In the parking lot of Holmes Plaza in southwest Atlanta on Saturday night, mourners holding candles and pink and gold balloons filled the corner. Some people immediately burst into tears as they approached the crowd. Some yelled in anger. And others stoically looked at the scene as if they were still processing why they were there in the first place.
But the hurricane of emotions became more congruent as everyone danced and rapped along to “Bulletproof” by Rasheeda Williams aka Scooter aka Hollywood Koko aka Koko Da Doll, the 35-year-old Black trans woman who died at that exact location last week.
Family and friends held a vigil for Williams on Saturday night to not only demand justice for Williams’ death but to remind everyone of why she was an undeniable star.
“She was fly and always had on some nice clothes,” said LaDeja Scott, a cousin of Williams. Her hair was always perfect. Her makeup was always perfect. Everything that you would think of a Barbie doll being, that’s what she was. She wore so many hats. Not just music and movies, but she actually knew how to do hair and makeup.”
Williams, who lived in Buckhead, was killed in a shooting on Tuesday night. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The shooting is still under investigation. The Atlanta Police Department is trying to identify a person wearing a Falcons jersey who can be seen in a video walking behind Williams before her death.
Williams stars in the upcoming documentary “Kokomo City,” which premiered at Sundance this year. The film highlights the experiences of Black trans sex workers in New York and Atlanta. “Kokomo City” was acquired by Magnolia Pictures and is slated for theatrical release this summer. Lena Waithe is among the documentary’s executive producers. The film marks the directorial debut of D. Smith, a Grammy-winning producer and singer who was a former cast member of “Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta.”
“I wanted to create images that didn’t show the trauma or the statistics of murder of transgender lives,” D. Smith said in a statement on Instagram. “I wanted to create something fresh and inspiring. I did that. We did that! But here we are again. It’s extremely difficult to process Koko’s passing, but as a team, we are more encouraged now than ever to inspire the world with her story.”
Akeyia Williams, Rasheeda’s sister, said at the vigil that she’s excited for people to learn more about her sister’s work as an aspiring artist. Rasheeda made music under her rap name Hollywood Koko. Her hard-hitting flows, as heard on her 2022 song “Bulletproof,” seamlessly blend with the sexually empowering bars of contemporary southern female rappers (”I don’t play with broke boys,” she affirms on the track).
“I loved her delivery,” said Akeyia, who was raised with Rasheeda in Atlanta’s southside. “She wasn’t scared to say what she wanted to say. She knew how to pick a beat. We used to do music together when we were younger, but I never took it as seriously as she did. She used to love going to music stores and all of that as a child.”
Poohbella Alford said Williams, her sister, wanted to eventually leave sex work and focus on her entertainment career. Williams also had plans to create her own hair brand titled Hollywood Koko Collections.
“I was even going to put money up to help my sister just so she could get out of that lifestyle because I didn’t like the way she was living, but I guess the money (you’d get from it) is so fast,” Alford said. “She wanted to uplift other people in the LGBTQ community because a lot of people are afraid to come out, afraid to live in their truth.”
Williams is the second Black trans woman who was shot and killed this month in Atlanta. Ashley Burton, a 37-year-old hairstylist, died on April 11 at the City Park Atlanta apartments.
Aubri Escalera is the co-founder of Trans Power in Diversity, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that uses a trauma-informed approach to serve queer communities. Escalera also danced with Williams at Lenox Love Entertainment’s Hush Night, a popular stripper event that features trans dancers every Thursday and Sunday night at Atlanta’s Tokyo Valentino.
“Sex work comes in different ways,” the Midtown resident said. “It’s not always having sex. You can stand there and get paid. It’s a form of expression. It’s unfortunate because we don’t really talk about these things. I feel like we’re being targeted because we are sex workers. These johns — they know that we get to the money, and they know that we have bags and things of value.”
That’s why she admired Williams’ hustle.
“Koko was also a rapper, she was an entertainer, aspiring actress and that’s just what we do,” Escalera said. “We have to break these barriers.”
A portrait of Williams adorns the middle of her memorial at the vigil. She’s sporting a pink jogging suit. Her nails appeared freshly done, and her hair looked so laid that you’d fight the urge to fix your own hair after looking at hers.
Even in death, she still looks like a star.
“When you looked at her, you would’ve thought she was already rich,” Akeyia said. “You would think that she was already a star. You would think she was already in Hollywood. That’s why she called herself Hollywood Koko.”
The family of Rasheeda Williams launched a GoFundMe this week to raise money for her funeral arrangements. Anyone with information on Williams’ case is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477).