Murder of Transgender Woman Goes Unmarked in Media

Whether it was writing poetry or organizing in her community, Nakhia Williams was an active and vocal member of her hometown of Louisville KY. Williams, known as Nikki to her friends, proudly attended the 2005 Transsistahs-Transbrothas Conference where she met with other transgender people of African descent. Through her friendly attitude and genuine love of people, Williams touched many lives.
Nakhia Williams, a 29 year-old transgender woman murdered in Louisville, KY. Image courtesy Monica Roberts.

Nakhia Williams, a 29 year-old transgender woman murdered in Louisville, KY. Image courtesy Monica Roberts.

On August 20th, a few days shy of her 30th birthday, however, Williams was brutally murdered by a number of men outside her Louisville, KY apartment. She died on August 30th. Williams' death prompted two disrespectful and inaccurate reports from FOX affiliate WDRB and CBS affiliate WLKY.   Kentucky Fairness Alliance (KFA) members and GLAAD staff reached out to both stations multiple times offering feedback and recommendations on accurate coverage of transgender people. Neither station agreed to accurately reflect Williams' identity or honor her life. Over a month later, no other media outlets have covered her murder or followed up on any outcomes of the ongoing police investigations. As we observe the 10 year remembrance of Matthew Shepard’s tragic murder, the silence the media has taken around Williams’ death is troubling. While it is still not clear if her death was the result of a bias-motivated crime, what is clear is that media outlets across the country missed the mark by failing to investigate her murder. KFA published a press release detailing their desire to have Williams’ murder investigated to the fullest extent, and to have it covered inclusively and accurately by media outlets. KFA also called upon the state to include gender identity in Kentucky hate crimes laws. GLAAD has published a Call to Action urging fair, accurate and inclusive coverage of Williams’ death and is calling on local papers to report not only her death, but the lack of accurate media coverage. One of Nakhia’s many friends was prominent African American transgender leader Monica Roberts, author of the Transgriot blog and a coordinator of the Transsistahs-Transbrothas Conference. Roberts attended Williams’ wake and wrote the following on her blog:
“It was hard looking at Nikki peacefully sleeping in that white casket…there were more than a few tears shed, but simmering under the surface this morning was anger. Anger over the way she was taken from us, and anger over the disrespectful way the story was covered by the local media.”
Through these initiatives and through pressure from community members, media professionals will hopefully cover the story of Nakhia Williams with the same accuracy and fairness that has been shown in the media coverage concerning the recent murder of Angie Zapata, a transgender woman from Greeley, Colorado. While the case remains open, Williams’ murderers have yet to be found.  It is important for community memebers and allies to do everything possible to bring attention to this senseless crime and to ensure that her story is presented by the media with dignity and respect. Nakhia Williams worked throughout her life to bring attention to the lives of transgender people, and her legacy must be respected in her death.