Candlelight Vigil in Memory of Brandy Martell

Brandy Martell

From left to right; Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan; Tiffany Woods, Trans Vision Program Manager; Hatzune Aquilar-Sanchez, Community Services Manager, Office of the Mayor Jean Quan; Johnna Watson, Oakland Police Media Officer); Lorenas Martinez, Trans Vision); Janet Halfin, Trans Vision.

By Jesse Brooks A candlelight vigil was held Monday on the anniversary of the unsolved murder of Brandy Martell, who was killed last year at the corner of Franklin and 13th streets in downtown Oakland. The vigil was meant to raise awareness of continued violence against the transgender community. Martell, 37, who identified as transsexual, was shot several times the morning of April 29, 2012, while sitting in a car. Her killing was one of three murders that morning and as of yet, there are no suspects in custody. Martell’s friends who attended the vigil say they are still angry over what they consider a hate crime. At the time of the killing those who knew Martell criticized police for not doing enough to apprehend the perpetrator. This year, Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan came to the vigil to say he felt it was important for him to be there to honor Martell and to show solidarity between the department and the transgender community. According to Jordan, the murder is still unsolved. The investigation is ongoing, he said, asking for help to apprehend the murderer. “We know there were a lot of people out there that morning,” he said. “If anyone has any information regarding Martell’s homicide, there are many ways people can make a report and remain anonymous”. Jordan said he wants to strengthen relations with the LGBTQ community. Tiffany Woods, transgender program manager at Tri-City Health Center in Fremont, was Martell’s supervisor.  Woods and other Trans Vision staff helped organize  the vigil. “Brandy’s death was not in vain,” she said. Following Martell’s death, Woods and a co-worker have been offering LGBTQ sensitivity training to the police department. A LGBTQ advisory board has been formed with the help of Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s office. Gender is a societal or behavioral aspect of sexual identity, according to the dictionary. The word transgender is actually an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of gender expressions including cross-dresser, bi-gender and transsexual. Transgender people are highly vulnerable and marginalized, commonly facing discrimination when seeking basic necessities such as employment, housing, and healthcare. Also common are reports of violence and harassment. Because of these and other factors impacting transgenders, especially transgenders of color, they suffer health disparities, including HIV. Martell worked for years as a peer advocate providing health information, program support and outreach services to transgender women. “I couldn’t believe the work Brandy was doing at a young age. The work she was doing is usually done by older transgenders,” said Bobbi Jean Baker, a transgender advocate. Baker called on more young transgenders to step up and carry on Martell’s work. “Society as a whole is not accepting to us,” said Baker. “We have to be the vision we seek”. An estimated 5,000-transgender persons live in the Bay Area. Anyone who has any information on the killing of Brandy Martell can call the homicide tip line at (510) 773-2805 or crime stoppers of Oakland at (510) 777-8572 or text Tip Oakland PD to 888777 from a cell phone. For more information email or call (510) 575-8245.
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