Mayor Jim Kenney and Director of LGBT Affairs Nellie Fitzpatrick came under fire this past weekend for their handling of racism in the LGBT community.
A handful of anti-racism activists approached the podium in the Mayor’s Reception Room at City Hall Sunday morning, following remarks from Kenney and Fitzpatrick during the annual rainbow flag-raising ceremony to mark LGBT History Month. The ceremony was moved indoors because of inclement weather.
The activists represented Black & Brown Workers Collective, Black Lives Matter Philly, ACT UP Philly, Coalition for REAL Justice, The Gran Varones and the Womanist Working Collective.
The group held signs with phrases such as #ByeNellie and “Anti-Blackness Anywhere is Anti-Blackness Everywhere.” The group continued to call for Fitzpatrick to step down, which she told PGN last week she will not do.
Kenney and Fitzpatrick left the room shortly after the protestors began their demonstration, and the activists took to the podium to address the remaining crowd.
Allegations of racism in the Gayborhood have persisted for years, and reached a head last month with the publication of a video showing ICandy owner Darryl DePiano using racial epithets.
BBWC and partner organizations have contended Fitzpatrick has not done enough to address the issue. The coalition also targeted her in an Oct. 5 protest during an event by Professional Women’s Roundtable, which was giving Fitzpatrick its PoWeR Award.
Fitzpatrick was not available to speak before PGN went to press but pointed to a speech she gave when Kenney re-appointed her to the position. She said in part that “by forging relationships built on trust, transparency and service, I have witnessed firsthand the many and layered challenges faced by members of the LGBT community whose experiences are shaped not only by sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, but by race, color, national origin, disability, socioeconomic status, age, religion and the varied intersections of these identities. Only when we organize and build community around these differneces are we truly able to foster safety, demand accountability and create a more equal and inclusive Philadelphia.It is my goal that each and every member of our LGBTQ community feels welcome, represented, heard, recognized, respected and appreciated within our city’s government.”
Representatives of BBWC declined to comment for this story.
BBWC was among the organizations invited to an Oct. 13 meeting at the African American Museum to address racism in the community, planned by three community members, including LGBTQ Home for Hope director Deja Lynn Alvarez.
Alvarez said she has attended previous community meetings addressing racism. She said this week’s gathering is an effort to re-center stakeholders around what she believes is a common goal.
“We’re starting to turn inwards on each other and I just think the messaging is a little off,” said Alvarez, who is leading the event’s planning with co-organizers J. Culler and T. Morse. “Everybody does want to resolve this, but I think some people are fed up with empty promises and knowing [racism] exists but that no one wants to acknowledge it.”
A press release announcing the meeting included three stated goals: “Unite our voices, acknowledge these collective wrongdoings and develop solutions that highlight the intersection between community, equity and access.”
“The best path towards unity is going to be an open line of communication so everyone feels as though their voices are heard,” she said. “That’s part of the problem: People feel as though their voices are not being heard through all this.”
Another effort toward that aim is the Oct. 25 Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations hearing to address complaints filed about discriminatory practices at Gayborhood bars. Last Friday, PCHR issued subpoenas for all bar owners in the Gayborhood to attend the hearing. Mayor Jim Kenney confirmed via social media he will be in attendance.
“LGBTQ people of color have expressed serious concern about actual or perceived racism and discrimination in the bars in the Gayborhood,” PCHR chair Tom Earle said in a statement. “It is essential that the bar owners be present at the hearing.”
PCHR executive director Rue Landau did not respond to a request for comment by presstime.
The hearing is open to the public and will be held at 6 p.m. at Liberty Resources, 112 N. Eighth St., Suite 600.
Alvarez said if this week’s meeting is productive, she thinks it will be a building block for future conversations.
“I’m hoping this can turn into a series if it goes well,” she said. “I think the biggest thing we all need to recognize is that we’re on the same page. We all have the same goal in mind. We may have just all been going about it in different ways.”