A response to recent events in our communities

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*Updated 10/11/16 with details about the upcoming PCHR Town Hall meeting.  See below.

There’s been a great deal of turmoil in Philadelphia’s LGBTQ communities in recent months - and many would rightly point out, for much longer.  The issues of racism and discrimination are not new, but the conversation has intensified, and several recent incidents have brought a heightened awareness and sense of outrage.

In addition to Saturday's Philly Trans* March, this weekend marks the annual Outfest event, which is meant to provide a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ people to celebrate who they are and promote a spirit of community.  The very existence of this event is a response to the historic discrimination and marginalization of LGBTQ people by mainstream communities.  

However, it is all too clear that many LGBTQ people of color do NOT feel safe and welcomed in many of the spaces commonly described as “LGBTQ-friendly,” and that our notion of community has not been as inclusive as we would like to believe.

All of this takes place against the backdrop of a much larger conversation happening across the country about the relationship between institutions of authority and people of color.  As a society, we are only starting to acknowledge the existence of implicit or subconscious bias in addition to overt racism, and understand the very real consequences of both.  As a community, and as individuals, we search for answers as we witness the violence.   We’ve seen the bodies of black and brown people shot and killed before our eyes.  

How can we be less than outraged?  

These issues are extremely complicated, challenging, sensitive - and they are immensely important. To the people of color among us, these issues are life and death.  From a public health perspective, from a mental health perspective, from a social justice perspective, it is incumbent upon all of us to respond if we are to create the kind of community that we want to inhabit, and that we claim to have.

All of us need to do our part to identify, understand, address and correct social injustices, whether they pertain to us individually, or our community as a whole.  We need to listen to one another with compassion, respect and understanding of the unique way we each experience injustice and discrimination.  We must be willing to have difficult conversations, to suspend defensiveness, avoid knee-jerk reactions, and truly listen to what our colleagues, friends, and neighbors are saying about their experiences.  

We at Mazzoni Center are committed to doing all of that.

We acknowledge that no single statement, no set of words can do justice to the enormity of these challenges - and that surely in speaking out we will make mistakes.  But we know that discrimination has a direct, negative impact on an individual’s health and well-being, and that remaining silent does nothing to help those who are being hurt.  

These issues will not be resolved overnight but we must start by acknowledging the pain that people in our communities are feeling, and by committing to positive, proactive change. Building healthy and inclusive community starts with every one of us.

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, October 25  in response to reports and growing concern of racism and discrimination in the LGBTQ community. The hearing is designed to be a listening session for the Philadelphia Commission and will provide community members an opportunity to speak about their experiences.  The meeting will take place at 6 pm on 10/25 at Liberty Resources, 112 N. 8th Street, Suite 600.

As a member of the LGBTQ community and someone who sees the harm that discrimination and racism cause, the town hall meeting on October 25 is important to me, and to the work of Mazzoni Center, and I am planning to attend. 

 

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