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Sakia Gunn: When Intolerance Breeds Murder

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Printed Date: Jan 18 2022 at 4:23pm

Topic: Sakia Gunn: When Intolerance Breeds Murder
Posted By: hennypenny
Subject: Sakia Gunn: When Intolerance Breeds Murder
Date Posted: May 31 2008 at 10:50pm
Wow time really flies, I remember when she was killed and as always, she was black so there really wasn't a lot of media coverage. Who wants to hear about the murder of a young black girl, a gay young black girl at that.

Sakia Gunn: When Intolerance Breeds Murder

Posted May 31st 2008 6:00AM by" rel="no follow - Angela Bronner
Filed under:" rel="no follow - BlackSpin ," rel="no follow - Lifestyle ," rel="no follow - Love

By Krystal Freeman,

I learned to sag my jeans just right by watching the men around me. I studied the way they rocked tilted fitted caps over crisp tapers and deep waves, eyeing my father most intently. He was so precise about matching his kicks with neatly creased jeans and "throwback" jerseys. By fifteen I'd nearly stolen his style and his swagger.

It never occurred to me that having such insider knowledge was enough to get me killed, until I read about the brutal murder of Sakia Gunn.

Five years ago, Sakia, a 15-year old girl who "dressed like a boy," was attacked while waiting for a Newark, New Jersey bus after a night out with friends. The girls were approached by two men in a car who made uninvited sexual advances. When the girls declined, stating that they were lesbians, 30-year old Richard McCullough fatally stabbed Sakia while shouting homophobic slurs. She bled out at the intersection of Broad and Market during the wee hours of Mother's Day morning.

This May is the fifth anniversary of the murder of Sakia Gunn. She would have just celebrated her 20th birthday.

Too few of us know Sakia's name, but we all know girls like her -- young women like me who are often mistaken for teenage boys because we have the courage to dress the way we feel inside. We are your daughters, sisters and nieces. We are also young black lesbians who, in having the courage to live authentically, make our communities uncomfortable.

Sadly, the lives of many black youth have been taken because of intolerance and that very courage. Their names are also unknown. There's Ronnie Antonio Paris, dead at 3 from brain injuries inflicted by his dad who boxed with him so he wouldn't become gay. And openly gay Rashawn Brazell, 19, who's dismembered body parts were found in garbage bags strewn throughout Brooklyn. Simmie Williams, 17. Nireah Johnson, 17. Stephanie Thomas, 18. Ukea Davis,19. And many more. Each and every one of them belonged to someone.

My family doesn't understand why I'm more comfortable in button-ups instead of blouses or why I'd choose a pair of "dunks" over stilettos. Nor are they comfortable with my attraction to women, but I belong to them too. In his bigoted sexual aggression, McCullough never stopped to think that Sakia belonged to someone. She was someone's family member and, more importantly, someone's child.

We may conclude that McCullough was motivated by his own homophobia. But we must also acknowledge that he was implicitly encouraged by our community's typical stance on issues of sexuality. Homophobic beliefs are somehow justified by people like my family and yours, who claim their gay relatives selectively, and stand silent in the company of bigoted conversation that endangers the very gay children they love.

My mother has always bragged to her friends about my academic achievements. My dad loved to tease his friends about how his daughter could "school" their sons on the basketball court. But there were no words of support when it became clear that I was a lesbian.

It was okay that I wasn't crazy about boys, if it meant I focused on school. And my perceived masculinity was tolerable, if it made me a solid competitor on the court. The catch: I wasn't supposed to tell anyone about my attraction to girls.

The silence was crippling.

My family was tight-lipped about same-sex attraction, but what they did say was damaging. As a result, I learned to be resilient in the presence of loved ones who thought being gay was a "white thing" or that I was going through a phase. I still shuffle with unease whenever relatives say things like "I wouldn't mind so much if they didn't put it in our faces." I know that "they" alludes to those "effeminate" men and "mannish" lesbians walking in gay pride parades. I also know that the "they" my family despises includes some part of me.

Almost every time a person is murdered for being gay, they are met with hateful language I've heard my family use - these same family members would be devastated if my life were taken. They advise me to be careful, suggesting that I spare myself by dressing more like a girl. They don't see the harm in refusing to affirm me as I am.

Their position contributes to the climate that allowed for the senseless murder of Sakia and so many others. Their silence endangers me also.

To my family and to my community, I need you to love and claim all of me, even when others speak out against me. You can help prevent another murder like Sakia's. Your voice and your courage can make our communities safer for young people like Sakia, young people like me.

A native New Yorker now based in Los Angeles, Krystal Freeman is a Media Fellow for Communities of African Descent at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. She holds a B.A. in Urban & Environmental Policy with a minor in Critical Theory & Social Justice from Occidental College.

For More on how to help keep Sakia's legacy alive go to" rel="no follow -

Posted By: thewonderfulwa
Date Posted: May 31 2008 at 10:57pm
I remember the story about rashawn it was so sad to be tossed away like yesterdays trash still dont know if they ever found his killer the other Ive never heard their stories.
But I know alot of men take it to offense when they are turned down that I dont understand.

Posted By: slayfresh
Date Posted: May 31 2008 at 11:02pm
I saw the story about rashawn on AMW. that was just sad. I can't belive that man killed his son fighting him so he wouldn't be gay. that is just ignorant.

Posted By: lena_2202
Date Posted: Jun 01 2008 at 1:11am
Never heard of this story before. This is just horrible, I hope they have caught her killer and thrown the book at him. 

Posted By: WorkInProgress
Date Posted: Jun 01 2008 at 1:24am
Good but sad read!
Bring your Bibles now

Posted By: rinthecutie
Date Posted: Jun 01 2008 at 1:43am
Wow I never heard about this, so sad.

Posted By: Dehinds
Date Posted: Jun 01 2008 at 11:46am
Wow this is really good.

eta: of course her race played a part in the lack of media coverage.

Posted By: Lick3Shots
Date Posted: Jun 01 2008 at 12:02pm
This is so sad, but a good read nonetheless.  It takes a lot of hatred to do this to another human being.

Posted By: yourleoqueen
Date Posted: Jun 01 2008 at 2:06pm
Very sad, but I'm curious as to why a 15 y.o. was out in the wee hours of the morning.

The above statement is in no way saying or implying that she deserved to be murdered. If you think it does, then you need to go take your medication.

Posted By: hennypenny
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 12:02am
Its a legitimate question yourleoqueen, I don't know what her home life was like. Her parents may have dropped the ball or were not as vigilant as they should have been. I was going to clubs at that age tooErmm. I just told my mom I was spending the night at my best friend's house and she would say ok. My friend's mom let us go clubbing, heck she would give us outfits and do our makeup.

Posted By: bLakivist
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 9:22pm
Thanks hennypenny for sharing this with the forum.  I am grateful to the interest this piece has generated.

I thought I'd offer a response to a couple of things I saw.

@Lena: Unfortunately McCullough was only" rel="no follow - sentenced to 20 years .

@Dehinds: The amount her race played into the lack of media coverage is a point that I've made to folks with whom I've discussed this story...that among other things.

@YourLeoQueen: It is a legitimate question.  But as someone who was a teen not too long ago, it's not all that uncommon for teens to be out that late when their parents know they are with a group.  At least, that was my experience.

Her mother, in fact, was aware that she was traveling to the city to hang out.  Further, in reports I've read about LaTona Gunn (her mother), she regretted that her daughter didn't have some place closer to hang out at, but without worrying that she might be susceptible to violence. 

Given that context, perhaps another question could be asked as well. For instance: "Why should a teen have to travel from Newark to Manhattan in order to feel safe and comfortable being herself rather than in her own community?"

Just putting my two cents in the plate.

Posted By: TexasPearl22
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 9:40pm
Confused only a 20 yr sent.

Posted By: TransitAngst
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 9:41pm
I remember hearing about this. I used to turn guys down by saying that I was gay, but since hearing about this I stopped. It's truly a sick world.

Posted By: hennypenny
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 9:53pm
Wow, welcome to the board Blakivist! I knew one of these days, one of the people that I jack  articles from would come looking for meLOL
Just kidding!

I loved that article and I thank you for writing it. I look forward to reading more of your writing so I will be checking out your blog.

You ask a legitimate question as well blakivist.  No one should have to go outside of their community to feel safe to be themselves.

I definitely feel you on people selectively claiming their gay relatives.  Some people seem to say its OK to be gay,just don't"act like it". 

No question in my mind that her race had something to do with how Sakia's case was covered. Its something that we talk about frequently here, the lack of coverage when it comes to murdered/missing black women.

Posted By: bLakivist
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 10:15pm
@TexasPearl: Isn't that a shame?!
@TransitAngst: A sick world indeed.

Thanks hennypenny.  I'm glad to join in on the discussion, especially since people are actually discussing.  So... you make a habit of "article jackin'" huh? LOL

I agree with you on the race front.  I also think that black folks in general tend to garner much less attention in the media.  Women are often victimized, but our conscience can't forget the black men (gay and straight) whose lives don't keep the same level of interest that others do (i.e., Sean Bell, Simmie Williams Jr.)

It's just a lot of mess.  Arrgh.

Posted By: Clueless77
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 10:25pm
I am too glad that you wrote and shared this sad article with us as well. bLakivist, I hope that you stay on this forum and give us your insight.

Posted By: soxgirl119
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 10:29pm
wow how sad
I heard about the rashawn story on amv senseless

Posted By: bLakivist
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 10:52pm
I'd be glad to.  Are you all a part of the larger forum or do you tend toward the Talk, Talk and More Talk section?

Posted By: hennypenny
Date Posted: Jun 02 2008 at 10:59pm
Yes  we are all a part of the larger forum although some of us are probably addicted to TTT more than the other parts of the board but we float around in the other sections as well. 

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