I became apart of The Mahogany Project, Inc. officially during ‘Black Trans Empowerment Week’ in 2018, so this week feels all parts celebratory and special to me on so many levels.  Both as an anniversary to an organization I pride myself on being a part of, as well as an annual reminder of how important it is to praise and revel in black TGNCNB life. 



2019 was my first anniversary with the Mahogany Project, Inc.  And with a week of events of The Mahogany Project, Inc. that included a ‘Trans Empowerment & Alliance Party’, a spoken word event, a documentary screening, and of course TDOR (Trans Day of Remembrance), our ‘Black Trans Empowerment Week was a weeklong series of events both observing and commemorating trans lives that have been lost but also black trans lives within the community, really doing the work within the community.  


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Black Trans Empowerment Week (BTEW) was, to me, an event you wait all year for.  An event you plan looks and outfits for (yes, I am “that type of girl”).  A community family reunion.  Not only was I hanging out and working with people within the community that I both respected and knew, it was also an opportunity to make new acquaintances and meet new people.  Just as the week ended last year, I was excited to start planning the week for 2020.  


Then the country was hit with Covid-19, a pandemic unlike any that most us have ever seen or experienced within our lifetime.  Covid-19 changed the way we interact and socially engage; forcing the world to socially distance and quarantine for safety.  In-person events were almost all cancelled.  Those not cancelled had to be reimagined in this new virtual, socially distant landscape society had to adjust to.  That included ‘Black Trans Empowerment Week’.  


Even with all of this, BTEW was moving forward.  It was a weeklong of events bringing the community together to both celebrate and honor black TGNCNB life.  And this year, more than ever, BTEW was needed.  


While we were in a pandemic, murders of black trans women soared at rates that were higher than previous years.  Just in June (known as the Pride month) alone, there were at least five known murders of black trans women.  Adding to that the continued isolation, as well as the economical and social impact it has on the TGNCNB community, BTEW aimed to bring community together, virtually, amid social distancing.   


The week’s events were hosted virtually, with various members of The Mahogany Project, Inc. taking hosting duties as well as various members of the community.  The Mahogany Project, Inc. also had the privilege of hosting events with other black-led LGBTQ organizations, including The Normal Anomaly and Southern Aids Coalition.  



The week kicked off with a movie night screening of the amazing documentary, ‘Man-Made’ (about black trans-masculine life), and included our 4th Annual “Trans Empowerment & Alliance Party” (where we highlight and celebrate black TGNCNB folx within the community doing amazing activism work), “Dear Marsha” (our spoken word event), “Trans-Focused” (a resource fair), “Self-Preservation” (a day of holistic wellness), a special ‘community check-in’ edition of the podcast “In Living Colors”, “Trans*Act” (a black TGNCNB led Happy hour), and culminated in the Trans Day of Remembrance. 


While we still engaged in social distance, we used social media and online communications tools to interact with the community.  What these tools did was connect us not only with people around Houston, but also outside of Houston as well.  Streaming and recording the events allowed people to participate and take in the events within the safety of their homes.  


What I enjoyed about the events, besides the execution and awesome group of people involved in the execution, was just how intentionally the efforts were made to make sure that community stayed connected.  That connection was important, especially as we lost a very important pillar of the trans community, Monica Roberts, weeks before BTEW.  BTEW became a testament of how far the community has come and the work that we’ve done.  The “Trans Empowerment & Alliance Party” was a way for The Mahogany Project, Inc. to give flowers back to those in the trenches, doing the work.  


I also loved the diversity of the events.  BTEW aimed at being holistic; really having events that cater to various aspects of black TGNCNB life.  The events ranged from a ‘happy hour’ (“Trans*Act”) to an event focused on meditation and yoga. 



Our Black Trans Empowerment Week coincides with Trans Awareness Week.  Trans Awareness Week, the week leading up to Trans Day of Remembrance, strives to not only bring light to TGNCNB light, but also memorialize victims of trans violence.  


When I think of both Black Trans Empowerment Week, Trans Awareness Week, and what that means for me, the first words that come to mind are “visibility” and “representation”.  Visibility and representation are important for me, as a black woman of trans experience.  We are almost always represented to the world in death, with only our struggles being highlighted.  It is crucial and imperative that there are different types of representation of the TGNCNB community, especially the black TGNCNB.  It is important they see us succeeding, striving, fighting, winning, living; not just dying.  It is also important that the world knows and understands that the trans experience is not a monolith.  We do not look alike, all identify the same, and our journeys are both unique and valid. 


The downside to visibility is that the more visible the black TGNCNB community is, the more susceptible we are to violence and attacks.  As our visibility has risen, so has anti-trans violence, as well as hatred-fueled anti-trans legislation. We have seen laws spring up that have attempted to roll back trans-supported healthcare and protective legal rights.  


For me, Black Trans Empowerment Week is a moment for us.  This year’s fitting theme, “When We Rise”, is suiting because we as a community are rising and declaring that our lives and livelihood matters.  We are not just doom and gloom.  While we can acknowledge the victims of anti-trans violence and the continued fight ahead of us, it is important to celebrate love and light, and give the community its flowers.  


And who doesn’t love flowers, and a good celebration.