Racism in the Gayborhood: Progress Report, 1 Year Later

PCHR Progress Report

Hearing 2016

October marks one year since the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) held their historic hearing on racism and discrimination in the Gayborhood. Tonight, along with the Office of LGBT Affairs we will be co-hosting a Community Conversation About Race & Inclusion in the LGBTQ Community.

October’s Community Conversation: Race and Inclusion in the LGBTQ Community will provide updated information and an opportunity for community feedback on this issue. Representatives from PCHR will discuss the continual work to address the long-standing concerns raised at the hearing last year and the progress they have seen in the past year. We will also work collectively with community members to identify strategies to combat racism and discrimination moving forward.

Community Conversations are led by the Office of LGBT Affairs and Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs to cultivate an interactive community forum—specifically addressing the concerns of the Philadelphia LGBTQIA community. Through discussion, breakout groups, and Q & A, the Community Conversations seek to engage the insight and expertise of the community in addressing pertinent issues and working collaboratively to identify solutions.

WHO:
Amber Hikes, Executive Director of the Office of LGBT Affairs
Rue Landau, Executive Director The PCHR

WHEN: TODAY, Thursday, October 26, 2017, at 6pm

WHERE: Gershwin Y, 401 S. Broad Street, Gershman Y is Wheelchair accessible. There is an entrance on Pine St. across from the Starbucks (corner of Broad & Pine).

 

PCHR trainings: Bringing messages and meaning to diverse audiences

Team PCHR was busy in the streets this week, deciphering laws and their practical impact for a range of audiences across the city.

On Tuesday, a partnership with the Nationalities Service Center helped boost the level of expertise for those assisting newly arrived citizens when it comes to areas such as countering discrimination in housing and employment.

Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney leans into the point made by Executive Director Rue Landau during a recent training at the Nationalities Services Center.

Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney (l.) leans into the point made by Executive Director Rue Landau (r.) during a recent training at the Nationalities Services Center.

Executive Director Rue Landau and Deputy Director Pamela Gwaltney tag-teamed as they explained the city’s fair housing laws and provided an overview of the Fair Practices Ordinance. Assembled were dozens of people who work with migrants and recent immigrants, representing the NSC as well as the Migrant Education Program and a representative of City Council Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr.’s office.

With Philadelphia’s shifting demographics, it’s essential those helping people settle and integrate into day-to-day life are fully aware of what behaviors are accepted as well as what things are prohibited — such as discriminating or retaliating against pregnant or nursing mothers. It was a day of information exchange that included fielding questions and providing insights.

“The people who came to this training work with some of our most vulnerable residents, and it is so important that they are clear on the rules so they can share that information,” Landau said. “It was a great opportunity and it is totally what we love doing — getting out there and helping people understand how to protect themselves.”

PCHR's Naarah Crawley reviews the city's

PCHR’s Naarah Crawley reviews the city’s
“Ban the Box” law with a participant at the 2nd Annual Hispanic Job Fair at Esperanza College, sponsored by La Mega 1310.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Naarah Crawley and Monica Gonzalez strengthened understanding of the city’s “Ban the Box” law for dozens of people on the hunt for work during the 2nd Annual Hispanic Job Fair at Esperanza College, sponsored by La Mega 1310.

Private sector employers and the city set up tables with employment opportunities, while PCHR reps spoke about overcoming perceived barriers to claiming those opportunities.

City Managing Director Rich Negrin spoke about the power of education, opportunity and the rewarding nature of public service during the 2nd Annual Hispanic Job Fair at Esperanza College, sponsored by La Mega radio.

City Managing Director Rich Negrin spoke about the power of education, opportunity and the rewarding nature of public service during the 2nd Annual Hispanic Job Fair at Esperanza College, sponsored by La Mega radio.

Men and women of all ages and interests stopped by the table to learn how a criminal background doesn’t have to impede future employment. Under the law, employers are not allowed to ask about criminal histories in the initial phases of the interview process — not on a job application or during the first interview, whether in person or on the phone. Likewise, past brushes with the law cannot prevent someone from receiving a merited promotion or raise.

“So many people lose out simply because they don’t realize these protections exist,” Gonzalez said. “Yes. They made mistakes. But they paid for them. And their punishment isn’t supposed to be forever, especially when they’re trying to do the right thing moving forward.”

Civil rights and the vote: yesterday and today

During the 2015 International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies conference in Alabama, PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau developed a travelogue about the discoveries she and her colleagues made. Those thoughts seemed even more poignant for this Election Day.

Amid ongoing national commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the landmark Voting Rights Act, in Philadelphia, people are being enticed to vote tomorrow with a chance to win $10,000.

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau poses at the Civil Rights Memorial Center with Julius Erven McSwain, her bus mate and a veteran investigator for the City of Omaha's Human Rights and Relations Department.

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau poses at the Civil Rights Memorial Center with Julius Erven McSwain, her bus mate and a veteran investigator for the City of Omaha’s Human Rights and Relations Department.

It comes in stark contrast of the tour of the Yellowhammer State Landau and dozens of others committed to social justice work traveled the routes to the places where men, women and children chose to stand for equality and fight for their right to vote, facing improbable and daunting odds.

Among the hosts for this trip was Birmingham Mayor William Bell, who co-chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ My Brother’s Keeper initiative, along with Mayor Michael A. Nutter. Bell also chairs the U.S. Coalition of Cities Against Racism for the conference.

Those gathered heard from people such as former U.S. Attorney G. Douglas Jones, who led the cold case prosecution of former Ku Klux Klansman, some 40 years after their infamous bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and retired federal judge U.W. Clemon, who handled school desegregation cases throughout North Alabama, including the vaunted University of Alabama’s football program in 1969. He also was one of two African Americans elected to the Alabama Senate post-Reconstruction, in 1974.

“For the past 150 years, states, mostly southern, have come up with schemes to overcome the 15th Amendment,” Clemon said. “That’s why we marched. That’s why the marching hasn’t stopped.

“It’s about the right to meaningfully participate in the American Democracy. The crown jewel in any nation is the right to vote.”

His words blended in with those of iconic and hidden heroes of the movement, from the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian to youth activists-turned-marchers who today are keepers of the flame, such as Joanne Bland, who served as a tour guide during the conference.

Kirk Carrington and Ruth Brown Anthony were youngsters during the march across the Pettus Bridge, but they were fully aware of what their actions meant. "When you don't vote, it hurts me," Carrington said. "It was our blood spilled on that bridge to get the right to vote, and now people don't exercise that right?" Anthony added.

Kirk Carrington and Ruth Brown Anthony were youngsters during the march across the Pettus Bridge, but they were fully aware of what their actions meant. “When you don’t vote, it hurts me,” Carrington said. “It was our blood spilled on that bridge to get the right to vote, and now people don’t exercise that right?” Anthony added.

The presentations were seminal for attendees such as Akia Haynes, deputy director and general counsel for the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

“Reopening the case of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and the conviction in 2001 was one of the reasons I went to law school,” Haynes said. “If this doesn’t change you, if you don’t feel something, then you’re in the wrong line of work.”

In addition to the speakers, there were a host of workshops and presentations, such as the session Landau moderated on community-police relations. For many of the participants, the entire IAOHRA conference was a powerful experience.

“I’ve gone to corners of my mind that I’ve never been to before,” said Cheryl Sharp, deputy director of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

And it was deeply impactful for more than just the African American attendees.

“This tour made it clear to me that this was not so long ago,” said Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, one of the largest in the nation. “Despite the Voting Rights Act, people are still living in such economically deprived communities.

“We have not done a good job of teaching our children about the need for fundamental human rights. We can’t always expect the generation that’s suffered to talk about it all the the time. The next generation needs to talk about it,” he said. “We need to honor the reality of the marchers and advance to a higher level.”

Landau agreed.

“The real-life history tour was a life-changing, soul-feeding experience,” she said. “From sitting in the pews of the 16th Street Baptist Church to hearing directly from the people who marched and risked their lives to make the Voting Rights Act a reality.

“I made connections from the past to the present that affirmed why our work is so vitally important. While discrimination and inequality are less overt now, attempts to roll back our civil rights and voting rights continue.

“We must continue to zealously fight these efforts, to honor the struggle and sacrifices of those who came before us,” she added.

Take a virtual trip with her to Alabama and look at our civil rights history with a new lens, through the text, photos and video that follow.

Gain a perspective from Joanne Bland, who at 11 years old was one of the youngest agitators marching across the Pettus bridge — and one of the youngest to be arrested during the Civil Rights Movement.

 

Some thoughts for creating a more harmonious Halloween

Americans love dressing up, especially for Halloween. And why not? It’s a time to get all funky, creepy and crazy with costumes and make up. All told, we spend in the billions to have a good time with a host of frightful tricks and tasty treats.

But too often, the fun erodes when good taste and common sense disappear amid hurtful actions — intentional and unintentional — as people opt for costumes with “ethnic” themes.

The offenses range from people donning blackface to distorted depictions of sacred dress. The offenders come from a cross-section of society, kids to college students to working adults to celebrities. Sadder still, a significant swath of Americans think white people parading in blackface — the act of darkening your skin for the sake of costuming — is acceptable. It’s not.

Even if spawned from an innocent desire to more closely resemble a person in homage, blackface has an ugly history.

Visually explaining why cultural appropriation for Halloween costuming often is a bad idea.

Visually explaining why cultural appropriation for Halloween costuming often is a bad idea.

Likewise, wearing costumes that attempt to mimic various ethnic groups generally is a no-no. The results often run toward the racist, rather than respectful, end of the spectrum.

Students from The Ohio University launched a campaign in 2013 that underscored that point. We’re inclined to agree.

Consider this a friendly public service reminder: people are people, not characters or worse, caricatures. Choose your costumes wisely.

Standing in solidarity with LGBT residents

With October being LGBT History Month, there have been a number of events and activities marking the past, but also several looking to the challenges of the present and promise of the future, with a mix of somber reflection and joyous celebration.

Mayor Nutter was among hundreds of the admirers of Gloria Casarez helping to create her tribute mural.

Mayor Nutter was among hundreds of the admirers of Gloria Casarez helping to create her tribute mural.

That certainly describes those who have been gathering for months to demonstrate their devotion to a departed, but impactful friend, Gloria Casarez. Some may have even dropped occasional tears into their paint cups as they assembled a mural in honor of the city’s first LGBT affairs director. In gyms, rec centers and other community locations, people ranging from former mentees to Mayor Michael A. Nutter strapped on aprons, grabbed brushes and poured themselves into their work.

In the midst of OutFest 2015, her family, friends and colleagues gathered to reaffirm their commitment to justice and equality as they watched the rainbow flag being raised over City Hall, amid the strains of “True Colors” performed by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. Afterward, they debuted their labor of love at the 12th Street Gym, home of the soon-to-be completed Gloria Casarez-themed mural.

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau adds a stroke of brilliance to the Gloria Casarez mural.

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau adds a stroke of brilliance to the Gloria Casarez mural.

She died last October from breast cancer-related complications.

Longtime city policy partner and PCHR executive director, Rue Landau, said the effort and its culmination had been “just beautiful.”

The Gloria Casarez mural will stand at the 12th Street Gym, in the heart of Philadelphia's Gayborhood.

The Gloria Casarez mural will stand at the 12th Street Gym, in the heart of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood.

“The flag raising last year was the last time Gloria was among us publicly before she died, because that event had such deep meaning for her,” Landau said.

“She was so incredibly feisty, and proud. That made this the perfect setting for this tribute. It’s just fantastic,” Landau added. “And we could definitely feel her spirit throughout the day,”

As a civil rights activist, Casarez fought fiercely for recognition and respect of all, with racism being one of her constant targets. It was in that spirit that the William Way LGBT Center hosted the Black Gay Pride Town Hall Discussion on Race.

Shared experiences with discrimination don’t prevent prejudice and racism from infecting relations within LGBT circles at times, attendees noted. Similarly, some black LGBT people feel pulled in two directions, being noted for being pro-black or pro-LGBT rights, but without enough crossover allies. This meeting sought to build trust, broader alliances and awareness to concerns too often obscured.

That’s a familiar call among those who populate the “T” portion of the LGBT designation. Trans women and men still struggle for the same level of acceptance as their lesbian, bisexual and gay counterparts. The burden grows for trans women of color, who often are marginalized and violently targeted.

The 2015 Trans Walk drew people from across the city and region to march in solidarity.

The 2015 Trans Walk drew people from across the city and region to march in solidarity.

In Philadelphia, high-profile murders of London Chanel, and more recently, Kiesha Jenkins, both trans women of color, rocked the sensibilities of many. They add to an unsettling national roster, including the longstanding local mystery of what happened to Nizah Morris in 2002.

Activists and allies assembled in Center City to march in support of their trans family, friends and neighbors.

Activists and allies assembled in Center City to march in support of their trans family, friends and neighbors.

These realities helped propel the 2015 Trans Walk — seizing the opportunity to raise public awareness about their concerns, challenges and aspirations.

“It’s important for the trans community to know that the city understands the unique situations they face,” said Ezekiel Mathur, of the PCHR community relations division, who observed the march through Center City. “That’s why seeing allies alongside activists, matters, seeing Councilman Squilla there matters, seeing PCHR there, matters. Because their lives matter.”

Disability rights clinic on Friday at PCHR offices

As we spend this year commemorating the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking American with Disabilities Act, we cannot forget the types of protections it helps to ensure. That’s why on Friday, PCHR will partner with the Public Interest Law Center to present a FREE clinic on disability rights.

If you live with a disability, or help someone who does, it’s a great opportunity to get the ins and outs of what you should expect from employers, access to public services and more. Equally important, you’ll be able to leave with a strategy in case you’re encountering behavior that’s less than acceptable.

Check it out, from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday at our offices at the Curtis Center, 601 Walnut Street, Third Floor South.

pilc_clinic_101315

Conflict resolution, mediation & more – Human Relations Month

Conflict resolution is more than a catch-phrase, but a real way of engaging with your neighbors, classmates and co-workers in a productive, peaceful way. In fact, today is National Conflict Resolution Day, helping to close out National Mediation Week.

These skills are essential in daily interactions with others, and Human Relations Month is the perfect time to refine and improve upon ways that move us toward living with each other in harmony and while retaining dignity. Or, in more common terms, respect.

Here are six easy steps to get there:

Listen
Hear, see and feel the other person’s story.

Identify
Look for interests and common ground.

Share
Offer and ask for more information.

Talk
Speak from your point of view.

Empathize
Look at the situation from the other person’s perspective.

Negotiate
Work together toward resolution.

If you take the time and L.I.S.T.E.N., you can invest in building better relationships. And that will make the world a better place for us all.

Interested in other ways to help deflate conflict? Have some ideas of your own that don’t include knives, guns, poison or fists? Tweet us using the hashtag #pchrchat.

We’ll explore the thoughts you tweet us and a few of our own in greater detail from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 during our next Twitter chat. Remember: find us on Twitter @PhilaComHumRel.

Conflict resolution Twitter chat