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The Mahogany Project’s Black Transgender Empowerment Week

From Tribute to Transformation—Honoring Monica Roberts, advocating for change, and launching #WinterGiving.

This week is the fifth Black Transgender Empowerment Week, a love letter from The Mahogany Project and Save Our Sisters United in response to the State of Texas having a higher death toll of transgender people than any other state in the U.S. November 15 through 21 will feature an opening ceremony honoring Monica Roberts, a pioneering transgender activist and journalist who passed away in 2020. Her blog, TransGriot, started in 2006, was the first to track the murders of trans people nationwide.

Other events include A Thanksgiving party, a name-changing clinic, panels, and a live podcast, as well as an event on November 20, Trans Day of Remembrance, to honor and pay tribute to trans people whose lives were tragically taken this year. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2023 has already seen the loss of at least 25 transgender or gender non-conforming people via violent means. The Human Rights Campaign has tracked incidents of fatal transgender violence since 2013, the same year the Federal Bureau of Investigation began reporting on hate crimes motivated by anti-transgender bias— and providing action items that can help end the violence. The Trans Murder Monitoring Report, which tracks worldwide trans murders based on media reports, shows 320 trans people being killed in 2023, 94 percent of whom were trans women or trans feminine people. Most were Black and many were sex workers. The report was released just days before the beginning of Trans Awareness Week.

Trans Empowerment Week 2023

The Mahogany Project will also launch #WinterGiving during Black Transgender Empowerment Week. It is designed as a campaign to provide essential items and support to low-income transgender and queer residents in the Greater Houston area. The fundraiser, running from November 15 to December 15, is designed to provide much-needed support to transgender individuals living in challenging economic conditions during the winter months. The campaign will collect donations and in-kind new or gently used products to distribute, such as new blankets, toiletries, coats, and bedding. Additionally, the #WinterGiving campaign will grant low-income transgender residents access to The Mahogany Project’s food pantry program. This program offers groceries and food essentials to individuals who require assistance the most, ensuring they have access to nutritious meals during the holiday season and beyond. To launch this campaign, Youth to the People has donated products, toiletries, and skincare products for over 200 people.

Verniss McFarland

Verniss McFarland founded The Mahogany Project in 2017 with the aim of reducing social stigma and violence against the trans community. It is the only Black trans- and peer-led community center in the state of Texas. The Mahogany Project provides supportive services, ranging from emergency housing resource navigation, food pantry, clothing closet, and case management support, as well as recreational and arts activities—from a media center/recording studio to painting classes and community celebrations.

“Black Transgender Empowerment Week is an opportunity for us to shine a spotlight on the incredible strength and resilience of our transgender community,” says McFarland. “It is truly a love letter to Black transgender people that in spite of the increased violence and persecution we face both here in Texas and across the world, that we are beautiful, strong, and resilient. This year we are thrilled to launch our #WinterGiving campaign, which will provide essential items and food security to those who need it most. We encourage everyone to join us in making a difference this holiday season.” 

 The Mahogany Project is joined in this week’s events by VIIV Healthcare, Southern AIDS Coalition, The Transgender District and Lavender Rights Project, ACLU Texas, Bunnies on the Bayou, Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and Save Our Sisters United.

For more on the week’s events, see


Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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