fbpx Skip to main content

Lives at Stake: Trans Day of Remembrance

Lives at Stake: Imara Jones in Residence

Originally Aired: Thursday, November 19, 2020

Photo courtesy of the host


During this Trans Awareness Month, in the wake of the election, trans politicians are celebrating historic victories, winning elections from Delaware to Oklahoma. New legislation around the LGBTQ+ community could change the lives of transgender people across the country. At the same time, November 20th marks Trans Day of Remembrance, in which we commemorate all of those lost to violence. Sadly, 2020 marks the year when more trans people have been killed than any other year on record. These deaths leave behind loved ones often overlooked by the media.

This month, Jones talks with GLAAD-Award winning journalist Samantha Allen and Melania Brown, sister of Layleen Polanco Extravaganza who died in custody at Rikers Island yesterday due to neglect. We will also be sharing a special, spoken word performance by artist Mojo Disco.

ASL interpretation will be available during the show.

The trans community, allies and those who wish to learn more are all welcome to join us to share experiences, insights, questions and celebrations by tweeting @TheGreeneSpace and using the hashtags #translash #livesatstake.

Lives at Stake is a series of frank conversations by and for trans people about the issues affecting their communities, hosted by Emmy and Peabody Award winner Imara Jones, The Greene Space’s first-ever Journalist-in-Residence. Building off Jones’ storytelling project TransLash, these online gatherings will also highlight the resilience, creativity and artistry that are critical ingredients to trans life, showcasing trans creatives performing their craft.

Leadership support for The Greene Space’s Artist-in-Residence program is provided by:


An Emmy and Peabody Award winner, Imara Jones’ work has appeared in The Guardian, The Nation, BBC News, Mic, The Grio, Salon, and The Root, as well as broadcast on MSNBC, CNBC, PBS, NPR, BBC, and The Takeaway. She is the creator of TransLash, a cross-platform media journalism and personal story project which produces content to end the culture of hostility and save trans lives. Imara previously held economic policy positions in the Clinton White House and was named a 2018 Champion of Pride by The Advocate. She is currently a Soros Equality Fellow.

Lives at Stake is a new monthly IRL & livestream/virtual event series at The Greene Space at WNYC/WQXR featuring frank and urgent conversations by and for trans people about issues affecting their communities this Election Season and beyond, produced in partnership with TransLash Media.

TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives during this pivotal moment in history.  Beginning in 2018 as a series of video shorts which focus on what it is like to be trans–-especially a trans person of color–-at a time of social backlash, it has evolved into a cross-platform media effort led by founder and creator Imara Jones.

Through the lens of journalism and personal narrative, TransLash creates and curates  content, events, and resources in collaboration with our partners, as well as in community with trans individuals and allies. Through our work we center the humanity of the most marginalized of the marginalized.

Find out more at www.translash.org.

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Melania Brown is an activist and the sister of Layleen Polanco Extravaganza, an Afro-Latinx trans woman who died in solitary confinement in Rikers Island jail in New York in June 2019. Layleen’s case garnered unique attention because of the various circumstances that entangled Layleen in the criminal legal system which led to her death.


Layleen was held at Rikers because she could not afford a $500 cash bail, and her death took place amid already growing calls to end cash bail. Layleen was detained at Rikers as a result of a previous charge for survival sex work, amid already growing calls to decriminalize sex work. Layleen was a member of the legendary House of Xtravaganza, one of the best known and longest running Houses of the Ballroom scene.


Layleen’s death also took place mere days before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots when many eyes were on New York City. Layleen’s death, the ensuing advocacy work led by The New York City Anti-Violence Project resulted in Mayor Bill de Blasio committing to ending solitary confinement in all New York City prisons, which as of publishing date, has not happened. In June 2020, the Bronx DA’s office declined to press charges against officials responsible for Layleen’s death.

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Dr. Samantha Allen is the author of Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States (Little, Brown; 2019), a travelogue that the New York Times Book Review called “a powerful book of memoir and reportage” and that the Los Angeles Times dubbed “a book necessary for anyone in or allied with the queer community.”


Samantha is a GLAAD-Award winning journalist, previously covering LGBTQ stories as a senior reporter for The Daily Beast and as a Sex + Life staff writer for Fusion. Her full list of bylines includes The New York TimesRolling StoneOutCNNCrosscut, and more.


Samantha holds a Ph.D. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a certificate in Psychoanalytic Studies from Emory University, where she was the recipient of a George W. Woodruff Fellowship.

Credit: Photo provided by guest

Mojo Disco is a multi-talented personality, curator, designer, poet, +model, and artist from NYC. She is the creator of the popular underground event Paint And Poetry, NYFW show producer and runway coach, motivational speaker, writer, and teaching artist for the City of New York. Mojo is an activist for the Arts, Equality, and Love.



The Greene Space is funded by you.

Make a monthly donation of $10 or more to support us and all the programs and podcasts you love from WNYC, WQXR, Gothamist and more!