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Gayborhood moves toward healing racial divide

After protests, tears and anger, community grapples with complaints of racial discrimination.
An event at a bar in the Gayborhood.Courtesy of Stro Productionz

Anger about discrimination in the Gayborhood simmered long before it erupted into protests last yearafter video leaked showinga gay bar owner uttering a racial slur.

But some form of reconciliation may be on the horizon. On Jan. 23, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) are expected to issue recommendations for fighting discrimination in the Gayborhood. The report is the result of an October hearing on the topic attended by nearly 400 people.

"There was so much pain in the room," said PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau. "You can't ignore that."

Complaints ranged from queer people of color being denied entry to bars over obscure dress codes to being required to produce multiple forms of ID to get in and interminable waits to be served. With queer people of color almost universally reporting some of these experiences, it added up to a community-wide problem.

“Since the hearing, I’ve had a lot of messages," said Stro Kyle, 30, one of those who testified. "A lot of white people apologized, or just gave me solidarity and support, saying ‘We don't want this to continue.’”

But Kyle said bars embracing "hip hop night" is just a quick fix, not a sign of true diversity.

"As far as feeling any change, or feeling there’s more diversity, there’s more inclusion, I haven’t felt that yet. Maybe it’s still early," said Kyle, a program specialist at The Attic Youth Center and event organizer who runsStro Productionz.

Joey LaSpina, 24, an event organizer and performer known as “La Dolce Spina,” said he's seen more people engage in "self-policing" since these issues came to the foreground.

“In the LGBTQ community, we receive a lot of hate and discrimination," he said. "I don’t understand and never will understand why we can’t stick together as a community and just be kind to each other.”

“It sucks that in 2016, we seemed to take a step backwards,” he added. “In 2017, I am hoping we can start moving forward.”

Landau is hopeful that the PCHR'srecommendations will help the Gayborhood move toward healing the wounds of racism and discrimination.

"We’re about to have a significant change at the federal government that will not be kind to our community," Landau noted. "The time is now to take care of each other, fix what we need to at home, and collectively fight the evil that is going to come."

Ways to fight discrimination

Racial and other forms of discrimination is illegal in Philadelphia. Contact the PCHR at 215-686-4670 to report discrimination.

The PCHR is holding a "Know Your Rights" seminar at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the William Way Center.

The PCHR will release its recommendations for the Gayborhood on Jan. 23.

 

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