Trans individuals who attended and/or spoke at a March 28 pro-trans rally/press conference in the Loop that abruptly ended have given their side of what transpired.
That press conference, at Federal Plaza, prematurely ended when members of the group Ex-Cons For Community & Social Change (ECCSC) appeared and verbally overpowered the event (with a bullhorn). In a talk with Windy City Times, ECCSC founder Tyrone Muhammad contended that everyone should link together to quell violencenot just toward the trans community, but everybody, saying, "If the LGBTQ community wants us to stand with them about people being killed because of their sexual orientation [and gender identity], I expect them to have the same energy and zeal when it comes to having a conference about death in this city."
However, Windy City Times has communicated with members of the trans community who say Muhammad was wrong about not only what happened that day, but also wrong about how to get everyone to come together.
Stefanie Clark, 78, emailed Windy City Times that she felt she had to be at the conference for Elise Malary, the trans-rights activist whose body was found March 17 on an Evanston beach.
Clark related, "About halfway through the program, I saw some Black SUVs stop on the street by our location and several people got out, dressed in black clothes with clothing with ESCCC monogramming. [They proceeded] to move through the crowd pushing, shoving and using several bullhorns trying to disrupt our event.
"I was thinking, 'Why are the police coming if there are police on the other side of the street?' How wrong was I!!
"These people were here to disrupt our Black transgender women of visibility rally. The protesters had bullhorns and were getting in everybody's face. Suddenly I was surrounded by three protesters. My mood went from caution to fear. I am thinking this is not a situation suitable for a nearly 79-year-old person of any gender[much] less a trans woman.
"I have always been sympathetic to the death and abuse of Black community members. Shouting in our faces and physically trying to shout us down [are] not conducive to building community."
Zahara Bassettthe CEO/executive director of Life Is Work, and the person who was speaking when ECCSC interrupted proceedingstold WCT, "It's not what you do; it's how you do it. This was a pre-planned rally and press conference. As I stated in the midst of the chaos and spectacle [ECCSC] created, they were shutting down a Black woman's voicewhich just happened to be my voice.
"If you wanted to create a bond and have all of us fighting violence in different sectors, you could've reached out. If they would've done some homework, they would've found out that there weren't all white-led organizations out there; there were some Black-led ones, as well. If they had done their due diligence, then maybe we could've had a united front and pushed the conversation further. Instead, it was a dog-and-pony show that shut us down. It was unnecessary."
When asked if she and the trans contingent felt bullied, Bassett did not mince words. "I do! I was a bullying tactic. It's not what you doit's how you go about doing it. And the way they went about doing it was disrespectful."
She also said, "If he said, 'I would love to join you all in this initiative,' it could've been wonderful. Healing disparities? I'm here for that. We can't cover all lanes; that's why we have organizations to speak for certain populations. They choose to speak for Black men in prison; I think that's wonderful. We should be working together, as we also have people in prison populations."
In addition, Bassett stated, "I wouldn't be willing to reach out to him but if he wants to reach out to me, I'd definitely have a conversation with him. To be honest with him, he owes me an apology. What we did was just rude.
"The problem with our culture is that we're beginning to think it's okay to push down on each otherand that's not a good look."
Clark added, "The most disturbing thing about the whole incident was waking up the next morning to a Facebook notice to wish Elise Malary a happy birthdayknowing her life was cut short, and with many of us unable to say goodbye in person."