Michael David Battle is the 29-year old director of the Garden of Peace Project in Pittsburgh.
Garden of Peace Project was created to uplift, uphold, and empower the narratives and lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals and to address the lack of education, employment, healthcare, and housing, and the violence that impacts all LGBTQIA+ individuals.
As he nears reaching the age of 30, he has become concerned, as a transgender man, with the draining of the sands of time.
In 2014, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that anti-LGBTQ violence killed 594 people in the Americas — almost half were transgender women. The commission concluded that 80 percent of all transgender murder victims were 35 years or younger. The commission extrapolated the average life expectancy for transgender people to be 30-35 years; the average U.S. life expectancy is 79.
Mr. Battle has taken action to change the grim statistics by securing $125,000 in grants from the Heinz Endowments and Borealis Philanthropy. He’s now working on three projects — all funded in January — that will support and celebrate Pittsburgh’s transgender community.
The Heinz Endowment awarded Trans Voices $50,000 through the Transformative Arts Process grant, to “build the field of arts-based youth development in African-American and distressed neighborhoods."
Trans Voices is a biannual show that is made and produced by the transgender community over two five-month periods. Participants attend workshops where they create projects to present at the final show.
Popular workshops include spoken word, visual arts and dance.
The goal of these workshops is to create spaces for trans folks to have mentorship. We want to celebrate trans lives and not mourn them anymore.
The National Center for Transgender Equality has reported that 1 in 5 transgender people have been discriminated against when seeking housing and more than 1 in 10 have been evicted because of being transgender.
The house is thriving, and the people are getting back on their feet. If people need a place to stay, we’ll find them a place.
The final project, Sanctuary Pittsburgh, a subsidized art gallery in Bloomfield, received a $15,000 grant from the Borealis Philanthropy, a nonprofit based in Minnesota that aids other charities to secure funding. The gallery curates monthly exhibits featuring the experiences of black LGBTQ people.
This work has changed my life, and I know it is changing lives around me. I want to keep changing people’s lives.