay advocacy organizations, and national media are all following developments in the brutal beating of two CBS news producers from New York who were among a group of six gay men vacationing in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten. Both Dick Jefferson, 51, and Ryan Smith, 25, were taken to a Miami hospital after being attacked with tire-irons by a group of men shouting anti-gay epitepths. Mr. Jefferson spoke to media after undergoing surgery which left him with a metal plate in his head and stitches. According to St. Marteen's The Daily Herald, in a telephone interview Mr. Jefferson said that Mr. Ryan was out of the intensive care unit but is still under medical care "suffering from severe neurological trauma." Mr. Jefferson initially criticized the local government for not taking any immediate action to interview witnesses of the attack but on yesterday, under increasing international pressure, the top tourism official in St. Maarten called the crime "barbaric and inhumane." Queerty, which has just discovered the issue, says that Mr. Jefferson will be going back to the island to push for justice. But, just as with the Human Rights Campaign, isn't it a bit annoying that it takes an attack on US tourists to focus attention on homophobia in the Caribbean? Queerty also quips that Mr. Jefferson should "buy a gun and get all vigilante on some folks." Ugh! (Gawker, of course, has another take on the matter of blonde haired women and New York gay victims).

National gay advocacy organizations and national media are not following similar instances of recent homophobic violence in the Caribbean, such as a near riot that erupted in a West Indies university when a male student accused another of making a pass at hime as reported in the Jamaica Gleaner a week ago Wednesday (as well as the Jamaica Observer, which used the unfortunate header "Cops rescue alleged homo from UWI students"). Worse was a report in the Jamaica Gleaner on Saturday which said that "a 22-year old prisoner was torched by a constable in his jail cell, after he labeled the cop a homosexual" in an incident that is apparently still under investigation.

In the meantime yesterday, Radio Jamaica reported that - after just two hours of deliberation - a jury found Donald "Zeeks" Phipps "guilty on all counts" including the burning and shooting of two men. During the trial he prosecutors had alleged during that Mr. Phipps had forced the men "to commit homosexual acts" before murdering them. Mr. Phipps still maintains he is innocent.

Closer to home: Though not a hate crime, today's Bay Area Reporter follows up on the murder of Chad Ferreira (B.A.R. should be commended for keeping an eye on this crime) and reports that an April 8 fundraiser at San Francisco's Club Papi brought in $3,737 to cover funeral expenses. The article mentions that club owner Jamie Awad joined others in criticising the San Francisco District Attorney's office for charging Ferreira's attacker Kyle Adams with manslaughter instead of murder but it also says that the DA's office, while saying that they could not discuss the evidence, told B.A.R. that the case was "problematic."

In the meantime, on Sunday's edition of Inside Bay Area, it was reported that on April 2nd Lifetime and Sony Pictures Television began production on "The Gwen Araujo Story" which is expected to air in June. Producers tell the newspaper that the film will not dwell on Gwen's murder or the trials but rather on Gwen's life and the difficulty of life as a transgender teen. J.D. Pardo will play Gwen and Mercedes Ruehl will play her mother, Sylvia Guerrero. When contacted, Ms. Guerrero (pictured above) told IBA "I'm proud to be Gwen's mom and I'm proud that her story has touched so many lives and hearts, not just in the community - but all over the world."

Finally, but no less important, this Saturday, April 15 marks what would be Rashawn Brazell's 21st birthday. Mr. Brazell's dismembered body was found in trash bags at two different Brooklyn sites in February of 2005 and there have been questions about the resources devoted by the police department to solve the horrific crime in light of massive mobilizations around more recent murders in the city.

On Saturday Mr. Brazell's mother Desire, family, friends and community advocates will gather for a Memorial March between noon and 1pm at Brooklyn's Nostrand Avenue subway station and proceed to the 79th Precinct Station house where we will demand that the police devote the maximum amount of resources available to the year-old investigation. If you can, please join us!

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