Liberty City hosts race-relations discussion at annual meeting

Liberty City hosts race-relations discussion at annual meeting

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More than 30 people attended an annual meeting for an LGBT political-advocacy organization’s at John C. Anderson Apartments Wednesday. The Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club hosted a panel discussion on updates to the city's nondiscrimination law and other government initiatives supporting the LGBT community.

Councilman Derek S. Green, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations Executive Director Rue Landau and Director of LGBT Affairs Amber Hikes were  on hand to discuss the nondiscrimination measure, which Mayor Jim Kenney signed in June. The legislation gave PCHR the authority to issue cease-and-desist orders to businesses violating the LGBT-inclusive Fair Practices Ordinance. Green introduced the bill after PCHR’s public hearing on Gayborhood racism last October.

Liberty City Co-Chair Malcolm Kenyatta moderated the panel along with an audience Q&A session.

How can I be an LGBT ally?

One audience member asked how she can “do more” to be an LGBT ally.

Hikes said the Office of LGBT Affairs primarily served as advisers on policy until Mayor Kenney advocated for more community connection to the office. Since Hikes took over the post in March, the office has hosted a number of community-engagement events.

“I would say that what’s helpful for me, in addition to having LGBTQ people, is having allies that are there with us — whether we’re protesting, rallying or celebrating our community — it’s just nice to have bodies there,” Hikes said.

“We are fighting,” she added. “This is a war. We are mobilizing and we’re mobilizing as LGBTQ people but also as allies. So just show up.”

Landau suggested allies can “speak up” in workplaces, private spaces and in community organizing.

“Just say, ‘Is there any way we can include the LGBTQ community here?’ just to make sure they have a seat at the table and that you are always speaking up and speaking out,” she said.

How have Gayborhood bars responded to PCHR?

PCHR has required training at 12 Gayborhood bars to ensure they adhere to the Fair Practices Ordinance. Landau spoke on the bars’ reactions, adding that all of them have successfully hung informational posters in their break rooms.

“They have been pretty reasonable and compliant,” Landau said. “There was some frustration in the whole process and that’s OK but they have been willing to let us in, meet with their staff and have these trainings. The owners have shown up as well so we have been really happy about that.”

Landau added that PCHR has not been focusing specifically on LGBT bars, despite some community outcry, and has received plenty of complaints regarding non-LGBT bars.

How can people present evidence to PCHR?

Green suggested documenting incidents with employers and experiences with organizations.

“Too often, people don’t document,” Green said. “When you have a breakdown of what happened — who was there, what time, day, — all of that information will help you. It will help you so much more to make your claims more credible. A lot of these claims are credibility issues and they are hard to prove. Even when you think something is not right, you should document it.”

He added that as more time passes, something “major” could happen, and documentation of prior smaller incidents would provide concrete evidence.


Hikes noted that the Office of LGBT Affairs will hire a first-time deputy director. Additionally, she responded to a question about a community forum for the office. She said the office has hosted two community conversations, with May’s event focusing on the office’s mission and the August forum centering on Mazzoni Center. The office will host a third conversation in October on race relations.

“It’s long overdue and we’re doing it in October specifically to mark one year since the PCHR hearing,” Hikes said. “So we’re going to do a retrospective and [talk about] where we come from and where we are going.”

The date and location for that event have not yet been announced.

New Liberty City leadership

In addition to the forum, Liberty City elected Kristina Furia, Deborah Gorth, Henry Sias and Deja Lynn Alvarez to its  board. Five spots are still open for additional members. Following the vote, the club’s Endorsement Committee announced its support of Rebecca Rhynhart for City Controller.


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