SF memorial set for slain bi transit advocate

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 3, 2023
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A celebration of life will be held for Courtney Brousseau, who was gunned down in 2020. Photo: Brousseau's former Twitter page.
A celebration of life will be held for Courtney Brousseau, who was gunned down in 2020. Photo: Brousseau's former Twitter page.

A celebration of life for the 20-year-old bisexual transit advocate and Twitter employee gunned down in San Francisco three years ago will be held Saturday.

The memorial for Courtney Brousseau - "A life lost, legacy born" - will be held May 6 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.

Brousseau's mother Rekha Garg, 64, of San Diego, told the Bay Area Reporter that this will be an opportunity for Northern California friends and colleagues of her late son to gather and meet in remembrance, which couldn't happen closer to the time of his death due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

"Because it was 2020, I couldn't do anything at the time," Garg said. "I wanted to do something to honor him given the high impact he had in a short amount of time - a celebration of his life, more than anything else."

As the B.A.R. previously reported, Brousseau was killed May 1, 2020 in a barrage of gunfire at 14th and Guerrero streets in the Mission Dolores neighborhood. It is believed Brousseau happened to be walking down the street when he was killed in a gang-related drive-by gunfight.

Officer Robert Rueca of the San Francisco Police Department told the B.A.R. last month that no arrest has been made in the case.

Garg said, "I don't really focus on that much. It was a gang shooting. I don't know if it will ever come to fruition. It doesn't give me any closure; my son is not going to be back. ... My son wanted justice and equity and he'd be upset young kids who don't have opportunities end up in gangs."

Garg had initially planned the NorCal memorial - one was held last May at Newbury Park High School in Thousand Oaks, California - to be at the Twitter headquarters on Market Street since her son worked there.

"There's a mural to commemorate him on the fourth floor," Garg said. "They have a deck out there by the mural. I thought that'd be the perfect place to do that. They were going to let me do that in mid-October last year, but unfortunately they reneged on that with [Elon] Musk buying it."

Musk completed the deal to purchase Twitter that month. After the company canceled on Garg, she said, "It was way too late for me to find a place and do everything I needed in a timely manner," which led to the memorial being delayed till May.

The B.A.R. contacted Twitter to ask about this and seek additional comment. The Twitter press email responded with a 💩 emoji, which is its standard practice, since Musk instituted it March 19.

Brousseau's brother Yvon, 30, of Seattle, told the B.A.R. he is not surprised but does not know if Musk was personally involved.

"Obviously Twitter has been going through a tumultuous time, and we had the wrong time," Yvon Brousseau told the B.A.R. "They are no longer open to doing it. ... It's unfortunate we are unable to do it at Twitter but, given what's going on there, I'm not surprised."

Garg reached out to the LGBT center, several blocks up Market Street from Twitter.

"I felt that'd be a perfect fit for him," she said.

The center did not respond to a request for comment for this report as of press time.

Garg told the B.A.R. that in her son's honor is a plaque on a bench at Mission Dolores Park - where Brousseau enjoyed a burrito in the minutes before his death - as well as a plaque at the campus of UC Berkeley, where he went to school. The B.A.R. reported on the bench last year. Garg is also seeking a memorial along John F. Kennedy Drive in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The thoroughfare was recently closed to vehicular traffic thanks to a ballot measure passed by San Francisco voters last year.

For the memorial at the LGBT center, Garg said there will be similar features as there were for the Southern California memorial: a guest sign-in book, a sticker, and T-shirts inspired by one of her son's favorite musicals.

"Courtney loved 'Hamilton' - absolutely loved it," Garg said. "We have Courtney as part of the logo, with his bike at the top [of the star] and we have everything he loved. Everything he was passionate about and his qualities as a person. I gave that out as well as a sticker. Young people love these stickers: 'A life lost, a legacy born.'"

The SoCal memorial featured appearances by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) and Marshall Tuck, a Democratic former candidate for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

"When I was on the city council, Courtney was on the youth commission," Irwin told the B.A.R. "I went to his Eagle Scout certification - he got that at a very young age. When he was on the commission, we worked together on an internship program matching students who are juniors with local businesses."

Irwin said she advised Brousseau when he was editor of the high school newspaper and faced blowback from parents about an article regarding sex on campus.

When Irwin was in Sacramento, and Brousseau was at Cal, their friendship continued.

"We've always kept in touch," she said. "A few months before he passed, he was going to visit, but I was busy that day. When I think about what happened, it still is really devastating."

Tuck said that Brousseau joined him in Sacramento to advocate for legislation on teacher tenure.

"He was just a special young man," Tuck told the B.A.R. "He realized low-income schools weren't treated the same as his and he felt it was unfair and he tried to change it. ... I was so impressed by his passion and activism. ... What I was doing as an adult, he was doing as a student."

Yvon Brousseau will be acting as the master of ceremonies at Saturday's event.

"I'll be there this weekend," he said, "probably not speaking myself but talking about the other speakers."

Among the other speakers, Garg said, will be Janice Li, a queer woman who serves on the BART board. Brousseau and Li served as co-organizers of Gays for Transit. Li did not respond to a request for comment for this report as of press time.

David H. Romer, an economics professor at Cal, will also be speaking at the event.

"I co-teach principles of economics - 400 first-year students - and he took the class. There's a handful of students who figure out nobody goes to office hours early in the semester and they can come in and ask about the material," Romer told the B.A.R. "Courtney was one of those students. We'd hang out and talk, and I just thought he was wonderful. I thought he was fascinating - a great kid - and he showed up every week at office hours with interesting things to talk about.

"Why do I enjoy teaching at Cal? Because of students like Courtney," Romer concluded.

The San Francisco LGBT Community Center is located at 1800 Market Street.

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