A mural in honor of Dominique Rem'mie Fells at Graffiti Pier, created by artist Jeannine Kayembe-Oro

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Dominique Rem’mie Fells would have celebrated her 29th birthday on Friday, but even in her absence, family and friends are throwing a giant party.

They’re gathering at 50th and Pentridge to honor Fells, a Black trans woman who spent most of her time in Southwest Philly after moving there from York, Pa. It’s the second commemorative event on her birthday since she was murdered in June of 2020.

When Philadelphians marked the occasion last year, it was with a solemn candlelight vigil. But this year’s event is different. Friends have planned a catered block party with music and dancing.

“The idea is to celebrate her, to uplift some things she really loved to do while she was living and to have a moment of reprieve for the family,” said local activist and author Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, who’s helping organize.

The whole party centers queerness. Two trans DJs, BB Basura and Archangel, will be spinning. Food is being donated by queer-led restaurants and mutual aid groups, including Mina’s World and Bunny Hop PHL.

There will be t-shirts for sale to benefit community fundraising, like the GoFundMe for the trans recovery house Morris Home, and the backdrop for the block party is the mural created for Fells at the corner of 50th and Pentridge.

“Dominique’s birthday was her day,” said her mother, Terri Edmonds, in a statement. “She loved being with family and friends and she deserves that in her afterlife. Her Philly family will get to meet her York family. This day is about her.”

Credit: Courtesy Abdul-Aliy Muhammad

Last week was the preliminary hearing for Fells’ alleged killer, Akhenaton Jones, who was held for trial on his charges. There was also a development in the 2019 murder of Philly Black trans woman Michelle “Tamika” Washington. The man who killed her, Troy Bailey, was sentenced to 25 to 30 years in prison.

Those won’t be topics of conversation at the Saturday party.

“This event is about Rem’mie and about her memory,” said family friend and organizer Muhammad. “We wanted to be really intentional about not having it be influenced by what happened at the preliminary hearing. We wanted a moment for the family to be together in celebration after that.”

There will also be space for grief. Plans call for floating lanterns into the sky in Fells’ name, and family members making speeches.

That’s extra special, Muhammad said. “There’s this narrative or story about particularly how Black trans women are ostracized and kicked out of their homes.”

“While that’s the experience of so many people, that’s not Rem’mie’s experience. She was very held and loved by her family, and it’s obvious. It’s such a refreshing thing to see how much they love her and are determined to uplift her in her afterlife.”

It’s a public event, and the organizers are expecting about 200 attendees. If you want to stop by, remember that fashion was one of Fells’ passions — and dress accordingly.

“I’m sure everybody will look fashionable, which she would’ve loved because she was deeply interested in personal aesthetics and fashion,” Muhammad said. “Everybody will come out looking their best for her.”

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...