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Koko Da Doll, one of the trans women featured in the hit Sundance documentary Kokomo City, was found dead in Atlanta on Tuesday night.
In a Thursday Instagram post, Kokomo City director D. Smith called Koko, whose given name is Rasheeda Williams, “the latest victim of violence against Black transgender women.”
“I created Kokomo City because I wanted to show the fun, humanized, natural side of Black trans women,” wrote Smith, who is herself a Black trans woman. “I wanted to create images that didn’t show the trauma or the statistics of murder of Transgender lives. I wanted to create something fresh and inspiring. I did that. We did that! But here we are again. It’s 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.”
According to the Atlanta Police Department, officers responded to reports of a shooting on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW just before 11 p.m. At the scene, investigators found a woman who had been shot and said in a statement, “She was not alert, conscious or breathing and pronounced deceased on scene by AFR [Atlanta Fire Rescue Department].” Police did not identify the victim by name.
The statement continued, “Homicide investigators responded to the scene and are working to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident. The investigation continues.”
Representatives for Cinetic Media and Magnolia Pictures, which acquired Kokomo City after its Sundance bow, referred The Hollywood Reporter to Smith’s Instagram post and added they had no additional details.
Koko Da Doll was one of four Black transgender sex workers, including Daniella Carter, Dominique Silver and Liyah Mitchell, featured in Smith’s documentary. The feature followed each of their experiences living in New York and Atlanta, while exploring the division between the Black community and themselves, as well as the threats they face every day.
The film won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival in January, including the NEXT Audience Award and NEXT Innovator Award. In her review of the doc, THR critic Lovia Gyarkye wrote, “Violence — both real and anticipated — is the most obvious thematic thread, but competing for space and attention is beauty.”
The festival shared a tribute to Koko on its official Twitter account, writing, “We are saddened to hear about the death of Rasheeda Williams aka Koko Da Doll. We were honored to have her at the Festival this year with Kokomo City, where she reminded Black trans women, ‘we can do anything, we can be whatever we want to be.’ It is a tragic loss.”
Carter, one of the participants in the documentary, also took to Instagram, saying, “MY CASTMATE WAS MURDERED LAST NIGHT. I’m truly at a lost of words and in deep pain. Please contact ATl PD if you have any tips you can offer. Please share this with anyone you know in atl.”
The Atlanta Police Department said on Twitter that the department is actively investigating three violent crimes involving transgender women this year and that, “while these individual incidents are unrelated, we are very aware of the epidemic-level violence black and brown transgender women face in America.”
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