Four Black lesbians were killed in one week, and the media still isn’t paying attention

Say their names.

CREDIT: Facebook/Kaladaa Crowell
CREDIT: Facebook/Kaladaa Crowell

In late December, there was a slew of murders of lesbian Black women, but advocates for the LGBTQ community say they haven’t received enough attention from the national media. Kaladaa Crowell and her daughter, Kyra Inglett, were murdered in West Palm Beach, Florida on Dec. 28.

Police arrested a man for her murder — Marlin Joseph, the son of Crowell’s girlfriend, Robin Denson. According to the arrest report, Joseph had argued with Crowell and said Kyra had a “bad attitude.” Joseph spent time in prison for battery on a child. Denson said her late girlfriend would “give the shirt off her back to help anybody.”

Crowell is the fourth Black lesbian to be murdered in late December, according to Autostraddle, a progressive news and commentary site for queer women. Shanta Myers and her two children, Jeremiah and Shanise, and Myers’ girlfriend, Brandi Mells were found murdered in Troy, NY on Dec. 26, but police believe the victims died five days earlier. They were all bound and their throats had been slashed. Two men were charged as suspects in the murder. On December 28 in Washington D.C., Kerrice Lewis was shot multiple times and was shoved in the trunk of a car before her killer set the car on fire. There are no suspects for her murder at this time. Mercedes Rouhlac, her ex-girlfriend and best friend, said of Lewis, “No matter what, she still loved me and my son.”

According to the Huffington Post, friends of Lewis wish there were more media coverage of her murder. Academics, activists, writers, celebrities, and LGBTQ advocacy organizations also tweeted that there wasn’t enough media focus on the recent killings of four Black lesbian women.

Zach Sommers, a sociologist at Northwestern University who studies crime, told NPR last year that a large body of research shows that white people are more likely to appear in news coverage as victims of violent crime.

Sue Yacka-Bible, director of communications at GLAAD, said that it can be difficult to track the homicides of people in the LGBTQ community, especially when they are homicides of trans people, bi people, and lesbians. 

“Specifically with lesbians, police will often mischaracterize the relationship as a friend or roommate situation, since identities are obscured in the moment,” Yacka said. “We’ve also found that when you’re tracking this, police are often quick to say bias is not a motive in murders of LGBTQ people and this tends to get repeated in press accounts. I would challenge the media to investigate the ways bias and hate violence may or may not be part of what has occurred and fully and fairly name identities of people who have been lost.”

A 2017 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs recorded reports of 36 violence-related homicides of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people, a 29 percent increase from 2016. Seventy-five percent of the victims were people of color. Twenty of the victims were Black. For transgender people, last year was the deadliest year for the community in at least a decade with the homicides of at least 28 trans people, many of whom were Black women. Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien is the first trans person — that the media knows of — to be killed in 2018. Her husband, Mark Steele-Knudslien, confessed to killing her and turned himself into police last week. Steele-Knudslien founded two beauty pageants, Miss Trans America and Miss Trans New England.

Yacka said that it’s important for members of the LGBTQ community to know who it has lost to violence. This includes accurately reporting on the relationships of the deceased person and not misgendering trans people.

“When the full identities of victims are reported accurately, it gives friends and family members and LGBTQ community members around the nation the space to mourn people that we lost,” Yacka said.