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New film about life and death of Shelly Hilliard sheds light on transgender activism

Jun 17, 2015

Credit dream hampton

On October 23, 2011 a 19-year-old Detroiter named Shelly Hilliard was murdered and dismembered.

It happened just three days after she cooperated with suburban police, according to a civil suit filed by her family against the Madison Heights Police Department.

Hilliard, who went by the name "Treasure," was a young black transgender woman. Her murder galvanized the young Detroit trans community. And it raised the question: Do black trans lives matter to the justice system?

Hilliard's story, and that of the Detroit trans community, is being told in a new documentary film Treasure: From Tragedy to Trans Justice, Mapping a Detroit Story.

“At every level trans people are met with all kinds of abuse in our communities,” said dream hampton, the film's director. Hampton is a writer, filmmaker and activist. She is currently the 2015 Visiting Artist at Stanford University's Institute for Diversity in the Arts.

In the interview with Stateside, Emani Love, an outreach worker at the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit, talks about how Shelly's death galvanized the trans community.

"You know, I can honestly say that there’s a lot more visibly around safety and protection of transwomen, and a lot of gay men are stepping up in the Detroit community to address the importance of respecting gender identity," said Love.

The film will be screened at the Detroit Institute of Arts on Thursday, June 18 at the Detroit Film Theatre.