SAKIA GUNN, A PANEL DISCUSSION, & SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER!
So this evening I had the opportunity and the fortune of being invited to attend and speak at a a memorial about the late Sakia Gunn. Following a documentary about Sakia Gunn I was allowed to moderate a discussion about the documentary and issues that pertain to the LGBTQIA community.
Who is Sakia Gunn you might ask?
Sakia was the oldest of four children born to Latoya Gunn. She did well in school and was a star basketball player at Westside High School in Newark, New Jersey. At eleven years old, Sakia sat on the front porch with her mother and told her simply, “I don’t like boys.” In her own way, that was how Sakia came out to her mother. Though Sakia lived in Newark, she enjoyed hanging out in New York City on Christopher Street, where young lesbians and gays can be found on the piers until the late hours of the night walking, talking, listening to music, and dancing.
On Saturday May 10th, 2003, Sakia and many of her friends went down to those piers. After an evening of fun they returned to Newark on the train and Sakia and her friends were waiting for the bus at the corner of Broad & Market Streets. Two men approached the bus stop and were attempting to proposition Sakia and her friends. They denied the men’s advances and told them PROUDLY, “We’re gay!” One of the men, Richard McCullough, began yelling deragatory statements from the car at Sakia and her friends. McCullough and his friends got out of the car and attacked the three young girls.
McCullough stabbed Sakia in the back of her neck. Sakia fell to the ground. Her friend to push her to get up, but she couldn’t. The girls flagged down a passerby who took them to the hospital. As they pulled into the hospital Sakia died in her friends arms.
Current laws in most states do not include sexual orientation as the protected category under state hate crimes. Richard McCullough thus only received 20 years after pleading guilty to aggravated assault.
Sakia Gunn should not have been approached by a 30 year old man. Saki Gunn should not have been attacked. Sakia Gunn should not be dead. And the fact that she is dead angers me. It should anger us all. Is there no justice in the world for a young woman merely standing at a bus stop with her friends?
While watching a documentary about Sakia Gunn I was truly changed. I went into the panel discussion prepared to talk about certain issues but upon finishing the video I was sent in a totally different direction. The video and the participants in it as well as the love and care that went into the production really resonated with me. Sakia, her family, her friends, they all spoke to me on a truly visceral level.
When it cam time for the panel discussion I was truly appreciative to be able to lead a discussion of the documentary and other issues pertaining to the LGBTQIA community. To me there is nothing greater than speaking truth to power and having it received by people who care. There was a lot of passion and energy and open and honest conversation in that room this evening and I was truly benefited from having been there. I am of the strong belief that there is power and I mean real power in good conversation. Tonight in that room we in our recognizing Sakia Gunn, and the conversation that followed, conquered speechlessness. And I was truly thankful to be a part of it.
I will never forget Sakia Gunn and the thousands of LGBTQIA teens who suffer like her. We all have a responsibility to make sure that no more children die early at the hands of hatred.
RIP Sakia Gunn.
May 26, 1987 – May 11, 2003.
Read more about Sakia at: http://www.sakiagunnfilmproject.com/