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Lateisha's Flowers: County's first hate crime murder sparks continuing response

(Mary Alice Smothers, Mark Cannon and Roxanne Green hold the banner they'll carry in this year's Gay Pride Parade on June 20th. Photo by Ellen Leahy.)

On the evening of last November 14th, Lateisha Green sat in a car outside a Westside house party at 411 Seymour St. with her brother Mark Cannon and a third person. Another young man walked up to the car and shot Green, 22, and Cannon, then 18, with a .22-calibre rifle. Mark Cannon managed to drive the 13 blocks home to 404 Arthur St., where an ambulance took both to Upstate Medical Center. Green died and police arrested Dwight DeLee, 20, initially charging him with second-degree murder.

But Green -- legally Moses Cannon -- was transgender and living as a woman. County grand jury testimony that this was a motive for DeLee led to the additional indictment on April 4th for murder as a hate crime. Arraigned on June 1, DeLee remains in custody pending $250, 000 bail. Last Thursday Judge William Walsh upheld the hate crime charge -- Onondaga County's first application of that statute in a murder case -- and ruled the trial will go forward in mid-July.

A parade banner and a "safe space"

Also last Thursday, Mary Alice Smothers was getting ready for a noon meeting of the Westside Arts Council at the Wyoming St. P.E.A.C.E. office, where she works. The new council recently held its first event -- the successful lowrider bike showcase at the Shonnard St. Boys & Girls Club -- and meets monthly at P.E.A.C.E. Smothers, a Westsider for 36 years, recently recovered from eye surgery and put together a new program to provide lunch, cards and bingo, and talks on health insurance for neighborhood seniors.

Before the meeting, Smothers unfolded a banner she'd been working on with Green's mother in memory of Lateisha Green, with cut-out rainbow fabric letters appliqu (c)d on a black background. Quilt-like, it echoes those long-ago quilt codes that once signaled safe passage to others escaping murderous pursuers along the Underground Railroad. If Syracuse has its Matthew Shepard now, our gay youth of color may have a pair of Harriet Tubmans.

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