16 July 2012

A new beginning for the LGBTQ communities in The Bronx


On Saturday, July 14, 2012, a fundraiser was held to assist with efforts to raise the nearly $5,000 in funds needed to pay for various NYC permits required to stage Bronx Pride 2012, an LGBT pride festival, celebration, and rally that will be held on Saturday, July 21, 2012 at Crotona Park in The Bronx from noon until 6 pm.

Donations to help pay the NYC permit fees are being accepted on the Eventbrite page created for the pride event at http://bronxpride2012.eventbrite.com/. Additionally, orders for official Bronx Pride 2012 T-shirts, with personalization options, are being taken. All orders will be available for pick up at Bronx Pride on Saturday. Due to the financial straits everyone is in, we will only be producing T-shirts for people who order them in advance, through Eventbrite.

More importantly, attendees at the fundraiser discussed how best to move forward after the devastating news broke of the Bronx Community Pride Center (BCPC) being forced to close down amid the scandal of former employees' alleged malfeasance.

An Ad Hoc Committee was formed with the purpose of creating a new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community services center in The Bronx that would serve The Bronx, Upper Manhattan, and lower Westchester County. This community services center would be a completely new organization with a clean slate, devoid of any history or affiliations with existing organizations, politicians, and members of the community.

"The handful of us who are producing Bronx Pride this year, in the absence of the BCPC, feel very strongly about having a community center for our LGBT communities in The Bronx, which is why we're moving forward now. We want to inform our LGBTQ brothers & sisters The Bronx and neighboring communities that we stand with them," stated Appolonia Cruz, an internationally-acclaimed drag performer who attended the dinner.

Such a new LGBT Center in The Bronx would act as a true community services center, serving as an umbrella organization that would house numerous other groups and organizations, which would provide some of the services BCPC provided to its clients. Unlike the BCPC, the new center would reach out and strive to serve all segments of the LGBT communities.

"I've never used the BCPC because I didn't feel they had anything for me. They were all about youth programming and services for the transgender community, and I don't belong to either of those communities," stated Nelson Garcia, a prominent Gay blogger who lives and was raised in The Bronx

The Reverend Carmen Hernandez-De Armas, president of the NYC LGBTQs Chamber of Commerce, commented, "I'm very excited to learn of plans for creating a new community services center with a clean slate, one that isn't beholden to no-good politicians and people. We would be honored to become part of a new center, as we have a lot to offer the members of all of our diverse communities, from job search preparedness and assistance to skills training to assistance with creating and running your own business. These are services we would be happy to offer members of our community in a new center."

"Many of the problems that BCPC had were related to its structure and operations. For instance, the structure of the corporation did not allow for memberships, which can be a significant source of income to a non-profit organization such a community services center. To rely almost entirely on one source of funding—in this case, government funding—is not the way an organization should be run," Peter C. Equality Frank, a community activist, told the supporters attending the fundraiser. "In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the governments had frozen all funding to the BCPC when they initiated their investigations into this sad scandal, initiating the cascade of events that has led to their closure."

Williamson Henderson, director of the STONEWALL Veterans' Association, threw his organization's support behind the idea of creating a new center. "Having a new center with a clean slate is the best way I can see of achieving the goals of our LGBT communities. I think it's a great idea and we will be there to support the new organization and ensure that the problems that have plagued the previous two Gay centers in The Bronx don't reoccur with this new center, and having diversity in funding is a great first step in the right direction," he said.

"Right now, the Ad Hoc Committee's focus is on producing Bronx Pride 2012, which is in less than one week. Once Bronx Pride is over, we will form a new New York State not-for-profit corporation, which is the first step in a long but travelable road toward creating a new LGBT community services center in The Bronx," Mr. Frank advised the crowd. He further told supporters, "It is my hope that the Coalition to Save the BCPC, which has been meeting at Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s offices since the closure of the BCPC will recognize the wisdom and benefits in creating a new center with a clean slate and come to support our efforts."

Bronx Pride 2012 will take place on Saturday, July 21st at Crotona Park in The Bronx, just south of Indian Lake in the park. Festivities will begin at noon and run until approximately 6pm. The event has only come together within the past week, after  a handful of activists decided to stop waiting for politicians and bureaucrats to get something done and began taking action. The event will feature music throughout the day, as well as a number of cultural performances and entertainment by various LGBT performers. Speakers will discuss topics ranging from maintaining one's personal safety to the personal experiences of LGBT individuals growing up in The Bronx. Members of the STONEWALL Veterans' Association will be present to provide a history of the pride movement, which started with the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969.

An anti-violence/anti-bullying rally will take place, as well as a call for full equal treatment under the all the laws of this nation. A number of organizations have already pledged their support for Bronx Pride 2012, including the NYC LGBT Community Services Center, the Anti-Violence ProjectThe Trevor ProjectSTONEWALL Veterans' Association, the NYC LGBTQs Chamber of Commerce, the NYPD LGBT Liaison's office, Citiwide Harm ReductionRivers at Rehobeth, and the Human Rights CampaignMayor Michael R. Bloomberg and NYC Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn are both expected to send representatives to Bronx Pride on their behalf in a show of support, as neither will not be in town to attend the event themselves. No other politicians (including Borough President Diaz) have responded to the invitations that were sent to them early last week to participate in Bronx Pride and show their support for the LGBT communities in The Bronx and neighboring communities.

"All of the people coming together to help out with Bronx Pride 2012 know the financial situation we're in and everyone is donating their time, services, talent, energy, and love—and that is really what this is all about, isn't it? Having a community center in The Bronx is very important to me and I'm happy to do whatever I can to support this new initiative," Ms. Cruz, who served as the fundraiser's hostess, proclaimed. "Essentially, there are no organizations behind this year's pride. It really is just a handful of people coming together to make Bronx Pride happen for us in 2012. Everyone deserves a huge amount of support and are owed a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay, " Mr. Frank elaborated.

The Ad Hoc Committee is being organized by Mr. Frank and includes the persons quoted in this article. Interested parties should contact him at 914-417-9579 in the afternoons and evenings, or at pcfrank73@gmail.com regarding both Bronx Pride and the Ad Hoc Committee to create an LGBT community services center in The Bronx

There is still room left to showcase performers and other talent, in addition to various vending and tabling opportunities. For more information about Bronx Pride 2012, visit http://bronxpride2012.eventbrite.com/  or contact Peter.

Crotona park is easily accessible from I-95, the Tremont Metro-North railroad station, or the #2 & #5 subway at 174th street. Bronx Pride 2012 will be staged just south of Indian Lake in Crotona Park, near the intersection of Claremont Parkway and Crotona Park East.