Why Race Is Dominating Discussion Among LGBT Activists


Racial justice took center stage throughout the National LGBTQ Task Force's annual convening of activists and leaders, as many mourned and rallied over the deaths of people of color who have died in the last year due to anti-LGBT violence or police killings.

Following the day-long racial justice institute on Wednesday, a group of transgender activiststook the stage Thursday night, demanding solidarity from LGBQ advocates with the message #TransLivesMatter. The group's message was tied to the recent death of Jessie Hernandez, a 17-year-old queer Latina who was fatally shot by police in Denver in a car authorities report was stolen.

Hernandez and four other teenagers in the car were unarmed, and witnesses contend that the police fired first, killing the teen and causing her to lose control of the car, which struck and pinned an officer's leg between the vehicle and a wall. The officer was treated for a broken leg and released from the hospital later that day. Both officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard protocol for officer-involved shootings. Hernandez's death marked the fourth time in seven months that Denver police have fired into a vehicle, claiming the car was being used as a deadly weapon. 

After the group of activists vacated the stage, it was announced that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock would not address the crowd as planned. In a statement sent to The Advocate from the mayor's office, press secretary Amber Miller said Hancock respected the activists' "right to make their views known." Miller added, "The Mayor believes it’s an honor to once again host The National Conference on LGBT Equality; he and his team worked very hard to bring this conference back to Denver this year. Mayor Hancock has always been and will remain a steadfast advocate for the LGBTQ community.”

Thursday evening continued with a scheduled discussion between Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson and Race Forward executive director Rinku Sen on police brutality and the racially charged actions that followed the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

"We have a history of violence by oppression — they shoot you — or violence by neglect," Sen said.

Robinson implored LGBTQ attendees not to "ignore this moment." He added, "There was more that white progressive movements could have done in this moment. … In this country we have a mass incarceration that is killing a whole generation of black and brown people."

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