Saturday, March 26, 2005

Follow the Vanishing Check

Photograph by Jane Therese for The New York Times

Larry Lyons, who is 23, vividly remembers the Saturday mornings when his mother would write checks to pay the family's bills, dispatching him to the landlord with one for the rent. When he was in sixth grade, she taught him to balance a checkbook.

What he has more trouble remembering is the last time he wrote a check himself.

"I don't think there are any bills for which I use a paper check," said Mr. Lyons, a graduate student in literature at Princeton. "It's much easier to be able to point and click and make a payment."

Mr. Lyons and other young adults may belong to the first check-free generation as they choose to handle transactions almost entirely by debit card, credit card and computer. The number of checks written in the United States peaked sometime in the mid-1990's; it has been falling precipitously for the last four years, according to the Federal Reserve. At the same time, the number of electronic payments has risen swiftly.

By JENNIFER A. KINGSON Published: March 26, 2005.
Read the complete article here.
(PS: thanks to Margaret and Merv for bringing the publishing of the article to my attention.)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

N.Y. man's killer at large; vigil planned

A vigil is scheduled for Friday [March 25th] in Brooklyn to honor Rashawn Brazell's memory. The event will take place at the Nostrand Avenue subway stop, above the tunnel where some of the young man's remains were found.

Larry D. Lyons II, a blogger who has actively followed the case, told the PlanetOut Network he is going to the vigil because he wants to be part of "the symbolic act."

"In gathering at the site where Rashawn's body parts were found, we are saying, 'Our lives matter. Our bodies matter. Despite the inattention of the mainstream media, we will not allow ourselves to be invisible. Despite our marginalization, we have found strength within ourselves. We are a community of compassionate, loving individuals, and we will not stand to watch one more life fall by the wayside,'" Lyons said.

Tom Musbach, PlanetOut Network
published Thursday, March 24, 2005

Read the full story here.
Find more information on the vigil here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Rashawn Brazell Collective is born.

Last night, an assemblage of concerned citizens met with representatives from several community-based organizations in Brooklyn to discuss how we might best organize our efforts to mobilize in response to the brutal murder of Rashawn Brazell.

The heated dialogue and debate that arose last night spoke and continues to speak volumes about how intimately the murder has affected each of us, challenging us as individuals and as a diverse collective to honor our differences while we continue to heal, to mourn, to strategize and to minister to the needs of the community. In this spirit, the (tentatively named) Rashawn Brazell Collective (RBC) succeeded in outlining the need for two separate but related events that will address the needs of the community.

The first event is a community forum that will allow the public and the police to engage in a dialogue about the progress being made in the case and the ways in which the community can further their efforts. Many members of the RBC feel it necessary to express the urgency of the case to the police, noting how so many similar cases have gone unsolved in the past. The event also aims to solicit tips from the public that may aid the police and to create greater visibility for the case by engaging the press and political leaders.

The second event is a community memorial service to honor Rashawn's life and to mourn his death. We purpose this event to serve as a means for the community to show its support to Rashawn's family directly while also providing a space for concerned individuals and organizations to grieve the loss of Rashawn. Further, the event may also connect Rashawn's family and friends with the counseling resources being made available by the organizations involved.

In order to coordinate the details of these events most efficiently, the RBC formed two committees that will be in communication as they work independently to realize both goals. GMAD, which has taken a leadership role in producing the Brooklyn Community Forum, lists their contact information here on the organization's website. The NYSBGN is guiding the "Remembering Rashawn" community memorial, and invites those interested in assisting in its planning to email

I encourage/admonish/challenge/beg you to get involved. Helplessness and hopelessness are things of the past. We are mobilizing and making progress, and we cannot do it without you.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


You heard Rashawn's story. You identified with him. You were shocked. You were bewildered. You were scared. You were disappointed. In New York's tri-state area, you saw the media's cruel sensationalism. Elsewhere, you saw nothing at all.

You blogged. You lit candles. You said prayers. You vowed to do something. You called for action.

Well, for those of you who want to show Rashawn's murderer, the media and the world that you refuse to sit idly by while another tradegy goes under-reported and unsolved, there are a number of ways for you to get involved and make a difference. The following list represents concrete ways for you to stand up and address the injustices at play. We needn't feel powerless any longer.

1. Today in Manhattan:

Blogger Troy Notorious has worked with Cody Williams to organize an impromptu dialogue about how we can respond to the tragedy. They have extended an invitiation all inviduals who take issue with how the media has covered the story and "demand that the New York City police place a high priority on this case". The meeting is tonight, Thursday, March 10th, at Day-O's Resturant in the NYC's West Village in at 6:00pm.
103 Greenwich Ave
New York 10014(At 12th St)

2. Sunday in Brooklyn:

This Sunday, March 13th, 2pm-7pm, Black Funk will be the site of a community gathering and ritual to remember Rashawn, offer healing and comfort to the spirit of Rashawn given the violence of his transition and the desecration of his body, offer healing to each other as we acknowledge the pain this murder has caused in the community, pray for justice, and discuss community action.
241 Taaffe Place #209
At the corner of DeKalb Avenue in Bed Stuy/Clinton Hills
G train to Classon Avenue;
B38 to Classon Avenue;
B44 or B48 to DeKalb Avenue

3. Sunday, March 20th in Brooklyn:

The Sakia Gunn Film Project fundraiser. Sakia Gunn was a 15-year-old African American lesbian woman who was stabbed to death early May 11, 2003. Chas. B. Brack, Executive Producer/Director of the film calls it "a story of the continuing invisibility of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered people of color". It is imperative, therefore, that we support the project and acknowledge the interconnections of Gunn and Brazell's lives and brutal murders.

I am attending this event and am willing to pay the $15 donation for anyone who might be interested but doesn't have the money to spare. So, no excuses -- come dance with me, dine with me and let's enjoy the film together! For those of you who are not in the NYC area, you can support the project by making a charitable donation here.
Sunday March 20th at 3:00pm.
1027 Atlantic Avenue [Near Franklin Avenue]
Food, Fun and Dancing!
Screen starts promptly at 4:56pm.

4. March 22 (tentatively)
The New York State Black Gay Network shares our concern about Rashawn's murder and are currently planning a community forum in Brooklyn, the borough that Brazell called home. The goals of the forum, as I understand them, would be as follows:
a. To provide the commuity with updates on the case;
b. To connect the community with Brazell's friends and family;
c. To allow organizations (think NYSBGN, AVP, GMAD, POCC, ALP) to enter into direct dialogue with individuals in the community about how best to shape our response.
d. To provide a forum for safety education

5. Anytime, Anyplace
Bernie, a fellow blogger, has provided a WONDERFUL list of 5 ways to translate your anger, outrage and sorrow into acts that "raise the level of public awareness about the murder of Rashawn Brazell and create the type of dynamic tension needed to get authorities to agressively pursue this case". He has also provided links to a number of television stations, radio stations, and newspapers as well as the city council member responsible for the district where Brazell resided, so that you may contact them directly to demand action. Write on Bernie! We all appreciate your vigillance.

Rod, a blogger and veteran newsie, has provided the direct telephone lines for 3 prominent newsrooms, allowing you to bypass receptionists. He instructs: "You should call, be very polite and for the assignment editor or manager. Say you'd like to see more coverage of the Brazell investigation and you're very concerned." Thanks Rod for helping us make our voices heard, literally!

Well, there you have it folks; several concrete ways for you to move from anger to action. Regardless of your budget, geographical location, religious stance or literary prowess, there is a way for our to get involved and to make a change. Keep me posted in your successes and I'll do the same.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

rashawn brazell, the blog movement

Honestly, my impulse is to continue to re-post Saturday's blog about the brutal murder and dismemberment of a 19-year old black man every single day until the world starts to value human life, until the media starts to value black bodies, until the Judeo-Christian tradition starts to value non-heterosexuals.

Is anything changing? Can you point to some legislation on hate crimes, some re-doubled effort to dialogue with the urban LGBT community about safe dating tips, some civil rights organization staging a public protest of how our murders are handled irresponsibly and disrespectfully in the mainstream media (if covered at all)?

Please tell me that you can.
Please tell me that you can.
Please tell me that you can.

'Cause there's a growing body of Americans who die inside when we learn that our bodies do not matter. Gay and straight, black and white, young and old... a part of us dies when we remain silent about these injustices.

So, to everyone who left a comment on Saturday's post: Thank you. This situation continues to fuck me up, and your words, your prayers, your energies mean the world to me (and the community mourners) right now.

Thank you to everyone who's blogged about it:
Donald (2 entries)
Merv* (2 entries)
Club 3200

For the bloggers who share our sorrow and outrage (particularly those of you who responded to the last post), I ask that you devote a blog entry to Rashawn. Steven ranted, Donald wrote a poem, Merv called for action, Club 3200 merely sympathized and provided a link for readers to learn more for themselves. Your post can take any number of forms, what's important is that this story gets out and its injustices are not silenced.

So, this is your call to action.
Matt, with your superior intellect and creative engagement of agency
Pome, with your beautifully striking poetic voice
BruthaFree, with your keen insight and candid introspection
Jazz, with your overwhelming capacity for empathy
My sister Soulful, with your fiery command of the language
My brother Aries, with your thoughtfulness and candor
Shawn, with your glowing spirit and creativity

Basquiat, Starfoxx, Solitaire, Mama JunkYard, Dayrell, Phillipe, Malik, Jaqua, Heru, Bernie, Diggs, Ashon, Gian, PonderingNegro, G. Cornelius Harris, Nikki, HumanityCritic, and all of the other amazingly talented writers whose blogs I enjoy, this is for you, fam.

Needless to say, this is not for me. If you think my motives are self-serving, feel free to ignore the call for action. If you realize that visibility and audibility are key, and that blogs have the ability to serve as a key weapon in the fight against marginalization and injustice, well... write on. .
I love you for experiencing this with me and I look forward to the harvest.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

rashawn brazell

Young Gay Man Hacked Apart
Body parts in subway: Human arm, legs in bloody bag
Torso found in Brooklyn
Cops Identify
Body Parts Found In Subway Tunnel
Detectives Press Hunt for
Brutal Killer
Body parts cut with precision

They are mis-pronouncing your name
Mom told 'em about your girlfriends
But they called you flamboyant anyway
They even talked about how you loved Ashanti
They want to quote us, but we still on the low
You know how it is in the game
Shit, you got faggots everywhere
Writing poems and lighting candles and shit

But these reporters are mis-pronouncing your name
Calling you shit that Mom wouldn't even recognize
They call you Parts
They call you Victim
They call you Human remains
And it remains inhumane
But everybody know
If you were a "white aspiring actress"
Shit would be solved by now.

The media keeps cutting you up. Making you into so many things. Cautionary tale of the terrible terrible DL. The ills of the internet. The calamity of the chat line. The dangers of the tryst. They want you to warn us. To scare us. You work better than the new strain. You capture the young audience.

This shit hurts my heart and makes me dizzy. Makes me mad and makes me wonder. Why isn't Oprah talking about you? Where's the resounding moral outrage? Where the fuck is your ribbon?

It's hard living without you. Everyday, I read these sites and scan these papers. Each of them snapshot a black boy "handsome and well-liked" never making it to destination. You were always going somewhere. Made arrangements to meet a man and met your maker. Who are we to say too soon? Maybe God was saving you the pain of writing elegy to the next Rashawn Brazell. The next "ambitous young man" to go from best friend to body parts in the space of a weekend.

Shawn, Wish we could just fast-forward to when you become a banner at pride, an award at GMAD or a scholarship at Harvey Milk. 'Cause this shit hurts and you ain't here to help us laugh through it.