On the morning of May 11, 2003, a trio of queer brown youths were waiting for their bus at the corner of Broad and Market Streets in downtown Newark. The group was heading home, fresh from an evening out in Greenwich Village (otherwise named the West Village), a common hang out destination for those of the LGBTQI culture. Among the group of friends was Sakia Gunn, a 15-year-old AG-identified [masculine presenting] high school sophomore and budding basketball star.
While they awaited the #1 bus, a group of men in a white van pulled up and began harassing the young women and propositioning them. When their advances were spurned (the youth declared that they were lesbians), one of the men, Richard McCullough, 29, vacated the vehicle to attack the friends, securing one in a chokehold. Gunn defensively struck the assailant and the two engaged in a struggle that Gunn eventually escaped from. McCullough responded by unsheathing a knife and stabbing Gunn in the chest; he promptly fled with his van mates following. Gunn was rushed to University Hospital in Newark, where she consequently died of her injuries.
Gunn’s death sparked an uproar in the LGBTQI community as a whole, in both the lack of news coverage that the incident yielded and the blotched quality of the details that mass media did choose to disclose. The unfair and bias coverage has been attributed to a number of different variables, the most poignant of these being Gunn’s working class status and her sexual orientation. It was and continues to be an epitomic reminder of the danger and intolerance that prohibits queer people of color from co-existing in this society safely, with peace of mind.
This forthcoming Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of Sakia’s death and the immortality of her tale—a tale that is the embodiment of the injustices that the brown queer community continues to encounter to this day. At noon, there will be a gathering at the corner of Broad and Market (the site of the murder) that will collectively march to the LIT Social Justice Center, located at 11 Halsey Street. The space will be converted into the Sakia Gunn Social Justice Center, where advocates and community leaders will collaborate to support LTBTQI youths to build a safe space in Newark. Attendees will have access to counseling, self-empowerment practices, and real-time life skills.
– Tie’sha Sadie
Tie’sha Sadie is a Brooklyn-bred femme-sin-sation with a pension for radical expression and queer youth empowerment. She is a multi-disciplinary creative simultaneously questing to redefine the parameters of conscious sexuality, facilitate the evolution of brown community, and drop kick all -ism based ignorance. Tie’sha is a contributing editor at ELIXHER. Oh, she can also be found ranting and raving a little over at Sugarfree:ology