Brazil Johnson, a 28-year-old Black woman, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 15 June 2022. (Human Rights Campaign)
A Black trans woman, who was a passionate cook, is the 17th known trans person to be violently killed in the US thus far this year.
Brazil Johnson, a 28-year-old Black woman, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds near Teutonia Avenue and Garfield Avenue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 15 June, CBS 58 reported. Milwaukee police are investigating Johnson’s death as a homicide, but they have not identified any suspects or a motive.
Johnson’s mother, Bernita Gildart, said it was her “worst nightmare” come true that “something like this would happen” to her daughter.
“For someone to do that so many times, that’s just hateful, so I’m looking at it like that’s just total hate,” Gildart said. “Why would you do something like that to her, what did she do so wrong for her to deserve that kind of death?”
Gildart described her daughter as a passionate chef and said the kitchen was like a safe haven for Johnson.
“Bake, chef it up, loved to get in the kitchen,” Gildart said.
Johnson was also a member of Diverse and Resilient, an organisation that works to achieve health equity and improve the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people across Wisconsin.
Alex Corona, director of community programs at Diverse and Resilient, told the Human Rights Campaign that several staff members remembered Johnson as a sweet and kind person. She said the organisation “failed to protect Brazil” as it has “failed so many other” trans women of colour who are murdered every year.
“It is not enough to say ‘rest in peace’ when this happens and move on with our lives,” Corona said. “We need to remember Brazil as a human, as a community member, and as a beacon of living in one’s truth.”
She continued: “We need to inspect our own biases about transgender people, specifically Black trans women, and how our biases and prejudices may add to the transphobia that fuels hateful violence.
“Are we doing enough to make sure the trans women of colour in our lives are safe, affirmed, and valued?”
Corona added that it was important “now more than ever” that the LGBTQ+ community “stand behind and uplift trans people so they can return to the forefront of the very movement that trans women of colour started”.
She called on cisgender people to “listen to trans folks when they explain how to support trans communities”. Corona said they also need to be on the frontline “fighting the wave of dangerously transphobic” and “misinformed conservative rhetoric around the trans experience”.
Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said Johnson was an “activist fighting for LGBTQ+ equality in Wisconsin”. She added that Johnson’s death was “devastating” for the community, Johnson’s family and the “lives she touched”.
“At just 28, her life was taken far too soon,” Cooper said. “We must say her name and honour her legacy by fighting to end this epidemic of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people in America and around the world.”
Johnson is “at least” the 17th trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming person violently killed this year, according to the HRC. The organisation has been tracking the growing “epidemic of violence” against the trans community since 2013.
However, the true death toll can be difficult to grasp as victims of deadly transphobic violence are often misgendered and deadnamed in local news and police reports, the HRC has warned.
Gildart told CBS 58 that she hopes that her daughter’s killer is caught as she wants “him to pay for what he’s done”, and she thought that “he doesn’t deserve to walk these streets”.
Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact the Milwaukee police at 414-935-7360. They can remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers at 414-224-TIPS.
The community has mourned across 2022: Amariey Lej, Duval Princess, Cypress Ramos, Naomie Skinner, Matthew Angelo Spampinato, Paloma Vazquez, Tatiana Labelle, Kathryn “Katie” Newhouse, Kenyatta “Kesha” Webster, Miia Love Parker, Fern Feather, Ariyanna Mitchell, Raymond “Ray” Muscat, Nedra Sequence Morris, Chanelika Y’Ella Dior Hemingway and Sasha Mason.