In Our Hearts: Remembering YOKO, Artist and DJ, Killed in New Orleans

by Jared Todd

YOKO (YOUONLYKNOWONE) was a talented artist and DJ who inspired many in the New Orleans area. YOKO loved their family and their friends, who remember YOKO as “an exceptional, joyful, absurdly talented, and extremely loving and gentle human.” According to YOKO, their favorite thing to do was create. They were a talented, accomplished artist “inspired by so many things, notably anime and cartoons, complimentary color pallets, nature, and horror all in one.” YOKO’s wide array of work included modeling, tattooing, murals, publications, solo showings, curating art shows, and live works for shows and events.

“It's been a fun few years as YOKO, and can't wait to see what else I can do,” YOKO said on their website.

Sadly, YOKO, who was nonbinary, was struck and killed by a driver of an SUV on the night of September 19th at just 30 years old. The driver fled the scene. YOKO’s death is at least the 18th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2023. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

YOKO’s death is such a profound loss for the entire New Orleans community. I wish YOKO was still here with the people who knew and loved them best. They were a prolific artist and gentle spirit who seemed to truly pour the joy of life into everyone they knew. As loved ones grieve, they should find solace in the fact that YOKO had so many people who loved them and admired their amazing talent. YOKO’s warmth and joy will live on in the New Orleans community and beyond. The world could use a lot more love and compassion for every person."

Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative

According to local news reports, a 36-year-old person has been taken into custody on one count of fatal hit-and-run driving, one count of possession of a stolen vehicle, as well as multiple fugitive warrants.

At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Louisiana are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Louisiana does not include gender identity as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law. Though we have recently seen some political gains that support and affirm transgender people, we have also faced anti-LGBTQ+ attacks at many levels of government this year.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.

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