Jazzie Collins: forever fighting the good fight

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PHOTO BY DAVID ELLIOTT LEWIS

Dedicated trans rights and economic equality activist Jazzie Collins passed away this week. She was honored in June in the State Assembly for LGBT History Month, and was on the board of the annual Trans March, among many other honors and activities. There will be a legacy party and fundraiser for Jazzie's end-of-life expenses at El Rio tomorrow, Sat/13, 3pm-8pm. Below is a remembrance from her good friend Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

Some people die, but they remain with you for the rest of your life. Death just can’t keep them away.

Such a person is Jazzie Collins, African American transgender woman and tireless fighter for social and economic justice for tenants, seniors, people with disabilities, the homeless, those without healthcare, LGBT folks, and so many others. An organizer of the annual Trans March and co-chair of the city’s LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, she recently received an award from the LGBT caucus of the state assembly for her many years of activism.

Born in Memphis, Jazzie, 54, died in the early morning hours of July 11 at Kaiser Hospital, leaving a huge hole in the heart of San Francisco.

I don’t remember when I first met Jazzie. I’m pretty certain it was at one of the countless demos in the late 90s we attended to protest the displacement of working-class and poor people during the dot-com boom. She was involved in so much of the incredible activism happening in the Mission at that time, whether it involved feeding people from Mission Agenda’s food pantry, planning direct action with the Mission AntiDisplacement Coalition, or helping elect fellow activist Chris Daly as the neighborhood’s district supervisor.

Our paths crossed often, sometimes at the monthly meetings of Senior Action Network (now Senior Disability Action) where she worked, or a tenants rights demo on the steps of City Hall just before we went inside to take advantage of our two minutes at the mic during public comment. Jazzie was never at a loss for words.

One of the original members of QUEEN (Queers for Economic Equality  Now), she helped organize several protests, including one outside the store run by the Human Rights Campaign in the Castro. We were furious that the national gay rights group pushed to exclude transgender people from ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), the federal gay employment rights bill.

When a call went out from the Board of Supervisors for its newly formed LGBT Aging Policy Task Force, Jazzie called me and told me in no uncertain terms that I had to apply. She had already sent in her application and wanted to make sure another strong housing advocate was on the task force.

We sat together at the hearing, waiting for our chance to sell ourselves to the supervisors. After we were both appointed, and as we left the room, Jazzie started talking about what she wanted the task force to do, especially on housing issues. She was always a woman with a vision. Or a cause.

Jazzie called me whenever there was something to be done. She’d say, “We gotta do something about this.” It didn’t matter how busy I was. I knew I could never say no to her.

Jazzie, my sister, wherever you are now, I know you’ll always be beside me when I’m out there fighting the good fight.

Comments

Thanks for this beautiful write up.

<3

Posted by Luis on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

Jazzie's passion and commitment to community made SoMa better for all of its blessed residents. I'll miss her smile and opinions at community meetings for sure.

Posted by Jamie Whitaker on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

Our neighborhoods are richer for having had Jazzie on our side for as long as we did and are poorer in her absence. People like Jazzie don't come around very often, we were fortunate to have had the chance to work with her.

Posted by Marc Salomon on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

Thank you for honoring Jazzie Collins. She was my neighbor and good friend. I was shocked to hear of her passing, as many of us didn't know that she was having a health crisis. I'm so sad to have lost my friend. Jazzie was always talking about helping others and issues of socio-economic equaliity, racism, and trans/homo phobia. She supported me as a person undergoing my own gender transition.

Our community has suffered a huge loss without Jazzie's leadership and voice to speak up for the disenfranchised. I love you, Jazzie. Thank you for all you've done to help others. I will miss you very much and I'm very sad that you're no longer with us. Rest in Peace, and may you continue to walk in love and light.

Posted by Vincent Pardue on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

Thank you Tommi, This is beautiful!

Posted by Fresh! on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

Beautiful. Thank you for your honoring of our sister with your words. She will be missed. Rest in Power Jazzie.

Posted by Chuck on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

I met Jazzie Collins along time ago. No this is not the end of the story for our Jazzie because when you meet her for the first time your heart begins to build a room for her in yours. Jazzie was always bigger than life and so therefore I had to give her more space in my heart. I am sure this is true for friend and foe alike of Jazzie. The light of justice is held high for all to see by the statue of liberty in the New York city harbor. I hope you had the chance to meet Jazzie Collins than you will know she is and was and always shall always be our statue of liberty. Rest In Peace My Lady Jazzie

Posted by Guest Keith Kemp on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

I cant make it tomorrow. Is there a link or address to contribute to her end of life expenses if we can't make the event tomorrow?
Very sad to hear of her passing. She was a great spirit.
Thanks,
Francesca Rosa

Posted by GuestFrancesca Rosa on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

Never miss a chance to grab a spotlight do ya Tommi?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

to be an asshole? Do ya loser troll.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

From the Facebook invitation for the event: "If you want to help, but cannot make it to the event, we have set up an Indiegogo campaign for online contributions:
http://igg.me/at/jazzie-collins/x/448538"

Posted by Guest on Jul. 12, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

such a hardworking lady! you will be missed.. thank you for your work on west soma..

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2013 @ 7:16 am

Really shocked about this. Jazzie was a good friend of mine.... Jazzie wherever you are just wanna say all the good times will always be remembered in my heart regardless of any differences. Peace.

Posted by Bella on Jul. 13, 2013 @ 7:47 am

thank you Tommi for your words and work with Jazzie that continue to help those most in need of our humanity and help.

Posted by Guest Stu Smith on Jul. 13, 2013 @ 11:03 am

As an activist and community events photographer, I also have crossed paths with Jazzie many times over the years. I was impressed with her the very first time I met her and my respect for her and her work has only grown over the years.

I am still in a state of shock about her sudden passing.

The link below leads to some photos I took of a presentation she and James Chionsini gave to the Central City SRO Collaborative.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10200858788165680.1073741833.1...

Posted by David Elliott Lewis on Jul. 13, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

for such great pictures. 

Posted by marke on Jul. 14, 2013 @ 7:44 am

Thanks for this Tommi.

Posted by Terrrie Frye on Jul. 13, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

This is sad news.

What a character Jazzie was whenever I saw her at a rally or protest or hearing or community meeting, or just hanging out. Thanks, Tommi for doing our comrade justice with this essay.

She was a friend who always found something positive to say about my advocacy, or wanted me to be at one of her events.

I well remember her anger and righteousness when the trans folks got screwed over by the Human Rights Campaign on the ENDA push a few years ago.

Jazzie was fierce and she is missed!!

Posted by MPetrelis on Jul. 13, 2013 @ 10:55 pm

Fare thee well sistah. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. We will carry on, the struggles continue - though yours are done. All love. Pat.
Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bhodisvaha.

Posted by Patrick Monk.RN. on Jul. 14, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

Whether here in US or seen in my work abroad, it is always the queens and daggers, the "trannies," the ones who can't or won't pass that lead the way and take the biggest risks. All too often they are ignored or, like HRC, rejected from more " mainstream" queers. Thank you Sister Jazzie for your guts and helping others to first love themselves. "Don't Mourn. Organize."

Posted by Catherine Cusic on Jul. 15, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

Catherine, Jazzie showed us that such prejudices do not necessarily hold in San Francisco. She was out as she was, out on her terms, made no efforts to accommodate anyone else, and was welcomed and supported from all quarters.

Contrary to so many single issue activists, Jazzie did not wallow in victim hood even though she faced and overcame almost all challenges a human could face, she stood up tall and proud, and lived her life as she saw fit, uncompromisingly on her terms.

Unlike many who did not face the challenges that she did, Jazzie did not come unhinged whenever someone disagreed with her and hold that as a comforting talisman to cover latent insecurity as is common with others. She did not take disagreement as a personal attack.

This means to me that she was more secure in her being than many others in politics, a self confidence forged in the crucible of growing up facing myriad challenges that most of us will never experience.

Middle class white folks just don't get this unless we've grown up facing similar challenges, such as growing up as a minority queer in the south, an experience I shared part of with Jazzie.

Unlike so many who are better equipped cognitively, better educated, from better means, Jazzie was secure in her being that she could agree to disagree without being disagreeable.

There was no sentimental violin following Jazzie throughout her life playing "my heart bleeds for you." She realized more than most that the elites are at war with us, and carried herself like an combat promoted officer leading her platoon into battle.

Posted by Marc Salomon on Jul. 16, 2013 @ 7:42 am

(sigh) Jazzie. Direct. No BS. hard working. Lively. A comrade for justice.

Whether I saw her at the Mission Agenda food pantry, Daly's campaigns, housing efforts, Jazzie brought her own energy to the fight and it was always good to see her.

I can't help but smile thinking about her.

How many times I ran into her and it was about what she was doing, which was always a lot of activities.

Thank you for your sunshine that warmed friends and collegues, shined the light of freedom and broiled those in power and who would deny others.

Peace, Jazzie

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Posted by Wholesale Legging China on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 7:01 pm

It is nice what she want to do, I am really impressed! For sure many will have the same opinion!

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