Students leave the Bonnell Building at the Community College of Philadelphia (Philadelphia Tribune photo)
By Chanel Hill
PHILADELPHIA — The Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) will host a virtual panel discussion about the rising violence against members of the transgender community this week.
“As an institution of higher learning, we have an obligation to normalize marginalized facts,” said CCP President Donald Guy Generals. “We have an opportunity to put a spotlight on the violence against the trans community through our ‘Enough Is Enough’ series.”
“I think it’s something that has not gained the attention it deserves and we want to raise awareness about it,” he added.
The teach-in session, which starts at 11 a.m. Thursday, will discuss the impact of transphobia, misogyny and racism in the trans community, and how to be a part of the solution for action and change.
Panelists for the event will include award-winning transgender advocate and activist Deja Lynn Alvarez, LGBTQ youth advocate Hazel Edwards, pre-law student working with the LGBTQ community Avery Shaw, and teacher Kendall Stephens.
“We’re seeing Black trans women being murdered at high rates, so we really want to take time to talk about that,” said Vincent Scarfo, moderator of the panel discussion, who asked to be referred to with the pronouns “they” and “them.”
“I think it’s really important to give trans women of color a voice because those are the voices that have been silenced the most.”
As of July 14, at least 21 transgender or gender non-confirming people have been killed this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. That marks the most deaths at this point in the year since the advocacy group began tracking them in 2013.
At least seven Philadelphia trans women of color have been murdered in the past seven years, including Dominque “Rem’mie” Fells, who was killed in June.
Stephens, who is a 2020 graduate of CCP, was a friend of Fells and encouraged her to attend CCP prior to her death because of the college’s inclusivity.
“Rem’mie was interested in re-enrolling in school and I told her how CCP was very inclusive,” Stephens said. “I felt completely supported during my whole time at the school.
“I told her that at this school she could break barriers, just like I did,” she added. “I was able to magnify my voice at CPP and be heard, which was such an amazing experience for me.”
Stephens said that her focus for the panel discussion would be to “humanize the trans experience.”
“Black Trans Lives is not an exception to Black Lives Matter because we’re a part of it,” Stephens said. “I suffer from the same atrocities that other Black people have to deal with, including racism and discrimination.
“Just because you don’t identify with us doesn’t mean we’re not a part of society,” she added. “We can all have different personal identifiers and still come together.”
The “Privilege vs. Injustice in 2020 Teach-in: Violence in the Trans Community” is the third installment of CCP’s “Enough is Enough” series.
CCP started the series this summer to eradicate ideologies that perpetuate systemic racism and to address the inequalities in the criminal justice system through virtual discussions.
“With the pandemic and everything that has happened related to Black Lives Matter, we felt as a community college we needed to discuss these issues and provide an opportunity for our students, faculty and staff to give voice to issues that pertain to marginalized groups,” Generals said.
Erica Harrison, a CCP spokeswoman, said that the series has created a platform to have “honest conversations within the community”
“We want these conversations to do three things: talk, think, and change,” Harrison said. “We want people to have those awkward and honest conversations, think about where they are at, and how they can change and inspire others.”
Chanel Hill is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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