San Jose's Qmunity District remembers transgender woman stabbed to death in Milpitas

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose's inclusive Qmunity District is kicking off a weekend of arts and activism. This comes exactly one week after the stabbing death of a beloved trans woman and drag artist, Natalia Smut Lopez.

On Friday morning, a new mural highlighting the LGBTQ community was unveiled. Organizers told ABC7 News, every stroke is part of a story.

This mural represents LGBTQ culture, community, and history. For several who were present during the unveiling, it also brought about a level of heartache. Depicted in great detail is the face of 24-year-old Smut.

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"Natalia is definitely somebody that was really a coveted part of our community," Nathan Svoboda told ABC7 News. "Really, a gem in our community and certainly within our trans people of color community here locally in the South Bay. A true loss."

Svoboda is the president and COO of the Project MORE Foundation, behind the artwork.

The mural is an 864-square-foot space touched by local, queer artists and community members.

"This is a visual representation that we respect, we honor and we love all people," Svoboda continued. "Including those of our trans families."

For Smut's family, having her memorialized is making a difference.

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"To know that I can always just come down here and see my sister's face. And to know that everyone gets to re-live her wonderful, bubbly self," Smut's sister, Vanessa Singh shared with ABC7 News.

Singh said Smut was kind and full of passion.

"And she just wanted everyone to know that. Be comfortable with yourself and love yourself," Singh added.

"An energetic, helpful person. Somebody that members of the trans community, both aged and new, would ask and use for confidence or use for advice," Svoboda added. "Natalia was also a person that was becoming her own in drag, performing and becoming quite a captivating performer. Very creative!"

Both shared Smut's passion and vibrancy was contagious. The drag artist, sure to be the topic of conversation as the district kicks off a weekend of art and activism.

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"We have people in our community that are victims of violence, of senseless violence," Svoboda told ABC7 News. "And hopefully, we can hopefully bring this conversation to light and hope to create a more permanent solution."

Even in grief, Smut's friends and family shared stories of the captivating trans woman who built a community in the South Bay.

"So if anyone can embody that or get any message, it's to love yourself and just to believe in who you truly feel you are," Singh said.

Svoboda said he hopes the mural provides a sign that the area is changing.

He added, "That it's coming to life. That the community district is a place that members of the LGBTQ community throughout or visiting the area will be able to come to, feel safe, feel we're making an affirming space."

A fundraising campaign was created to help with funeral expenses. Click here.
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