Op-Ed in The Advocate Addresses Racial Inequality in Philly Gay Scene

We talked to the VP of Philly Black Pride to have him weigh-in on the piece.


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We’ve had plenty of interesting chats with Philly writer Ernest Owens over the last several months about his argument that the Gayborhood is suffering from, to use his words, “de facto segregation.” Most recently, Owens sparked some interesting debate after he created a Change.org petition asking Philly gay bars to “diversify.” Now, the writer has taken to the national stage to express his belief that…well, I’ll let the title of his Advocate op-ed, which hit the internet today, do the talking: “The LGBT Movement Needs to Diversify or Die.”

The editorial openly discusses the writer’s recent experience at Woody’s, where he went to celebrate after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling:

“I found myself being shafted at the bar for 20 minutes before my black friend finally met me. Once there were two of us in same area, we were visible enough to receive service. This is what it feels like to be among a sea of mostly white cisgender gays and lesbians, with the bouncer being the only person of color we could see.”

Owens also goes on to discuss his experience at the LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration several weeks back:

“When you look at many of the current national LGBTQ leadership boards, they are predominantly white and cisgender, with a spark of color just for kicks. The Equality Forum, which put on the epic LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration in Philadelphia this past July 4 weekend, confirmed that. When you look at who were considered  ‘gay pioneers,’ received honors, and narrated the story of the movement — they were mostly white. The experience was bittersweet, as I felt empowered by meeting legends like Edie Windsor and icons like Jim Obergefell, but heartbroken that I was one of a small handful of people of color to have had that experience. Being told by a few guests that ‘I wasn’t like the rest of them’ wasn’t a compliment but a backhanded reminder of how this movement is still being dictated by the now-purposeful exclusion of blacks, Latinos, and Asians.”

Owens closes by stating, “Stop asking for our voices, recommendations, or thoughts and just bring us to the damn table! Otherwise, this movement will fall like Rome — and the rest of the world will be watching the shade.”

I asked the Vice President of Philly Black Pride, D’Angelo-D’Ontace Keyes, to weigh in on the editorial.

“I never seek to discredit one’s experience but I find this hard to believe that this is still occurring at the level presented given the work and progression that has been made to diversify the Gayborhood,” he said. “By all means, I am not say that discrimination is not alive; Hell, we still have segregated social events given the lack of cultural competency in appropriating the events for our community. Yet, I know that we are in a much better place than before.”

In regards to allegations of racial inequality at gay Philly bars, Keyes said, “I attend the bars and see that there’s a much captive audience of people of color enjoying themselves than flaming with anger for being ‘shafted’ at the bars. That isn’t our agenda in the fight for social equality for Philadelphia; we are beyond that hump, especially with the bars.”

Keyes stated, “This extreme route of calling people out has never worked to get these social settings to become better allies, but what has worked developing an alliance between communities to work together and help one another. That is the work being done.”

He added, “I repeat, I not saying discrimination is not alive and there is not work to be done, but trust [me], we are at the table and challenging the norm. Study the progression and realize the movement.”