The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition launched a campaign late last month to raise funds and awareness for an emerging need of the LGBT student activism organization.
PSEC launched Time to Rise, a campaign to help fundraise for the Bayard Rustin House, planned as a physical center for Pennsylvania LGBTQ youth in Harrisburg.
The Bayard Rustin House will serve as the location for youth to plan campaigns, host leadership meetings and advocacy trainings and as housing for youth traveling from all corners of the state.
The building PSEC is looking to purchase, which dates to 1901, is at the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets in Harrisburg, right across the street from the Capitol.
“We recognized the urgent need to have an advocacy center in Harrisburg that is used every single day to plan actions and hold state leadership meetings,” said PSEC executive director Jason Landau Goodman. “In order to win on nondiscrimination and hate-crimes legislation and to bring attention to youth homelessness and foster care, we need a place to meet and strategize and for advocates to stay for the night before they advocate in Harrisburg.”
The three-floor structure most recently served as the home to an elderly couple who ran a boutique shop on the first floor for 40 years. It was recently renovated.
PSEC would use the large open space on the first floor as a work space, while the second floor would host leadership meetings and the third would be designated for apartment space.
The house would allow living space for up to three PSEC staff and temporary living space for up to 25.
The Bayard Rustin House would be staffed from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and select weekend hours.
PSEC needs $30,000 for a downpayment on the house by the end of June. As of presstime, it had raised $4,061.
Landau Goodman said that, as youth activists come to Harrisburg from throughout the state, they often have to stay in area dormitories and find places to store their luggage. He said some legislators have let them store their belongings and said the LGBT Center of Central Pennsylvania has been a great resource, but that the new house would provide a central, stable location.
“The criss-crossing from dorm rooms to Harrisburg has been tough. We need a place to stay and work and this will greatly increase the capacity to get work done.”
In planning for the house, Landau Goodman said the organization wanted to honor someone whose work influenced PSEC’s mission — and Rustin, a Pennsylvania native who served as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s righthand man, seemed the perfect fit.
“[Rustin] is a leader who has had a profound effect on how we have run our organization,” he said. “We’ve looked to him and many other civil-rights leaders for their wisdom but he is someone who holds a deep place in our hearts and led an effective movement and one with integrity.”
While Pennsylvania recently saw a major victory with marriage equality, Landau Goodman noted that the LGBT-rights movement in the state still has a long way to go.
“This house will allow us in the long term to continue this work we’ve seen many states not continue,” he said. “Sometimes after states secure marriage equality, the LGBT movement disengages, except for in states where they have led the foundation for more LGBT equality. This is part of the development in Pennsylvania for us — to not just work on major policy issues but a vast array of issues as well.”
For more information or to donate to the Time to Rise campaign, visit timetorise.pennsec.org.