Trans*Act Featured Guest | Black Trans Empowerment Week 2020
Mike Webb (they/them) is a nonbinary sociopolitical activist & HIV activist from Houston’s Third Ward. In 2019, Mike made history by becoming Houston Pride’s first gender nonbinary grand marshal. As the first guest of Trans*Act, we asked them to discuss the importance of Black Trans Empowerment Week, started by The Mahogany Project in 2018. Black Trans Empowerment Week celebrates the life, legacy, and love of Black Trans people, specifically Black Women of Trans Experience.
We are living during times when it is more important than ever to celebrate and empower Black Trans lives. I am in awe of the leadership team of The Mahogany Project, Inc. along with the organization’s growth and impact on our Trans communities throughout Houston. Black Trans Empowerment Week and The Mahogany Project serve as inspiring examples of how we can advocate for Black Trans lives beyond progressive talking points by incorporating meaningful engagement, and frankly employment, of Black Trans folx. Especially, if our collective goal is to empower and organize the most impacted and underserved communities.
Too many times, through our well-meaning advocacy, we preach on how Black Trans Lives Matter. We have even evolved, “Black Lives Matter,” to include, “All Black Lives Matter,” in an effort to be inclusive of Queer and Trans Black communities. And I am eagerly looking forward to the moment when our leadership teams, organizing circles, and everyday actions are reflective of the values we preach. One of The Mahogany Project’s goals for our community is to ensure that Trans people are accurately reflected in the City of Houston’s HIV prevention services data systems along with how Harris County serves those of us living with HIV. Our Houston and County health departments preach all the time on how Black Trans Lives matter. When we practice what we preach, meaningful involvement of Black Trans lives would address the lack of Black trans employment in our Public Health systems on the executive, decision-making, levels.
Even though the City of Houston specifically has made significant progress relating to data collection, none of us can deny that our Black Trans communities would be greater prioritized and served by our Public Health systems if someone from a Black Trans experience was contributing to decisions around resources allocations and data collection parameters. As someone who is very open about living with HIV and being non-binary, I have personally experienced the systematic hostility of decision-making environments when one advocates for Black Trans lives. It is always when the decision making teams do not include someone who is directly connected to those experiences.
This is one of several reasons to highlight Black Trans Empowerment Week, our Black Trans community should be more than a tragic hashtag acknowledging our deaths; a goal should be to celebrate Black Trans lives and evolve our inclusion of Black Trans communities in meaningful ways. Simply put—because of organizations like The Mahogany Project and the Southern AIDS Coalition, we have made a lot of progress towards celebrating the life, legacy, and love of Black Trans people and Black Trans Empowerment Week helps us grow beyond the narrative into real action.