Dear Luis Berrios:
Yesterday, the institution that identifies itself as the “justice” system failed you. It did not provide you the justice and healing that you so rightfully deserve. You watched officers who not only assaulted you and your partner, but tried to steal your humanity. They almost succeeded too. They are trained very well to do just that. But you, Mr. Luis Berrios, are a fuckin’ warrior.
Justice failed the moment you had to endure a brutal beating both physically and verbally. Justice failed us all the moment the courts dismissed your allegations and your pleadings. Justice failed you long before you walked into that court room. But even then, your quest for justice was not diminished. You walked into that court room like the fuckin’ warrior you are.
So for that, I want to sincerely thank you. There is no medication to treat homophobia, violence and racism. There is no magic pill that can completely heal us. But this is what I do know – warriors like you remind us all that personal freedom and justice cannot be provided by a racist and oppressive system, it is something that we must provide to ourselves and each other.
Those of us who are at close proximity to institutionalized racism and oppression are most are often times most at risk for police violence. Your courage and fearlessness has provided healing for those of us who are still surviving the realities police violence. You have not just continued the conversation about police violence in Philadelphia but you have expanded the conversation to include LGBT Latinos.
Many of us do not feel protected by the police. Many of us do not even feel represented by those who claim to work with the police to advocate on our behalf. Many of us have not even had the language or platform to articulate these experiences. You have helped to create this platform. This is why fellow varones and other members from our community showed up to stand with you and by you every morning during your trial. This is why you are a fuckin’ warrior.
Lou, you have reminded us that our silence as a community equals more violence. You reminded us that our quest for social justice must be ruthless, raw and unapologetic. You, my dear, are a fuckin’ warrior.
Please know that your commitment to not remain silent has freed others from the shame of not having an opportunity and support to fight back. This my love, is the truest testament of social justice: us healing us.
The system failed you. It has failed all of us. We, however, we have not failed each other because we are warriors.
- Louie A. Ortiz- Fonseca
to read the details about about Luis Berrios’ lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia, read a recent PGN Article.
“Caminando, mirando una estrella.Walking, looking at a star
Caminando, oyendo una voz. Walking, listening to a voice
Caminando, siguiendo la huella, Walking, following a footstep
Caminando, que otro camino. Walking the path]that someone else walked
Caminando, buscando a la vida. Walking, searching for life
Caminando, buscando al amor. Walking, looking for love
Caminando, curando la herida, Walking, healing the wound
Caminando, que deja el dolor! Walking, to leave the pain behind”
- Rubén Blades
I still get nervous walking down streets alone. Or when I walk into a
barbershop. Or while I am just fucking walking and minding my business. There
is a part of me that still telling me to hold my breath and brace my spirit for
the sound of the word “faggot.” Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be spoken. People
can say it with their eyes. This is why I still hold my breath whenever I am
I saw you and your friends as we crossed the street. My friends and I were coming from the opening rally of the Philly Trans* March. We were feeling inspired. We were also feeling angry that yet another black trans* woman had been murdered, this time in our city. We were walking with that weighing heavy on our minds and hearts.
You and your 4 friends glanced at us; all of you, black and brown, reminding me of my 13 year old son. I could see the curiosity in your eyes. I could see the smirk creeping across your face as you noticed that one of us had on skinny jeans and two of us were holding hands. I could feel the jokes formulating in your minds, sense the giggles about to burst from your lips. I saw it and I looked away hoping you would make a different decision.
As my friends and I chatted about the best way to meet up with the Trans* March, one of you shouted “Ewww you’re gay!” I am not sure whose lips spewed those words but I know exactly where the hell they landed. My first instinct was to go off but instead, I said aloud “Black and Brown lives matter. Right now, even in this moment.”
As we continued walking, we heard a voice shout “Which one of you is the guy?” Implying that one of us was less than a man because of who you assumed we were. We heard you laugh that laugh that communicated “Ha! Faggot!”
We kept walking. We nervously laughed it off. I was burning on the inside. I was trying to manage my anger. I was doing a great a job too – until you approached us, from behind, on your bikes. I was blind with rage and I let ya’ll know, loud and clear:
“I dare y’all to say that shit to my face. I will smack your ass off of that damn bike. I dare you!”
Y’all looked taken aback, as if you were taught that harassing men like us was okay, maybe even the “normal” thing to do. But clearly you missed the lesson on our refusal to stay silent.
You surrounded us on your bikes. I was too enraged to even notice that we stumbled into a wedding party of white folks posing for photos. I approached y’all and shouted “Why would you wanna make someone feel bad on purpose? Why would you want to do that?”
You stood silent as if you were just now realizing that your words actually had power—the power to make grown-ups feels like shit. All of your faces reminded me of my son. All of your faces reminded me I was a father. The space fell silent. I stood still, quietly re-evaluating my approach. I knew then that a bridge was going to be built, however painful, and this bridge was going to get us BOTH across what felt like an endless divide.
“Keep it down. Can’t you see they are trying to take wedding photos? And why are you trying to make them [the teens] feel bad?”
You and your friends heard this uninformed, self-entitled scolding dished out from a passerby as a permission slip. You felt, as the silence broke, suddenly empowered to call us faggots as you got back on your bikes and road away. The white woman kept shouting as she walked away, cheering you and your friends on.
You may not have noticed that an entire wedding party of white people was not only laughing at ALL OF US but also filming and snapchatting the scene as we stood there, utterly horrified and dehumanized. It was clear that the white woman who cheered you on would have rather seen us called faggots than see black and brown people try to heal and build community. You may not have noticed that the entire wedding party of white people literally laugh at our expense – at the expense of a group of black and brown folks. These are the very same white folks who, any other day, would have clutched their purses and phones if y’all had approached them on the street.
I walked away returning to the march feeling a tremendous loss, of not only my temper and composure, but a loss of a piece of my humanity. Truly, a loss of connection, both as an elder and father.
My screaming and shouting will never be the motivation you and your friends need to make a different decision. My shouting will only teach you all not to get caught teasing people. That was not the lesson I wanted to share that day. I wanted to say “You hurt me. You embarrassed me. Your words hold all the weight in the world because you are the world.” I wanted to remind you that all those who were laughing at us will laugh at you soon. That really, we are not so different, and that we are united in a greater struggle. That this petty hatred will tear us apart. That it is in these very moments, when toxic messages of socialized hate show up within our own “families”, we must remember love.
I wanted to take back every word. I wanted to replace every “I would smack the hell out of you” to “I will love you harder because that is what we MUST all do.” I wanted to tell you that my heart was broken and you had the power and opportunity to provide healing. But white supremacy and homophobia prevented that.
I want you to know that you and I tried. I know you did because y’all stopped riding your bikes and gave me the floor to speak. I wish our few moments together were different. But we don’t always get second chances. We don’t get to undo trauma. We simply get to process and move on – if we are lucky.
Yesterday, as my son and I walked around in the super market, I told him this story. His immediate response was “I wish I were there because…” I stopped him and said “Baby, you were. Those kids were young teens, just like you. They were beautiful just like you. They were all coming into an understanding of their power just like you.” He looked puzzled for a few moments and then said, “Maybe no one told them that teasing people is wrong. Maybe they forgot that ALL black lives matter, even you and your friends.” Then, he took my hand in his, and we walked.
This is about a bar in my area. Suerte Bar & Grill in McAllen, Texas, released footage and photos, on their Facebook page, of people who stole from a tip jar in their bar. They outed, misgendered, and encouraged hate against a trans person in the process.
I’d like to start first by saying how sad I have become as a result of this whole situation. I made the decision very recently to not leave the valley because I discovered how beautiful a place it can be. However, someone once told me, “Potential means you haven’t done a damn thing.”
I am going to try and break this situation down for my own peace of mind and maybe to help others that don’t, understand why this is all a big mess.
Theft is wrong. Thieves should be punished. I am a strong supporter of local business. The RGV’s nightlife is a growing and booming local economy in itself. I’m not even sure it bothered me that Suerte posted the persons picture. However, whoever posted it participated in a micro-aggression, a “small” act of violence. They chose to label this person who presents as feminine, “he”.
From what I remember (since the original post has been deleted) it read “Please help us find out HIS real name”. A commenter asked if the person at question was male or female to which whoever was moderating the page replied, “Male”. That’s when this mess began.
People started tossing around slurs both transphobic and homophobic. And lost sight of what this post was originally about. Petty theft. ($8 allegedly) Suerte could have prevented all this by living up to their name as a safe space for queer* folks. To which they proved themselves to be one of the biggest disappointments/failures I have witnessed. I loved going to Suerte. It was fun. I felt comfortable.They could have been true allies to the community and somehow put a stop to it all. But they did the opposite and perpetuated bigotry. Suerte let our community down.
The hardest part of all this is that our own community let us down. I began seeing from multiple people that they “have trans friends/relatives/family” and “I’m a gay guy but…” Just because you associate yourself with or as part of the LGBTQIA community does not mean that you aren’t a complete piece of shit. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time because of the work that I now do.
Often times, people who are assigned male at birth and identify, present, or express, as anything that is other than machismo are targets of systemic or interpersonal violence. And it’s all rooted in misogyny and the need to not be “that” part of the community. Why do we hate women? Why do we hate queer people? Why do women hate other women? Why do queer people hate other queer people?
It annoys me to no end when I hear people say “welcome to 2015 everything offends everyone! Lol”
Please shut up. I couldn’t care less what someone thinks of me or others. (Kinda.) BUT, when a group of people, LIKE TRANS WOMEN, are being murdered and attacked at such a high rate, I’m going on the offense when people are attacking or shaming them online. When Suerte rides on the coat tails of progressive thinking people then acts otherwise and doesn’t put its patrons in line for calling a person “IT” and “joto” then they’re fake as fuck.
I implore those of you who identify as gay and were saying that “those people give our community a bad name!” to ask yourself why you said that. Because they stole and queer people can’t be thieves? Because latinx people can’t be thieves? Because you feel the need to separate yourself as far as you can from the rest of us to prove to cis hetero people that you matter?
I’m sorry that queer, latinx, and queer latinxs hate ourselves. Suerte, your apology is bullshit. You “took action” after you saw actual community forming against your hate.
While you’re busy shelling yourselves out, some of us are trying not to die
Adrian Castellanos is a twenty-three year old HIV and AIDS advocate/activist. He was born and raised in the southern-most part of Texas known as the Rio Grande Valley. A border area of Texas to Mexico and South Padre Island.
Adrian studied art and fashion for a brief amount of time in Texas before he moved on to becoming a hair stylist in his home town.
At twenty one, Castellanos’ path was redirected as he was diagnosed with AIDS, while he spent two weeks in a hospital room, he decided to “make his mess his message”. Since being diagnosed on March 26, 2014 he has gone on to receive a Youth Initiative Scholarship to attend USCA in OCT. 2014, acquire a position with the Valley AIDS Council (the only HIV/AIDS Agency in his area) JAN. 2015, receive a separate scholarship to attend AIDSWatch in APR. 2015 and receive a Social Media Fellows Scholarship to USCA 2015. Adrian now spends his time doing free HIV screenings at two universities in his area and for the community with his agency. He also participates in outreach and education efforts to raise awareness within his community.
Castellanos utilizes social media to deconstruct stigma and engage with as many people as possible. He is just out of his first year of diagnoses but already has a strong outlook on what he plans to do for the fight to end the epidemic.
You can follow Adrian at:
Her name was Tina. I called her Miss Tina. She was black, tall, muscular and unapologetic about her sometimes revealing 5’oclock shadow. She often referred to it as her “daytime” look. She was my mom’s best friend. I studied her like I should have been studying my math homework. I wanted to identify that one “thing” that made her magical. I wanted it for myself. I wanted to be as fabulous as Miss Tina.
It was the mid 80’s and the height of my mother’s crack addiction. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the height of my entire neighborhood’s crack addiction. In many ways, the crack epidemic was the equalizer in our neighborhood. My mother had friends who were lawyers, blue collar workers, bikers and business executives. I watched them roll in and out of our bedroom “apartment.” I never paid them much mind. Probably because if I did, I’d get my ass whipped for being nosy. But it was my mother’s friend Tina that always left me mesmerized.
She’d visit my mother at least two times a day. Once after work, where she would show up wearing a hard hat, jeans and construction boots and then, right before going out to paint the town red, she would show up looking like our neighborhood’s own lovely Donna Summer. This transformation always inspired me. She was my first tangible proof that we create our own beauty that we become.
I’d ask her questions about her nail color and shoes. I really wanted to ask her how to beat up the boys who called me “faggot.” I was always too scared to admit that even at 8 years old I was called a “faggot” at school. Whenever we chatted, however brief the conversation, I felt like I was the only person in the world. Tina was God and I was praying at the altar.
One night, I woke up to hear my mom and Tina talking, whispering and crying. Our apartment, which was just a large room, was separated into two rooms by a clothes line and sheets - me and my brothers on one side with the TV and my mother and Tina on the other side sitting at the table near the kerosene heater. “I think you are going to need to go to the hospital,” I heard my mother say. I couldn’t make out Miss Tina’s response but from what I could gather from the tone, her answer was a resounding “Hell no.” The conversation and crying continued. I peeked through the sheet and saw Miss Tina’s bloody and swollen face. I wanted to ask what happened but even then I knew that she too got beat up for being herself, the way I got beat up during lunch at school. Miss Tina was brave enough to tell my mother, to tell someone.
As I got older, Miss Tina and I developed our own friendship. We’d talk about Janet Jackson, fighting and AIDS. We talked about the night that she showed up bloody to our room. She told me of the times she showed up bloody somewhere and found ways of performing her own triage. She told me how she endured. “Make every fight for your life the fight of your life, honey.” She told me to never do drugs or get AIDS. She told me of all the other Trans women who were murdered or succumbed to the AIDS epidemic and then buried as men. Sometimes I cried when she spoke. Sometimes I simply wanted to set the entire world on fuckin’ fire. Sometimes, I still do.
Miss Tina died in late 1996. 20 years later, I still speak her name. Miss Tina! I still say her name to keep her history alive because Trans women are still fighting for their damn lives and Trans women are still being murdered. Miss Tina! I say her name because some of us have not moved from whispering about these murders to shouting and disrupting systems of oppression that reinforce violence against Trans women. Miss Tina! I say her name because some of us still post Transphobic memes on our social media accounts for a cheap laugh. Miss Tina! I say her name because some of us are quick to celebrate Caitlyn Jenner for her bravery and courage but intentionally misgender Trans women in our own communities because they do not look “real” or “pass.”
Miss Tina! I speak her name because some of us “out” Trans women on Instagram. Miss Tina! I scream her name because her history is our history. I scream her name and the names of all the Trans women who have been murdered this year. I scream their names because screaming makes people uncomfortable and be uncomfortable. We should be holding each other crying. As cis-gender Latino gay men, we should all be clenching our fists, raging and making the fight for the lives of Trans women the fight of our lives.
Miss Tina! I say her name because Trans lives mattered in 1989. Today, I also say their name of the 13 Trans women who have been murdered this year because Trans lives matter now!
Yazmin Vash Payne
Taja Gabrielle DeJesus
Kristina Gomez Reinwald
London Kiki Chanel
Update: Friday, August 14th, was the absolutely bloodshed as the body of Angel Elisha Walker, a black Trans woman was discovered. The murders of Ashton O'Hara and Kandis Capri were also reported. This is a state of emergency! 14 of the 16 murdered Trans women were Trans women of color. This violence is an affront to our community, our families and our revolution.
Today we say their names:
Angel Elisha Walker
Over the past week, conversations about the construct of race have dominated social media. I won’t go into the fact that brown and black people have long challenged this construct and have paid a heavy price for it. However, few have shifted this “new” conversation that conveniently has “new” language (transracial) to shine light on the apartheid currently taking place in the Dominican Republic.
Admittedly, I have struggled with how to approach this horrific reality without imposing the judgement of developing countries that I have been socialized to believe. I have written and rewritten this piece about one hundred times, carefully crafting a statement that is informed on every level. As a Boricua, who was raised on the mainland, North Philadelphia to be exact, I recognize that I am not directly impacted by the history and continued tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. However, as a member of the Latin@ community, I do believe it is vital that we all stand in solidarity with all those who struggle to survive an oppressive state that often times robs us of our humanity.
We as Latinxs must address the anti-blackness that exists within the fabric of our culture and history as we again come face to face with the irrefutable evidence of the hatred it breeds. For all of us who work with and beside our undocumented family and friends, we cannot act as if our battles for freedom and citizenship here in America are not connected to the struggle of Haitian-Dominicans. It is not enough to simply place blame without understanding how the oppression in developing countries fuels a parallel experience of pain, anger and outrage. Haitian-Dominicans are suffering the very same systemic oppression that has socialized us all to believe, promote and reinforce the idea that the lives of poor people do not matter, that Black lives don’t matter and that queer lives don’t matter. Oh yes, queer folks are among those who will be facing detention and deportation in the Dominican Republic.
Our families have all courageously ventured to new land, seeking freedom and/or sanctuary. How dare we not honor our history by standing with others who have done and will do the same, others who continue to face violence for seeking these same human rights? #Not1More extends far beyond the borders of America. The foundation and promise of #Not1More must reach all corners of the earth, reminding us that humanity always trumps patriotism.
As this was going to “print”, details of the horrific act of terror in Charleston, North Carolina began to surface. And even now, it is clear that the only Black life that matters in this country is Rachel Dolezal. BBC is the only media outlet covering this at length. If you continue to keep up with this story via “popular” media, pay close attention to how media will humanize this US terrorist. Then remember that just two weeks ago, the young black teenage assaulted by police in McKinney, Texas was not provided the same opportunity of humanity.
We send love & light to all impacted by the war on black and brown bodies. We are raging with you. We are crying with you. And we are standing with you.
This past weekend, we screened our documentary “Our Legacy is Alive” on the opening night of Café Con Leche’s “Orgullo!: Pittsburgh Latin@ LGBTQ Pride”. This event was the first of its kind for the city, providing a platform for our project and for the always magical Bamby Salcedo, who spoke about the experiences of Latin@ Trans* Immigrants. We knew that we had been invited to take part in something amazing, but we had no idea we would wind up making history.
photo by armando garcía
A few months ago, Tara Sherry-Torres, owner & operator of Café Con Leche, reached out to GALAEI to build community. When GALAEI connected us to Tara, we could not have been more grateful for her invitation to participate in “Orgullo!,” which formed part of the larger movement in Pittsburgh to re-create and re-reclaim Pride.
louie a. ortiz-fonseca & tara sherry-torres
You may have read about the long history of discontent that queer
and trans* people of color and allies have had with The Delta Foundation, the
agency that sponsors Pittsburgh Pride Event. For many years, community members
have voiced their concerns about Delta Pride not being inclusive to black,
brown and trans* folks. This year, those concerns echoed even louder when Iggy
Azalea, who has been known to use her platform to post both racist and homophobic
comments, was announced as the headliner. Community members, who have already
organized alternative Pride Events, the most notable being Trans* Pride and
Black Pride, courageously and publically stated they would boycott this year’s
Delta Pride. This inspired others do to the same. This is huge because it now
challenges not only Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ community but all queer communities to
acknowledge the inequities both within our communities and also within event
that is designed for LGBTQ people to celebrate our pride.
bamby salcedo, louie a. ortiz & armando garcía
While we were there to screen our film, we were provided the
incredible opportunity to build community with others who are committed to
creating visibility for LGBTQ people of color. We shared time and space with fellow
warriors who understand that our collective liberations are inextricably linked
to one-another, and that we must challenge all systems of oppression even when
those oppressions are wrapped in a rainbow flag. We cannot express just how humbling
and inspiring it was to be part of such a powerful and historic event.
pittsburgh’s lovely community leaders and louie a. ortiz-fonseca