Remembering Duanna Johnson

Duanna Johnson

Duanna JohnsonOn Wednesday, we informed you of the tragic murder of Duanna Johnson. Duanna, a 40 year-old African American transgender woman, was murdered early Monday morning in Memphis, Tennessee.

Duanna had become a symbol of resistance to prejudice and hate crimes. In February of this year, Duanna was picked up by Memphis police officers Bridges McRae and J. Swain. She was pinned down and beaten by the two men in a Memphis police jail after she refused to respond to anti-gay and anti-transgender slurs. The assault was captured on video, which aired on several regional newscasts. In an interview given to FOX 13 Duanna spoke about her experiences.
"As [Officer McRae] was calling me, he said ‘hey he-she, come over here'" Johnson told FOX 13 reporters, "I knew he couldn't be talking to me because that's not my name."
Duanna Johnson received national media attention this past June when she went public about the brutality she suffered at the hands of two Memphis Police Officers. She became "the public face of our community's campaign against racism, homophobia, and transphobia" according to a statement from the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. Tragically, Duanna did not live to see full justice served. On Monday Nov 10, according to news reports, Duanna was shot "execution style" between Hollywood and Staten Avenue in Memphis, Tenn. Duanna's murder has slowly been reported across Tennessee. Local Memphis stations FOX 13, WREG, and Eyewitness News all reported on her murder, as did the newspapers Nashville Scene, Commercial Appeal, and Memphis Flyer. The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC), the Human Rights Campaign, and the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center have all published press releases detailing their desire to have Duanna's murder investigated to the fullest extent of the law. GLAAD has been working with media professionals to ensure that coverage of the murder is handled with accuracy and fairness. TTPC also noted that Duanna's death is the third murder of a transgender person in Memphis in the last three years. All of the victims have been African American women. Independently, some media outlets have also called upon the state to include gender identity in Tennessee hate crimes laws. The Nashville Scene wrote:
"The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition is pushing a Hate Crimes Enhancement bill that would add gender identity and expression to the definition [of existing Hate Crimes laws]. We remain cautiously optimistic about what effect, if any, hate crime legislation would have."
Duanna Johnson took a bold stand against prejudice and violence when she went public with her story. Duanna's memory is being kept alive by the Stop Police Brutality Memphis coalition that organized in response to her attack. Members are currently lobbying the Memphis city council for sensitivity trainings for police officers. Media professionals are also assisting in memorializing Duanna by publishing locally concerning her story and her struggle to thrive. Duanna's lawyers have told news sources that they will continue to "fight for justice" on behalf of Duanna. Duanna's murder occurred just days before the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The Day of Remembrance is observed on the 20 of November and honors the lives of transgender people lost to hatred and prejudice. According to the International Transgender Day of Remembrance website, there have been 15 known murders nationally this year.