This month I will share stories on Black History Month – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. History isn’t always pretty and sometimes we sanitize that which makes us uncomfortable. Here I will share all facets of Black History and try to focus on people not necessarily in the history books.
This is a story I came across while researching unsolved deaths. I have never heard of this man before and there is not much of a biography for him, but he influenced and helped so many in his short life.
Ali Forney was born April 12, 1975 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was raised in Brooklyn, New York by a single mom. Ali was a gay and transgender youth and was rejected by his family at age 13. It was at that age he turned to prostitution. He was put in a group and several foster homes, but he ran away, preferring the streets. He often wore women’s clothing while working as a prostitute and also did drugs to take away the pain of being a sex worker.
At 17, Ali joined Safe Horizon Streetwork program. He got a Social Security Card, his GED, and a medical card. Ali turned to working with youth like himself. He worked the streets giving out condoms to drug dealers and counseled other teens like him about safety. He went to San Francisco to work with social workers about the needs of homeless, transgender youth. Ali was HIV positive and said, “I became a peer educator because I see so many HIV-infected people on the stroll. Even now, there are people who don’t know how to use condoms.”
Police found Ali dead on Dec. 5, 1997 in a housing project in Harlem. He was the third transgender youth prostitute found killed in 14 months in Harlem. His murder has not been solved.
In June 2002, Carl Siciliano started a center for homeless LGBT youth in New York and named it the Ali Forney Center. From their website:
The Ali Forney Center houses and protects homeless LGBT youth living on the streets of New York. Like Ali, our Street Outreach Team educates teens about safe sex and HIV prevention. In our time we have grown to provide medical and mental health services. We also provide volunteer mentors, educational and career programs, life skills training and much more. Our goal is to not only provide food, water, and shelter: Our goal is to transform the lives of these young people so that they may reclaim their lives and never live on the streets again. Ali’s murder has never been brought to justice, however, the spirit of Ali continues to live on in our work and in each of the lives we change.
Ali Forney. (n.d.). In the Ali Forney Center. Retrieved February 5, 2017, from http://www.aliforneycenter.org/alis-story/
Ali Forney. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 5, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Forney