HRC Mourns Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Black Trans Woman Killed in Philadelphia

HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a Black transgender woman killed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 9. Her death is believed to be at least the 13th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. Local police have already ruled her tragic death a murder and are investigating. As we mourn this loss, HRC has also learned of a second death of a Black transgender woman in Liberty Township, Ohio, Riah Milton, also killed on June 9.

“Black Trans Lives Matter,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “In the same week countless people across the globe stand up for racial injustice, in the same week we honor the 49 victims of the Pulse massacre in Orlando, in the same week a billionaire author spouts transphobic rhetoric to millions — in this same week, we have lost two more Black transgender women to the same fate most of us worry about every day. Say their names. Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells. Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells. Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells. Riah Milton. Riah Milton. Riah Milton. Continue to say the names of every transgender and gender non-conforming person stolen from this Earth. Don’t wait until we are all gone to speak up. This fight belongs to us all.”

“This week, two Black transgender women were killed. This horrifying news comes the same week that we remember the 49 people gunned down at Pulse in Orlando, as millions continue to take to the streets to declare ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and as a billionaire author with a gigantic megaphone continues to spout off transphobic propaganda to her millions of followers,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Tragedy does not happen in a vacuum, and each of these events show how much work we still must do to ensure dignity and justice for all. These two women — Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton — deserve to have their names known. As our country faces a long-overdue reckoning with the violence and indignities that Black people have dealt with for centuries, we must affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter. And we must do everything we can to ensure that we create policies and laws that lift up our transgender siblings, and communities where transgender people are not targeted for who they are. Today, we mourn alongside Dominique’s and Riah’s loved ones and call for all of us to confront transphobia.”

Friends of Fells are mourning her death online. One personal friend posted online, “Dom was a unique and beautiful soul who I am lucky to have known personally. I am beside myself right now. We need to fight!! We need to do more!!!! We will get justice.”

Local authorities are encouraging those who may have information concerning Fells’ death to contact Philadelphia Police Department by dialing 911, calling the PPD Anonymous Tipline at 215-686-TIPS, or submitting a tip via the PPD website (phillypolice.com). Anyone who is not comfortable contacting the police can get in touch with the Office of LGBT for facilitation.

The Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs also issued the following statement in response to Fells’ death: “As thousands take to the streets to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, it is critical we remember that this includes Black trans lives. Dominique Rem’mie Fells’ life mattered. We are reminded with this, and countless other painful losses — especially within our transgender communities — that there is much left to do until we achieve full equality, respect, and support for us all. The murder of transgender people — especially those of color — is truly an epidemic, and a crisis that we cannot afford to allow to persist any further. We are committed to ensuring that acts of discrimination, bigotry, and hatred are never tolerated in the city of Philadelphia. Know that we see you, we grieve with you, and we join you in solidarity at this time of great sadness.”

“This week, two Black transgender women were killed. This horrifying news comes the same week that we remember the 49 people gunned down at Pulse in Orlando, as millions continue to take to the streets to declare ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and as a billionaire author with a gigantic megaphone continues to spout off transphobic propaganda to her millions of followers,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Tragedy does not happen in a vacuum, and each of these events show how much work we still must do to ensure dignity and justice for all. These two women — Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton — deserve to have their names known. As our country faces a long-overdue reckoning with the violence and indignities that Black people have dealt with for centuries, we must affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter. And we must do everything we can to ensure that we create policies and laws that lift up our transgender siblings, and communities where transgender people are not targeted for who they are. Today, we mourn alongside Dominique’s and Riah’s loved ones and call for all of us to confront transphobia.”

In November 2019, ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, HRC Foundation released “A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2019,” a heartbreaking report honoring the trans people killed and detailing the contributing and motivating factors that lead to this tragic violence — a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny. Sadly, 2019 saw at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. We say at least because too often these stories go unreported — or misreported.

There are currently very few explicit federal legal protections for transgender or gender-expansive people. At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Pennsylvania are not explicitly protected in employment, housing or in public spaces. They are also not covered under the state’s hate crimes legislation. Nationally, despite some marginal gains in state and local policies that support and affirm transgender people, recent years have been marked by anti-LGBTQ attacks at all levels of government. 

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation appearing at the local, state and federal levels because it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive.

This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender people of color — particularly Black transgender women — must cease.

For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/Transgender.

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Human Rights Campaign Designates Juneteenth as an Organizational Holiday

Today, the Human Rights Campaign announced the establishment of Juneteenth as an organizational holiday. 

“Juneteenth is the culmination of countless seen and unseen efforts by enslaved peoples and abolitionists. It is a clarion call that we still hear today, a call that we have been pressed to answer thanks to the millions of people who are advocating for racial justice at Black Lives Matter protests, and in less visible ways,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Every Juneteenth from this year moving forward, employees at the Human Rights Campaign will have the opportunity to reflect on our shared journey, and how we can  further racial equity, individually, organizationally and globally. None of us is free unless all of us are free, a truth made clear by the very fact that it took more than two years for news of emancipation to reach enslaved people in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. With this designation, we proudly and publicly recommit to continue working on behalf of all marginalized people for full equality.”

The decision to make Juneteenth an organizational holiday is one more articulation of the vision and commitment that David made to make racial equity a cornerstone of HRC’s work when he joined the organization in August 2019 which includes adopting racial equity and inclusion principles for the staff, volunteer leadership and boards; launching a transgender justice initiative; launching an initiative to address voter suppression efforts that further marginalize minority communities at the ballot box; and expanding the scope of the organization’s work with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Juneteenth is the annual commemoration emancipation and the end of slavery that has been celebrated in the United States since June 19, 1865. It is often celebrated by organizing politically to strengthen civil rights for Black people in America. 

Earlier this month, the Human Rights Campaign organized a letter, joined by prominent LGBTQ and civil rights organizations, condemning racism, racial violence and police brutality while calling for action to combat these scourges. The letter is now signed by 800+ leaders of the nation’s most prominent LGBTQ and civil rights organizations.

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