Transgender women of color were the most predominant victims in violent acts against transgender people. (Photo Credit: ink drop via Adobe Stock)

The Lionel Lee Jr. Center for Wellness (LLCWellness) was founded by Reverend Sonja Lee in 2006. Since it was created, LLCWellness has worked hard to educate Charlotteans on mental health, community outreach and methods for providing basic needs assistance.

The State of Emergency (SOE) program was formed in collaboration with LLCWellness by owner of the Poor No More Store, Jermaine Nakia Lee, in 2019. SOE is co-led by the Transwomen of Color advisory team, which meets both online and in-person to assess the needs of transgender women of color in Charlotte. This program is funded in part by the United Way of Central Carolinas Unite Charlotte grant and donations from the community.

“The grant is geared towards creating a safer environment for transgender women of color through education, visibility and advocacy,” Lee explains. “Unite Charlotte reaches out to grassroots organizations typically overlooked for funding and The United Way of Central Carolinas is extremely helpful providing support throughout the funding cycle.”

Another goal of SOE is to create an emergency assistance fund that supports transwomen of color in critical situations. The funds will be used to secure basic needs such as food, clothing, medications, emergency lodging, security deposits for utilities, or to offset the costs of securing permanent housing.

Research was conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, which found that at least 44 gender-expansive individuals were violently killed in 2020 alone (bit.ly/3rlwqWr).

“Data about violence against transgender women can be difficult to find,” says Lee, “because it is often not recorded as being perpetuated against women but, rather, against ‘men.’”

Most of the transgender and non-binary persons murdered in 2020 were people of color and, even more predominantly, women of color. Visibility is a cornerstone of the State of Emergency program. Says Lee: “People are not responsive if they don’t see you, if they don’t hear you.”

To further emphasize visibility, SOE is creating a website and a magazine that will feature transgender women of color. These resources will be vastly celebratory, introducing women who have made strides for the LGBTQ and POC communities. Tremendous support in editing and designing these developments has made the goals of SOE much more tangible, according to Rev. Lee. The website and magazine are in the planning and designing stage, but the projected release date is sometime in mid-2021.

To donate to SOE, go to the Lionel Lee Jr. Wellness Center website (llcwellness.org), pay via Paypal and indicate in the notes that the funds are meant for the SOE program. Donations may also be sent via CashApp @$llcwellness2 or sent directly to the Lionel Lee Jr. Wellness Center at P.O. Box 242592, Charlotte, NC 28224.

Rev. Lee acknowledges the allies who have stepped up to aid the effort, confirming how integral they are to the process. “Their participation is greatly appreciated and incredibly necessary. Support is needed from the entire community, [from] both allies and our LGBTQ community to step up and answer this call to action.”

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