Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rashawn Brazell's Killer Is Still Out There; Where are We?

Almost five years have passed since Rashawn Brazell was brutally murdered in Brooklyn, and parts of his body were scattered in a subway tunnel not far from his home. Rashawn was a bright, promising 19-year old gay man of color who met an awful demise. In the 50+ months since this happened, there have been no leads and no arrests in this case. There have been a few protest marches, attended by some concerned citizens, but in numbers far fewer than there should have been. We go, and keep going, to parties, fashion shows, clubs, and Pride Festivals in numbers that show our true presence in society, but when it comes time to raise our voices for our fallen, where are we?

I spoke at a memorial march for Rashawn that was held on a beautiful Spring afternoon--a Saturday--with the NYPD actually on our side for once. (Their issue was the detectives weren't getting the resources they needed.) The subway and LIRR were running on time, and the cops very dutifully closed off Fulton street in Brooklyn, a major thoroughfare, so we could march. Yet, despite picture-perfect conditions, only about 150 people showed up. This, out of an LGBT community in New York City, that runs to the hundreds of thousands. Case in point: I attended the annual Pride In The City Beach Party a couple of summers ago. Held at Riis Beach, in Rockaway, where I used to live, I can tell you it was jam-packed with gays and lesbians of color from everywhere. In 30 years, I've never seen a Rockaway beach so crowded. But when it comes time to raise our voices for our fallen, where are we?

Consider that each gay man of color becomes a potential target every time they venture forth into our streets. The larger society is generally indifferent to our issues, and often ignores our deaths by violence. When Imette St. Guillen, a young, white collegian, was allegedly killed by a big black bouncer, the story lived for days on the front pages of the newspapers here. Yet, the story of Rashawn Brazell's murder was carried on inside pages of all three dailies, for one day. Rashawn's death was not decried by leaders of color such as Rev. Al Sharpton, or City Councilman Charles Barron. There was no fiery sermon by Rev. Calvin Butts in his Harlem church. Mayor Bloomberg did not hold a press conference on the steps of City Hall, pledging the full resources of the NYPD to hunt down Brazell's killer. All the while, most of the gay community of color, was also made conspicuous by its absence. Where are our prominent LGBT leaders? When it comes time to raise our voices for our fallen, where are we?

Somewhere in the dark shroud of night, Rashawn Brazell's killer walks the streets, the blood in his veins as icy as the wind which howls outside our houses. He (or she!) walks free, uncaring, remorseless, and ignored. He walks with a deadly step; perhaps you or I may be in his clutches tomorrow. Lacking the will to protest, we aid and abet the killer as he searches, and maybe finds, his next hapless victim. We are the interested parties in getting this killer caught, and society will not care a whit whether this actually occurs. Only we can help see to it that Rashawn's killer meets his due punishment at the bar of justice. When it comes time to raise our voices for our fallen, where are we?

A killer is getting away with murder. Rashawn's family has lost a son. We as a community need to make plain that this is unacceptable, even as society often tells us we are unacceptable. It's high time, well past time for us to raise our voices as I know only we can. Rashawn deserves no less than justice, and only we in the LGBT community can make it happen.

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