On Thursday, Nov. 12, people from across Syracuse filled the Syracuse University Warehouse auditorium to commemorate LaTeisha Green's life on the first anniversary of her death. Her parents, Roxanne Green and Albert Cannon, family members and a cross section of the community gathered so that the we could come together over our shared loss to grieve and celebrate in harmony with our humanity and our diversity.
LaTeisha Green was an African American transgendered woman who lived openly and proudly. She came out to her family at age 16 and from that declarative moment insisted on living in the way that she found true to her own existence and gender expression. LaTeisha's audacity to live freely in the world angered and probably frightened those at school and elsewhere who taunted and threatened her.
LaTeisha's young life was ended on Nov. 14, 2008 in a senseless act of gun violence.
Dwight DeLee, 22, and also African American, was charged with second degree murder as a hate crime for causing LaTeisha's death. This was the first hate crime prosecution in Onondaga County and New York State, and only the second in the United States for the death of a transgender person. In July 2009 DeLee was convicted by a jury of manslaughter as a hate crime. He was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 25 years to life imprisonment.
The Nov. 12 commemoration focused more on recalling LaTeisha's ebullient personality and courage than on the painful details that resulted in LaTeisha's death and the trial and the conviction of Dwight DeLee.
The program emphasized how we all can and must come together to embrace the diversity in all our communities.
The evening's three main themes -- celebration, information, and transformation -- provided opportunities to recall LaTeisha's importance to others, hear the voices of Syracuse's LGBT community about their journeys toward self-acceptance, experiences of homophobia, and work against violence, racism and homophobia. Participants were called to turn our sadness and anger into transformative action for a society of safety and peace for all.