PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Former Berkshire County resident and transgender activist Jahaira DeAlto was murdered Sunday in Boston.
DeAlto, 42, and Fatima Yasin, 27, were reportedly stabbed to death in DeAlto's Dorchester home. Yasin's husband, Marcus Chavis, 34, was arrested in the murders.
DeAlto was a counselor for domestic violence and sexual assault victims, including at the Elizabeth Freeman Center and was most recently Safelink coordinator for Casa Myrna, a shelter and support services provider for domestic abuse survivors in Boston's South End. She spoke frequently on transgender and social justice issues and had been a board member of Berkshire Pride and the Freeman Center's LGBTQIA+ Access Project.
"Jahaira was a loyal friend, a fierce advocate, and a mother to many. Her unconditional love was felt by all who met her and her kind and funny spirit left its mark on the Berkshires — from the classrooms at Berkshire Community College to the offices of Elizabeth Freeman Center, from helping launch the first Transgender Day of Remembrance and Berkshire Pride Festival to 'being all the things,' as she liked to say," Berkshire Pride posted
She was a 2019 graduate of Berkshire Community College and was studying social work at Simmons University. Her advisor and professor at Simmons, Diane Grossman, said
she was "exceptionally bright and tremendously committed to social justice issues around trans rights, victims of abuse, and more. She had a charismatic personality and was a magnet for other Simmons students who admired her tremendous experience as a community leader. As a vocal supporter of her peers, Jahaira stood up for issues of equality, justice, and inclusion."
Berkshire Community College Alumni posted a video of DeAlto reciting a poem
for the college's 60th anniversary last year. The community had lost a "loving, compassionate, and strong soul. An advocate and activist in our community — someone who made a difference in the lives of our BCC community members and countless others."
Speaking at a protest
following the murder of Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien by her husband in 2018, DeAlto said transgender women of color, like herself, were more at risk for abuse and murder.
"I am 50 times more likely to experience intimate partner violence in my lifetime," she said. "I am 50 times more likely to experience sexual assault in my lifetime, in two weeks, when I turn 39 years old I will be four years past my life expectancy ... the murders of trans people are 80 percent more likely to occur among trans women of color."
The murders of DeAlto and Yasin are under investigation. Yasin's two young children were in the house but unharmed; a dog was also stabbed but is reportedly recovering. Chavis pleaded not guilty in court Monday and is being held without bail.
DeAlto's image on her Facebook page is a note with the statement, "in the end, only kindness matters."
According to reporting by The Boston Globe, Yasin and Chavis and their children were living with DeAlto. This has been corrected in the article. The Globe further reported that Chavis told police he suffered from mental health issues; neighbors told The Globe that DeAlto had been like a mother to Chavis.