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SF turns out for vigil honoring young black trans activist Ivory Smith

Ivory Nicole Smith's vigil displayed a portrait of her from the Tenderloin District's "Know Our Place" campaign designed to promote uplifting narratives about trans people. | Peter-Astrid Kane/The Standard

Led by transgender advocates and Tenderloin neighbors, members of San Francico’s LGBTQ+ community turned out on Friday night for a vigil honoring Ivory Nicole Smith, a Black trans activist who was found dead in her apartment on Tuesday. She was 27 years old.

Beside a wreath of flowers and a portrait of Smith smiling broadly, well over 100 people held votives and roses, sharing tearful remembrances of a vivacious woman and San Francisco native who was widely seen as an up-and-coming leader. Members of Smith’s family were present, along with friends and colleagues, plus individuals affiliated with the Transgender District, San Francisco Pride and numerous other queer-centered organizations. 

Friday night's vigil was somber, with Smith's family, friends, colleagues and members of prominent LGBTQ+ organizations all in attendance. | Peter-Astrid Kane/The Standard

The intersection of Turk and Taylor streets—renamed “Vicki Mar Lane” after a trans-identified drag performer who was a staple of neighborhood venues for decades—is a historically significant gathering place for the community. It’s within the footprint of the pioneering Transgender District, as well as the site of the former Compton’s Cafeteria, where a 1966 uprising led by trans women is recognized as one of the first salvos in the fight for LGBTQ+ liberation.

Smith’s vigil took place at the end of a week marked by mass shootings and revelations of police brutality. Only one block away, a vocal march for Tyre Nichols—a 29-year-old Black man who had been killed by Memphis law enforcement during a traffic stop—proceeded up Market Street at around the same time, highlighting the precariousness of Black lives in America. 

The Standard has reached out to the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office for more information.

Astrid Kane can be reached at