Rasheeda Williams, an Atlanta-based transgender woman who features in a forthcoming documentary that highlights the stories of four Black transgender sex workers in New York City and Georgia, was fatally shot in this week, the film’s publicist said on Friday.
Williams, 35, who performed under the name Koko Da Doll, was killed on Tuesday evening at a shopping center in the south-west of the city. It was the third fatal shooting of a transgender woman in the city since the beginning of the year, Atlanta police said in a statement.
“Upon arrival, officers located a female victim with an apparent gunshot wound. She was not alert, conscious or breathing, and pronounced deceased on scene,” police said. “Homicide investigators responded to the scene and are working to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident.”
While the Atlanta police have not publicly identified Williams, her identity was confirmed by D Smith, the director of Kokomo City, the documentary that chronicled the lives of Williams and other trans women.
“Rasheeda, aka Koko Da Doll, was the latest victim of violence against Black transgender women,” Smith said on Instagram. “I created Kokomo City because I wanted to show the fun, humanized, natural side of Black trans women. I wanted to create images that didn’t show the trauma or the statistics of murder of transgender lives.”
Investigators have not indicated that they are treating William’s homicide or that the earlier murders are related to gender identity. “While these individual incidents are not related, we are very aware of the epidemic-level violence that Black and brown transgender women face in America,” the APD said in a statement.
“Our investigators have not found any indication the victim was targeted for being transgender or a member of the LGBTQ+ community and these cases do not appear to be random acts of violence,” the department said.
Daniella Carter, who also appears in the documentary that won three accolades, including Audience Award, at the Sundance Film Festival in January, said that she and Williams were “sisters for life, we promised, but now you’re gone.
“I’m waiting here, my arms wide open, tears running down my face, ready for you to return even if it takes forever, my sister. I will truly miss you, sis,” she added.
In a statement on its website, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) said Williams “should be alive today”.
“All transgender people deserve to live in safety and acceptance, beloved by their families, communities and able to contribute to a world where all are more free,” the advocacy group said.
Kokomo City producer Harris Doran said in an Instagram post: “this tragedy is just unbearable to process. Koko was working so hard to get out. She is brilliant in the film and when you see it, you will fall in love with her just as we all have.”
The film, which follows the lives of four Black trans sex workers – Koko, Carter, Liyah Mitchell and Dominique Silver – has received has been praised for its unapologetic approach to the subject.
“In its no-holds-barred approach,” Variety critic Peter Debruge wrote, “Kokomo City aims to unpack why entrenched ideas of masculinity and gender roles make trans-ness so threatening.”
“Kokomo City was never meant to be polite – or politically correct, for that matter. These women have nothing to hide. If anyone comes out from watching Kokomo City, it’ll be the guys who were afraid to admit their desire in public,” Debruge added.
In an interview with Variety, Smith, who is transgender and a Grammy-winning music producer for artists like Lil Wayne, André 3000 and Billy Porter, said she was grateful to see the reception to her film and the lives it documents.
“In real life, trans women are funny. And we’re sad, and we’re sexy, and we have body parts that are our body parts. It’s time to embrace that. Enough with the fortresses that are built around us, keeping us from fully joining society.”
After William’s death was announced, Smith acknowledged that it was “extremely difficult to process Koko’s passing, but as a team we are more encouraged now than ever to inspire the world with her story. To show how beautiful and full of life she was. She will inspire generations to come and will never be forgotten.”