Change.Org Petition Calls for Mazzoni CEO, Medical Director to Resign
Two days after the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) released its findings and recommendations on Gayborhood racism, community activists have created a Change.org petition alleging various types of misconduct at HIV/AIDS advocacy organization Mazzoni Center, which is being required by PCHR to provide its board and staff with training on implicit bias and the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.
PCHR’s report revealed that people of color testified that they have found it difficult to advance at Mazzoni, one of Philly’s largest LGBTQ social-services agencies. Further, the commission found that the organization’s employee handbooks and policies are “inadequate or not properly implemented and leave employees vulnerable to discriminatory practices.” At the press conference unveiling the report on Monday, PCHR executive director Rue Landau also said that Mazzoni’s overall lack of diversity doesn’t reflect the larger community it serves.
In response to these findings and recommendations, the LGBTQ activist group Black and Brown Workers Collective (BBWC) posted a public petition on Change.org calling for Mazzoni’s CEO, Nurit Shein, and medical director, Dr. Robert Winn, to resign.
On social media, one of the activists called out Shein’s remarks in a recent interview for Philly.com, in which she referred to issues raised in the PCHR report as being “more anecdotal than systematic.”
G Philly reached out to Mazzoni Center for a formal statement on the PCHR Gayborhood racism report and the petition. We received the following:
Statement from the Board President, Dr. Jimmy J. Ruiz:
The Board of Directors appreciate the work of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) in producing this report. We believe that it’s extremely important that we as an organization hear about the experiences people are having so that we can fully understand and participate in the ongoing conversations about racism in the LGBTQ community.
Last summer, members of Mazzoni Center staff began a dialogue around improving the diversity, inclusion, and overall environment of the workplace. All members of staff were invited to identify and help select a consulting firm to engage employees on the issues of racism, implicit bias, and diversity in the workplace. Beginning next week, all members of our staff will engage in two full days of workshops and trainings led by the National Conference for Community and Justice, a Connecticut-based social justice organization.
At the same time, conversations about racial inclusion, diversity and representation on the board level have intensified in recent months. Identifying and cultivating members from diverse backgrounds is a key priority for all of us on the board. As a Puerto Rican gay male who works in my own professional capacity surrounded by mostly white people in positions of power, I am well aware of the how important this is. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on this board, and will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure we are responding to the needs of the organization and the many people we serve.
We recognize that these steps are part of an ongoing process, and we are committed to continuing this important work. We believe it is crucial that we continue to improve our own culture within Mazzoni Center, and in the LGBTQ communities in Philadelphia to create an environment where everyone feels safe and respected.
We feel it is important to point out that at no point during their process did PCHR contact us to provide any explanation and/or response to their findings and recommendations. Therefore, we feel that some of its conclusions are not based on providing all involved a voice.
We will follow up with the PHCR to ensure we are fully complying with the other recommendations in their report, and we are absolutely open to continuing discussions with them on our efforts to become a more inclusive, diverse and welcoming organization at every level. Mazzoni Center remains firmly committed to serving all people, particularly our community’s most vulnerable populations, especially people of color, people who are transgender, and people who lack any number of privileges assigned to people who are white, cisgender, and/or who identify as male.
Regarding the Change.org petition, Mazzoni CEO Nurit Shein said: “As a matter of policy, Mazzoni Center does not respond to allegations made against staff on social media.”