There is sad news from South Florida. Denise King, the mother of slain 17 year old Simmie Williams Jr and LGBT advocate, died unexpectedly at 10pm New Years Eve.
Since Simmie's death in 2008, Denise King has balanced her grief with the unsolved murder of her openly LGBT child with her desire to make a difference in equal rights for our community, especially LGBT youth.
My husband and I were blessed with being able to know Denise King- a woman who has turned unspeakable tragedy into a call to action.
She is my hero and an inspiration to all.
My husband walked the streets of Fort Lauderdale with Denise and her family, hanging reward posters and talking to people to try to get information. We've sat and talked with the family, hugged and cried together. We marched hand in hand in protest together.
And through it all, Denise was a rock.
She had her baby taken away because of hate, but has refused to let it break her. Since Simmie's murder, she became an outspoken activist for the LGBT community, fighting everything from hate crimes to school bullying to Amendment 2.
She seemed to be everywhere, doing whatever she could to make sure what happened to her child doesn't happen to another family. She was an inspiration to watch and a privilege to stand beside. Through it all, I was honored to hear about her child, the stories every parent knows- scraped knees, family dinners, hopes and dreams.
I got a glimpse at who Simmie was through the love of a mother.
From the press release about Denise's passing:
The King family is calling upon anyone with information on Simmie's murder to come forward and honor Denise King by providing information to Broward County Crime Stoppers at (954) 493-TIPS. Broward County Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for anonymous information leading to an arrest.
A special fund has been established at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center/Pride Center to assist the King Family with funeral related expenses for Denise King. Checks should be made payable to "GLCC," note the memo with "Denise King funeral," and can be mailed to GLCC, PO Box 70518, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33307-0518.
In 2008, the South Florida lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community raised nearly $4,000 to assist with funeral expenses for Simmie Williams, Jr. The Florida Attorney General's Office still refuses to approve a claim for Simmie's funeral expenses under the state's Crime Victim Compensation Program.
Denise will be missed by her family and by the larger community here in Florida. Her memory and passion will live on to inspire and create the change needed to prevent more senseless deaths, like that of her young child, Simmie.
Rest in peace, my friend.
Note from the author: How Simmie Williams self-identified is a bit of a mystery. Denise referred to Simmie as openly gay and gender non-conforming. Simmie did dress in a feminine way at times, sometimes wearing women's clothing. Since Simmie was only 17 at the time of death, we will never know if Simmie would have identified as gay or trans. I used a blanket "LGBT" when referencing Simmie out of respect for the family, Denise, and the unclear nature of how Simmie self-labeled. Whatever the identity, Simmie and Denise were special people who touched many in the entire LGBT community. They will both be missed.