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Cherno Biko, on Nov. 23, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Cherno Biko, on Nov. 23, 2015 in Washington, D.C.  Leah Puttkammer—Getty Images

Trans Activist Speaking Up For Victims Of Violence And Transgender Women Of Color

Dec 07, 2016

Once unsure of her place in the fight to protect Black lives, this 25-year-old transgender activist now helms a social movement that represents those left behind

Purpose

“We got started in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown. I took a group of Black trans women to Ferguson, Missouri, and the connectedness of all these issues became clear. We were so busy rallying around the killing of Black men that the violence that Black women and girls face often went unseen and unheard.”

Since last year, more than 25 trans people have been killed, and that’s before the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.”

Résumé
Biko ditched her banking job to become cofounder of Black Trans Lives Matter: “It took the murder of my oldest brother, James, to wake me up and to help me realize that, in the words of Assata Shakur, ‘We have nothing to lose but our chains.’ ”

Heritage

“My mother’s family is from Talladega, Alabama, and my father is from Senegal by way of South Africa. My great-uncle, Steve Biko, was an antiapartheid activist who was murdered by the police there, so my family escaped to Senegal. I grew up being taught not only about the brutality that Black people face, but also about our resilience and our strength. My mother and grandmother were really active in racial justice movements. They instilled in me a want to make it better for future generations.”

I thought I couldn’t step up and take my place as a leader of this movement because I was trans. But it’s our duty to fight for our freedom.

“The family of Deonna Mason [a trans woman struck and killed by a police car] sticks out to me. Her mother, Mica Belin, reached out to me on Facebook and is starting an organization that will be a homeless shelter and community center for LGBT youth in Charlotte.”

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