Poe Black, ‘warrior’ trans man who bravely fought for minorities, brutally murdered

Poe Black poses to the camera in a black vest

Poe Black, a “warrior” trans man who bravely fought for Two Spirit, Indigenous folk in Slab City, California, has been murdered. He was 21.

Black, born in Nashville, Tennessee, lived in a browbeaten patch of Niland known as Slab City, an out-of-the-way settlement frequently occupied by people experiencing homelessness and those seeking to simply unplug from the world.

According to PGH Lesbian, Black was a member of the Wyandotte Nation and was “mixed Indigenous”.

Black’s body was found by authorities in the Coachella Canal on 11 May, with the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office ruling his death as a homicide, the office wrote in a Facebook post.

Details of his death remain scarce, with friends claiming that he was “stabbed seven times, including several times in the genitals, and then his body dumped in a nearby canal” on 7 May.

Across his social media, Black identified as trans-masculine and as a trans man and regularly shared updates on his transition to both inspire and educate his followers. Documents from the Sheriff’s Department described him as non-binary.

A spirited artist, Black regularly sold his frantic, abstract artwork that ranged from still skulls to serene beaches. To Black, art-making was almost therapeutic – one painting, made of warmly raw, sweeping lines and question marks, was named “This is Hope”.

He also sold his designs on online marketplaces such as RedBubble, his wares including anti-fascist stickers and “ACAB” face masks.

In the death of Poe Black, activists grapple with the ‘staggering’ violence

Black was remembered by Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA, an advocacy group, as a passionate activist who, even through his own lows, sought to uplift and fight for the people around him.

“During his life he had suffered so much for the causes of justice for Native people, for Black people, for LGBT+ people, and anyone who needed to be stood up for,” the group wrote in a Facebook post.

“He was truly loved and he truly loved people. He was a warrior.”

His death did not spur the media’s regular wrap on the passing of trans Americans of glib deadnaming and misgendering. Instead, it was almost silence.

Unsettled activists wrote of their alarm that Black’s passing was seemingly, they said, ignored.

In the wake of his death, a revelation that only becomes harder and harder to grasp – Black is at least the 28th trans, gender non-conforming person slain  in the US this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s tally.

Activists warn that the figure – already nauseating in its height – is no doubt even higher. The press and police regularly misgender trans homicide victims, failing to grasp the full extent of the perils trans Americans face.

In less than six months the community has mourned: Tyianna AlexandraSamuel Edmund Damián ValentínBianca BankzDominique JacksonFifty BandzAlexus BraxtonChyna CarrilloJeffrey ‘JJ’ Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond ‘Kyree’ SandersRayanna PardoDominique LuciousJaida PetersonRemy FennellTiara BanksNatalia Smüt, Iris SantosTiffany ThomasJahaira DeAlto BalenciagaKeri WashingtonSophie Vásquez, Danny HensonWhispering Bear Spirit, Serenity Hollis, Oliver ‘Ollie’ Taylor and Thomas Hardin.

In the deaths of Aidelen Evans and Natasha Keianna, investigators have not ruled out homicide, but details remain sparse at the time of writing. Haven Bailey was also fatally shot by police last month.

“In May alone, we now know of the deaths of at least nine transgender or gender non-conforming people,” wrote HRC’s director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, Tori Cooper.

“This violence is staggering, and if it continues, we will record more cases of fatal violence against trans and gender non-conforming people this year than any prior year.

“As we continue to see unprecedented levels of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, everyone must speak out in support of trans lives.”

For now, Black’s passing has touched off an outpouring of grief among those who knew him. A private vigil was reportedly held in his memory in Tennessee.

“I miss this sweet person so much,” wrote a friend of Black’s on Facebook. “I can’t stop dreaming about him.”