On June 28, a group of Las Vegans marched from the Clark County Government Center down to City Hall in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots. Hosted by Las Vegas Urban Pride, the rally was a response to a request by residents for an event that embraced both BLM and the LGBTQ community.
Now, VUP is now focused on answering a second call to action in support of another marginalized and often-overlooked community within some LGBTQ spaces and in Las Vegas at large: the trans community.
On Thursday, August 20, Vegas Urban Pride will host a vigil and rally for at least 26 trans men and women in the United States who have died just in 2020 alone.
“This rally will bring together the LGBTQ and Black communities who have shared the trauma of discrimination and violence, but who haven't always shared in the fight for equal and civil rights,” reads the event press release. “We are hopeful that bringing these communities together, many of whom are from both, will be an additional level of support that the Black community of Las Vegas needs to achieve realistic solutions and to affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter.”
The event takes place at 7 p.m. at the LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada and features a visual memorial for the trans men and women killed this year in the United States and Puerto Rico, including 34-year-old Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears of Portland, Oregon, who had studied at UNLV.
Those lost include Dustin Parker, 25, of Oklahoma; Neulisa Luciano Ruiz of Roa Baja, Puerto Rico; Yampi Méndez Arocho, 19, of Moca, Puerto Rico; activist Monika Diamond, 34, of North Carolina; Johanna Metzger of Baltimore, Maryland; Serena Angelique Veláquez Ramos, 32, and Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, of Humacao, Puerto Rico; Penélope Diaz Ramírez, 31, of Puerto Rico; Nina Pop, 28, of Sikeston, Missouri; Helle Jae O’Regan, 20, of San Antonio, Texas; Tony McDade of Tallahassee, Florida; Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Riah Milton of Liberty Township, Ohio; Jayne Thompson, 33, of Mesa County, Colorado; Selena Reyes-Hernandez, 37, of Chicago, Illinois; Brayla Stone, 17, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Merci Mack, 22, of Dallas, Texas; Shakie Peters, 32, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Bree Black, 27, of Pompano Beach, Florida; Summer Taylor, 24; Marilyn Monroe Cazares, 22, of Brawley, California; Brian “Egypt” Powers, 43, of Akron, Ohio; Dior H. Ova (also known as Tiffany Harris), 32, of the Bronx, New York; and Queasha D. Hardy, 24, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“[The media] is really silent and there’s a lot of misreporting,” says Vegas Urban Pride festival and event producer Nicole Williams. “Not saying they're black trans women, or not acknowledging them by their proper pronouns. So we are holding this in recognition for all the trans lives that have been lost.”
“We urge you to share, raise awareness and open safe places for Black trans people in your own life, in your organizations and in your government,” the release continues. “We also challenge you to love Black trans lives while in life, not just in death.”
“It really comes down to no judgement,” Williams adds. “For trans men or women, there’s still some resistance within the Black community, and it just comes down to acceptance. We are all people.”
The event comes on the heels of a massive rally in support of Black Trans Lives, held in New York on June 14. The rally will feature a speech from local trans activist Chrystal McKinley, as well as a candlelight vigil, with people gathering in the shape of the transgender symbol for a moment of silence and photo.
“Coming together makes the fight larger,” Williams says. “Once we come together collectively, our voices will be stronger. But we need to actually come together first in our community before people start to really break that barrier.”
For more information, visit VegasUrbanPride.com.