PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Allegations of racism in gayborhood nightclubs will be the focus of a community meeting on Thursday at the African American Museum of Philadelphia. Organizers want to start a dialogue with the city.
“We wanted to make our voices heard,” says Alexander Valez, co-author of an open letter calling for a community coalition between black and brown LGBTQ groups. He says one of their goals is to start a dialogue with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ affairs after months, if not years, of allegations of racial profiling and discrimination at gayborhood clubs.
“We want to make the impression that we are not casual club goers,” he says, “we are active members of the LGBTQ community and Black and Brown organizations are often overlooked.”
Valez says the meeting will be an open forum where everyone from the LGBTQ community can come up with solutions. The meeting is organized by Social Life Entertainment, an organization that holds events for LGBTQ people of color along the east coast. They’ve invited nearly a dozen groups to participate.
“We want to create a safe space for Black and Brown members who are the most vulnerable,” he says.
“There hasn’t been much conversation around this,” says Shani Robin, creator and founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective. The group has protests at area nightclubs. That, and mounting complaints of discrimination in use of dress code and admittance policies at clubs like, iCandy, forced the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission to schedule a hearing for Oct 25.
“This is the first time that something like this will happened, so it should be noted that this is historical,” says Robin.
She says activists of color have been advocating against racism in the gayborhood for years; but nothing changed. Then during Black Pride this past spring, more complaints of discrimination broke via reports from GPhilly. The problem came to a head this fall when the BBWC put out a list of demands; one was for the resignation of Nellie Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs.
Nellie Fitzpatrick, who has run the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs since 2015, says she is the only paid employee in that office and has no budget.
“If this group feels they need to use me to get more attention for their cause, I’m okay with that,” says Fitzpatrick, “I feel confident in my record.”
Fitzpatrick says she’s focused much of her attention on discrimination against LGBTQ people of color in the legal and criminal justice system. She’s also worked to get gender neutral bathrooms and on LGBT youth homelessness throughout the city. But little has been done about discrimination at gayborhood nightclubs until recently when video of the owner of a nightclub using the “n” word was released.
“Racism in the LGBTQ community is a real issue,” says Fitzpatrick.
She says she’s ready to listen and will attend the meeting at the African American museum on Thursday night.
“I am very grateful to the invitation,” says Fitzpatrick who plans to bring others from the Mayor’s office. “We want to come up with an actual plan to deal with these issues that have been prevalent in the community for a long time.”
Fitzpatrick, as well as Mayor Jim Kenney, both say diversity within city representation of the LGBTQ community is needed. Fitzpatrick says the city is hoping to launch a commission on LGBT affairs and diversity will be a top priority.
The BBWC told KYW Newsradio they will not attend the meeting.
“We believe that it’s a little too late and we are standing firm for [Fitzpatrick’s] resignation,” says Robin, “both the Mayor and Nellie Fitzpatrick are to blame for this.”
Robin says her group will have representation at the Oct 25th hearing.
A dozen groups have been invited to the meeting at the African American Museum of Philadelphia Thursday, beginning at 6pm. It is open to the public.