Black transgender woman Chanelika Y'Ella Dior Hemingway, a recent graduate of the University of Albany in New York, was found dead in her Albany apartment May 31, and police have ruled her death a homicide.
The police have not disclosed how she was killed and have released few details overall. She was found because her mother had not heard from her and asked authorities to check on her, Spectrum Local News reports.
"I wake up every morning crying, like, 'Who took my baby away from me? Why would you do that? Oh, God, why?'" Hemingway's mother, Jackie Powell, told the outlet this week.
Hemingway had just turned 30. She had studied at Hudson Valley Community College and then earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Albany, where she had received an award for her academic achievement and community activities. "She was always proud of who she was and so was I," Powell told Spectrum.
"Hemingway was a light in every room she entered," notes a Human Rights Campaign press release. She "should still be alive today to share her beautiful smile" and pursue her "bright future," Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC's Transgender Justice Initiative, said in the release. Cooper added, "Tragically, Black transgender women are disproportionally victims of fatal violence and more must be done to protect us and end this epidemic of violence."
Hemingway is at least the 15th trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming person to die by violence in the U.S. this year. There are likely many more victims whose deaths go unreported due to deadnaming or misgendering. A record 57 violent deaths were reported among this population last year.
In Our Own Voices, an Albany-area LGBTQ+ group, is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in Hemingway's case. The Albany police ask that anyone with helpful info call detectives at (518) 462-8039 or submit an anonymous tip through Capital Region Crime Stoppers.