More than 50 students and community members gathered to commemorate the death of Kiesha Jenkins, a transgender African-American woman who was murdered Oct. 6.
“My people are dying,” said Jamya Day, junior actuarial science major and treasurer for Temple’s student organization Queer People of Color. “Another [queer] person of color was murdered.”
Police said Jenkins was beaten and shot to death on the border of Logan and Hunting Park neighborhoods. Pedro Redding, 22, of Hunting Park was arrested Sunday and police are searching for three more who may have been involved in the murder, ABC6 reported.
“It’s upsetting that until the mass murders of bodies and souls happen, no one pays attention,” said Gabriel Gonzales, senior media studies and production major and president of QPOC. “We are at a place where words mean nothing and actions mean everything.”
The QPOC board delivered speeches and invited attendees to share their stories and names of people they knew.
“This is a healing space,” said Ashley Woods, a junior African-American Studies major and community service chair of QPOC. “It’s not a protest.”
Gonzales said the vigil was to “recognize Kiesha as a member of our community who has been murdered.”
“It makes me very sad to say this isn’t the first time we’ve done this, and it won’t be the last,” Woods said in their speech. Woods is non-binary and prefers to be addressed with gender-neutral pronouns.
QPOC has held two vigils in the past year for London Chanel and Amber Monroe, who were transgender African-American women murdered in May and August respectively.
“I came because I was in my Gender in America class when I heard the news,” said Dani Gallo, a senior computer science major. “I was afraid that it would go unnoticed.”
The need for education about transgender people and issues was also emphasized.
“Informing people that this is happening is the first step,” Day said.
“We need to teach people to think beyond themselves,” Gallo said, adding that it’s difficult to hear about someone so close to the community.
“I don’t want people to think that there isn’t an issue, that there isn’t violence against trans women,” they added. Gallo also prefers to be addressed with gender-neutral pronouns.
Gallo added they believed progress could be made if people were more open to different people and different identities.
“I wish there were a single answer to give to fix this,” they said. “Part of it is talking about these problems that exist.”
“We collectively hold the answers to violence,” Woods added. “This has an impact on other lives like [Kiesha’s]. This vigil is part of [QPOC’s] bigger goals.”
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JulesChristie.