CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Gray clouds, steeped with rain, swirled above Tuckaseegee Park when a short parade of cars pulled into the parking lot.
One by one, the cars emptied, and dozens of women greeted each other, crying and laughing, having traveled from all over the Southeast to collectively celebrate the life of a sister they had lost.
Jaida Peterson, a Black transgender woman, was found dead in a west Charlotte hotel room April 4. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officials say she was shot. Detectives are investigating who killed Peterson and why.
She was 29 years old.
Peterson's death is the 26th homicide in Charlotte this year, and she's at least the 14th transgender person killed nationwide since the start of the year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. On Friday, two men were arrested in Charlotte in connection with the murders of Peterson and another Black transgender woman, who was found shot to death at a hotel on Thursday.
Murders of transgender people are on the rise, and Black transgender women are especially at risk. According to the HRC, Black trans women are murdered disproportionately because each of their identities — being Black, being trans, and being women — puts them at a greater risk of being killed and being victims of other forms of discrimination, too.
Many of the Black trans women at Peterson's vigil on April 9 asked for one thing over and over again: "Just respect us."
Peterson was born on December 7, 1991, in Florence, South Carolina.
She attended both Hartsville High School and McBee High School and was a longtime member of Mt. Pisgah Presbyterian Church, according to her obituary.
Peterson was 17 years old when she came out. Her best friend since childhood, Tawanda Barnett, knew before Peterson even had to tell her.