This year, Senior National Organizers Mickaela Bradford and Mariah Moore stepped into newly created deputy director roles co-leading our programs team.
Transgender Law Center programs include Black Trans Circles, led by Mariah; the Disability Project; Positively Trans; and our Gender Justice Leadership Programs, as well as collaboration with the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP), fiscally sponsored by TLC, and the ongoing Trans Agenda for Liberation Coalition, co-coordinated by Mickaela since 2018.
Mickaela and Mariah shared insights on leadership journeys, activist legacies, and forms of self-and community care as they reflected on their new roles and the past year:
How did you each first connect with Transgender Law Center, and what has the timeline of your involvement looked like?
Mariah Moore: In 2018, I was invited to participate in Black Trans Circles in New Orleans by another community leader. What followed changed my life. I had never been in a space where I felt safe, seen, and connected. Soon after, I received an invitation to that year’s TLC and SONG [Southerners On New Ground] convening, where I was able to deepen my understanding of organizing and policy.”
Later that year, I joined TLC’s National Coalition as a member among so many other extraordinary leaders. Shortly after, I was hired by TLC as a consultant for Black Trans Circles, to convene the second cohort of Black trans women and femmes in New Orleans. In 2019, I came onboard as a full-time Organizing Program Associate.
Mickaela Bradford: In 2015, TLC had just begun expanding nationally. I didn’t know it at the time but my cousin, a Black trans woman, had reached out to TLC for support. In response, TLC reached out to activists [here] in Georgia and that’s how I met [former Deputy Director] Isa Noyola, [current Executive Director] Kris Hayashi, and many more TLC leaders. We got my cousin the support she needed and I walked away with a crush on TLC.
I had been organizing in Atlanta with activist groups around the time TLC was looking to start a new type of partnership in the South, with Southerners On New Ground. It was divine timing because North Carolina’s infamous bathroom bill [HB2] became a call to action. Immediately, TLC and SONG answered the call, rallied the community together, and spoke truth to power.
What impact do you see your co-deputy director roles having on yourselves and on fellow trans leaders?
Mickaela: As the first full–time staff member who is a nonbinary Black trans woman/femme—my gender is complex!—I am deeply honored. The impact of my community’s trust reverberates and replenishes generations of organizers and artists behind and beside me. I am not—we are not—here by accident, mistake, or chance. Many, many Black women, trans femmes, and nonbinary angels have made this moment possible for me, for us. Our liberation is dependent on each other’s willingness to live and lead fiercely.
I pay homage to Bianca Campbell, Auntie Dee Dee Chamblee, Aunty Cheryl Courtney-Evans (rest in peace), Mama Major, Auntie Janetta Johnson, LL Gimeno, Nathalie Nia Faulk, Taylor ALXNDR, Raquel Willis, and Victor Ultra Omni of the worldwide pioneering House of Ultra Omni.
What’s one of the things that means the most to you about being on staff?
Mariah: I am so honored to work at a national organization and still be connected on the ground through our programs and our many partnerships.
Mickaela: It’s both those moments of small scale, individual support and big, public demonstrations that continue to inspire me to keep fighting alongside fellow radical activists.
How have you stayed connected with community during the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place?
Mariah: As a New Orleanian especially it was extremely hard to shelter in place. I am someone who is always out in the community at events and social gatherings. I checked in with community via FaceTime, Zoom, Google Meet, voice notes—you name it! I also struggled knowing that there were so many community members who didn’t have the support they needed. I could not sit by and do nothing, so I led and supported food drop-offs, medication and PPE [personal protective equipment] delivery, and personally delivered care packages to our Black Trans Circles New Orleans participants. I did this because we keep us safe—we always have—I am living proof of that.
How do you disconnect when you need to?
Mariah: When I need to recharge, I book a nice room downtown, leave my computer at home, take the dogs to the sitter and enjoy a staycation filled with good food, movies, and maybe a massage.
Mickaela: I disconnect specifically from the internet, especially social media, and turn into my body. Anyone who knows me knows I love to vogue and imagine I’m walking a fashion runway to the beat of Beyonce’s Renaissance Act 1. For calm and introspection, I practice Kemetic yoga to the sounds of rain or a campfire.
Thinking back on 2021, what’s a moment that stands out or that you’re particularly proud of?
Mariah: I was and continue to be extremely proud of our collaborative work with BLMP [the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project]. In 2021, we virtually convened the second annual Fierce Freedom School, which is a multi-week skill-and leadership-building program connecting and amplifying the voices of Black trans women and Black trans femmes, both US-born and immigrant.
Mickaela: We had kicked off the Trans Agenda for Liberation launch at the January 2020 Creating Change conference. Then, of course, the pandemic interrupted our rollout, but when we finally fully launched digitally in early 2021, it felt like a weight had been lifted. Like the storm quieted, the sky parted, and the sun shone down on our path forward.
Our communities need an agenda and a framework that reflects the care we’ve been doing for each other for decades, and that points toward the future we’re fighting for. Last summer we also worked with TransLash[led by TLC Board Chair Imara Jones] to publish a powerful zinebased on the pillars of the Trans Agenda. Savoring the reflections and artwork from trans activists across the country, I knew we had done something powerful.
Interview by Jessica Glennon Zukoff.