Trans Women of Color Collective founder visits RCAH as Wednesday Night Live guest

On February 24, 2016, Detroit native Lourdes Ashley Hunter returned to Michigan to speak about her personal and work experiences as a healer and academic in the transgender community. Hunter talked about founding the Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC) in Washington, D.C. and working as the Chief Operations Officer of Casa Rub LGBT Center.

In addition to speaking to more than 100 students at Wednesday Night Live, Hunter also visited Terese Monberg’s RCAH 111 course, “Listening for Legacies as a Method for Engagement.”

Lourdes Ashley Hunter grew up in the east side of Detroit, where her mother was heavily involved in the church as well as with the United Auto Workers Union. She says she was raised in an environment of grass roots organizing. At just 17, she was helping to educate LGBT youth about safe sex.

“It’s just a part of who I am and I never knew that it was called grass roots community organizing. I just thought it was what people in the community did. We fed each other, took care of each other,” Hunter said.

Moving to Washington D.C. by way of New York, Hunter has continued her work as a change agent through community building. Hunter started TWOCC after attending a vigil for a trans woman who was murdered in New York in 2013.

“We just came together in a room to hold each other and to lift each other up, and also to build community, to heal from trauma. And we would go out together to dinner, do our nails, go shopping, go to the park – things that society has told us we’re not entitled to. We’re not entitled to live our lives free from violence, we’re not entitled to enjoy our lives free from interrogations of our bodies, interrogation of our existences,” Hunter said. “Once we were able to develop that sisterhood and bond, we wanted to build something more, so we were able to create opportunities for people who were involved in the collective to speak at conferences and events. We held healing rallies and marches all across the globe to raise awareness around the violence that is happening.”

TWOCC staff work directly with affected youth as well as with the White House and Congress.

“Our goals are simple: to uplift the narratives and lived experiences of trans and gender nonconforming people of color while we build toward the collective liberation of all oppressed people,” Hunter said.

To do that, TWOCC employs a number of strategies – everything from meeting with and encouraging young people to fundraising to conducting research.

In all of her work, Hunter emphasizes the importance of building community.

“Folks need to be supported and they need to be affirmed. They need to have their coattail pulled when there are issues and challenges and I think that’s important. Community is the root of one’s ability to be successful,” she said.

Hunter also offered up some simple but powerful advice for aspiring change agents:

“Wake up every day knowing your life has great purpose,” she said.

For more information on TWOCC or other resources, please contact Lourdes Ashley Hunter at lourdesashleyhunter@gmail.com.

Story by RCAH student Kelsey Block. Photos by Katie Wittenauer

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