On August 22, 2017 Kiwi Herring, a Black, trans woman, was killed by the St. Louis police, after they were called to the scene of a dispute, in a neighborhood in which her friends and family confirm she had been experiencing transphobic harassment. Both Kiwi and the partner she was living with are trans, and the night before her murder, a neighbor had set a fire on their back porch in an attempt to burn down the apartment. After killing Kiwi, police took her partner into custody, where it is believed they are still being held.
Like so many Black, trans people before them, and so many Black, trans people in their everyday lives, Kiwi and her partner were targeted first by interpersonal transphobia, and next by the state for daring to fight for their own lives. It was violence on all sides, and a refusal to see Black, trans lives as ones worth protecting, that led to her murder, and the arrest of her partner.
At a vigil that same week, community gathered to mourn and celebrate Kiwi. A car drove into the crowd, injuring three attendees. Witnesses insist the driver jeered and harassed mourners before hitting them. The St. Louis police dispute this story—just as they dispute stories at the original murder scene—claiming community attacked the car first.
We recount these events not just to tell Kiwi’s story, but to note how much of the violence faced by Black, trans people, their partners and their advocates mirrors that of other communities, yet receives very different reactions. The same hyper-militarized police force that aided in the killing of Mike Brown and the suppression of Ferguson almost exactly three years prior has struck again. The same tactics for violence heralded by white nationalists, pushed forward by bigoted lawmakers nationwide, which led to the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA, are being used against Black, queer and trans protesters. We want to see the same response, the same calls for defense and justice for our communities that we have lately seen for others.
In this moment we are tired. We know other oppressed communities are tired, too. We know each of us must wake up day after day to the same old violence, and the constantly growing threats of new violence. We know the attacks on are communities feel unceasing, even escalating. We speak Kiwi’s name to remind us not only that there is nothing new about these threats, but that they are being leveled against us because we are winning.
It is hard to believe we are winning when we are losing our loved ones, our rights, our most basic needs on a daily basis. But we must remember the persecution of undocumented, immigrant, women, Muslim, Black, hood, working, queer, and trans communities are facing on a systemic level is a direct response to the power of our movements, the force of our voices, the vision we have laid out for a more just world. The vehemence of the backlash is proportional to the effectiveness of our organizing. We cannot give up now.
We speak Kiwi’s name as we call for demilitarization, including the demilitarizing and opening of all borders. We speak Kiwi’s name in honor of Black, trans undocumented youth and their families impacted by the repealing of DACA, and the other renewed attacks on immigrant people. We speak Kiwi’s name in honor of worker power, of a living wage. We speak Kiwi’s name in honor of police and prison abolition, in fierce demand for the funding of needed social services, and the redistribution of this empire’s wealth. We speak Kiwi’s name in honor of all women and girls impacted by partner violence, community violence, Islamophobia, and state terror. We speak Kiwi’s name as we envision struggles for justice which are global in scope, uniting not just our disparate identities, but our histories, and our demands.
Fighting together means never seeing our struggles and stories as competing, but always seeing them as tangential, bonded. Only when all of our stories are told, when all of our lives are actively fought for, can we clearly see the larger outline of the structures oppressing us, and an illuminated path toward their permanent destruction.
We must keep fighting for Kiwi, and for all Black, trans people alongside and within each new fight we take up. We must gather the stories of those we’ve already lost, and continue to weave them into the stories of those for whom we are presently fighting.
#Justice4Kiwi #KiwiHerring #SayHerName #BlackTransPower
Call to action: Call the St. Louis Police Department at 314 231 1212 and tell them to release the names of the officers involved in Kiwi Herring’s murder.
Cover image by Darien Wendell