htp Womanist Musing
Duanna Johnson was found dead from an assassination style gun shot wound to the head on Monday. Zhe was the African American transwoman who came to the attention of the media after a severe beating by police and the failure of medical personnel to aid hir were caught on tape.
When last I wrote about Johnson, she was recovering from hir injuries from having been beaten with hand cuffs by one of the police officers and still being vilified as a “prostitute” or “he/she” on local and some national television. Despite repeated request to stop calling hir a sex worker as sex work charges had been dropped and Johnson had been arrested for refusing to answer to a series of homophobic and transphobic slurs allegedly addressed to her by the police, the media refused. Johnson’s attorney also asked that they stop calling hir derogatory gender names or the wrong pronoun, but they didn’t stop that either. Thus Johnson was first victimized by the police, verbally and then physically, and then re-victimized by the media.
Since then, Johnson intended to file suit against Memphis Police for the assault and failure to request needed medical attention. Given the widespread release of the tape showing the beating, it was likely Johnson would win in court.
Unfortunately, before she could file the necessary paper work, Duanna Johnson was murdered. Shot once in the head. Clearly it seems as though the circumstances of her death are questionable at best.
Meanwhile police have released information about Johnson’s subsistence level lifestyle, which included periodic bouts of homelessness and dependence on friends and neighbors for electricity and water as her home had neither; she could not afford to pay for utilities. They have made no arrests.
The Memphis Police, after initially doing nothing, fired both officers involved in Johnson’s beating.
Spurred on by Johnson and hir story, Memphis based advocates started the Stop Police Brutality organization to lobby for sensitivity training. In June, the police received 8 hours of training.
The SPB and other queer organizations were also working in conjunction with Johnson and hir lawyer to lobby for a hate crimes bill that would protect GLBTQI people from verbal and physical assault.
The Mid-South Peace and Justice Center said that Duana Johnson was “the public face of our community’s campaign against racism, homophobia, and transphobia” adding that her loss was both unfair and devistating. (Memphis Flyer)
Her death went largely unnoticed and unreported in the whirlwind media coverage of Palin’s dress sorting and the blame heaped on people of color for prop 8.
Please spread the word about Duanna Johnson’s assault and subsequent murder, and the individual strength zhe showed to first fight against transphobia from the police and then to lend hir face and hir efforts to building a movement to make the GLBTQ community safe from police harassment. Hir work across issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality identity helped move marginalized queer rights to the center and has already resulted in a safer environment for us all.
If you have info about hir death, you are being asked to contact:
Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH
more info read here