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Kalamazoo College 2015 Global Prize Finalist: Trans Women of Color Collective

Kalamazoo College has announced the ten finalists for its 2015 Global Prize for Transformative Social Justice Leadership, a juried competition hosted by the College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Finalists will present during a Prize Weekend, Oct. 9-11, and one project will receive a $25,000 prize. Below is one in a series of profiles on the ten finalists.

We invite individuals who are familiar with this project to use our Community Input form to comment on its “grassrootedness” and transformative leadership practices. Input will be submitted to our jurors. Please see videos submitted by each finalist, as well as our rubric and other information about the Global Prize here.

Trans Women of Color Collective

The brutal murder of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old African-American transgender woman from Harlem, in August 2013 created a ripple effect in the lives of trans women of color in New York City. Her life and memory acted as the catalyst for the formation of the Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC).

TWOCC is a grassroots-funded global initiative created to offer opportunities for trans people of color, their families, and their comrades to engage in healing, foster kinship, and build community. The collective strives to educate and empower communities most disproportionately impacted by structural oppression through sharing skills, knowledge, and resources that build towards the collective liberation of all oppressed people.

TWOCC’s efforts have quickly grown. In the first six months of 2015, the group’s global initiatives were highlighted in more than 70 articles, and their Healing and Restorative Justice Institute (HRJI) has led multiple events in more than 15 cities in 10 U.S. states, and in Switzerland, and Norway. HRJI has held transformative workshops, lectures and capacity building sessions at colleges, universities and national LGBT Conferences, as well as led National LGBT conventions.

“There is a critical need for more trans people of color led initiatives that create opportunities to engage in healing and restorative justice as trans and gender nonconforming people of color are disproportionately impacted by structural oppression that is inextricably linked to physical violence, said Lourdes Ashley Hunter, a Detroit native and national director of TWOCC.

“By actively engaging in collective healing, cooperative economics, raising visibility and awareness around our lived experiences, educating and supporting the learning and growth of our comrades, investing in lives and legacies of our youth, and working towards dismantling systems of oppression, we are creating the change we seek.”

Hunter has felt first-hand the injustice often poured on trans and gender nonconforming people of color. Hunter has been homeless and been attacked. Having a support network has been incredibly important for Hunter, something they want to extend to all trans and gender nonconforming individuals looking for help navigating through a life sometimes fraught with peril.

“Our comrades – families, parents, friends and partners – all are all impacted by structural oppression as it manifests itself in every aspect of our lives,” Hunter said. “We must invest in healing and restorative justice if we are ever going to achieve collective liberation. That’s what we are trying to achieve, here at home and around the world.”