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Harambee & PRISM: Standing Strong Together

Co-Executive Sponsor of Harambee and SVP, Deputy General Counsel and Internal Audit Taggart Hansen shares how our Harambee and PRISM networks are standing together.

Co-Executive Sponsor of Harambee and SVP, Deputy General Counsel and Internal Audit Taggart Hansen shares how our Harambee and PRISM networks are standing together.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” – Rosa Parks

As a student of history, I know the struggle within the Black community regarding its historical and present-day fight for equal rights, justice and human dignity. I know the civil rights movement, and the various obstacles and justifications put forward to prevent Blacks from voting, for putting Blacks at the back of the bus, and for preventing Blacks from having the right to marry those who we loved, regardless of color. As such, I approach the world in a simple way – I can’t and won’t stand for inequality against others that I would not myself accept if imposed against me as a member of the Black community. Because of my role as Co-Executive sponsor of Harambee, and as an ally to our PRISM network, I feel compelled to speak up and speak out about the violence being inflicted upon the LGBTQI community - and in particular, our Black transgender sisters and brothers.

Riah Milton was 25 and is described by her sister as a joyous person. Dominique Fells was 27 and is described as always smiling. Both Riah and Dominique are transgender Black women, the latest to be senselessly murdered in the trans community. I want you to see their names, understand they are people, and hear them described as joyous and smiling. I want you to see their ages, so you can see they left us too soon, and maybe left forgotten. Except we will not forget them, neither today nor tomorrow.

Say their names! I want you to be angry at the injustice, and to know that Riah and Dominique are just two transgender or gender non-conforming people murdered this year – on par for the 26 mainly Black transgender women who died last year in the U.S. alone. And with each of these deaths, I say it’s just too many. We are in an epidemic that has lasted far too long, and it is taking away our Black sisters and brothers. Their heartbeats, their dreams, and their futures. We will never know their courage or what positive change they would have brought about in this world, just by being who they were.

While Riah and Dominique are recent additions to the story of violence callously inflicted on the trans community, the fight for equal rights and justice by the LGBTQI community and its allies didn’t start with them. The fight for equal rights started with two other transgender women of color: Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, leaders of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Marsha and Sylvia knew it took guts to stand up, to show raw emotion, and to be tired of giving in – so tired, they took a stand. They showed courage many of us struggle to find, and they said, “Enough!” — “Enough!” to being targeted by the police and others solely because of who they were. And today, members of our LGBTQI community continue to pay the price for that courage, for bravely being true to themselves, and for simply wanting others to compassionately see them, hear them, and respect them for who they were and understand the tremendous promise and love they held inside.

Black transgender sisters and brothers like ◊ Dana Martin, a person loved by many ◊ Jazzaline Ware, a beloved friend ◊ Ashanti Carmon, who did not deserve to leave this earth so early ◊ Claire Legato, who was full of life ◊ Muhlaysia Booker, who lived her life and loved who she was ◊ Michelle Tamika Washington, who was referred to affectionately as our gay mother ◊ Paris Cameron, targeted in her death along with two gay men in Detroit ◊ Chynal Lindsey, who loved to smile and never got mad ◊ Chanel Scurlock, who lived her life the way she wanted ◊ Zoe Spears, a daughter who was very bright and full of life ◊ Brooklyn Lindsey, who was loved by friends and rests in power ◊ Denali Stuckey, a cousin and a best friend, more like a sister ◊ Tracy Single, who was taken away too soon ◊ Bubba Walker, who was fun to be around and loved helping others ◊ Kiki Fantroy, who had a heart of gold ◊ Pebbles LaDime Doe who had a bright personality and showed love ◊ Bailey Reeves, who lived her life to the fullest ◊ Jamagio Jamar Berryman, a mourned family member ◊ Itali Marlowe, who deserved to live a full and robust life ◊ Brianna Hill, who loved the Kansas City Chiefs ◊ Yahira Nesby, who was a good spirit who would put a smile on the faces of others ◊ Monika Diamond, a co-CEO who celebrated LGBTQ mothers ◊ Nina Pop, who was deeply loved by her family, friends, and community ◊ and Tony McDade, a Black transgender man who was an energetic, giving person with a big heart. (See hrc.org, “Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2019.”)

Marsha, Slylvia, Dana, Jazzaline, Ashanti, Claire, Muhlaysia, Michelle, Paris, Chynal, Chanel, Zoe, Brooklyn, Denali, Tracy, Bubba, Kiki, Pebbles, Bailey, Jamagio, Itali, Brianna, Yahira, Monika, Nina, Tony, Riah, and Dominque represent the best of us, but importantly, they represent each of us. They are the ones who smiled through their pain, the ones who were discriminated against for being both Black and transgender. They are our sisters and brothers in this continuing movement of equality. The world was made just that much brighter because of them. The LGBTQI community and its allies share Rosa Parks’ same passion to stay in our seat at the front of the bus, to ask “Why?” when faced with discrimination, to rebel against those who demand we give up our rightful place in this world, and to stand up for what we know is right.

Harambee stands strong with PRISM. We are intertwined and united together in this fight. We mourn together the loss of each of these beautiful souls and for the countless other souls within the Black and LGBTQI communities we lose each day because they can’t breathe.

Pride month is a time to remind ourselves we can’t be complacent; that we must breathe together or not at all – to celebrate who we are and what we stand for; to remember the names of just a fraction of those we lost to hatred and inexcusable violence; to remember that a prism is an instrument to see color and beauty and light. We see your color and your beauty and your light, and we are one with you. All of you.

A special thanks from me to Matt Talley, Vice President, Growth and Strategy Principal, and PRISM for assisting me with this article and helping me on my own continuous learning and growth journey.

Taggart Hansen
Co-Executive Sponsor of Harambee
SVP, Deputy General Counsel and Internal Audit

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