Second annual Black Trans Lives Matter rally held in Baltimore

The event focused on providing safety and support for trans people and gender non-conforming people who are disproportionately victimized in hate crimes

On Saturday, the second annual Black Trans Lives Matter took place in Baltimore, Maryland. Several transgender activists came together to send a message to city leaders: improve health care, employment, and housing opportunities for members of the LGTBQ+ community.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun, the rally took place at Baltimore’s War Memorial Plaza. The event was organized by Baltimore Safe Haven, a non-profit organization that provides public service and advocacy to the city’s community of transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer citizens, or TLGBQ, as their website classifies.

Black trans lives matter march today at City Hall pic.twitter.com/Zf6edfkp9Z

— Baltimore Safe Haven (@BaltimoreHaven) July 24, 2021

Services available at Baltimore Safe Haven include a drop-in center that provides food distribution for vulnerable areas, as well as transitional housing.

Iya Dammons, the founder and executive director of Baltimore Safe Haven, wants particular attention to be paid to Black, Latinx, indigenous, and people of color in the TLGBQ (the group uses this acronym instead of LGBTQ) community when it comes to demanding better education, health care, and other city services in light of the rising amount of deaths and violence against members of the trans community.

Transgender advocacy groups would also like to see more queer, trans and gender non-conforming teachers hired at schools, and a more inclusive curriculum.

A person spreads wings with the words “Black Trans Lives Matter” at the Brooklyn Museum on June 13, 2021. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“We’re in a state of emergency,” Dammons said, echoing the website’s mission statement: “We provide opportunities for a higher quality of life for transgender people in Baltimore City living in survival mode.”

Dammons says supporting her organization and those like it can help by providing shelter and support for those who feel they have nowhere to turn.

“Survival mode is a term I use to refer to my people,” Dammons told Baltimore magazine a few days prior to the rally. “We have to be a family.”

Iya Dammons Is Creating a Safe Haven for Black Trans Youth in Baltimore https://t.co/LMCKMfW6FB

— Left of Black (@LeftOfBlack) June 11, 2021

In 2020, according to Human Rights Campaign, a record 44 transgender Americans were killed, most of them either Black or Latinx. In 2021 so far there have been 30 such murders of transgender or non-gender conforming people. Two of them were Baltimore residents — Kim Wirtz, who was Asian, and Danika Henson, who was Black.

“We deserve to be able to get to walk without having to look behind our backs, wondering if someone is going to attack us out of pure ignorance,” Kaycee Voorhees said at the rally, per the Sun.

Melisa Deveraux, Baltimore Safe Haven’s chief of staff, echoes the concern over the murders, suicides and deaths of Black transgender women and feels the rally was a chance to honor them and create awareness and opportunity to prevent more tragedies.

“I buried girls and I shouldn’t have,” Deveraux told Baltimore magazine. “It’s important to honor the lives and deaths of Black trans people and the legacy they have left behind.”  

Brandon Scott, Baltimore’s mayor, was in attendance at the rally. Dammons was part of his transitional team after he was elected, and last month, his office of Homeless Services joined forces with Baltimore Safe Haven to provide transitional housing for youth.

“We are going to be a city that understands and pushes to make sure that they know that their lives matter just like everyone else in Baltimore City,” Scott said.

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