In South Florida, Black transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) folks do not experience available resources and spaces the same way as others with similar identities who are not Black. Racism and anti-Blackness affect how welcome we do or do not feel when accessing health care and social services. We are often way behind others in being able to qualify for services due to not having documentation, and past bad experiences make us less likely to seek services in the first place. Due to simply trying to survive daily, it is difficult for us to prioritize what we need to do to change our destinies. Finding ways to shift this narrative is a key goal of The McKenzie Project Inc., the first Black trans-led organization in Miami. Founded in 2020, we operate in Miami-Dade County and Broward County.
The McKenzie Project, Inc. was the vision of a Black trans woman who saw a need for change in the experiences of Black TGNC folks. I, Jasmine McKenzie, am a Black woman of transgender experience who experienced homelessness, engaged in survival sex work, was sexually abused, and is a long-term survivor of HIV. I first organized creative arts and entrepreneurship studies to shift things in the community to ensure that Black TGNC folks can become self-sufficient and support themselves through other means than sex work. I started with a ballroom education and entrepreneurship group once a month, which included activities like hair classes, candle making, makeup courses, vogue tutorials, runway 101, and resume building. I added a monthly support group for Black transgender women who engage in survival sex work and are disproportionately affected by HIV. Then the McKenzie Project became the host organization for the first Black transmen's support group in South Florida.
There was so much work and many considerations related to starting an organization. With everything we were doing, there still needed to be more safe spaces to do it in. We partnered with TransSocial as our fiscal sponsor, and together, with the support of the Transgender Strategy Center we were able to open two drop-in centers named The Joy & Liberation Centers. The Miami center hosts legal clinics, mental wellness one-on-one and group sessions, and creative arts projects. We also do community lock-ins with other Miami organizations where young people come over the weekend to host 48 hours of advocacy training, fun over food, and amazing dialogue. At our second location in Da
nia Beach, we have brought out new faces and made many connections with the hidden gems in our community. Our Dania space hosts a community garden, a book club for banned books, laundry services, advocacy training, a technology room, showers and a food pantry, a beauty room, and the HRT Hub (Hurricane Response Team Hub). Both centers are safe spaces that center Black TGNC folks.
Now that we have these spaces, we also see an influx of younger people and their supportive biological and chosen family who support seeking refuge and hope from the increasing hostility and legislative attacks that seek to erase transgender people in Florida. Despite this, when someone steps into the centers, the centers are places for Black TGNC joy and liberation. With this hope, our resilience is rebuilt. We can receive the support we need to access services and care outside of the centers, knowing that we have this space dedicated to creating equity and leveling the playing field. This is what Breathing While Black & Trans is.
Founder & Executive Director
The McKenzie Project
Jasmine McKenize is a Black woman of trans experience who is committed to changing and molding her community with an extreme focus on making sure that other Black transgender and nonbinary bodies have a safe and amazing future.