It is with heavy hearts that Foundation for Louisiana mourns Ja’Quarius Taylor, a Black gay 17 year-old from rural Washington Parish, who was brutally murdered on January 13th. We are saddened and outraged at this act of violence. Our hearts go out to Ja’Quarius’s family and friends, who believe that he was murdered because of his race and sexual orientation. Our hearts also go out to our communities of Black LGBTQ Louisianans, LGBTQ Louisianans of color, and rural LGBTQ folks throughout the state who are especially feeling the weight of this loss.
There is much speculation around the case, including that the Klan was involved, that members of the Sherriff’s family were implicated, and that the Sherriff’s office has grossly mishandled the case. While these are not facts, whether true or not, this is what people believe. The intertwined history in Louisiana between the systems of slavery and incarceration illuminate why people are in fear. People are afraid, rightly so, because of this country’s history - and particularly this state’s history - of Jim Crow, emerging from slavery. Communities of color in Louisiana continue to be disappointed and mistrustful of the institutions that are supposed to protect them.
For LGTBQ people of color in our state, it can be a compounded fear. Race discrimination and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation together have a particularly devastating impact on people with intersecting identities. Black and brown LGBTQ communities continue to feel profound impact on their safety, well-being, and life outcomes, particularly those living in rural parishes. These systems of oppression limit access to basic resources and kill those from our most vulnerable communities.
In considering collective action, we have a shared responsibility to center these realities, and the daily struggles for survival that LGBTQ Louisianans face. In Orleans Parish, LGBTQ people of color are criminalized, detained, and incarcerated at higher rates than their straight and white peers, and 1 in 2 LGBTQ youth of color report experiencing harassment by NOPD. Over one-third of queer and trans Louisianans live in poverty. 85% of LGBTQ Louisiana youth report experiencing homophobia in their schools. Employment, safe and stable housing, consistent transportation, and affirming medical care remain difficult to access, particularly for our rural LGBTQ folks. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of the trans people who were murdered between 2017-19 lived in the South. Louisiana was home to five of them.
As we share these truths we affirm that safety for LGBTQ Louisianans will not come from increased policing. We cannot rely on the carceral system that has so severely compromised the freedom, ability to access basic needs, and survival of LGBTQ Louisianans. It also will not come solely from legal protections. Instead we know that the change LGBTQ Louisianans need will come from increased access to resources such as employment and safe housing, affirming medical care, reliable transportation, access to kinship networks and hubs for connection, and working towards a culture shift in our communities.
While today we mourn, and our work feels harder to do in this time of grief, we are determined to carry on. FFL will continue to fight for a Louisiana where it is safe for LGBTQ Louisianans to exist as their full selves. We believe that we can create a Louisiana where LGBTQ folks can live without fear. We believe that we can create a Louisiana where LGBTQ folks can access the resources needed to live and stay safe. We believe that we can create a Louisiana where it’s safe for young Black LGBTQ folks like Ja’Quarius to live full lives and know elderhood. We believe that we can create a Louisiana where queer and trans folks of color can claim, and have, and know joy as a birthright, as a destiny - from Monroe to the Coast. We believe that we can create it, but only if we have your help.
We move towards this vision in Ja’Quarius’s memory, and in memory of all LGBTQ Louisianans we have lost. We especially move towards this vision for future generations of LGBTQ Louisianans. We are so deeply hopeful about the Louisiana we are creating together, and so deeply honored to create it with you.
For updates and additional information on how to support Louisiana’s LGBTQ communities contact Maria Cherry Rangel at firstname.lastname@example.org