Monday, February 19, 2007

Two years later, another vigil in honor of Rashawn Brazell

On Friday evening it took the boyfriend and I nearly an hour and a half to make our way through the subway system, which took us from Queens through Manhattan into Brooklyn, to get to the Nostrand Avenue stop on the A train, where we finally emerged into the frigid night.

We were late and probably there for only twenty minutes, but we still caught the few words that the Reverend Zachary Jones and Desire Brazell had for the small crowd that had assembled just outside the train station. It was the 2nd year anniversary since the unsolved murder of Ms. Brazell's son, Rashawn, and his family and friends had called for a candlelight vigil in his honor, just as they did last year (Ms. Brazell spoke about her son to the New York Daily News just last week on the eve of the vigil)

Despite the Daily News article and the case having been featured in America's Most Wanted, it's safe to say that Rashawn's murder is long gone from the City's general consciousness, so it didn't surprise me that the gathering was rather small. But as I looked around I couldn't help but feel glad that a large number of those who showed up were gay and same gender loving black men standing up for one of their own. Not that they haven't been there in the past, but for some reason on Friday, I just felt in the midst of beauty.

Perhaps the tone was set by Ms. Brazell herself. At last year's vigil, she spoke in anger at the lack of media and at the absence of political leaders at the event. In contrast, this year she seemed to draw strength from the crowd and had nothing but love to express to gatherers. Rashawn's father was also present as well as some close family members and past friends, but at least for the night, everyone seemed to be family. I made sure that I made my way to Ms. Brazell and was able to give her a hug as the gathering started to go their separate ways.

One key difference was the official presence of the New York Police Department, not only to provide security detail, but as part of those paying honor to her son. It might have been a public relations move, but I saw a few of the openly gay officers who have been so helpful to me in regards to hate crimes in the community, including Officer Thomas Verni, the Department's LGBT community liaison. Members of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project were handing out "information wanted" flyers and post-cards to passers by. A few people were set to visit some Brooklyn gay bars after the vigil to spread news about the $22,000 reward for leads in the crime.

I saw a few people I knew, including Dr. Marjorie Hill, Executive Director of Gay Men's Health Crisis, and long time activist Kevin McGruder. Blogger Donald Andrew Agarrat took a few pics which you can see here (by the way, his new blog, NOW, has just been added to my personal links at the right). Larry Lyons II, who set up the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund two years ago (and whose blog is also listed in my links) was also there but I wan't able to say hi. Ocean of Brothaluva Cafe has additional photos here.

In the meantime, we are grateful to Melanie for the nice words.

Also, considering the gruesome details in Rashawn's murder, I couldn't help but think of him when this article was posted in yesterday's New York Times.

1 comment:

POLAR said...

Nice post . . .. I am so sorry I read it too late to see the program on TV