Help FIERCE help the Jersey 4!
- Injustice Prevails: 4 of the 7 lesbians convicted of self-defense
get sentences ranging from 3.5 to 11 years
In Mid August, 7 Young Lesbians from New Jersey were approached by a
man selling DVD's in front of the W 4th St IFC theatre. His
advances were not welcome and verbally rejected. The situation then
escalated where the man became hostile towards the women and in the
process of defending themselves four of them have been sentenced
with serious time. Terrain Dandridge was sentenced with 3.5 years,
Venice Brown with 5 years, Renata Hill with 8 years and Patreese
Johnson has the highest sentence of 11 years.
FIERCE was initially contacted by some of the family members and
friends of those involved to attend their ongoing court dates. We
have helped to connect them with resources and outreached for court
support hoping to display to the decision makers that there was a
strong community that was watching. FIERCE's work in the past few
years regards prioritizing rights to public space as well as freedom
from constant police harassment in the West Village. We research
root causes of many issues facing Transgender, Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual Two-Spirit and Queer youth of color residing in the Metro
Area. The impact of the state and city's neglect of our community
has clearly left many of us vulnerable to severe violence, and
promoted the decline of our community's overall well-being. Policing
looks different in every community, at FIERCE we know that it is a
privilege to feel safe- and that feeling is not afforded to a lot of
our community members.
Many of us have experienced that calling the police due to a
threatening situation has lead to increased harassment and re-
victimization either by the initial attacker and or the police
We will not forget the tragic death of Sakia Gunn, a 15 year-old
black lesbian from Newark who was murdered in 2003. Her attacker,
similar to Wayne Buckle, verbally harassed her and her friends while
they waited at a bus stop in Newark coming from the Christopher St.
Piers. In the short amount of time it takes to potentially defend
your life, if Sakia Gunn had succeeded in fighting back would she
too be in jail? If her friends had helped her successfully would
they be charged with gang assault? Still torn out of her community,
still away from her family to be left with few options after being
convicted? Based on this case and the history of prisons and
policing in this country, the answer is yes. While none of the young
women in this case were murdered they have also been torn out of
their families left with few options after being put through
the "criminal justice" system.
While many organizations work on alternatives to policing that keep
our communities safe, FIERCE wants to help update the community and
share ways to get involved and stay involved as this case becomes
more and more public. Already there are other community members who
have been helping with the legal aspects of the case, sharing
resources, and generally supporting some of the friends and family
involved. We would like to recognize the organizations who have been
able to be apart of this case, or have helped to inform others. We
hope you continue to strengthen your support as we aid in making
this case known far and wide.
We encourage people and organizations to write op-ed's in response
to any negative media that may come out of this. A law firm has
been identified to help with the case. To put money into their
accounts directly we recommend money orders, you cannot send books
the prisons have vendors that the women can order from. They are
only allowed two packages per month weighing no more then 35 pounds.
FIERCE will send one care package in August to each of the young
women. We suggest putting out to the list serve if you are
interested in sending a care package. FIERCE will send out the time
of our care package party if you would like to add to it. A call to
the parents can be made so we don't interfere with any packages from
them. We would like to publicly thank the staff at The Astraea
Lesbian Foundation for Justice for being the first to proactively
promote fundraising, which will help support the families as they
cover the accumulating cost of this case, some of them depleting
their life savings at least one of the mother has put up her home.
We hope you stay in touch and follow the case leveraging resources
and plugging in when you can. Please check FIERCE's website
www.fiercenyc. org <http://www.fierceny c.org> for more updated
information. Thank you to all who have supported this case or will
in the near future. Terrain Dandrige's mother put it best when she
said "It shouldn't have happened to Terrain or any of the other
girls, but it can not happen again to anyone else".
Thank you for reading.
EMAIL LIST/ ANNOUNCEMENTS
Stay in touch with other community members, send and receive
To join, go to http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/justice4ne wark4/
If you have questions, offers or help, or new ideas, please let us
Please make checks out to FIERCE, and make sure to write 'Newark 4'
147 West 24th St., 6th Floor
New York, NY 10011We recommend sending them direct money orders,
info is posted directly below
Patreese Johnson # 07-G-0635 Renata Hill # 07-G-0636
Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 1000
Bedford Hills, NY 10507
Terrain Dandridge # 07-G-0637 Venice Brown # 07-G-0640
Albion Correctional Facility
3595 State School RoadAlbion, New York 14411-9399
Killer Lesbians Mauled by Killer Court, Media Wolfpack
By: SUSIE DAY
Four more black girls just went bad. Young, 19 to 25; from Newark or
surrounding neighborhoods; "troubled" families; having babies while
in their teens - you've heard it all before. The reason you're
reading about this bunch is that they're lesbians - "killer
lesbians," "a wolf pack of lesbians," say the media. They're not
martyrs or heroes; they did something stupid that got them sentenced
to prison. They stood up for themselves.
"Man Is Stabbed in Attack After Admiring a Stranger," wrote the
comparatively well-mannered New York Times last August 19. The
Manhattan district attorney says Patreese Johnson, one of the four,
was the stabber. He charged her with attempted murder, and Johnson,
Renata Hill, Venice Brown, and Terrain Dandridge with felony assault
and gang assault. The man assaulted was Dwayne Buckle, 29, who,
seeing the "gang" on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West Fourth
Street in Manhattan's West Village, singled out Johnson because she
was "slightly pretty." He claimed he said, "Hi, how are you doing?"
Johnson, Hill, Brown, Dandridge, and three other women - a "seething
sapphic septet," according to the New York Post - had just gotten
off the train from Newark, looking for a little fun. Being young,
they knew the odds of fun were better in the Village; being
lesbians, they knew fun was not to be had in the streets of Newark,
where, four years earlier, 15-year-old Sakia Gunn was knifed to
death by men who thought she was cute - until she told them she was
Although what happened between these women and Dwayne Buckle was
caught on surveillance cameras, there isn't one newspaper account
that doesn't, somehow, conflict with the others. Dwayne Buckle,
a "filmmaker" or "sound mixer" or "DVD bootlegger" - depending on
your news source - evidently said more than "Hi." The women contend
he pointed to Patreese Johnson's crotch and said, "Let me get some
of that." When Johnson answered, "No thank you, I'm not interested,"
he told Johnson that he could fuck her and her friends straight.
Buckle says the women called his sneakers "cheap," then slapped and
spit at him, while he put his hands over his face to ward off the
blows. The women say he spit at them and threw a cigarette. Buckle
later admitted he called Venice Brown, because of her size, an
elephant, and told one of the lesbians in a "low haircut" she looked
like a man.
Depending on your life experience, you'll probably believe one side
over the other. In any case, a melee ensued in which two or three
male bystanders jumped in, either, says one side, as "good
Samaritans" to defend the women, or, says the other side, because
the women "recruited" them into the beating.
Naturally, there are details the press didn't cover. Susan
Tipograph, an attorney representing Renata Hill, supplies the fact
that, at some point, Buckle pulled off one woman's headpiece and
tore out a patch of another's hair - which may be what he is seen
swinging on the videotape, as he advances on the women.
According to Tipograph, Johnson, seeing that Buckle had Renata Hill
in a chokehold, took a 99-cent steak knife from her purse and swung
it at Buckle's arm, to get him to release Hill. After things quieted
down, the women, with no apparent intent of fleeing the scene, went
to the McDonalds across the street, visited the bathroom, got
something to eat. Twenty-five minutes later, they were arrested a
few blocks away, unaware the man they'd fought was injured. Buckle
had, in fact, sustained stomach and liver lacerations, and was to
spend the next five days in St. Vincent's Hospital, recuperating.
Interestingly, news media barely noticed that Dwayne Buckle is,
himself, black - given his demonstrable heterosexuality, he has
become, for purposes of the press, Everyman.
The trial did little to elucidate what happened. The videotape,
played repeatedly, was, says Tipograph, highly inconclusive. At 95
pounds, 4 feet 11 inches, Patreese Johnson may not have had the
strength or leverage to inflict much damage. Johnson still doesn't
know if she actually stabbed Buckle. One of the men who jumped into
the fight may have done it, but, since the NYPD never tested
Johnson's knife for DNA evidence, we'll never know. Long story
short: the jury didn't believe it was self-defense, and convicted
Now it's June 14, 2007. Johnson, Hill, Brown, and Dandridge are in
State Supreme Court, being sentenced. The Times reporter notes how
Judge Edward J. McLaughlin shows "little sympathy" as he lectures
the defendants, saying "they should have heeded the nursery rhyme
about 'sticks and stones' and walked away." The judge "scoffs" at
Johnson's explanation that she carried a knife because she worked
nights at Wal-Mart and needed protection getting home; he's saying
that Johnson's "'meek, weak' demeanor" on the stand has been "an
He sentences Johnson to 11 years in state prison; Renata Hill to
eight years; Terrain Dandridge to three-and-a- half; Venice Brown to
vie - and the courtroom erupts. The defendants scream, "I'm a good
girl!" and "Mommy, Mommy, I didn't do this!" Brown and Hill, mothers
themselves, will leave behind an infant and a five-year-old.
"He lectured them as if he knew what their lives were about - he
didn't have a clue," says Susan Tipograph. "Patreese Johnson is a 19-
year-old kid. I'm sorry she's not as forceful and together as a
white, middle-aged man who's been a judge for 20 years. He accused
them of lying, of not being remorseful, of being predators. What
happened that night was stupid, frankly. They should have walked
away. But the sentences McLaughlin gave were off the charts."
"PACK HOWLS - JUDGE WON'T BEND," blares the New York Daily News.
Some people say justice was served. After all, you want to watch out
for black dykes with knives. But people who believe in this kind of
justice talk like they know what prison is. Prison is about anything
but justice, especially for the young, the queer, the African-
Dwayne Buckle - or anyone that night - should not have been
physically hurt. But, embedded within the charges and sentences
these women received is an imploded violence that will damage lives
deeply, years after the body's wounds are healed.
None of these women can afford a lawyer; they urgently need pro bono
counsel for an appeal. If you can help, contact Susan Tipograph at
212.431.5360. If you want to provide non-legal support or write
letters to the women, go to http://www.fiercenyc.org.
Note from FIERCE: We have been able to help them get a law firm to
represent them and there is a fundraiser coming up August 18th