Every week I take a trip down memory lane in William Way Community Center’s John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives, a veritable treasure trove of relics from gay Philadelphia’s past. This week, archivist—and author of The Gayborhood Guru—Bob Skiba shares photos of Tommi Avicolli Mecca taken in the 1970s and 1980s. Skiba tells me that “Tommi was an early activist here, one of the founders of the Gay Community Center (which later became William Way) and the Archives, and a trans activist.”
Tommi Avicolli Mecca in drag at a Radical Queens drag party held in an apartment on 15th and Spruce. (1972)
Mecca playing with the Masturbatters softball team in 1972.
Mecca (right) with folk singer Anthony Lewis, who was performing at Independence Mall at the 1973 Pride march.
Mecca speaking at a Gay Activists Alliance meeting, pictured also is Marc Monro. (1973)
Gay Activists Alliance forum on drag by Radical Queens, the first transgender group in Philly. (1973)
First gay liberation conference at University of Pennsylvania. (1974)
Mecca in a Sissy T-shirt at the 1974 gay-liberation conference at UPenn. He made a impassioned plea for acceptance of transgender folks in the movement and denounced their exclusion.
Shot of an array of activists who fought for the passage of a gay-rights bill in 1974. (It didn't pass.) Standing inside City Hall. (Standing, L-R) Tom Wilson Weinberg, Dennis Rubini, Sheldon Rizen, Philip' Mara, Berna Aaronson, Mark Segal, Barbara Gittings. (Sitting) Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Harry Langhorne.
Gay Pagans and Atheists at a protest of the Catholic Church in New York City for its part in the defeat of a gay rights bill. Pictures: Philip' Marra and Tommi. (1975 or ’76)
Gay Pagans and Atheists party at Gay Community Center on Kater Street in 1975. Tommi Avicolli Mecca in nun drag.
Philip' Mara in pope drag and Tommi in nun drag at Gay Pagans and Atheist party 1975.
Shot of Mecca as a major gay-rights bill passed at City Council in 1982.
Welcome to Philanthropy Fridays, where Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF) Executive Director Samantha Giusti introduces you to a local LGBT non-profit in Philadelphia. This week, Michael Pomante explains the work he does at William Way LGBT Community Center, and (are you sitting?) hints at an winter-themed IndiGoGo party.
Michael Pomante at William Way’s Indigo Ball.
I am … Michael Pomante, development director, on behalf of the William Way LGBT Community Center.
William Way was founded in … 1974 as the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Philadelphia
One-sentence mission statement: The William Way LGBT Community Center encourages, supports, and advocates for the well-being and acceptance of sexual and gender minorities in the Greater Philadelphia region through service, recreational, educational, and cultural programming.
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Every week I take a trip down memory lane in William Way Community Center’s John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives, a veritable treasure trove of relics from gay Philadelphia’s past. This week, I met with archivist—and author of The Gayborhood Guru—Bob Skiba, who shared these photos of one of gay Philly’s biggest legends, the Mother of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement herself, Ms. Barbara Gittings, who you may be more familiar with as the woman who has her name on the street sign at 13th and Locust streets.
Elliot Levin, Rhenda Fearrington, and Lamont Dixon perform at the OutBeat Jazz Festival.
It was a totally triumphant Friday evening as the William Way Community Center kicked off OutBeat, what’s being billed as the nation’s first queer jazz festival. It was a winners-take-all night of amazing performances at two prestigious venues in the city: Philadelphia Musem of Art (PMA) hosted the Fred Hersch Trio as part of its “Art After Five” series (along with a VIP reception), and the Suzanne Roberts Theatre presented “Lush Lie: Philadelphia Celebrates Billy Strayhorn,” a co-collaboration between OutBeat and the Philadelphia Jazz Project. Read more »
Dena Underwood, via the Dena Underwood Facebook page
It’s been years in the making and tonight it becomes a reality: The nation’s first queer jazz festival, OutBeat, opens, thanks to the efforts of the William Way LGBTQ Community Center. The four-day musical extravaganza takes places all throughout Philly, and features some of the nation’s most renowned jazz players, players who just happen to fall into the LGBTQ spectrum.
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Terri Lyne Carrington
Our sister blog, G Philly, has presented lots of coverage on OutBeat, the nation’s first ever LGBTQ jazz festival, that’s playing right here in Philly this upcoming week. However, this event isn’t just for those who fall in the LGBTQ spectrum: it’s a major musical fest for jazz lovers that is bringing some of the best musicians in the genre to our city. Read more »
The painting in question, titled “We Only Had Silence,” raised $600 for William Way Community Center.
Last week I told you about a big gay art heist in the Gayborhood. A painting artist Natalie Hope McDonald donated to the William Way Community Center’s annual Homecoming auction was hijacked. We’re happy to report today, however, that the painting has been found.
William Way Executive Director Christopher Bartlett confirms that the painting was indeed stolen, and recovered in good condition from the John C. Anderson Apartments. Apparently someone tipped him off to its whereabouts via social media. “Once we told them there would be no repercussions, they told us where it was located,” he tells me. The Center will not be pressing charges.
“We’re just thrilled that we were able to find the painting. Now we’ll be able to follow up with the buyer, and the sale will benefit the Center.”
He tells me the bidder offered $600 for the painting—no small chunk of change for our LGBT community center.
I reached out to Hope McDonald for a comment: “I’m glad the man who rightfully won the piece can have it. And that the Center can benefit.”
Cue: sigh of relief. All is well again in our little gay art world.
Whether we’re at odds about Pride, or listening to drag queens bicker about who reigns supreme over what bar, sometimes it seems like Philly’s LGBT community is far from, well, a community. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a gasp-inducing number of local event producers teaming up for William Way‘s annual IndiGoGo fundraiser.
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Did you know May is National Masturbation Month? Although you won’t find any cards at Hallmark to commemorate the holiday, you can celebrate in a way that won’t leave a mess!
This evening, GALAEI, Sex With Timaree, and the William Way LGBT Community Center present the first annual SEXx Philly Conference from 6PM-9PM. It’s essentially a TEDx-style event that’s meant to break the stigma behind talking about sex in public places.
“We need to continue to have safe, accessible, and fun spaces to have honest conversations about sexuality,” said Elicia Gonzales, the event’s co-coordinator and Executive Director of GALAEI. “In a society that is plagued by sex-negativity, we wanted this event to bring communities together to have intentional sex-positive conversations.” Gonzales and her co-coordinator, Timaree Schmit, aim to build that type of safe space at the event.
Attendees can expect to hear renowned speakers from across the nation chat about everything from senior citizen sexuality, blowjobs, webcam models, and the “power of bottoming.”
All attendees who want to take part in the event at the William Way Community Center (1315 Spruce Street) must be over the age of 18. Tickets, which are on a sliding scale of $5 to $10, benefit GALAEI and William Way; snacks and beverages will be available.
For more information, visit the SEXx website.
Drummer Bill Stewart is among the national acts playing at OutBeat, America’s first queer jazz festival.
Put your jazz hands up! Thanks to a grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, William Way Community Center is set to make history when it hosts America’s first queer jazz festival, OutBeat, this summer. A press release sent out this afternoon offers a hint at what to expect during the four-day festival, taking place September 18-21 in venues across town.
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