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.


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:

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

Look for interests and common ground.

Offer and ask for more information.

Speak from your point of view.

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

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

October: Honoring a rainbow of rights, heritage and history

As October opens, so does commemoration of a host of notable observances.

This is LGBT History Month, German-American Heritage Month, Islamic Heritage Month, Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Italian-American Heritage Month and, the closing weeks of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Rainbow-flagIt’s apropos that attention is drawn to these areas in October, because in Philadelphia, it’s also Human Relations Month.

While PCHR focuses on bringing greater harmony and understanding among people of diverse backgrounds in this city every day, October gives us added time to reflect on what this melting pot — or tossed salad, depending on your view — has brought to our city.

For certain, Philly would not be Philly without all the aforementioned, along with many others. We are a city built on the idea of tolerance and freedom, brimming with communities featuring a rainbow of ethnic, religious, cultural residents and visitors.

Sounds like as good a time as any to seek and celebrate these shared intersections, to make a commitment to learn from and about each other for these 31 days. Guaranteed your life will be richer for the effort!

Joining forces globally, pulling for peace locally


The goals of the International Day of Peace certainly are laudable – a day without war or violence, replaced with kindness and meditation about how we can all better get along with each other, help each other be our absolute best selves. What’s not to love?

So on this Peace Day, as we embrace the tens of thousands descending on Philadelphia for the epic World Meeting of Families, we invite all of our neighbors to take a moment today to practice peace.

It could be as simple as holding your tongue when you’re annoyed or angry. It might be a kind act for a child or an elder. Or hugging someone (theoretically, with permission). There are a host of activities to check out across the city, and you can always visit Peace Day Philly if you need more ideas to get started.

Let’s showcase the best of ourselves today. With all of that practice under our belt, we could even extend those good vibes to the next day, and the one after that. Before you know it, we could reverse the negative trends in this city. Fewer bullets, more hugs. Who could argue with that?

The United Nations – the driving force of this initiative – certainly wouldn’t. That esteemed body named 2015’s theme, “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All.” That’s especially fitting for us here at PCHR.

Cultivating and maintaining peace is central to our mission, and we’d never get anywhere close to those goals without our partners. So here’s a shout out to the people whose volunteer and professional careers help us keep harmony flowing from every corner of the city.

Thanks to all of you for joining with us to do this work, long after the cameras and hashtags are gone. Let’s all try to keep those good vibes going.

PCHR responds to call for updated statewide nondiscrimination law

PHILADELPHIA – PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau responds to the rising debate regarding the need for an updated nondiscrimination law in Pennsylvania. Democratic and Republican lawmakers recently introduced Senate Bill 974 and House Bill 1510 — together, known as the Pennsylvania Fairness Act — in the General Assembly.

“Despite marriage equality being the law of the land – first through the 2014 Whitewood decision, then affirmed nationally by the U.S. Supreme Court in June – LGBT residents and visitors can still suffer discrimination across the commonwealth. People can be denied services, evicted or fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity without penalties across much of Pennsylvania.

“Philadelphia is one of the few areas where comprehensive protections barring LGBT discrimination exists – a practice that should be in place in every municipality, Landau says.

“For decades, Philadelphia has recognized that strong nondiscrimination laws protecting everyone – including LGBT residents and visitors – make economic sense. They allow businesses to attract more dollars, broaden their workforce and build our tax base as a result. We understand that the best and brightest can come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Philadelphia has continued to lead in this area. Now Pennsylvania must follow.

“Passing comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation would give us hope that all Pennsylvanians will be protected, be it in the streets or in the workplace. Whatever law eventually passes in Harrisburg must preserve the rights of cities like Philadelphia to be at the cutting edge of addressing discrimination, and should emulate our efforts. Only then would we see our commonwealth finally live up to its credo – virtue, liberty and independence.”

Chatting and tweeting on Philly fair housing

wyl_twitter_081215PCHR and FHC had a robust online discussion with members of the community on Twitter on Wednesday.

Topics ranged from what you should look for in a lease to what kinds of discrimination traps lay out there. In a chat chockfull of valuable tips and insights, people of all stripes added their questions to get a fuller understanding of their rights as tenants and landlords in Philadelphia,

Missed the original Twitter chat? Never fear! Check out the transcript: #wylcommunity_pchr-fhc_transcript.