On August 18, 2006, seven young African American lesbian women from Newark, New Jersey came to Manhattan’s West Village for a night out. Although they were all familiar with harassment about their sexual orientation, none of them anticipated their night out would end as a nightmare. A male bystander harassed and assaulted the young women, making sexist and homophobic comments to them as well as lewd advances and telling one of the women that he would “F—k her straight.” When the women defended themselves, a physical altercation ensued. It ended with all the young women being arrested. After a hellish year-long trip through the legal system, three women (Chenese Loyal, Khymesha Coates, Lania Daniels) took plea bargains and the other four were convicted of crimes and given shocking prison sentences in April 2007. Terrain Dandridge (20) was setenced to three and a half years behind bars; Venice Brown (19) five years; Renata Hill (25) eight years; and Patreese Johnson, who is only 19, was sentenced to an unbelievable 11 years.
FIERCE has worked with other community organizations and individuals to raise awareness about the case, provide court support during the trial, letter writing and care packages to the young women while incarcerated, and generating support for the women post-release. The women and their families now call on our communities for support. Their emotional and financial burdens have already been immense. These hardships will only continue as the women endure unjust prison terms and the process of appeals.