Things That Matter

Bronx District Attorney Will Not Be Bringing Up Charges

Update June 8, 2020, 04:06 p.m. PST: The Bronx district attorney has announced that there is no criminality in the death of trans Afro-Latina inmate Layleen Polanco. The trans woman died while in solitary confinement at Rikers Island one year ago.

People are angry after Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark will not be pressing charges in Layleen Polanco’s death.

Polanco died while in custody at Rikers Island in New York when she died. The June 5 press release announced that no criminal charges will be filed against any of the guards in connection with Polanco’s death. Towards the end, the press release deadnames Polanco, a move made by media and reporting agencies that has caused anger within the LGBTQ+ community. To deadname a trans person is to use the person’s name at birth that does not correspond with the person’s gender and identity at the time of death.

“The purview of this Office is not to determine whether it was a wrong decision to place Ms. Polanco into Punitive Segregation while she was suffering from a documented seizure disorder,” reads a statement from DA Clark in the press release. the purview of this Office is to determine whether that decision rose to the level of criminal behavior. After an in-depth investigation by my Public Integrity Bureau, we have concluded that we would be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any individual committed any crime associated with Ms. Polanco’s demise. We will not be seeking any criminal charges related to this devastating event. I want to thank Ms. Polanco’s family for their patience and cooperation throughout the entirety of the investigation.”

The decision is reminding people that Black trans women are facing severe violence at the hands of police.

Black Lives Matter is organizing people across the world to demand police reform. Thousands of Americans gathered this weekend in various cities across the country demanding justice for Black lives following the death of George Floyd. New Yorkers are angry that a trans woman died in solitary confinement and one year later there is no justice for Polanco.

Update reporting provided by Jorge Rodriguez-Jimenez

Original: As PRIDE month comes to an end, we say goodbye to one of our trans sisters who was taken from us far too soon.

Bedecked in vibrant rainbows to celebrate the vivid woman they’ve lost, hundreds of mourners paid their last respects to Layleen Polanco. The transgender woman was found dead in Riker Correctional Center at the beginning of June. Since then, activists in the LGBTQIA+ community have come forward demanding Justice for Layleen.

Further information about Polanco’s last days are finally shedding some light on her death.

Twitter / @NationalBailOut

On June 7, 2019, the 27-year-old was found unresponsive in her cell. According to the the New York City Department of Corrections, attempts were made to resuscitate Polanco. Unfortunately, she was soon pronounced dead after she was discovered. Though there is no cause of death as of yet, the DOC has gone on record as saying that her death was not “the result of violence or foul play.”

That’s all the information we had about Polanco’s passing until earlier this week. The City of New York has recently disclosed that the trans woman was being held on $500 bail because of charges stemming from 2017. The incident involved a minor charge for prostitution and low-level drug possession.

According to reports, Polanco missed a court appearance for an unrelated charge that happened in April 2019. A warrant was issued for her arrest and Polanco was unable to post bail. Due to this, she was remanded to Rikers Correctional Center. As if this information isn’t troubling enough, we have also learned that Polanco spent her last 9 days of life in solitary confinement.

The information we’ve been given about Polanco’s time in Rikers reflect a woman in the midst of struggle.

Twitter / @ilmeeyat

According to her Rikers’ record, Polanco spent eight days in the prison’s hospital during the first part of May. The reason why is unknown to us because of patient confidentiality laws. However, we do know that Polanco was disciplined for fighting soon after she left hospital services.

Her punishment for this was to be moved to a restrictive housing unit that segregated her from the general population. Aside from the daily three-hour group therapy sessions, the rest of her time would have been served in complete isolation.

Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann released a statement about Polanco’s death. It reads in part:

“This is a tragic loss and we extend our deepest condolences to her family. We are conducting a full investigation as the safety and well-being of people in our custody is our top priority.”

Polanco’s death has spurned activists, community members, family, and friends to protest the criminal and prison systems.

Twitter / @WhereIsMUNA

Protesters have gathered in NYC throughout June, calling for justice for the late woman. Polanco was a member of the House of Xtravaganza, one of New York’s iconic ballroom scene institutions. Her ballroom community and family have been some of the loudest voices calling for change in the wake of her death.

One of the demands coming from these protests is the closing of Rikers Correctional Center. The facility has had issues housing trans individuals in the past and Polanco’s death is the final straw for prison activists. Criminal justice reform advocates have long been pushing for Rikers’ closing. A November 2018 testimony to the New York City Council also found that the physical and mental needs of trans inmates aren’t always met at the facility.

Additionally, activists have called for the decriminalization of prostitution and minor sex crimes. This is a direct result of Polanco’s prostitution charge. Had she not been arrested in 2017 for prostitution, she never would have been in Rikers, to begin with. If her bail hadn’t been so expensive, Polanco would still be with us. This was all avoidable.

The struggle for Justice for Layleen is far from over. Still, we won’t forget and we won’t give in. Justice for this trans woman is justice for all trans women. We won’t stop until we have it.

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People Have Taken To The Streets Across The Country In Breonna Taylor Protests

Things That Matter

People Have Taken To The Streets Across The Country In Breonna Taylor Protests

@KRISTENCLARKEJD / TWITTER

Cities across the U.S. are seeing a new wave of unrest following the grand jury’s finding on the Breonna Taylor case. Emotions are high as people protest against the lack of charges against the officers who were involved in Taylor’s death.

Protesters are raising their voices after the decision not to charge all of the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death.

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed on March 13 when police raided her apartment. The 26-year-old ER technician was sleeping when the police executed a “no-knock” warrant. However, police had the wrong address and Taylor’s boyfriend, believe their lives were in danger, fired at the police. Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment that night.

Major cities across the country saw major demonstrations spurred by the anger against the justice system.

A grand jury found one officer responsible for wanton endangerment after firing his weapon into neighboring apartments. There were no charges tied directly to Taylor’s death. The lack of charges has angered activists and advocates who are seeking significant police reform to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.

People have become hyper-aware of the issue and are paying attention to the outcomes.

Protest signs in different crowds show that the American people are paying attention. The Black Lives Matter movement became the cause at the forefront of American mentality since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death sparked national outrage and renewed energy into fighting to stop the disproportionate violence Black men, women, and children face at the hands of police.

Some motorists have turned violent against the protesters.

Video captured in both Denver and Los Angeles show vehicles driving through crowds of protesters. In Denver, the driver claims to have acted in self-defense after protesters surrounded his car. The driver claims that he did not intend to hurt anyone but reacted when protesters shattered his windshield.

In Louisville, police arrested the only Black woman in the Kentucky state legislature for protesting.

State Rep. Attica Scott was arrested for first-degree rioting, which is a class-D felony. The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department arrested 24 people Thursday night while protesting the decision not to charge the officers. Rep. Scott was arrested with other and charged with first-degree rioting and two misdemeanors for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse.

“Our call to action is to continue to make sure that the city of Louisville understands that we will not go away, that we will continue to demand the defunding of police and the dismantling of this police department because it’s corrupt from the inside out, from the bottom to the top,” Scott told NPR before the grand jury decision. “And it cannot continue to function in the way that it does.”

Taylor’s death has mobilized the nation with celebrities and politicians calling for justice.

The fight for racial justice and a systemic change to our justice and policing systems is ongoing. The people are tired of being scared and are taking a stand with their protests.

If you are out there protesting, send us your videos and photos so we can see your activism in action!

READ: Oprah Winfrey Honors Breonna Taylor With Historic O Magazine Cover

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JLo Introduces Her Nibling, Brendon In New Short Film ‘Draw With Me’ And It’s A Must Watch

Entertainment

JLo Introduces Her Nibling, Brendon In New Short Film ‘Draw With Me’ And It’s A Must Watch

JLo / Instagram

Jennifer Lopez has been wildly busy as of late – and that’s all despite a global pandemic. The Hustlers star attempted a takeover of the New York Mets baseball team with her husband A-Rod, she’s launching her own beauty line, and continues to push out grade-A social media content that keeps her fans begging for more.

Although she’s been busy, she still found the time to support her nibling – who has created a short film about how art was a lifeline for them when coming out. She used the term, which is a gender-neutral alternative for a niece or nephew, when discussing her sister Leslie Lopez’s child, Brendan Scholl (who is transgender and uses they/them pronouns).

Jennifer Lopez has introduced the world to her nibling Brendon and their new short film.

In a video posted to her Instagram TV channel, JLo introduced the film Draw With Me. She’s supporting the short film by her nibling which is about “accepting change and challenges with love, knowing when we do –everything is possible. Please enjoy the first 5 minutes of this incredible story. Stay tuned for the full documentary at film festivals worldwide and coming soon on VOD. A film by @ithakafilms @marcomaranghello @lyndalopez08,” she says in the post.

During her introduction, she explained, “Draw With Me is a short film about a transgender youth and their journey of coming out to their family, and also engaging with their art to help them cope with the feelings they were having during this time.”

She continued on to say, “The film is important and timely in its story and message, and can have a huge impact on those of us who watch and experience what Brendon and their family is going through in this time of acceptance and admission. It’s a story very close to my heart, because it was a family affair… because Brendon is my nibling.”

In the film, Brendon tells the very important and timely story of their coming out and coming to terms with their identity.

After JLo’s brief introduction, there’s a short five-minute preview of the film, featuring Brendon telling their coming out story. “It was in eighth grade when I finally felt comfortable with saying that I’m trans,” they said. As their mom Leslie explained in the film, “You’re talking about your identity as a person. Sexual preference has to do with who you go to bed with, and your identity is who you go to bed as.”

Brendon continued: “I’m just hit with how lucky I am in terms of the family and friends. Titi Jen made that post where she used the right pronouns. It felt really nice to have a family member in a very public way show their support, makes me appreciate things other people will do for me and for anyone else who’s struggling.”

They also share some very dark moments that illustrates how important films like ‘Draw With Me’ really are.

When talking about their lowest moment in the five-minute clip, Brendon says, “The darkest point was definitely when I wasn’t out to any of my teachers or my parents. I was worried about when I came out, that would be like the last straw, so to speak.” The family then reflect upon the night that Brendon very sadly tried to take their own life.

After this, Leslie says, came a turning point, “When it finally hit me, like, ‘Oh my God, my kid just trying to kill themself’, it just hit me. When you finally get to the acceptance part, then you realise it’s not about you. This is about my child.”

And when aunt Lynda asked Brendon about advice they would give to someone who has never had a trans person in their life, their message was clear. “The best thing I can say is just believe them. I shouldn’t have to be scared to tell people who I am,” they said. “If they don’t like me because I’m trans then it’s their loss. I’m not going to change myself just because this one person doesn’t like it.”

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