On a sunny Monday, in the heart of Philly’s Gayborhood, the giant rainbow ribbon draped across the new John C. Anderson Apartments billowed in the slight breeze. The tent in the street outside the building teemed with a slew of community activists, equality allies, policymakers and elected officials, past and present. All gathered to pay homage to the man and the mission he inspired to provide affordable housing for an underserved, aging population.
“It’s really an honor to stand in front of that building and see his name ascribed on that building over there,” said Bishop Jesse Anderson Jr. “In life it’s about what you do to help others, not your faith, your orientation, your gender.”
He offered reflections on his brother, the late city councilman for whom the LGBT-friendly senior complex is named. Philadelphia Gay News Publisher Mark Segal and the dmhFund spear-headed the project. The landmark 56-unit building is one of the first of its kind on the East Coast, and particularly important in Pennsylvania, whose history of equal treatment for its LGBT residents has not always been rosy.
Attendees echoed that sentiment during the two-hour dedication, noting that Anderson worked to rise above bias and discrimination he faced even in his own community at times, as well as the wider public. While Anderson died in 1983 from AIDS-related complications, at a time when few spoke openly about the disease, it was his life of devoted service to others that remains his legacy.
It was Anderson’s example, Mayor Michael A. Nutter told the assembled, that inspired him to pursue a career in government. His office still contains mementos of those early days in politics, by his mentor’s side.
“John Anderson was a devoted public servant, who cared about quality of life issues,” said Rue Landau, executive director of PCHR. “It is so apropos to dedicate a complex to ensuring dignity for LGBT elders, especially for those early pioneers like him, who worked to improve lives and access to equality for all.”