Monica Roberts

Thank You NBJC!

Filed By Monica Roberts | June 24, 2008 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Alexander Robinson, Duanna Johnson, NJBC, transgender issues

I wrote a post yesterday in which I questioned why nbjc_logo.giftwo African-American organizations had at the time, not commented yet on the Duanna Johnson case.

One of them (the NAACP) still hasn't. But the National Black Justice Coalition has.

Monday afternoon the NBJC released this statement about the Duanna Johnson case.

WASHINGTON, DC --The nation's most influential African-American civil rights organizations have joined together to denounce the beating of a transgender women by Memphis, TN police and has also called for an investigation and prosecution of the officers involved.

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), America's only nationwide Black civil rights organization focused upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues is joined by the Black Leadership Forum (BLF), an alliance of over thirty national African-American civil rights and social service organizations in denouncing the incident.

In an historic move, NBJC reached out to BLF member organizations which include the NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, National Urban League, National Council of Negro Women, 100 Black Men, Inc., and several others to join forces to stand for equality and against discrimination and hatred toward ALL African-Americans.

A newly released tape shows that on February 12, 2008 at least two police officers were involved in the horrific act of physically assaulting Duanna Johnson while she was being held in the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center. Johnson, a transgender woman had been arrested on a charge of prostitution.

"What we saw on the video was disturbing. When those who have been sworn to protect us abuse their scared duty our justice system must respond," said NBJC CEO H. Alexander Robinson. "It appears that not only did an officer use unnecessary force to brutalize Ms. Johnson he did so as other officers looked on. "While being called names such as "faggot" and "he-she", surveillance video show an officer walk over and hit Johnson in the face several times while having handcuffs wrapped around his knuckles and another officer holding her down as she tried to protect herself from the punches.

Video of the attack can be seen at: http://www.wmctv.com/global/story.asp?s=8515744

We are deeply troubled by the continuing pattern of incidents across the country -hate crimes, police misconduct, and racial intimidation - that are all-too-often tolerated and ignored by local law enforcement officials and courts. Moreover, despite significant progress in the treatment of LGBT people, the targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals for police abuse and misconduct remains a persistent and widespread problem in the US. People of color communities comprise of at least 36% of victims and survivors of anti-LGBT related crimes in America, according to the National Coalition of anti-violence programs.

When faced with the abuse of individual civil rights we look to our local police departments not only to guarantee that those engaging in such actions are held accountable for their behavior, but to send a distinct message from the highest levels of government that such conduct has no place in our American society. Swift and firm action will demonstrate that our hard-fought federal civil rights laws are not mere empty promises, but will be strictly enforced to guarantee all Americans the full and equal protection of our nation's laws.

The National Black Justice Coalition - America 's only nationwide Black civil rights organization focused upon lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

The Black Leadership Forum - An alliance of over thirty national African-American civil rights and social service organizations in denouncing the incident

As many of you Projectors know, Alexander is a fellow contributor and CEO of the NBJC. It pained me to write the post. I couldn't in good conscience criticize the NAACP about lack of action about the Johnson beating without pointing out that the NBJC at the time I wrote it hadn't commented on it either.

As one of the people who is considered a leader in the African-American transgender community, since I have been blessed with this international platform, the responsibility has fallen upon me to articulate to you what many African-American transpeople are talking and thinking about around the country. Many of them noticed the same irony that I did.

As I mentioned, I've met Alexander, we've talked about the vision NBJC has in terms of having African-American transpeople seen as valued members of our family. The NBJC is serious about representing us as the only nationwide organization focused on African-American GLBT/SGL issues. Transman Kylar Broadus is on the board. I wholeheartedly support the NBJC, want the organization to be wildly successful in its mission and be around for a long time.

At the same time, as people who are part of the NBJC's constituency, we have to let them know how they can best achieve their desire to support their transgender brothers and sisters. Sometimes it's a press release at just the right time letting us know that our African-American same-gender-loving family hasn't abandoned us. Sometimes it's taking a principled stand in support of us like joining the United ENDA coalition. We have major work to do getting the education done at various levels of the African-American community about transgender issues, and their Black Church Summits and Power of Us Conventions will be major venues for doing just that.

Alexander and the people of NBJC get it. They talk the talk and walk the walk. Their hearts are in the right place as well. So if the initial post caused some hurt feelings within NBJC and with you personally, Alexander, that wasn't my intent and I deeply apologize if that's what happened.

On behalf of your African-American brothers and sisters and our transgender allies, thank you for being our friends, thank you for the press release, thanks for all the hard work you do representing us, and thanks for standing with us yet again..


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Yes, thanks for the statement. It's good to see extra support from a critical ally organization.

Please, if any other national organizations are going to release statements, take some time to check in with someone from Tennessee. The investigation is underway. There's no need to call for it at this point. What would be helpful is if national organizations were to get behind what local community activists are doing. Let's not lose sight of the people who actually live in Memphis and the ones who will live with the outcome in our rush to get statements out. Future statements could support their plans.

If you want to follow the updates on the story, we've tried to include regular postings with links to mainstream media coverage at http://grand-divisions.blogspot.com , the blog of the Tennessee Equality Project.

Thanks for all the attention this blog is bringing to this horrible attack that Duanna Johnson has suffered.

-Chris Sanders
President, Tennessee Equality Project

Chris, thanks for your posting and the work you are doing.

As an FYI we issued this statement a few days ago but just got it up on our site and online.

We have been in touch with officals including the Mayor, NAACP and our members in Tennessee.

When and if you need assistance from us please do not hesitate to reach out.

Alexander

Great! I've been working with the NBJC's comm director for the past year regarding bilerico, and he's been nothing but helpful. They're an organization that's going in the right direction.

NBJC might be small, but they are dedicated. I figured it was just a staffing issue about getting it online. I know how busy they are with such a small staff. Working for a not-for-profit can be immensely difficult.