One year ago, Brandy Martell was fatally shot in downtown Oakland. On Monday, the anniversary of her death, a candlelight vigil was held at Franklin and 13th Streets, the scene of her murder.
Martell, 37, was a transgender woman and a peer advocate for TransVision, a Fremont-based organization for transgender and transsexual women. Martell worked there from February 2007 to November 2011, offering health information and outreach to other transgender women.
Her murder remains unsolved.
Several dozen people gathered at Monday’s vigil, lighting votive candles around a shrine of photos and roses honoring her life. Many attendees were close friends and former colleagues of Martell’s. They spoke to a gathering crowd about her work as a peer advocate with TransVision:
“There’s not a lot of African American trans women doing what she’s doing — there’s a void in the foot soldiers doing this work.”
“She was my mentor.”
“She was taken from me too soon.”
“Miss Brandy, girl, we still feel your spirit…”
Martell was shot through the window and side door of her car last year on April 29, 2012, as she was sitting with friends. The murder took place at approximately 5 am, just blocks from City Hall. The motive of the crime still remains unclear, but some speculate it was the result of a hate crime or botched robbery.
Bryana Coleman, 38, was present in Martell’s car the night of her murder and attended Monday’s vigil. Martell was her best friend. “We were just hanging out. We were parked in the car conversing,” Coleman said, speaking of the night of the murder. “We had been out partying and stuff, and so we parked over here to get ourselves together.”
Two men approached the car. “We had a nice conversation with them, and Brandy and one of our other girlfriends decided to disclose that we were trans,” Coleman said. “They said, ‘OK, that’s not what we’re looking for,’ and so they left and then after that, I fell asleep. When I woke up was when I heard the gunshots.”
In the year since Martell’s murder, the Oakland Police Department has been working with TransVision to raise community awareness about the crime, with the hopes of finding those responsible for it. “If you saw something, say something,” said Police Chief Howard Jordan on Monday evening. “We know there were a lot of people out there that night who saw what happened. Don’t let Brandy’s death go in vain.”
Anyone with information on Brandy Martell’s murder can send the Oakland Police Department tips anonymously by texting TIP OAKLANDPD to 888777, calling the toll-free hotline at (855) 847-7247, or by calling (510) 535-4867.