Few unsolved murders have troubled me like that of Rashawn Brazell, a 19-year-old Brooklyn man who was murdered and dismembered around Valentine’s Day in 2005. Even ten years later, at a vigil I attended in Brooklyn designed to keep the spotlight on one of New York City’s most frustrating cold cases, it seemed increasingly unlikely that the killer would ever be found. The fact Rashawn was a gay man of color did little to calm my fear that he would end up a statistic—forgotten because of his race and sexuality. Today’s arrest of Kwauhuru Govan, his alleged killer, came as a welcome surprise to me, and what must be an overwhelming sense of relief to his tireless family and friends.


Kwauhuru Govan (l.), charged with the 2005 murder of Rashawn Brazell 

When I had the opportunity to meet Rashawn’s loved ones at a documentary screening hosted by filmmaker Terik King a few years ago, I learned firsthand just how determined his mother and others were to find the person responsible. They spoke lovingly about Rashawn and the memories they had of his infectious spirit. Desire Brazell told King in an interview, “When you saw one — you saw the other. It was more than just a mother-son relationship. He was my best friend.” Twelve years after Rashawn left his home never to be seen alive again, I join the Brazell family in thanking the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies in seeing this case through—and for making sure that Rashawn Brazell, my LGBTQ brother, didn’t become a footnote.

Vigil in Brooklyn for Rashawn Brazell, 2015

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