UPDATED: Remembering Asia Jynaé Foster
HPD arrest suspect in 2020 murder
An arrest has been made in connection with the murder of Asia Jynaé Foster.
HPD has arrested and charged a suspect in the November 2020 murder of Asia Jynaé Foster. This story is still developing.
Houston native Asia Jynaé Foster was an up-and-coming transgender leader who was passionate about fighting the ongoing violence against trans women of color. Tragically, the 22-year-old Black trans woman’s advocacy work was cut short on November 20.
Foster was last heard from when she left home to go on a date on the evening of November 20. She entered a car other than her own, and never returned. Her body was later found by police at 3400 East Greenridge Drive in Southwest Houston. Police say she was shot to death at another location and then moved by the murderer.
Anyone with information about Foster’s murder should call the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477).
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Foster is the first known trans person to be murdered in Houston in 2020. She is also at least the 38th trans or gender-nonconforming person to be murdered in the U.S. this year—the nation’s highest number of deaths since the organization began tracking these murders in 2013.
At least 202 trans or gender-nonconforming people have been murdered since 2013, HRC reports. Two-thirds of the victims have been Black trans women, and nearly 60 percent of the incidents involved gun violence.
A candlelight service was held on November 22 at the Montrose Center to honor Foster. Her mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt attended, and were joined by several local trans activists along with other members of the community.
Besides her family and her two closest friends, Ma’Janae Chambers and Brandon Williams, Foster leaves behind a multitude of loved ones who knew her from Houston-area service groups for homeless trans youth.
Montrose Grace Place
Courtney Sellers, the executive director of Montrose Grace Place (MGP), an LGBTQ-affirming nonprofit that connects housing-insecure youth to food and community resources, had known Foster for four years. “Asia was a regular attendee at the Youth Nights. She was an extremely outgoing person who drew other people to her. She had a special and big personality, and a sharp wit.”
Foster was especially affected when her close friend Tracy Single was murdered on July 29, 2019. Sellers recalls how Foster organized MGP’s memorial to Single—a shadow box in which Single’s friends could put items that reminded them of her. “Asia took charge of the whole thing, and in addition made her own personal shadow box.”
According to Sellers, Foster had recently purchased a car and found a job delivering for Postmates. “She was very proud of what she had achieved. Asia had an air about her of not worrying. If she was down, she didn’t talk much about her own life.”
Sellers saw Foster the day before her death at MGP’s Thursday Youth Night. Although she had a car, Foster often asked for bus passes that she would then give to friends in need. “She was a very giving person.”
Sellers says that she’s still in shock and pissed off that this has happened again to one of MGP’s youth. “It doesn’t seem real, and it’s really hard to grasp.”
The Youth Night event following Foster’s death was extremely difficult. Foster’s friends wrote messages to her with a purple pen (her favorite color), attached them to balloons, and had a balloon release in her honor.
Many of the MGP youth didn’t know about Foster’s death until that night. “There was a lot of disbelief, sadness, and anger.”
On the following Thursday, MGP leaders gave notebooks to the youth so they could record their feelings about Foster’s death, just as they had done after Tracy Single’s murder. Those pages have been placed in a glass display case at the nonprofit to memorialize Foster and Single.
“I saw Asia two days a week for the past two years. I really loved her,” Sellers says. “This really makes me mad. I cannot believe I am having to do this again. The sky was the limit for Asia, and now that’s all been taken away.”
Natalie Ferguson, a direct mentor at MGP, says that she also saw Foster the day before her death. “We engaged in our usual playful banter. She had an unapologetic aura about her, and an unrelenting optimistic attitude. She was determined not to let anything get her down.”
Ferguson remembers how Foster dressed well and always looked her best. “Recently she said that she was doing so well, so it hurts even more knowing that she was in the process of achieving her goals.”
MaDonna Land, the program director for Tony’s Place, says Foster had been active there since about 2017, when she first started to transition. “She was always well-dressed, with a long dress, sandals, handbag, and beautiful makeup.”
Foster often volunteered to do activist work by going out and finding homeless youth who needed HIV and STD testing. She also advocated for trans women of color who so often become victims of violence.
“She was a diva, too,” Land says. “She loved to sing, and had a wonderful voice.” Land fondly remembers Foster singing an a cappella rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” in a variety show during a conference.
“She had found an apartment and purchased a car. She had grown confident in her transition,” Land notes. Even though Foster had found stability in her life, she continued to work with Tony’s Place to help others who were still struggling.
A Volunteer and Jokester
Along with Montrose Grace Place and Tony’s Place, Foster regularly attended Bering Church’s Open Gate program.
Denis Kelly, the Open Gate operations manager, says, “I don’t ever remember her without a smile. She was very personable. Whenever she walked in, I just had to give her a big hug.” He remembers that she liked to wear long sundresses in addition to glasses with different colored frames.
Foster often volunteered with the Bering program by helping sign people in and walking around to talk with others during the social hour.
Damien Kelly, the program manager at Open Gate, remembers that she loved to stand by the piano in the social area and sing. She was also a real jokester who loved to tease people. During the weekly family-style meal, she helped serve others. “She was so young, and had her whole life ahead of her.”
At Open Gate’s weekly meal on November 29, people mourned Foster’s death by placing a photo of her on a table covered by a black cloth. There was also a picture of her good friend Tracy Single, who was killed a year ago. Two psychologists were present at the meal to work with anyone who needed trauma counseling.
An Emerging Leader
Trans activist Dee Dee Watters would sometimes hire Foster as her assistant. “She was such a sweet young kid, and she became my mentee. She was passionate about whatever she worked on,” Watters recalls. Foster helped organize the 2018 and 2019 Houston Transgender Day of Remembrance. She also assisted Watters following Single’s death by talking with Single’s family and the funeral home. Watters says she handled matters seriously and with adult professionalism.
“It’s so shocking that a year ago she was helping with Single’s final respects, and now, a year later, we are doing this for her.” Watters says Foster was an up-and-coming leader in the community—a young person who the local trans community could pass the torch to. “She always wanted to make things easier for others.”
Close Friends Grieve
Ma’Janae Chambers, a close friend who met Foster at Bering Open Gate, remembers what a good person she was. “When she had extra resources, she was very sharing. She was always laughing and trying to keep peoples’ spirits up.” Chambers talked to Foster on the night of her death. “This hit me really close to home.”
Brandon Williams, Foster’s other close friend, met her in 2018 at Tony’s Place. “She was a good person all around. She had a very bubbly personality,” he recalls. The two often talked about fashion. “We noted how certain people could pull off a good look.”
Williams remembers how Foster always called him first thing in the morning, just to make sure he was okay. They would often link up and enjoy each other’s company. “It was best-friends stuff,” he says.
LGBTQ Advocacy Organizations Respond
Eden Rose Torres, co-chair of the Transgender and Nonbinary Advisory Committee for the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, says Foster was a thriving and giving member of the trans community who was taken too suddenly. “These murders are always deeply concerning, alarming, and saddening. However, when it happens in your own city, it shakes you to your core. Violence can come in any form—physical, emotional, verbal. It is up to us all to put an end to transphobic rhetoric and anti-trans violence.”
Ricardo Martinez, the chief executive officer of Equality Texas, agrees with Torres. “It’s incredibly heartbreaking that on November 20—a day that is internationally recognized as Trans Day of Remembrance, which started in 1999 as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester—the trans community in Houston lost Asia Jynaé Foster to violence.”
Foster is one of the at least 40 trans or gender non-conforming people to have been murdered in the U.S. this year—the highest number ever recorded. “More than 20 years have passed since the Trans Day of Remembrance began, and yet the trans community remains in a perpetual state of mourning due to the chronic and disproportionate incidents of violence and loss. The transgender community is experiencing a national emergency that requires immediate attention,” Martinez emphasizes.
Emmett Schelling, executive director of Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) says, “Asia’s murder is yet another sobering reminder of the urgent need to address the violence that disproportionately impacts Black transgender women and trans women of color. Our efforts must go beyond anti-violence legislation alone. Only by investing in the lives of transgender people—especially Black and brown trans women—will we reduce violence and ensure that they are able to navigate life more authentically, fully, and safely.”