Gibson and Destination Tomorrow host vigil for transgender woman Tiffany Harris

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson speaks at the vigil for Tiffany Harris.
Photo by Jason Cohen

In July, Tiffany “Dior” Harris, a black transgender woman, was brutally killed in her Jerome Avenue apartment.

On Aug. 7, Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, Councilman Ritchie Torres, Senator Gustavo Rivera, Destination Tomorrow and community members held a vigil for Harris and called for a ban for Walking While Trans and stressed that Black trans lives matter.

According to the Human Rights Commission, in 2020, 25 transgender women have been killed this year. Since HRC began tracking this data in 2013, advocates have never seen such a high number at this point in the year.

In 2018, there was a 120 percent increase in arrests, with 47 percent of all arrests across New York State happening in Queens. According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, in 2018, 91 percent of people arrested under the statute were Black and Latinx people and 80 percent identified as women.

“While I’m overjoyed to be with family, I’m saddened at the occasion,” said Sean Coleman, executive director of Destination Tomorrow, a grassroots agency in the south Bronx that provides services to and for the LGBTQ community. “Today we gather to celebrate the life of Tiffany Harris.”

Coleman was quite emotional when speaking. He said that he is getting tired of seeing people under these sad circumstances. He stressed that the city must provide safe, affordable housing for transgender people, must create an equity inclusion task force and of course, repeal the Walking While Trans ban.

Gibson, who is the co-chair of the Women’s Caucus, has been a staunch supporter for Black transgender rights and repealing Walking While Trans.

The councilwoman said people should not be killed for how they look, their skin color or ethnicity.

“It’s really painful to stand here as I think about our sister Tiffany Harris,” Gibson stated. “We cannot say all lives matter until Black trans lives matter. Tiffany Harris, say her name.”

Torres, an openly gay elected official, shared Gibson’s sentiments. The councilman noted that often the violence against these transgender women is by men they are dating.

Torres questioned why these men can’t realize they are attracted to trans women, he said. Furthermore, many trans women don’t report their attacks because they feel the police won’t do anything.

“Tiffany Harris’ life was cut short by hate and fear,” he exclaimed. “The savage stabbing of Tiffany wasn’t an isolated event. Society has failed Tiffany Harris.”

Activist and transgender woman Octavia Lewis spoke about Harris and the violence against transgender Black women.

Lewis told the attendees she is frustrated that she is still looked at because she is transgender. People need to treat each other better.

“Our lives should not be about struggle,” Lewis said. “I am tired of existing. I deserve to live. I am telling all of you, you are worthy of love. You are somebody.”