A crowd of about 50 LGBT citizens and their supporters gathered in the mayor’s reception room at Philadelphia’s City Hall last on Sunday morning to attend a ceremony celebrating the seventh year city officials have raised the LGBT Pride flag outside City Hall as a kickoff to OutFest, Philadelphia’s celebration of National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11). Shortly after it began QPOC activists — from the Black and Brown Workers’ Collective, Black Lives Matter, and other groups marched in disrupting the ceremony with signs bearing slogans stating “Anti Blackness Anywhere Is Anti Blackness Everywhere!” and “#GetOutfest” and began shouting over D’Ontace Keyes, the newly appointed commissioner on the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, who was speaking at the podium.
The QPOC activist angry about nightclub dress codes they see as racist and a three-year-old viral video of a club-owner using the N-word (which the owner apologized for) had harsh words for Mayor Kenney. They argued his ties to the Mummers (oft-criticized for racism and homophobia) and Democratic Committeeman Michael Weiss, a Kenney donor who owns Woody’s, one of the bars with an allegedly racist dress code, show the mayor is insincere about fighting racism in the Gayborhood. They also complained Kenney hasn’t done enough to end police stop-and-frisk practices.
“Why haven’t you made a formal statement about Gayborhood racism?” shouted Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, a collective organizer.
Kenney did address the racism controversy just before the activists arrived, talking about his upbringing in a neighborhood that “wasn’t always open-minded,” dealing with Mummer racism last year and getting emotional as he implored everyone to “be decent human beings.”
“We need to change our hearts if our hearts are cold, we need to change them, we need to look at each other in each other’s eyes … and love your fellow human beings,”
When Kenney then tried speaking with the activists and offered his hand for handshakes, the activists ignored the gesture and shouted chants such as “If we don’t get it, shut it down!”with one “activist” giving the Mayor the middle finger. Kenney and others at that point left the room and the QPOC activists took over the podium to outline their demands.
The activists’ demands, as collective organizer Shani Akilah outlined at City Hall, are:
Funds allocated to support the development of “black and brown spaces” in and out of the Gayborhood, as most of the city’s LGBT people of color don’t live in the Gayborhood.
That homeless LGBT youth be part of conversations about Gayborhood racism.
That anyone guilty of racial discrimination “be fined, reprimanded and relieved of duties, according to public hearings.”
That Kenney, Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia Fight executive director Jane Shull and Mazzoni Center CEO Nurit Shein be subpoenaed to the human relations commission’s Oct. 25 public hearing.
Outside oversight to ensure transparency of the human relations commission’s investigations and hearing follow-up.
Trauma therapists of color be present at the Oct. 25 public hearing to counsel, at city expense, anyone upset by the proceedings or the recent viral video of club owner Darryl DePiano using a racial slur.
Dionne Stallworth, who has been an activist for 30 years in the LGBT community, confronted the activists, urging them to resolve their complaints without confrontation.
“What I have not seen is the willingness to come to a table without antagonism,” Stallworth said. “I know personally that your issues have merit … I congratulate you for holding them accountable here, but there is a process.”
Activist Erica Mines responded: “We do not sit at the table with our oppressors!”