The deadline put on The Attic Youth Center by the Black & Brown Workers Co-op has come and gone with no agreement after the BBWC announced an alleged sexual assault against a minor occurred on the center’s premises and that racism was rampant among its staff.
The accusations against Philadelphia’s independent LGBTQ youth bastion came March 4 on the BBWC’s Facebook page.
“Recently, we heard feedback from our Black and Brown employees and former employees about their experiences working at The Attic,” the center’s board wrote March 18 in its first public statement. “We immediately took action.”
The timing of the statement was the same as the deadline the BBWC gave to the center to fulfill its list of demands.
The Attic’s statement continued with how the board suspended Executive Director Carrie Jacobs and Director of Programs Christina Santos, and how its law firm will “conduct a thorough investigation of a serious incident, as well as any lapse in protocol, with the goal of having stronger processes in place to ensure everyone’s protection.”
It stated how The Attic’s “primary concern is the safety and well-being of the youth we serve,” but after 25 years, “we recognize we must change in order to grow as an organization. We will be engaging with an independent third-party to help assess our organizational structure to ensure equity among our staff.”
“We want this to be a moment for The Attic to take an introspective look at the needs of the LGBTQ and black and brown workforce,” the board wrote. “We need to do more to combat micro and macro aggressions. As an organization, we need stronger, more accountable processes and procedures that ensure greater safety as well as greater equity. We need to follow through on our learnings, create a heightened level of awareness and understanding, and continue to take action. We want to be a place that does the work of anti-oppression, and to engage in the conversations toward that work.”
The statement specifically addressed the BBWC and former Attic employees by saying, “We acknowledge and respect your voices and experiences, as well as your expertise. We are committed to making change, and including our Black and Brown staff and young people in this process.”
BBWC cofounder Abdul-Aliy Abdullah Muhammad told PGN they read the statement but that they were not aware of The Attic doing anything to meet its demands, and the demands of the workers.
Those demands included the immediate resignations of Jacobs and Santos as well as the resignation of Attic Associate Director Jacinto “Jay” Grant, who had been temporarily overseeing operations with two board members since Jacobs’ and Santos’ suspensions.
Also in the demands were auditing and changes to the board, that the “Entire Staff [sic] be trained in anti-Adultism,” and “severance pay to former staff who have suffered under the misleadership of carrie jacobs [sic] and management staff.”
Abdullah Muhammad told PGN since the BBWC deadline passed without any noticeable movement towards its demands, “we always escalate action. We put pressure on institutions. That will continue to happen.”
The allegations against The Attic had reportedly been made by at least one former employee. The allegation of racism was the first against The Attic, which opened in 1993 and primarily serves youth of color.