Vigil honors trans women of color murdered in 2017

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COLUMBIA - Community members came together for a vigil Friday night to remember the transgender women of color who were killed this year.

Just in the month of February, five black transgender women were murdered in the U.S.

Chyna Gibson, JoJo Striker, KeKe Collier, Jaquarrias Holland and Ciara McElveen's photos were displayed in front of the crowd throughout the vigil. 

One of the event organizers Sheena Coffee said they felt it was time someone did something to help the cause. 

"I felt really angry, and just disgusted and upset when it felt like every single day I saw another black trans woman being murdered," Coffee said. "I just wanted something visible, something tangible to happen to acknowledge that." 

Several people spoke at the vigil, including several members of the transgender community. They shared words from the families of those killed, and spoke of their personal experiences with discrimination in the community. 

"We really just wanted to be representative of those who are most affected, are most targeted by the violence that brought us here," Coffee said. 

Gabby Haynes, a black transgender woman, spoke at the vigil along with other members of the QTPOC (Queer Transgender People of Color). She said the support meant a lot, but there was still a lot more work to do. 

"We're not here to just mourn the people that were lost," Haynes said. "We're here to actively advocate for people who exist now and will continue to exist in the future." 

Haynes talked about her own discrimination as a transgender woman of color. She said she is harassed everyday just for how she portrays herself to the world. 

"You have people who won't like you for your race, and you have people who won't like you for your sexual orientation or your gender identity," Haynes said. "It's just really hard to deal with that." 

Coffee said there is a lot of great work being done, but even more can be done by those in a position of privilege. 

"When we call out our families, when we call out our friends, when we call out each other, when we're open to doing things that are scary, that can involve being critiqued and messing up," Coffee said. "That's one part of the real day-to-day work that desperately needs to be done."