Nizah MorrisAge 47 (born 19 Oct 1955)
24 Dec 2002
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)
TDoR list ref: tdor.info/24 Dec 2002/Roberta Nizah Morris
Nizah was found with a fatal head wound in Center City shortly after a “courtesy ride” from Philadelphia police. She died at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital after she was removed from life support.
Nizah Morris was a beloved figure. She was a weekly performer at Bob and Barbara’s. She founded a trans Buddhist faith group, something that drew national attention. She mentored younger trans women in the city and had a way with them. “A lot of the younger girls in the trans community, Nizah was always so sweet to them,” trans advocate Deja Lynn Alvarez told the Daily Beast.
After her death, local authorities declined to release comprehensive information about the circumstances of her case, insisting that they wanted to protect the “integrity” of the investigation. Their handling of her death sparked protests in the LGBT community and led to several investigations into the police coverup of her death.
Asa Khalif, a local activist with a reputation as a lightning rod who uses tactics of disruptive behavior and in-your-face confrontations, might just be mellowing ... at least when it comes to the case of Nizah Morris.
Thirty years after attending his first protest against trans violence, Khalif, who has been arrested multiple times for alleged offenses such as disorderly conduct, use of obscene language and defiant trespass, says he’s now willing to cooperate with local authorities to get answers in the Nizah Morris homicide.
Morris was a trans woman of color found with a fatal head wound in Center City in 2002 shortly after a “courtesy ride” from Philadelphia police. After her death, local authorities declined to release comprehensive information about the circumstances of her case, insisting they wanted to protect the “integrity” of the investigation.
Morris’ friends and supporters, including Khalif, demanded answers. In the weeks after Morris died in 2002, Khalif participated in a Center City protest that attracted hundreds of participants, then held a press conference at the William Way LGBT Center demanding a thorough investigation of the homicide.
But still, the police refused to disclose details about their investigation.
Khalif said he knew Morris, who regularly attended LGBT Pride events and performed drag on a weekly basis at Bob and Barbara’s Lounge on South Street.
“I met Nizah as a young activist and we immediately hit it off,” Khalif recalled. “She was always warm, always looking out for other people. Nizah had a great personality. So it was very difficult not to be friends with her.”
The community respected Nizah, Khalif said. “I think that’s why this case resonates so much with people.”
In 2008, the city Law Department publicly admitted the police department’s entire Morris homicide file had been missing since 2003. That news raised questions about prior assurances of a proper investigation. The Police Advisory Commission promptly reopened its Morris investigation, and in April 2013 called for state and federal probes.