Questions Linger for LGBT Community After Police Kill Jessie Hernandez

"Why can't we sit there?" asks Angel Campos, holding a cheese pizza box, pointing to the stairs of a nearby building.

"Because we might get arrested by that cop," responds his brother Freddy.

"But that's only if we have a blanket and they think we're trying to sleep there," says Cecilia Kluding-Rodriguez, her eyes scanning in the other direction.

Finally, Amaya points to an area with two benches about a hundred feet away. "Let's grab those benches."

It's a curious lunchtime shuffle that's become all too common, they say, since the Denver City Council passed its so-called "urban camping" ban in 2012. One of at least half a dozen such laws passed nationwide since 2000, the ordinance bans any unauthorized "camping" in public spaces. But critics say that it unjustly criminalizes the homeless, more than half of whom are black or Latino, according to a survey conducted by The Gathering Place. The survey also acknowledges that "diverse languages, abilities, sexual orientations and gender identities are represented" in its count, though it doesn't give specifics. Separate studies have estimated that, nationally, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

The challenges facing LGBT youth of color in Denver have been magnified since police fatally shot 17-year-old Jessica "Jessie" Hernandez in late January. Hernandez's death was another stark reminder of the dangers faced by queer youth of color in the city. In 2008, Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old transgender woman, smiled at a man, allegedly provoking him to beat her to death with a fire extinguisher. In 2009, Michael DeHerrera, a gay man, was brutally beaten by police after using the women's restroom at a nightclub. Hernandez's death was a reminder of the dangers faced by people who are young, brown and queer.

"Jessie could have been any of us," says Kluding-Rodriguez, an organizer with the Colorado Anti-Violence Project's youth organizing group Branching Seedz of Resistance. "We're a target when people just like us are gunned down without reason."

Hernández's killing came at a particularly tense time between the Denver police department and its more than 600,000 residents. Twenty-year-old Ryan Ronquillo was shot and killed by officers last July while standing outside of a funeral home. Just two weeks before Hernández's death, officers shot and killed Sharod Kendell, 23. Two weeks after her killing, the department announced a $860,000 settlement with James Moore, a disabled veteran who was beaten so badly by officers that his heart briefly stopped.

Hernández's shooting marked the fourth time in seven months that Denver police officers fired at moving vehicles, leading to the deaths of two suspects. Three others were killed in such incidents, according to the Denver Post.

Hernandez's death has only heightened calls for police transparency in such matters, and within days of her killing, 200 people gathered to mourn her death. Hernández's family has called for a federal investigation because they believe it's "the only way to uncover the truth because we have little confidence in the Denver Police Department's ability to conduct a fair and timely investigation," they said in a statement posted by Latino Rebels.

Hernández's identity as a gender non-conforming lesbian has inevitably become part of the narrative surrounding her death, and that's not just because Creating Change, one of the biggest national gatherings of queer activists, took place in Denver soon after she was killed. Statistics show that queer youth of color are at heightened risk for harassment and by police. Just weeks before her death, on New Year's Day, Hernández was cited for speeding, eluding a police officer and resisting arrest.

The brutality that Denver police have shown in recent years toward black and Latino men also put Hernandez at risk, according to activists. "People perceived Jessie's gender as masculine, and that put her at risk," says Amaya, another activist with the anti-violence group that's been in contact with Hernandez's family since her death. "She was targeted because of the chosen family she surrounded herself with, who were all queer, brown and masculine."

Gender non-conformity carries with it its own risks, especially when it intersects with racism. As Dani McClain reported for Colorlines while looking at the dangers faced by black trans men and African-American masculine-identified women, "Somewhere at the intersection of blackness, gender expression and sexual orientation is a heightened risk for harassment and bias-driven violence." McClain continued: "People who are perceived as feminine--including femme lesbians and trans women--are certainly at risk, as the case of CeCe McDonald brought to national attention last year. But trans men and masculine-of-center women experience discrimination and harassment in ways that often map more clearly to mainstream narratives about black men."

For this group of young activists sitting outside of Denver's Civic Center, among the many questions left unanswered is this one, posed by Teddy Campos: "Would police have handled Hernandez's cases differently if her gender expression matched her biological sex?"

Amaya drives the point home. "We shouldn't have to justify our humanity so police [can't] justify having killed us," she says. "We shouldn't have to justify our humanity in order to live. Our existence is not a threat."

Read the original article here.

October 24, 2019

Reflections from Philanthropy Forward's First Cohort

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change is a CEO fellowship program created by Neighborhood Funders Group and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The program's first cohort started in October 2018 in furtherance of building and advancing a shared vision for the future of philanthropy.

Hear perspectives from members of the first cohort as they reflect in this video on their work together as strategic thought partners, addressing philanthropy's most challenging issues and aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

2018 - 2019 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid with individual photos of each of the 20 members of Philanthropy Forward's 2018-2918 cohort..

Click here for participant bios

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Solidago Foundation
  • Ned Calonge, The Colorado Trust
  • Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation
  • Farhad A. Ebrahimi, The Chorus Foundation
  • Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation
  • Justin Maxson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Joan Minieri, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Maria Mottola, New York Foundation
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent, Hyams Foundation
  • Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation
  • Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community solutions
  • Dennis Quirin, Raikes Foundation
September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


 

Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.