2016 Person of the Year Honor Roll

2016 Person of the Year Honor Roll

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Sharron Cooks

There was a record number of LGBT delegates at this summer’s Democratic National Convention, including Sharron Cooks.

The Philadelphia resident held the distinction as the only trans woman of color to serve as a delegate at the July convention held here. The at-large Hillary Clinton delegate participated in official convention activities as well as represented Pennsylvania at several LGBT events throughout the week, including a transgender caucus for the 28 trans delegates. 

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“Just being a delegate in itself is a huge responsibility,” Cooks told PGN at the convention. “When you add intersectionality with race and gender, it’s even more responsibility.” 

Cooks used that responsibility successfully. She participated in interviews with both local and national publications throughout the convention, using that platform to address inequality and invisibility facing trans women of color. 

“I have been given an amazing opportunity to bring awareness to issues related to both trans women and African-Americans,” she told Next Magazine. 

Before the convention, Cooks was tapped to sit on the LGBT Leadership Council for Pennsylvania by the Clinton campaign. Afterwards, she was asked by National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling, also a DNC delegate, to help the agency unveil its groundbreaking survey of transgender Americans; Cooks participated in a press conference and live-stream event of the report’s release in which she shared personal stories of discrimination.

She also shared personal experiences this summer in Harrisburg when she lobbied for a statewide LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

Cooks, a co-organizer of the Transgender Day of Remembrance event that drew hundreds to William Way LGBT Community Center last month, was awarded the Jaci Adams OutProud Transgender Award from Philly Pride Presents at this fall’s OutFest.

Philly4Pulse organizers 

An unprecedented show of solidarity was exhibited in the Gayborhood this summer.

Owners of more than a dozen bars in and around the Gayborhood, along with nonprofit leaders, planned a neighborhood-wide fundraiser July 21 to benefit victims of the previous month’s mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub. Just three days after the June 12 massacre at the Orlando LGBT club, 14 bars had signed on to participate in Philly4Pulse.

In announcing the event, Tabu co-owner Jeff Sotland highlighted that collaboration outweighed the typical competition among the Gayborhood bars.

“On any given night, we will compete with each other for every customer who walks into the neighborhood,” Sotland said. “On this night we will not.”

The event aimed to raise funds for Equality Florida, which was distributing donations to shooting survivors, as well as the families of victims.

Participating bars included Tabu, ICandy, Knock, Woody’s, Tavern on Camac, The Bike Stop, Stir, Boxers, UBar, Franky Bradley’s, Voyeur, Valanni, Bob & Barbara’s and L’Etage. Each venue featured different entertainment, such as drag and burlesque shows. Sober activities were hosted at Wilma Theater and William Way LGBT Community Center. 

Donations for the cause were collected throughout the event, including through silent auctions, T-shirt sales by Stonewall Sports and bartender and performer tips; all bartenders and performers donated their time. Guest bartenders included Mayor Jim Kenney and Philadelphia Eagles member Connor Barwin, along with local, state and federal lawmakers. 

The event raised $106,752.25, smashing the goal of $10,000. Sotland and William Way LGBT Community Center Executive Director Chris Bartlett presented a check to Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith July 27.

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Sister Mary Scullion 

Philadelphia will soon have a new LGBT-friendly youth-housing facility. 

This fall, Project Home, under the direction of cofounder, president and executive director Sister Mary Scullion, announced construction will start next year on a 30-unit affordable-housing facility geared toward homeless and at-risk young people, ages 18-24. The building will be located at 1315 N. Eighth St. in North Philadelphia. 

Project Home will partner with developer Middleton Partnership for the project, which was also advanced by Duane Perry, Arthur Kaplan and Mel Heifetz. 

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The state will invest $3 million in the project through its Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. The city’s Department of Housing and Community Development contributed $3.5 million; $4.7 million will come from low-income housing tax credits; and Project HOME will invest $1.8 million. 

“We fully expect that all the young people who will live in this project and all the projects of Project HOME will be the future leaders of our community,” Scullion said at this fall’s unveiling. “They will be our next elected officials, our next nonprofit leaders and our next corporate philanthropists.”

The project also includes a second building that will house 40 units for young adults and adults, not necessarily who identify as LGBT.


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