“It Was an Ambush”: Behind the Vote That Ousted Sharron Cooks as LGBT Commission Chair

Sharron Cooks | Photo taken by Kelly Burkhardt

The Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, a 23-member advisory board announced in October 2016 after several intense months of revelations about racial discrimination in the Gayborhood, convened its first meeting on March 16th at City Hall. This inaugural gathering served as the formal introduction of Amber Hikes, a black queer woman newly appointed as the executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, to the diverse body of volunteers who would help her advise Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration on the pressing needs of Philadelphia’s LGBT community.

It was during this meeting, which kicked off with commission members taking the floor for two minutes apiece to present overviews of their lives and work, that Sharron Cooks, a black transgender advocate and new member herself, noticed something potentially troubling. She felt that another member, a white cisgender woman, was “taking up too much space” — essentially framing discussion of diversity and inclusion around her own experience rather than that of people of color. Cooks said nothing, but noted that, unlike other members, the woman eventually spoke for five minutes longer than the allotted time. Read more »

UPDATED: Council Unanimously Passes Bill Prompted by Gayborhood Racism Complaints

CityHall-940x540

After passing out of City Council’s Health and Human Services committee in a unanimous vote last month, an anti-discrimination bill introduced by Councilman Derek Green that would strengthen penalties against Philadelphia businesses found to discriminate against their employees, tenants, or customers was passed, again unanimously, by Council on Thursday.

“I am thankful that Council has once again demonstrated its allegiance to a culture of inclusion and acceptance in the City of Philadelphia, and hope that businesses and residents alike are reminded that discrimination is unacceptable,” Green said in a statement. Since introducing this bill in November 2016, Green has consistently cited incidents of Gayborhood racism as the genesis of his interest in amending the Fair Practices Ordinance.

Read more »

OPINION: Brian Sims, Stop Chasing the National Spotlight and Focus on the Gayborhood

State Rep. Brian Sims

State Rep. Brian Sims

If you frequent the Gayborhood, by now you’re aware of the ongoing conversations surrounding racial discrimination in the community. You’re most likely also familiar with the recent turmoil at the community’s leading LGBTQ nonprofit, Mazzoni Center. Regardless of your personal thoughts on these issues, you can’t ignore the impact both have had on the Gayborhood.

But oddly enough, it doesn’t appear as though our only openly gay state legislator finds these issues worthy of urgent concern. State Rep. Brian Sims, whose legislative district encompasses the Gayborhood, has been curiously hands-off when it comes to engaging in these public disputes in his own backyard. Read more »

Bill Prompted by Gayborhood Racism Complaints Passes Out of Committee

Councilman at Large, Derek S. Green, Esq.

Councilman at Large Derek S. Green

On Monday, an anti-discrimination bill introduced by Councilman Derek Green that would strengthen penalties against Philadelphia businesses that discriminate against their employees, tenants, or customers passed unanimously out of Council’s Health and Human Services committee.

In a public statement, Green said that he was prompted to introduce the bill by “public outcry about discrimination in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood and release of a video showing a business owner employing racial slurs.” Read more »

More Than 60 Mazzoni Staffers Walk Out, Call on CEO Nurit Shein to Resign

Mazzoni Center staff members during a walkout. Photo by Ernest Owens

Mazzoni Center staff members during a walkout. Photo by Ernest Owens

A week after Dr. Robert Winn resigned as Mazzoni Center’s medical director following reports that he was the subject of an investigation, more than 60 full-time staffers of the nonprofit are now calling for executive director/CEO Nurit Shein to step down.

“Nurit Shein, resign!” said Anthony Leon, a youth education manager at Mazzoni, at the conclusion of a PCHR-mandated organization-wide training session on racial bias on Thursday morning. Staff members began to confront Shein over what they claimed was her lack of transparency surrounding the allegations against Dr. Winn and other internal issues. Former Mazzoni staff members were also present during the confrontation. Read more »

Mazzoni Center’s Medical Director Is Under “Investigation,” Sources Claim

Robert Winn | Image via Mazzoni Center's website.

Robert Winn | Image via Mazzoni Center’s website.

After more than a week of rumors alleging that Mazzoni Center medical director Dr. Robert Winn has been absent from work without explanation, a Mazzoni spokesperson said on Monday that Winn is on “paid leave,” and two sources inside the organization further claim that he has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

“Winn is currently on a paid-leave suspension during an … investigation,” said a staff member who works closely with Mazzoni’s medical department and who requested anonymity. “He’s been gone for at least a week, and oddly there’s been no blast email sent out to inform staff.”

“Winn is suspended and staff has not been made aware,” said a second staff member, who also asked not to be identified. “There is an investigation happening right now.”

Neither source would characterize the nature or cause of the investigation, nor explain who is conducting it. Read more »

OPINION: That Time a Straight White Woman Wrote About Woody’s …

Woody's on 202 S. 13th St.

Woody’s.

The Philadelphia Inquirer just played itself, and it has no one else to blame.

On Wednesday, our “paper of record” published a piece headlined “Bar Code: Room for all at Woody’s, now a sprawling Gayborhood empire.” (It has since been changed.) In the review, the critic — Samantha Melamed, a straight white woman — says she decided to revisit the bar after a decade away on seeing news reports that tied Woody’s co-owner Michael Weiss to the recent indictment of District Attorney Seth Williams. Read more »

Michael Weiss, Two Others Resign From Mazzoni Center Board

Michael Weiss | Image via Mazzoni Center's website

Michael Weiss | Image via Mazzoni Center’s website

A week after it was revealed that Gayborhood bar owner and Democratic committeeman Michael Weiss was named — as “Business Owner #2” — in the 23-count federal indictment of District Attorney Seth Williams on corruption-related charges, Gayborhood nonprofit Mazzoni Center has confirmed to G Philly that he is no longer on the organization’s board.

A Mazzoni spokesperson sent the following statement: Read more »

OPINION: Michael Weiss Must Step Down From His Public Roles in the Gayborhood

Michael Weiss | Image via Mazzoni Center's website

Michael Weiss | Image via Mazzoni Center’s website

Michael Weiss is arguably one of the most powerful and politically connected men in the Gayborhood. He’s the co-owner of several popular bars (Woody’s, Rosewood Bar Lounge, and Voyeur), the board secretary of Mazzoni Center, a member of the Philadelphia LGBT Police Liaison Committee, an elected Democratic committeeman/treasurer for the city’s Eighth Ward, and a “special adviser” to District Attorney Seth Williams. Read more »

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