Murdered Florida Sex Workers: Why Is No One Talking About Them?

North America & Caribbean Regional Correspondent

On the 18th of September, two teenage girls were found dead on the side of a road in Jacksonville, Florida. The bodies of the two young women, Tjhisha Ball and Angelia Mangum, who were 19 and 18 years old, respectively, had apparently been thrown off an overpass and were discovered by a passerby in the early hours of the morning.

As News 4 Jax reports, “these were the third and fourth women to have been killed in Jacksonville within the last week and a half.” Given the prospect of a serial killer on the loose in the area, there should have been an outcry about these girls’ deaths, but there was not. According to the organisers of a fund to help assist with the victims’ families’ funeral costs, “Since the discovery of their bodies on September 18th, the media has done little to no coverage of their horrific murders and have done everything they can to tarnish the images of the these two women, the victims of a terrible crime.”

On Twitter, activists, most notably Peechington Marie, campaigned for more attention on these brutal murders with the hashtag #TjhishaAndAngelina, and criticised the local media’s fixation on the young women’s work as exotic dancers and referencing of their criminal records. Over at Ebony, Jamilah Lemieux wrote: Someone(s) apparently murdered two women and left their bodies on the side of the road for the world to see.We shouldn’t need for them to have been “good girls”—or White girls, or, perhaps good White girls—for this to be cause for national concern. There is a killer, or killers, on the loose.

“There is no shame in what those women allegedly did for a living. The shame is the way our society treats the ‘bad girls,’ and that we do not respect their humanity even in death. “

Peechington Marie who, together with Meli Machiavelli, set up the fundraiser a few days after the discovery of the girls’ bodies, answered some questions about the campaign via email.

What were the issues you saw with initial reporting on the murders?

“I've said many times that the primary issues are the silence regarding the brutality of the murders, the erasure of them as human because of post mortem media violence with regards to their job choices and previous interactions with law enforcement, and the politics of respectability being used openly by many of the few people who have paid attention to their case. “

Why was the fundraiser set up? What are the next steps if the target is/is not met?

“The fundraiser was created solely to help pay for the funeral services of both girls. Due to personal situations, when this fundraiser closes, that will be it for my involvement. If we do not meet the goal, I hope others might step in and try to help as well. “

How has the response been to your campaigning and the fundraiser? Has coverage improved? How can the media and the public do better?

“Media coverage has not improved and it has been ... discouraging, to say the least.  The sex work community has been largely silent, which has also been disconcerting. But in the face of it all, we all must do what we can and continue as we are able.

“Please continue to pray and think positive thoughts for both Angelia and Tjhisha's families as it’s easy to forget it has barely been 30 days since they were found and only a few weeks since they were buried. “

There are only a couple of days left to reach the campaign’s $17,000 goal. You can donate by following this link.