Bonaire “Bonnie” Black could be the last known murder or violent death of a trans or gender non-conforming person from 2020.
Black, 19, was found on the third floor of a hotel’s parking complex in Midtown Atlanta on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. While police reported her death as being due to “natural causes,” and a review from an officer with the local medical examiner’s office found “no foul play,” friends and advocates for Black believe she was murdered.
Black was discovered by a parking lot attendant and the manager of the hotel encompassing the complex. They found her unresponsive but allegedly with her fist clenched, under a blanket. She was declared dead by responding police officers, seven days before her 20th birthday.
Black came to Atlanta from Savannah, Georgia at the age of 17 because she wasn’t accepted by her family. She had insecure housing according to reports, and it remains unclear if she was in the parking lot because she was doing something at the hotel or was sleeping there.
Black was loved by her community members, and despite her troubles, they described her as a cheerful friend.
“Details surrounding her death are unclear and the assailant has not been caught,” Jesse Pratt López of the Trans Housing Coalition (THC) wrote in a Facebook post. Black “was not a THC client, but she was friends with many of the girls in our program,” he added.
“She loved doing her makeup and going out into the world making sure she looked her best,” Toni Bryce, who worked with Black as an employee of the National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities (NAESM), said at a celebration of Black’s life.
“Every day we were open, she would come in and utilize the services we had,” Bryce said. “She was a young girl taken very soon.”
After her death, an investigation was undertaken by the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, and an autopsy took place. Further details about Black’s cause of death have not been publicized, as the office waits, they say, on the results of a toxicology screening.
But advocates that worked with her believe she died after an argument with someone else after a party near the hotel complex.
“What we’re hearing is that a guy at the party, they got in some kind of argument, and he broke her neck,” said Marshall Rancifer of the Justice for All Coalition.
“In a case like this, the medical examiner’s office will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death. If the cause of death is determined to be criminal, [we] will investigate,” said TaSheena Brown, a senior police officer with the Atlanta Police Department.
After viewing services on January 20, Black was given graveside services and buried by her family in Palmetto, GA.
“Black transgender women and girls like Bonnie experience the highest rates of violent death due to transphobia and misogynoir,” said David J. Johns, executive director at the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), in a statement on Black’s death. They report that her death would be the 52nd known trans or nonbinary person killed in 2020, leaving us with an average of one violent death each week of the year.
“What feels like acceptable and normalized forms of violence has deep roots in the ways our communities have been dehumanized for centuries. We have to help people love themselves and love one another so they can hold space for every member of our beautifully diverse community. Bonnie should be with us today.”
Local LGBTQ website ProjectQ reports this is the sixth murder or questionable death of a trans or gender non-conforming person in Georgia since March 2020. The last four of which have all been reported since November.
Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, Kimberely Patricia Cope, Felycya Harris, KaKedius “Rebel” Reid, and Scottlyn Kelly Devore have all also died either violently or suspiciously in the last year.