The Trans Sistas of Color Project’s first-ever “Building a Dream House” brunch almost didn’t happen.
The women were supposed to hold their fundraising event at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries on Forest Street in Detroit on Sunday. They were scheduled to be admitted into the building to set up between 8-9 a.m. Instead, no one ever showed up, and their contact, Tony, never answered his phone. More than two months ago, Bre Campbell, TSOCP’s executive director, entered into an agreement to hold two events there for which she paid $850.
“We had paid entertainment, catered food and people coming from out of town and they almost ruined it,” said Jeynce Mizrahi Poindexter, a TSCOP board member and Transgender Victims Advocate for Equality Michigan.
Thinking on their feet, Mizrahi Poindexter and Campbell posted a video message on Facebook complete with images of themselves outside the locked gates. That video was seen by Cedric McClain, a co-manager of the Ruth Ellis Center Second Stories Drop-In Center in Highland Park.
“I saw they were locked out of their space so I reached out to my co-worker and we felt we should go ahead and open the space for them so that everything they were trying to do didn’t get ruined,” he said.
Angelika Lewis, McClain’s co-manager was of the same mind. “I was coming to support the event anyway,” she said. “So we were very happy we could help.”
Campbell, Mizrahi Poindexter and other volunteers scrambled to relocate to the new space and at the same time notify people of the change. The brunch that was supposed to start at 1 p.m. started at 3:30 p.m. But the TSOCP put out quite a spread and the 40-plus people in attendance appeared patient and pleased.
Following brunch, the TSCOP presented awards for the first time. Brenda S. White received the Brenda S. White Ally Award, named after her. She was reduced to tears upon acceptance. Mizrahi Poindexter was given the Living Out Loud Award.
“I promise on my mother I did not know this was happening,” she said. “And few people get to surprise me…Nothing that I do and nothing that I accomplish or will accomplish is on my own. To God be my glory.”
Although she was not in attendance, Henry Ford Pediatrician Maureen (Mo) Connolly, M.D was honored with the third Caring For Us Award.
C. Paschal Eze, director of spiritual life and public relations at the ministry, said in an email on Tuesday morning that it was all “a case of misunderstanding of the allotted time. Tony said he arrived at the venue at 7:30 a.m. and opened the main gate and doors for the group but the group’s members did not show up. So, he left at about 9 a.m.”
Campbell insists she and others were there by 8:45 a.m. and everything was locked up.
“At about 9:20 a.m., he learned that the group had arrived at the venue,” said Eze. “He headed back there to attend to them. Unfortunately, by the time he got there at about 10:30 a.m., the members had left.”
Campbell said this, also, is untrue. The event was supposed to begin at 11 a.m. She and others were outside waiting to gain entry to the property until well after that time.
Eze said that Tony called the group and was told they had secured another venue, but according to Campbell, “He never answered, and he never called us back.”
TSCOP said they are no longer interested in holding a second event they have planned at the same location and are demanding a full refund.
“I just can’t believe that they just blatantly disrespected us and there’s no accountability,” said Mizrahi Poindexter. “They were paid weeks ago. So we held up our end of the bargain. They are in breach of the contract and at this point we just want our money back.”
Eze confirmed on Tuesday morning that Tony is “sending them their check back.”
Campbell said that although she was discouraged by what happened on Sunday, she is more motivated than ever to continue the work.
Founded in 2015 by a group of concerned Detroit community activists in direct response to the growing number of murders of trans women and gender non-conforming people, the TSOCP works to uplift, influence and impact the lives and well being of trans women of color in Metro Detroit. In 2016, EQMI became both a founding partner of TSCOP and its fiscal agent as the younger organization develops the necessary resources and infrastructure to independently build its programs, projects, and services.
“Although today was frustrating and I’m disappointed I think it speaks to our need to have our own space so that we can have our own agency and be able to walk into a building whenever we want and have events the way we feel we need to,” said Campbell. “I’m not stopping. This is going to push us forward.”