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  • Ōmeteōtl Cītlali De Tiêu

As of this morning, the COVID-19 death toll is approximately 500,000 people in the United States, according to The New York Times. With these staggering numbers, it is imperative that we all weigh the risks and rewards of the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, Black and Native American communities were disproportionately affected by COVID-19. When we combine this with the fact that Trump era federal legislation ruled that it was legal to discriminate against transgender people for ventilator use, COVID becomes even more lethal to Trans People of Color, and even more so, Black Trans People.

There have been several myths circulating the COVID-19 vaccine. A reason for this may be that it feels too good to be true - is the end to this pandemic truly coming? This end, while in sight, can also be quickly stolen from us if we don’t act with urgency in getting vaccinated .


It is important to recognize the obscene amount of violence that has been delivered to People of Color in the past through experimentation for immunization and other procedures in American history. That being said, however, these vaccines are no longer in the experimental trials, and it are highly effective.


The question we really need to be asking ourselves is, which is more dangerous? The vaccine or COVID-19? According to our Black Trans staff, the vaccine is much safer, and this is what our staff had to say:


pictured left to right: Jasmine Bright (She/Her/Hers), Director of Healthcare Services; Ayotunde Khyree Ikuku (They/Them/Theirs), Advocacy Program Co-director ; Cloud Johnson (They/Them/Theirs), Respite Data Assistant


Were you nervous about the COVID 19 vaccine?


Jasmine Bright (Jassie): “HELL YESS!!!! I wasn't going to get it at all.”


Cloud Johnson (Cloud): “I wasn’t particularly nervous about the vaccine, but more so anxious and excited.”


Ayotunde Khyree Ikuku (Ayo): “I wasn’t nervous but I was honoring a sense of caution and acceptance simultaneously which turned into relief.”


Why were you nervous about the COVID-19 vaccine?


Jassie: “Well it felt like a set up. It seemed rushed and felt like I could die from taking it or it was going to affect my body in a negative way.”


Cloud: “I was excited to get the vaccine because I was ready to be done with COVID-19, it was a thrill to know we’re nearing the end of the pandemic.”


Ayo: “Due to the consistent misinformation under the current administration and poor handling of the pandemic from day one.


As well as being fully aware of the historical malpractice involving black people as test subjects and “sub-human” and that part of that has been under the guise of preventative care in the past”


After getting the first vaccine, what were your side effects?


Jassie: “fatigue, chills, and body aches for like 3 days.”


Cloud: “After getting the vaccination I was very sore in the arm that I got the dose, had some fatigue, body aches and nausea, but that only lasted a couple days.”


Ayo: “I experienced no side effects, the only thing was a sore arm at the injection site for about 24 hrs but that’s also expected.


I am thankful I did not experience anything for my first dose but anticipate something for the second”


Has your fear of the vaccine changed? Why if yes?


Jassie: “Yes, I now feel semi protected.”


Cloud: “After getting vaccinated I don’t really have any fears or concerns about the vaccination. It just reminded me of getting a flu shot or a tetanus shot”


Ayo: “I just feel more protected and prepared to stay educated around the science of the situation and check in with others who also have been vaccinated to share notes over time”


If you could have gotten the vaccine sooner, would you?


Jassie: “NO, The only reason I got it was because my Mom had just gotten hers and I didn't want her to go through that alone.”


Cloud: “I absolutely would have!! Building up immunities to viruses and preventative care is cool.”


Ayo: “Assuming more at risk folks wouldn’t have been forgotten and actually prioritized properly in this scenario, yes!


The earlier any of us can get vaccinated is more protection for ourselves, our families, and overall society”



What does the vaccine mean for Black people and Black trans people?


Cloud: “The vaccine will be a great way to help prevent more life loss in the Black and Trans community and give people the opportunity to live their best lives again without fear of COVID-19”


Jassie: “It is creating access. Which we all know is what the Black community needs.”


Ayo: “Knowing that we already have potentially fatal interactions with any institution, especially in a medical setting, it’s important that we do what we can to protect ourselves proactively so we don’t have to be in the position of severity where we are under doctors who do not value our lives enough to do everything to save us when things don’t look the best


Being vaccinated and protected would minimize the frequency we would need to take that risk, while also protecting of the more imminent fatal risk of catching Covid”


What would you like to say to your community regarding the vaccine?


Cloud: “I understand that there are a lot of fears and skepticism around the vaccine but there's a lot of information available to support why it's beneficial to get yourself vaccinated. I would personally much rather get vaccinated and take preventative care from COVID-19 than catch it.”


Jassie: “If and when the opportunity comes around take advantage of it. It's not as scary as it seems. Protect yourself!!!”


Ayo: “Stay educated, pay attention to who doesn’t want our people to be protected and how that would benefit them, and do what you can until you feel able to trust that this vaccine outweighed the risk of Covid & long-term damage to your organs even if you catch it and survive.


With all the love, when you can get vaccinated, please do


We must live on.”


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  • Ōmeteōtl Cītlali De Tiêu

As the Gender Health Center (GHC) evolves and works to uncover implicit racism, the staff have also engaged in introspective critical thought. Among other gifts, GHC uses the information imparted from our Black Trans staff members as key factors in informing our policies, procedures, our mission, organizational vision, and values. As a whole, GHC staff share a common desire to center the most intersectionally marginalized among us.


In order to put this desire to action, we follow the leadership of Black voices, Black Trans experiences, and the insight of Black Trans youth. It is clear that our beliefs involve the reality that intersectionality changes, it transforms, it transitions. So, we must adapt alongside intersectionality.

Gender Health Center has been honoring Black community members for their contributions to

Black and Trans Wellness with the Sacramento Black Wellness Awards. Above are awards presented to GHC staff: Ayotunde Khyree Ikuku (They/Them/Theirs), Advocacy Program Co-director ; Cloud Johnson (They/Them/Theirs), Respite Data Assistant ; Jasmine Bright (She/Her/Hers), Director of Healthcare Services.

“I have plans to find better ways that I can do outreach, and support Trans folks here at GHC.” Cloud affirmed in an interview. They have expressed a long-standing desire to platform unhoused Black Trans communities. Jasmine mentioned that she has a desire to establish a pharmacy at GHC to make hormones more accessible. Ayotunde stated, “I envision GHC reaching a place of true stability and immense resources and networking that further influences both systemic and local changes and awareness of what we endure, and what we deserve. [This is] a place that can be reborn and be a safeguard & raw representation for [the] community.”


“I have plans to find better ways that I can do outreach, and support Trans folks here at GHC.” Cloud affirmed in an interview. They have expressed a long-standing desire to platform unhoused Black Trans communities.

Despite being one of our newest additions, Cloud’s contributions to the respite program, and GHC as a whole, is evident in the ways they care and tend to fellow staff, community members, and their projects. Cloud is a natural at providing care for community members that approach GHC. Their supportive, generous, and protective personality has extended into the culture of respite. We are incredibly lucky to have Cloud’s dependability, lived experience, and altruism at the forefront of our respite program.


“I feel like with more Black staff it makes it feel like a safe space for our community,”

Jasmine revealed, “It is a huge change from what it was before which represents growth. Our growth is truly contingent on the ways we listen and hear Black people, needs, and lived experience in our communities." As Jasmine touched on representation, Cloud shared, “In the time that I've been here I have seen GHC promote and showcase a bunch of local Black and Trans artists and creators and sending funds and resources to folks.” The centering of Black and Trans people has created a profound opportunity for GHC to start listening to those on the margins of the margins in our community.


Ayotunde is a young, 20-something, hallmark activist in our community. Their insight and belief in GHC has been a vital source of transformation, sustenance, and vision. Among many revolutionary thinkers, the idea of community-led organizations is not new. However, Sacramento, and even GHC, has grappled with serious systemic issues that have yet to be addressed.


These issues lift the question: who better to lead the movement than young, Black, Trans people? “I do feel empowered by GHC and I believe my colleagues all ultimately wish to see me succeed, as well as other Black Trans people in the larger scope,” Ayotunde shared. When they were asked what brought them to GHC, they answered, “A recommendation from [former staff] said I would be a perfect fit regardless of qualifications and sent me the application.” A perfect fit indeed. They replied, “I have been affirmed internally and externally, consistently, that I am seen, heard and respected at GHC. It means a lot to me, because I’ve fought hard to get where I am as a whole being today.”


“I have been affirmed internally and externally, consistently, that I am seen, heard and respected at GHC. It means a lot to me, because I’ve fought hard to get where I am as a whole being today.”

Ayotunde, one of our youngest staff members, was recently promoted to Co-Director of Advocacy. They discussed the impact of these shifts in leadership, “We have more Black staff in positions of power and programmatic autonomy that never existed before, which influences the way the org itself navigates around the most marginalized. We are continually striving to serve the Black community better and it is an ongoing commitment.”


There is no shortage of affirmations testifying to Ayotunde’s impact on GHC and the advocacy program. They share diversity of expertise, exuding abundance and royalty alongside compassion and self-awareness. With a skill set spanning direct service provision to leading the masses, Ayotunde consistently delivers critical feedback, tactful strategy, and wisdom to the mission and vision of GHC. As one of the youngest members on our leadership team, Ayotunde has already demonstrated a commitment to the growth and evolution of this organization.


Jasmine, who draws ooh’s and ahh’s every time she walks into a room, is our Director of Healthcare. She recalls that she first heard of GHC when she, “randomly came in for an appointment with [her] little sister for hormones.” The rest is history. Jasmine’s favorite aspect of working at GHC is, “that this is a trans led organization.” She is affectionately referred to as Jassie by our colleagues, and had this to say when interviewed about feeling seen and heard at GHC, “Yes I do! Not only do I feel seen and heard, I feel like I now have a voice. Which is something I used to keep to myself.” She went on to say, “I do honestly feel like my colleagues encourage me to be the best version of myself that I can be. It feels great to use something other than my looks to get the job done, which I have leaned on for a large portion of my life. Even though I have certain medical credentials, I haven't really used them as much as I should have.”


Since her ascension into Directorship, Jasmine has breathed new life into GHC as one of our key leaders in shaping and steering organizational change. She has stayed true to herself and loyal through thick and thin in her four years with us. Her passion and commitment to the work is apparent in the way Jasmine manages the hormone clinic, healthcare services, and her new leadership role.


“Yes I do! Not only do I feel seen and heard, I feel like I now have a voice. Which is something I used to keep to myself.” She went on to say, “I do honestly feel like my colleagues encourage me to be the best version of myself that I can be. It feels great to use something other than my looks to get the job done, which I have leaned on for a large portion of my life. Even though I have certain medical credentials, I haven't really used them as much as I should have.”

Throughout the month of February, we are also affirming Black Transness with our Black Trans Power Fund, a mutual aid fundraiser providing relief to Black and Trans folks in our community. Our staff and board members have pledged to match up to $2,100 in donations. If you are not Black and trans, we challenge you to give back to our community who have tirelessly worked to provide us with equity, justice, and human rights.


Donate today: https://www.mightycause.com/story/Blacktranspowerfund


Edited by Ryan Kim Tiêu


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  • Ōmeteōtl Cītlali De Tiêu

Ayotunde at Cop Expo Shut Down - September 18, 2108. Photo by Trina Allen.

Freedom fighters are not typically written about, talked about, or thought of as revolutionaries within the duration of their time alive; for a moment, they exist solely in the minds of those who recognize them. The meaningful change that these activists have imparted upon the world isn’t tallied up until the end of their days, and nothing but air that receives our soft thanks. One could argue that this is an immoral or a merciless shifting of the eyes. This ignorance of the countless terrifying hours of labor - sitting in at protests or riots, arguing with police officers to negotiate their humanity, speaking to monsters to enact policy change (read: actually just empathizing with human beings) is ultimately shifting the stitching of the fabric we are walking on for a better tomorrow. In every sense, this is endless and ultimately thankless work.


Before there was COVID-19, and the 2020 riots, and the undelicate constant trash fire of noses sticking out of masks, and the unethical nature of politicians claiming you “ain’t black if you don’t vote for me,” there were the protests of Joseph Mann.



Ayotunde at Sac News & Review Doesn't Like Black People - December 28, 2017

In 2017, which feels like two hundred years ago in Corona time, outside of the Sacramento News and Review building, one could see from a distance the silhouettes of a couple dozen people holding illegible signs on white cardstock. Upon closer inspection, they read ‘WHITE SUPREMACY IS TERRORISM,’ ‘I can’t breathe!’ and ‘BEING BLACK IS NOT A CRIME,’ among others. It was unusually quiet. Everyone at the demonstration had already done a few rounds around the block and was preparing to head home.


On the curb outside the building, they walked in light delicate steps, weaving through people, staring down those who objected with their car horns and the occasional raised finger. Earrings jingled faintly as they looked from one side to the other repetitively scanning the scene.


Ayotunde Khyree Ikuku, with a daring laugh and smile, the glitter in their eyes would taunt any driver to come closer. Sometimes, they would dare to come nearer and nothing would happen. It’s interesting to see subtle racism - or systemic racism - lick Ayotunde’s cheek for just a moment and the response of this very specific, tall, and beautiful Black person to be simply a giggle. 


Ayotunde carries themself in such a demure and gentle way. Ayo’s presence causes racists this profound cognitive dissonance. This confusion can force a racists’ loaded words, remain stuck in their throats, with their mouths clamped shut.  


Fast forward to March of 2018, Sacramento Police Department brutally slayed a Black man in the setting of his grandmother’s own backyard with nothing but a cellphone in his hand to defend himself. Intentionally misdirected reports of what happened that night were issued by the department. Justice has still not been found for Stephon Clark. His family is still suffering the consequences of the languid and tasteless approach that Sac PD has taken towards the Black Lives Matter movement and all matters regarding race and police brutality. 


Stephon Clark's name was not released to the public on the night he was murdered. Furious texts are repetitively issued until the people with Black friends and family are met with responses. Sirens, accompanied by flitting lights, jolted past my apartment window in South Sacramento. Our Black neighbors could be heard calling their loved ones in the area too, having the same question as ours. Who did not survive the police tonight? 


As memorial posts bloomed across my social media timelines over the next few weeks, anger bubbled up, teeming at the surface of my chest. It was with this anger that myself and others are wrapped into Ayotunde’s revolutionary world. In this world, the justice in your mouth and the demand for equity was not loud enough. We cried tears of frustration and placed our hands on each other’s backs in support. 


We chanted, “No Justice, NO PEACE, NO RACIST POLICE!” as we marched to block traffic, as we marched to scream in the faces of police officers, as we marched and and marched and marched and didn’t stop marching. We ripped away at police comfort carefully, and interrogated their reasoning for joining the force that now lays eternal violence upon People of Color. At the front, danced Ayotunde, calmly speaking to police officers, even when met with silence, about their colleagues, and who they had murdered that day, that month, or that year. 

Ayotunde had always seemed unshaken, but the killing of Stephon Clark did something unthinkable. His murder woke up Ayotunde’s generation in Sacramento, and consequently triggered a slew of activists who are instrumental in changing the way we see the police. They have devastated white supremacy and the way that the media consequently portrays People of Color, and especially Black people. 


to be continued in Part 2



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