Protesters Criticize Kenney, Fitzpatrick at OutFest Kickoff

Activists took over the podium at a City Hall flag-raising ceremony on Sunday.

Black & Brown Workers Collective and other protesters disrupt the LGBT flag raising ceremony at City Hall on October 9th. Photo by Ernest Owens.

Black and Brown Workers Collective and other protesters disrupt the LGBT flag-raising ceremony at City Hall on October 9th. Photo by Ernest Owens.

Minutes after Jim Kenney made his first public statement about Gayborhood racism during the seventh-annual LBGT pride flag-raising at City Hall on Sunday, protesters from the Black and Brown Workers Collective (BBWC) and other racial justice groups commandeered the podium to criticize the mayor and Office of LGBT Affairs director Nellie Fitzpatrick.

During the ceremony, the traditional kickoff to OutFest, Kenney addressed the racism issue for the first time since a video of ICandy owner Darryl DePiano repeating the n-word leaked nearly two weeks ago. “The stories of racism and discrimination that we’ve heard in recent weeks are heartbreaking,” Kenney said. While the mayor did not mention the names of any bars or the ICandy video specifically, he did call on the community to be “stronger together.” “We have a long way to go,” Kenney said. “The Gayborhood should be sanctuary for LGBT community, but all are not welcome. And, until they are, I will not go there.”

Members of the BBWC, in coalition with ACT UP Philly​, Philly Coalition for REAL Justice​, Black Lives Matter Philly​, The Gran Varones​, and the Womanist Working Collective​, alleged that the mayor’s previous silence was due to his political ties to Michael Weiss, the co-owner of Woody’s and Voyeur in the Gayborhood, and confronted Fitzpatrick about “private meetings” held by her office:

During Kenney’s mayoral campaign, Weiss was a notable donor and held political fundraisers for the then-candidate at Woody’s, whose dress-code policy has come under fire recently for “covert racism.” Weiss is also the secretary on the board of Mazzoni, serves on the Philadelphia LGBT Police Liaison Committee, and was appointed by the Philadelphia Democratic Party to serve on the executive committee of the 8th Ward in 2011.

After the mayor attempted to shake the hands of protesters while they were asking whether would he attend an upcoming Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) hearing on Gayborhood racism, Kenney and Fitzpatrick left the event. Protesters then took to the podium to call for more transparency from the Office of LGBT Affairs:

The disruption also led to two moments of reconciliation for some community activists and stakeholders over recent differences in approach. Protesters had speculated during the ceremony that Fitzpatrick was attempting to use individuals such as A. Dionne Stallworth, a black trans woman and veteran activist, to undermine support for direct action after remarks Stallworth made about “com[ing] to a table without antagonism.” After BBWC members and others explained their previous attempts to address issues without disruption, Stallworth commended the group for holding people accountable and committed herself to “reaching out” to them directly if she had suggestions.

The protest and event ended peacefully with an exchange between BBWC and former Philly Black Pride chief creative officer D’ontace Keyes, a newly appointed PCHR commissioner. Keyes, who was one of the producers of a four-point strategy to address Gayborhood racism last year, emphasized the importance of individuals holding him accountable in his new position:

Shortly the protest, Kenney released this public statement:

“As I have said previously, there is no denying that racism and discrimination is an issue within the LGBT community. The Gayborhood should be a sanctuary for all in the LGBT community, but sadly not everyone is welcome at some of its institutions, and until real steps are taken to address racist dress code policies or other instances of institutionalized discrimination, I will not go to those institutions.

Discrimination in the Gayborhood and across the city is not something that one person or one office can be expected to solve on its own – it’s on all of us – and I hope the hearing that the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations is holding on racism in the Gayborhood will start to move that ball forward. I intend to be there to do my part in ensuring that it does, and I encourage all others that are invested in change to attend as well.”

G Philly received the following statement from Fitzpatrick:

“Racism in the LGBT community is a real issue and we need to do more about it. I’ve focused much of my work over the last several years on addressing the discrimination and danger members of the LGBT community face in our criminal legal systems and the disproportionate impact that has on communities of color and transgender people, and I have also spoken with the bar owners several times to ask them to open up their policies.

I look forward to attending the October 25 hearings with PCHR and listening to the voices from the community. Moving forward, I hope that we can work together on eliminating racism in the LGBT community.”

BBWC sent G Philly a list of new demands for the mayor’s office and Office of LGBT Affairs:

Our Demands

1) WE DEMAND that funds be allocated to support the development of Black and Brown spaces to be financed inside and outside of the Gayborhood, for we know the majority of Black and Brown LGBTQ community live in other parts of the city.

2) WE DEMAND that LGBTQIA transient and housing-insecure youth are at the table for conversations focused on racism in the Gayborhood.

3) WE DEMAND that all parties that are found to practice racial discrimination/anti-black behaviors or policies be fined, reprimanded, and relieved of duties, according to public hearings.

4) WE DEMAND that the following public servants and executive directors be subpoenaed to be present at the October 25th hearings because they have actively obstructed any effort to address anti-black policies, procedures and culture that reside in the Gayborhood:

a) Mayor Jim Kenney

b) Nellie Fitzpatrick, Director of the Office of LGBT affairs

c) Jane Shull, Executive Director of Philadelphia Fight

d) Nurit Shein, CEO of Mazzoni Center

5) WE DEMAND that outside observers be convened as well to ensure transparency of the commission and rigor as it pertains to investigations and follow-up to this hearing scheduled for Oct 25th.

6) We DEMAND to know why the meeting held on September 9th, with the Office of LGBT Affairs, PCHR and Black and Brown organizations and stakeholders was not addressed publicly?

a) Make meeting minutes, outcomes, action steps and other communication public.

b) Make public the proposed “zero tolerance” policy.

c) Make a public statement that addresses why the policy has not be adopted.

d) Adopt the zero tolerance policy and make this a legally binding document.

7) WE DEMAND that trauma therapists be present at the hearing scheduled on October 25th and linkages be made to trauma therapy beyond the hearing.

a) The trauma therapists selected need to be Black and Brown because they need to reflect the communities most impacted by systemic racism and oppression.

b) Black and Brown community members who have experienced trauma from the recent public video of DePiano using the n-word have access to time-limited, but substantial trauma-informed therapy at no cost and that this be funded by City Government.

“Both the Mayor and Nellie Fitzpatrick will be attending the PCHR’s October 25th public educational hearing,” Rue Landau, executive director of PCHR, confirmed to G Philly. There is currently no information on whether Jane Shull and Nurit Shein will be in attendance. So far, owners of 11 Gayborhood bars have been subpoenaed to testify at the October 25th hearing, to be held at Liberty Resources, 112 North 8th Street, Suite 600, at 6 p.m.

The rest of Sunday’s OutFest, the city’s annual celebration of National Coming Out Day, went smoothly as crowds grew during the afternoon. No protests were reported apart from the typical anti-LGBTQ demonstrations that took place.