On June 6, 2020, the body of an unidentified young Black trans person was found in an abandoned building at 7908 S Laflin in Chicago.
Koko Nia Labeija was born 29 May 2001 in Chicago where she grew up. She attended Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School ( www.facebook.com/pedroalbizucamposhighschool/ ) The school held a memorial event this past Friday. She worked at Oberweis Creamery. She described herself as "a makeup artist in the making." She was a fan of the Kardashians.
Her Twitter profile reads:
"Hey guys and gals. I love the Kardashians/Jenners. My favorite word is Bible. I love Fashion and makeup. Peace out."
The website TDOR was deemed essential is helping to identify Koko. This site memorializes the lives and deaths of transgender victims of violence around the world. This is her tribute page: tdor.translivesmatter.info/reports/2020/06/06/koko-nia-labeija_chicago-illinois-usa_6f2b3596 .
The message also said that her page on tdor.translivesmatter.info (which listed her as "Name Unknown") was key to her identification in the city morgue (which had predictably misgendered her). Visibility of victims matters so, so much.
How very sad that it took a year or longer to identify Koko. And we still don't know how long she had been dead or how she ended up there. Here last post on Facebook was May 5 and her body was discovered on June 6, 2020. But it is a testament to the power of community reporting that the truth surfaced. And we can now say her name and push the Chicago police to investigate further the death of a teenaged Black trans woman.
I struggle to understand that the police did not even consider that her identity was female or nonbinary especially given that she was wearing clothing considered women's, including Pink-Colored Lycra Shorts. That resonates so visually in my mind. I flashback to the 2013 murder of Cemia Dove ( www.pghlesbian.com/2013/04/her-name-is-cemia/ ) whose body was found tied to concrete while "clad in a red Betty Boop tank top, three black bras and a light black hooded jacket." Beyond the deliberate indignity, I carry just this intense memory of the colors.
Rest in power, Koko. We failed you repeatedly, even as you walked through this world seeing beauty. Your life and death matter.
May your memory be a revolution.