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.”

Celebrating civil rights champions from across the city

awardds_logoPHILADELPHIA — On Tuesday, April 28, PCHR will lead hundreds in recognizing and celebrating individuals and organizations from across the city and region who work in their daily capacity to improve the quality of life for all.

The 2015 PCHR Awards will honor a variety of civic  and social leaders, from the public, private and nonprofit sectors at the Arts Ballroom, 1324 Locust Street, Philadelphia, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The complete list of this year’s honorees:

  • Bishop Dwayne Royster and Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER), Clarence Farmer Sr. Service Award recipients
  • Gloria Casarez, former LGBT affairs director for the City of Philadelphia (posthumously), Sadie T.M. Alexander Leadership Award recipient
  • Lt. Joyce Craig (posthumously), PCHR Chairman’s Award recipient
  • Adrienne Simpson, PCHR Chairman’s Award recipient
  • Ellen Somekawa, PCHR Executive Director’s Award recipient
  • Art-Reach workshop

    Art-Reach

    Art-Reach, PCHR Award for Arts and Culture

  • Kelvyn Anderson, executive director of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, PCHR Award for Public Safety
  • Philadelphia CeaseFire, PCHR Award for Community Service
  • Steven Seibel and TC Shillingford of Broad Street Ministry, PCHR Award for Nonprofit Stewardship
  • Rosa’s Pizza, PCHR Award for Corporate Responsibility
  • Officer Juan “Ace” Delgado, PCHR Community Excellence Award

    Officer Gary Harkins

    Officer Gary Harkins

  • Gearing Up, PCHR Community Excellence Award
  • Officer Gary Harkins, PCHR Community Excellence Award
  • Officer Nokisha Jacobs, PCHR Community Excellence Award
  • The Rev. Frank Lettko, PCHR Community Excellence Award
  • Linda Toia, PCHR Community Excellence Award
  • The Rev. Frank Toia, PCHR Community Excellence Award

    Regina Young

    Regina Young

  • Marsha Wall, PCHR Community Excellence Award
  • Officer Tina Willis, PCHR Community Excellence Award
  • Regina Young, PCHR Community Excellence Award

You can still join Mayor Michael A. Nutter, PCHR leadership and other notables at this event, as well as jam with great sounds from members of the Philadelphia Clef Club’s Youth Jazz Ensemble, explore a silent auction packed with goodies, enjoy great food and even better company. Tickets are $75 and are still available for purchase here.
PCHR also would like to thank its generous sponsors for helping to make this event possible:

BRONZE
Regina Austincruz
Cruz ConstructionGraham Logo (Lt Green)
The Graham Company
Mel Heifitz
PEARL
Rebecca Alpert
The Arts Ballroom
Beneficial Foundation
dmhFund
Kearsley Rehabilitation and Nursing Center
Sarah Ricks, Esq.
Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin and Schiller
JADE
Orthodox Auto Company
The Philadelphia Foundation
Society Hill Congregation
FRIENDS
Asian Bank
Gateway Health Systems
Greater Philadelphia
Chamber of Commerce
Jerner & Palmer, P.C.
LAZ Parking
Liberty Resources Inc.
Lockton Insurance
Philadelphia Committee for
Affordable Communities
United Bank of Philadelphia
AUCTION DONORS
Angelique Benrahou
Cashman & Associates
Cruz Construction
Hard Rock Café
Joy Tsin Lau
Office of Mayor Michael A. Nutter
Philadelphia Theater Co.
Philadelphia Mural Arts
Reading Terminal Market
Andre Richard Salon
The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia
Sally Saddiqi
Sang Kee restaurants
Speed Raceway
Vedge/V restaurants
V Trainers

List as of April 22, 2015

Lead 2015 PCHR Award recipients named, nominations still open for public awards

PHILADELPHIA, March 2, 2015 – The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations today unveiled its four lead recipients of the PCHR Awards, where civic leaders helping to advance social equality and justice here have been spotlighted since 1987. Those lead recipients are:

Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER

Bishop Dwayne Royster, executive director of POWER

Bishop Dwayne Royster and POWER – Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild – will receive the Clarence Farmer Sr. Service Award. POWER, a multiracial interfaith coalition established in 2011, has been a leading entity in grassroots efforts pushing for holistic social change throughout Philadelphia.

Gloria Casarez

Gloria Casarez

The late Gloria Casarez, inaugural director of LGBT affairs for Mayor Michael A. Nutter, posthumously will receive the Sadie T.M. Alexander Leadership Award. For two decades, Casarez served as a civil rights leader, advocating for fair and equal treatment in housing, access and employment for people of color, the impoverished and LGBT residents in Philadelphia, particularly transgender people of color.

Adrienne Simpson

Adrienne Simpson

Adrienne Simpson and the late Lt. Joyce Craig each will receive recognition as recipients of the PCHR Chairman’s Award. This year, the honor emphasized acts of bravery that benefit others, in the face of consequences.

Lt. Joyce Craig

Simpson publicly challenged the leadership of Philadelphia Magazine after publication of an article deemed racially inflammatory, despite being the lone African American there. Craig had a stellar career as a Philadelphia firefighter before losing her life last year while battling a blaze, making her the first female firefighter in the city’s history to die in the line of duty.

Ellen Somekawa

Ellen Somekawa

Ellen Somekawa, executive director of the FACTS Charter School and former head of Asian Americans United, will receive the PCHR Executive Director’s Award for her years of distinguished service to Philadelphia’s underserved.

In addition, five publicly-nominated awards for work in corporate responsibility, nonprofit stewardship, arts and culture, public safety and community service will be presented.

Nominations remain open through Friday and recipients will be notified by March 20.

“Our commission is thrilled by the strong character and the diversity of our award recipients and the positive impact they have had on our great city,” said PCHR Chair Thomas H. Earle. “We may be giving them an award, but it’s truly an honor to know that people of this caliber choose to give of themselves in such deep ways to our community.”

The awardees or their representative loved ones will be honored during the 2015 PCHR Awards, which will be held on Tuesday, April 28, at the Arts Ballroom, 1324 Locust St., Philadelphia.

The awards event celebrates the people and organizations actively working to reduce discrimination and intergroup tensions while promoting tolerance and respect among all people, regardless of differences in race, religion, ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Clarence Farmer and Sadie Alexander both were seminal figures in Philadelphia, both in leading the commission during various eras and as civil rights icons who forged bonds across educational, business, legal and public service sectors. This event pays homage to their legacy and serves as a reminder of the work still to be done, said Rue Landau, PCHR executive director.

“What we do on this commission impacts real people every day, and we take this work seriously. But we could not do it without partners, everyday people who dedicate themselves to improving the quality of life in this city for all who live here,” Landau said.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate their achievements, and look forward to who the public thinks who else should join this distinguished group as 2015 PCHR Award winners.”

For criteria, nomination applications, tickets or event details, visit www.phila.gov/humanrelations/awards  or call (215) 686-4670.

Seeking to end hate crimes loophole: city edition

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau testified in City Council before its public safety committee Tuesday on behalf of a new bill introduced to close the gaping loophole left when the state Supreme Court stripped hate crimes protections for LGBT and disabled people from the state code.

Bill No. 140720, introduced by City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Councilman Jim Kenney would expand the city’s laws to include hate crimes penalties. Atop of whatever sentence the initial crime calls for, 90 more days and up to $2,000 would be added if it is determined to be a hate crime.

While the violent Center City gay bashing on Sept. 11 spurred a lot of attention for LGBT rights, the legislation also has an eye on people with disabilities, who also find themselves victims of hate crimes too often, statistics and advocates report.

Charles Horton Jr., executive director of the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities, and Thomas Earle, president and CEO of Liberty Resources Inc.were among those testifying in support of the bill. Earle also serves as chair of PCHR.

There remain some questions on the legal construction of the bill in getting to the outcome desired by lawmakers, as raised by Capt. Francis Healy of the Philadelphia Police Department. Still, Healy, like Landau, spoke of the need to establish meaningful law to address hateful perpetrators.

Capt. Francis Healy (l.) and PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau (r.) testify at a committee meeting Tuesday on a proposed hate crimes bill offered by City Council.

Capt. Francis Healy (l.) and PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau (r.) testify at a committee meeting Tuesday on a proposed hate crimes bill offered by City Council.

“This would not be the first time Philadelphia is taking a leadership role to address issues of inequality,” Landau said. “But with any hope, what is proposed here soon will be mirrored and enacted on the state level. Still, I am convinced that regardless of the outcomes in Harrisburg,

“Philadelphia must continue its historic role of building and assuring tolerance for each and every resident and visitor here – and detail consequences for those who violate our shared values.”

It was an emotional day for Landau, as she spoke amid occasional tears. Gloria Casarez, the city’s LGBT affairs director, had planned on attending, if not testifying at this hearing; cancer robbed her of that chance last Sunday.

Read the full PCHR testimony here.

The committee unanimously approved the bill, which will go to the full City Council as early as next week.

PCHR remembers Gloria Casarez, city’s LGBT affairs director

PHILADELPHIA, October 20, 2014 – The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations joins countless individuals and organizations across the city and nation mourning the passing of Gloria Casarez, director of LGBT affairs for the Nutter Administration after her long bout with cancer. She was 42 and survived by her wife, Tricia Dressel.

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau, a Casarez colleague and friend of 20 years, offered these thoughts:

“Gloria focused her work on all people facing oppression, particularly people of color – or, as she would say, ‘black and brown people.’ She knew that many laws and policies currently in place do not benefit communities of color and the less connected, and she spent her entire professional career fighting to change that.

“As for the LGBT community, Gloria made sure to give a special voice to the trangender community, because so often they were shut not only out of the broader lesbian and gay community, but were so completely marginalized by all of society – especially trans men and women of color.

“During the mayor’s announcement of her appointment, she made it a point to fill the Mayor’s Reception Room with every segment of the LGBT community. That’s because she wanted to send a message that City Hall was open for everybody.

“She was such a wonderful mentor to many, many young people. She made colleagues friends and her friends became family. She was a fierce warrior and a friend beloved by many, of all colors, gay, straight and anywhere between. Her humor and her passion will sorely be missed, but we will continue her fight to ensure inclusive, nondiscriminatory policies that affirm and advance everyone. Gloria wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Mayor Michael A. Nutter ordered that the rainbow flag that had been hoisted for LGBT history month be lowered to half-staff at 1 p.m. today.

PCHR is the agency charged with diffusing inter-group conflict within the city and ensure fair dealings in employment, housing, public accommodations and real estate, as outlined in the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, Philadelphia’s guiding civil rights legislation.

rue_gloria_2012

(l-r) PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau and LGBT Affairs Director Gloria Casarez often raised their voices and worked together to help ensure inclusion and fairness in city policies.

Honoring LGBT History Month

October opens Human Relations Month in Philadelphia as well as commemorates LGBT History Month. PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau was at City Hall to honor both, along with Mayor Michael A. Nutter, LGBT Affairs Director Gloria Casarez and a host of LGBT advocates and activists. City Council members Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, Dennis O’Brien, Mark Squilla and David Oh also were among those on hand for the 5th annual rainbow flag raising.

The work of groups such as the Mazzoni Center, GALAEI, Philadelphia Gay Black Pride and the Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League was praised at the ceremony. The Rev. Jeffrey H. Jordan-Pickett of Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia provided words of encouragement — and reminders.

While there have been a host of wins in the past year — from the city’s historic and landmark policies for LGBT employees to marriage equality — the vicious Sept. 11 attack on a gay couple in Center City underscores that more work lies ahead.

Those sentiments were echoed throughout the event, which concluded with an impassioned plea from Mayor Nutter that a major election is just a month away, and “change comes when you change the people making the policies.”

As the assembled reflected on the past and set their sights on the future, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus led the crowd in a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner as the rainbow flag was hoisted, to cheers.

(l-r) PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau and LGBT Affairs Director Gloria Casarez open LGBT History Month at City Hall.

(l-r) PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau and LGBT Affairs Director Gloria Casarez open LGBT History Month at City Hall.

Mayor Michael A. Nutter speaks to the importance of valuing and embracing all cultures and all Americans -- regardless of color, creed, heritage, ethnicity or orientation.

Mayor Michael A. Nutter speaks to the importance of valuing and embracing all cultures and all Americans — regardless of color, creed, heritage, ethnicity or orientation.

Check out a snippet of joyous sounds offered by the renowned Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus