Latinx Queer Community Leaders Air Concerns Over Philly4Pulse

Organizers of the July 21st charity event involving 14 Gayborhood bars are being criticized for excluding Latinx queer groups from the planning process.

On Thursday, July 21st, the Gayborhood’s most popular bars are sponsoring a charity event to support the victims of the tragic Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando. Philly4Pulse promises to feature local celebrities tending bar, dance parties, drag, Quizzo, karaoke, and more as a way “to bring our community together.” However, some leaders from the Latinx queer community feel that their constituencies have been left out.

According to press releases and interviews, the Philly4Pulse organizing committee began working on the event as early as June 14th. But representatives of both GALAEI and the Gran Varones, two well-known local Latinx queer organizations, say they were invited to participate only a week ago.

“I first heard of the Philly4Pulse event when I received an invite via Facebook,” Gran Varones founder Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca tells G Philly. “I knew immediately that this was not an event that was going to center Latinx queers, because it is an event that does not even center the community.”

Ortiz-Fonseca says that he found the lack of initial outreach from the organizers of the event to be “disappointing,” given that the majority of the Pulse victims were of Latinx origin. “When I asked [the organizers] why they have not centered the event on Latinx queers, the answer I was given was ‘we tried,’” he says. “It is exhausting that we as Latino gay men are invisible.”

Matters only escalated, Ortiz-Fonseca says, when representatives involved in planning Philly4Pulse reached out to him last week to propose that the Gran Varones provide volunteers for the event in exchange for having the group’s logo on promotional materials. Ortiz-Fonseca claims he immediately declined: “It is offensive to be asked to participate as ‘the help,’ as if having our logo raises our profile as a project when I know it simply makes the event look as if we were part of the planning. Using a project that centers the lives and stories of gay Latino men as a marketing tool is offensive.”

Similar concerns were raised by GALAEI, a queer Latin@ social justice organization. “GALAEI got notified about participating in the event around a week ago, after weeks of the bars and planners coming together without us,” says Fran Cortes, a GALAEI youth coordinator. “It was upsetting that we were reached out to at the last minute and weren’t prepared to participate in the event.”

Asked to comment on the groups’ concerns, Jeffery Sotland, owner of Tabu and spokesperson for the Philly4Pulse event, sent G Philly this statement:

It has not been brought to our attention that the Latin community felt it was not being included in the event. As a group of businesspeople, attempting to put together a fundraiser to help, we do not always hit all the right buttons, but I can honestly say we have tried to do so. We are willing to sit and chat with anyone who has questions or concerns.

At least one Gayborhood organization, however, has put Latinx community involvement at the forefront of its efforts. As an alternative to the more adult-themed parties on Thursday night, the William Way LGBT Center has crafted a diverse event slated to include community groups and youth. Dance for Orlando, which will feature Latinx DJ Nikki Lopez, also has support from various multicultural LGBTQ groups and associations. Christopher Bartlett, executive director of William Way, says he believes this event will make “a community space that is welcoming to everyone.”

“We’re grateful that GALAEI, Colours, OUTMuslim, and Philadelphia Black Pride will bring Latinx and other POC voices front and center at this event,” Bartlett tells G Philly. “We think that this is one of the most important messages we can send — that we can all come together in community to address our challenges.”