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The Deaths of Black Trans Women Who Inspired Trans Black Lives Matter Marches Are Being Misreported

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  • The brutal deaths of two Black transgender women— Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells and Riah Milton—have sparked outrage across the country.
  • Protests in major cities have led to people calling for Black Lives Matter protesters to affirm that transgender members of the Black community are included in that message.
  • Fells and Milton’s deaths have also been subject to widespread misreporting and misgendering.
  • Most notably, the Human Rights Campaign and Kim Kardashian-West have shared the wrong photo of Milton, instead sharing a photo of her cisgender aunt.

Deaths of Fells and Milton

The recent deaths of several Black transgender people have led to outrage and massive demonstrations calling for the Black Lives Matter movement to also recognize LGBTQ+ members of the community. Their deaths have also led to widespread deadnaming and misreporting. 

Police found Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells body floating in a river in West Philadelphia on June 8. The details depict a gruesome scene: Fells died of multiple stab wounds. She had been beaten, with bruising along her head. Her legs had been cut off. Dive teams later found them in bags in the river.

On June 11, police positively identified that the body belonged to Fells. The next day, they ruled her death a homicide.

On June 9, a day after Fells’ body was found, another transgender woman named Riah Milton was shot and killed in Ohio. There, police said three people tried to rob Miltonof her vehicle in the early hours of the morning.

According to police, two of the suspects have been arrested. One of them has been charged with murder, and the other—a 14-year-old girl—has been charged with complicity to murder. Police are still looking for the third person, Tyree Cross, who they’ve charged with complicity to murder, as well.

The police report on Milton’s death deadnames and misgenders her. 

Response and “All Black Lives Matter” Protests

Among the notable responses to these deaths, the Black Lives Matter Twitter account has shared photos of both women, saying, “Heartbroken over our sisters. Rest in Power.” 

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has also shared photos of the women, saying, “The murder of Black trans women is a crisis. Say their names: Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton.” 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 15 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed this year alone, but as the HRC also notes, those deaths are also likely undercounted. Even when they are counted, often, they’re subjected to deadnaming, misgendering, and other types of misreporting.

Regarding Fells, Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs issued a statement following her death, noting that Fells died during Pride Month. 

“The pain of such a loss is always difficult, but it is especially deep as we are in the midst of Pride month—a season typically filled with joy and celebration for many in our community,” it said.

“As thousands take to the streets to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, it is critical we remember that this includes Black trans lives. Dominique Rem’mie Fells’ life mattered,” it added.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney later echoed that statement, saying, “When we say #BlackLivesMatter, that includes Black trans lives. I join our LGBTQ and Black communities in mourning the loss of Dominique Rem’mie Fells.”

In the wake of Fells and Milton’s deaths, many Black Lives Matter protesters have begun to shift attention to the higher rates of violence that trans people, especially trans people of color, face in the United States.

On Sunday, thousands stood outside of the Brooklyn Museum in New York to call for justice in the brutal murders of trans people. Many held signs such as “Trans Rights Now” and “Black Trans Lives Matter.” Notably, that march was also led by Black trans women.

In Chicago, thousands turned out for the Boystown drag march. In Salt Lake City, thousands marched in support of Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter. 

Source: Book Club Chicago

In Los Angeles, an estimated tens of thousands of people marched through Hollywood in an event known as “All Black Lives Matter.”

In addition to protesting the deaths of Fells and Milton, that protest was also organized in response to the death of Tony McDade, a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee on May 27.

Police have said McDade was a suspect in a stabbing homicide, but as to how McDade himself died, there has been conflicting testimonies. Police claim McDade was shot because he aimed a gun at an officer; however, witness testimony has painted a different story. 

One person who recorded a Facebook Live at the scene claimed that police said “stop moving” before calling McDade the n-word. That person went on to claim that McDade stopped moving but was then shot by an officer.

The officer who killed McDade has been placed on administrative leave. A lawyer for McDade’s family has called for body cam footage to be released, saying it could shed light on what really happened.

“There are all types of stories going on as far as what happened, and what didn’t happen, and what he had or what he didn’t have,” the McDade family’s attorney, Mutaqee Akbar, said. “What’s most important is this law enforcement officer is still on the streets. If it shows that that law enforcement officer did something that was inappropriate, we need to know right away whether he should still be on the streets or even on office duty.”

Misreporting/Misgendering

Like how police have misgendered Milton, Tallahassee PD initially misgendered McDade as a woman. That then spilled over to local news outlets that were reporting on McDade, who had not been named at the time. 

On May 28 when TPD released McDade’s name, they did refer to him as “Tony,” but they also deadnamed him. 

Alongside that, multiple news outlets have continued to deadname Milton, but it’s not just deadnaming. There has been heavy misreporting associated with these deaths. 

For example, the HRC released a statement on Milton’s death Friday. In that statement, it included a photo of Milton, but that photo wasn’t actually even of her. It was of her cisgender aunt who had previously died. 

From there, Milton’s sister—Ariel Mary Ann—reached out to the HRC, who she said profusely apologized for the mistake and replaced the photo of Milton’s aunt with a candle. Later, HRC issued a public apology. 

The next day, on Saturday, Kim Kardashian-West posted that exact same photo of Milton’s aunt on Twitter. 

On Sunday, after having become aware of the tweet, both Mary Ann and Milton’s cousin Maurisha repeatedly called for it to be taken down.

“The woman on the right on this graphic is not my cousin Riah,” Maurisha said. “It is my mom who recently died.”

“IT NEEDS TO BE TAKEN DOWN IMMEDIATELY,” Mary Ann said. 

In an update the same day, the reported creator of that photo jumped in, saying Kardashian-West had copied the photo and not retweeted it directly. Therefore, the creator couldn’t take it down.

“ACTION NEEDED:  I used a photo from a statement HRC ran 2 days ago to make an image,” the creator said. “The photo is not Riah Milton. Please help me by reporting the tweet with the image that @KimKardashian made as its not a rt but a screen-cap. I don’t want my mistake to cause more hurt.” 

But for days, Kardashian-West’s tweet remained up.

“This added a whole other level of stress on top of everything else that I was dealing with, especially because I saw that the photo was being retweeted,” Mary Ann told BuzzFeed News.

Also speaking to BuzzFeed, Maurisha said, “Everyone else used the same picture of Riah except Kim, and it makes me question if she really cares about Black Trans Lives. My mom and my cousin Riah do not look alike at all.” 

Maurisha also went on to accuse Kardashian-West of performance activism, saying that it is “easy for them to just post these graphics and act like they’re in solidarity with Black Trans Women and the Black Lives Matter movement and go on with their day without doing the actual work because it’s not directly affecting them.”

Connected to those interviews, BuzzFeed News reached out to representatives for Kardashian-West, and while they declined to comment, that tweet was finally deleted shortly afterward. 

 Kardashian-West hasn’t apologized for posting the wrong photo.

Additionally, The Washington Post currently reports in a June 14 article that Milton and Fells were killed by police. But as far as publicly known information, that’s not true. None of the suspects in Milton’s death are officers, and police are still trying to figure out who killed Fells. 

See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (The Los Angeles Times) (Time)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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