One Year Ago Today, the ICandy N-Word Video Rocked the Gayborhood

Here are the heroes that emerged from that paradigm-shifting moment.

Photograph by Ernest Owens

On September 29th, 2016, a video surfaced of ICandy owner Darryl DePiano referring to a former black employee and patrons as “niggers” repeatedly.

Here’s the cringeworthy clip:

G Philly first intercepted the video in the comments section of a previous article about protests surrounding the Gayborhood bar following numerous complaints of racial discrimination there. The incident is now considered “the smoking gun” that helped put pressure on city government to respond to Gayborhood racism, an ongoing issue that has been documented for more than 30 years.

But the path to institutional change was not easy, and there were many casualties along the way. ICandy and the Gayborhood are still having a hard time repairing their image after facing declining sales, continuous protests, and community criticism. A perceived lack of steadfast action from former Office of LGBT Affairs director Nellie Fitzpatrick, as well as some of her tone-deaf remarks (such as asking black LGBTQ protesters “where you all are when trans women of color are being murdered in our city”), led to her being fired from her post.

Mayor Jim Kenney also lost some LGBTQ ally points when he initially dismissed the concerns of LGBTQ activists of color by carelessly referring to them as “a small core,” and declaring that he would “no longer be commenting on the leadership of the LGBT Affairs office” after being petitioned to replace Fitzpatrick. Brian Sims dropped the ball as Pennsylvania’s first openly gay man elected to the state legislature by failing to address the growing concerns of Gayborhood racism in his own backyard. (He was more proactive in calling out the Trump-supporting Yuengling beer being served in Gayborhood bars than in tackling the racism.) It was not until March 29th, 2017 — after PCHR, the Mayor’s Office and the community at large took action — that Sims finally choose to declare that “there is racism in the Gayborhood.”

Despite the barriers, though, there has also been new legislation, new leadership, hires (and fires), a new pride flag, and an overall cultural shift in the city’s LGBTQ community in the wake of the incident. After a year of transformative change, here is a list of the heroes that emerged from that paradigm-shifting moment:

1. LGBTQ People of Color

The group at the center of Gayborhood racism finally had their voices heard after 30 years of speaking out. Previous attempts at inclusion and diversity within the community were often underwhelming, but recent visual reminders, such as the newly added black and brown stripes on the city’s pride flag, show that they’re here, they’re queer, and their intersectionality is here to stay.

2. Black and Brown Workers Collective

The most vocal activist organization that elevated the conversation made its demands and got them heard. From protesting in City Hall to tying Timberland boots on ICandy’s front door, the BBWC raised the consciousness of a diverse section of the LGBTQ community that was fed up with a lack of response from local government.

3. Councilman Derek Green

The freshman at-large City Council member became one of the most unexpected heroes by addressing an issue that he didn’t necessarily have an outright stake in. In proposing a since-unanimously passed anti-discrimination bill that will give a commission power to issue cease-operations orders to businesses that discriminate, he helped implement long-lasting legislation that directly responded to community concerns.

4. Rue Landau

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations’ executive director went above and beyond to provide more government transparency in addressing Gayborhood racism. From subpoenaing all Gayborhood bars to attend a nearly 400-community member hearing to producing a comprehensive report finally tackling Gayborhood racism, her leadership was essential to expediting the path to victory.

5. Amber Hikes

She was the needed community leader that came in the nick of time to help restore confidence in an Office of LGBT Affairs that had lost its luster. Hikes quickly got the ball rolling as the office’s executive director by igniting the Commission on LGBT Affairs, engaging the community in public demonstrations, and helping stand up to some national scrutiny surrounding our city’s new pride flag. By now, it’s pretty obvious that the Kenney administration would have been in a deeper hole today had it not been for Hikes taking on the position.

6. Queer-Welcoming Venues Outside of the Gayborhood

For many diverse LGBTQ members, trust still hasn’t been repaired between them Gayborhood bars after the venues were mandated to conduct racial sensitivity training. Fortunately, other hot spots outside of the Gayborhood stepped up and created some very inclusive events that inspired a new wave of diverse, queer producers to take front and center.