In the News
Over 40 LGBTQ youth of color, representing approximately 17 organizations, from 16 cities across the nation gathered in Chicago to share activist tactics in the Connect Our Roots organizing summit Feb. 15-17.
New York City-based organization FIERCE, dedicated to building the leadership and power of LGBTQ youth of color, assembled the three-day grassroots organizing summit. Affinity Community Services, Broadway Youth Center, Gender Just and Young Women's Empowerment Project (YWEP) worked in partnership with FIERCE, serving as the program's hosting committee.
Battle on the Waterfront
For 12 years FIERCE has been waging a battle on the waterfront: a battle against the gentrification of our safe spaces and the displacement of LGBTQ youth of color. Last week New York City waged a different kind of battle along our waterfronts: one with Hurricane Sandy and the devastating impact the storm had on the lives of millions across this region. Those of us who are regularly made most vulnerable in this city -- the homeless, the youth, the elderly, the queer and trans, the disabled, the non-English-speaking and those without identification documentation -- understood exactly what was at stake in this battle: the fight over who matters when help comes and who gets prioritized in the systems we rely on in times of emergency.
"There is no need for an Inspector General in New York because crime is at an all-time low and the department is working well under its current leadership."
- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg referring to Introduction 881 -- a New York City Council bill that would create a NYPD Inspector General office with the responsibility of providing independent oversight of the NYPD as well as assessing the impact of its practices on the rights of New Yorkers.
Currently the FBI, CIA and the Los Angeles Police Department have an Inspector General, so why can't the New York Police Department?
“Community, NOT commodity!” chanted an “OccuPride” contingent that interrupted—then joined—San Francisco’s Pride march this summer.
Along with similar groups in Chicago and New York, the San Francisco group carried signs denouncing corporate sponsorship of Pride parades and events. Even as parade marshals shooed them away from the float of Pride sponsor and health-care corporation Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco protesters shouted out condemnations of the HMO’s refusal to cover transgender health care.
The small groups of protesters were the noisiest aspects of an undercurrent in the LGBT movement, one that has always looked beyond same-sex marriage or even antidiscrimination laws. Instead, activists are focused on a broader program that strikes at all societal injustice, from economic marginalization to the predatory prison system—all with an understanding that LGBT people are disproportionately affected by these injustices.
At this End of (LGBT) History moment, with the president himself signing on to support same-sex marriage, there is a rumbling of dissatisfaction with both the movement’s present and its apparent future. At the heart of this dissatisfaction are two burning questions: Are same-sex marriage and employment protections enough? What do we do if they are not?
First, Sharon Stapel, Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, and Jai Dulani, co-director of FIERCE, discuss the latest case of trans-bashing in the West Village and how we can prevent this type of violence. At a West Village McDonalds last Wednesay, Jamar McLeod defended his girlfriend, Jalisa “JoJo” Griffen, from a patron who was hurling anti-trans and anti-gay rhetoric at Jalisa and Jamar. The attacker then slashed Jamar with a razor multiple times across his face and body. Stapel and Dulani contextualize this attack in the larger pattern of increasing anti-LGBT violence and discuss what AVP, FIERCE, and the rest of the community are doing to prevent it. Click here to listen to this 28-minute conversation separately. TRIGGER WARNING: A personal experience of a violent gay bashing is discussed on air.
Courtesy of NerdScarf Photography
FIERCE, a leading organization committed to the well-being of LGBT youth in New York, is continually at work with their Safe Space Saves Lives campaign. Last Saturday, August 11, FIERCE held their 4th Annual KiKi Ball in conjunction with The Kiki Coalition: The Know Your Rights Ball. Some of the categories of resistance included "Critiquing Stop and Frisk" and "The Privatization of Queer Public Space."
The ball comes at the heels of the successful Silent March to End Stop and Frisk where protesters marched in solidarity down New York’s 5th Avenue in June of 2012. Stop and Frisk has continually targeted communities of color and LGBT youth are particularly at risk.
The West Village piers have historically been safe spaces for New York’s LGBT youth and groups like FIERCE have been at the fore since the space has been threatened. In 2001, major changes on the pier began to take place, but the voices of the LGBT youth and community organizations who serve those youth were missing from the discussion at community meetings.
LGBT youth, especially LGBT youth of color, have historically called the West Village and the Christopher Street Pier their home—a place where they can be who they are without the threat of fear or violence. Yet every day, LGBT youth continue to report sharp increases of police harassment, false arrest, and racial and gender profiling in the West Village.
In response, on Saturday, August 11th, FIERCE, a youth-led organization of LGBTQ youth of color, along with the Kiki Coalition and Friends of Hudson River Park, organized their fourth annual Know Your Rights kiki Ball on the pier. Kiki balls are youth-led extravaganzas featuring voguing and performing runway in various categories, as immortalized in the (problematic but influential) documentary Paris is Burning. Saturday's Know Your Rights kiki ball featured categories critiquing stop and frisk, the privatization of queer public space, and other issues relevant to this community.
Out-FM was there to speak with three members of FIERCE about Saturday's ball, the ballroom scene's significance to the LGBT youth of color communities that use the piers as queer public space, and FIERCE's work to preserve the community and the character of the piers.
Click here to listen to the 11-minute interview.
While it was mostly a parade of tens of thousands of black and brown faces stung by racial profiling and the criminalization of their young people, it included multiracial representatives of 60 LGBT groups, if not a mass mobilization of the overall community.
The Christopher St. Pier, known as a longtime safe haven for L.G.B.T.Q. youth of color, has been threatened in recent years due to the city’s desire for private development on nearby Pier 40, according to members of an L.G.B.T.Q. youth-advocacy group.
FIERCE (Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment) opposes private redevelopment of Pier 40, deeming it detrimental, not just to their community, but to the surrounding community as a whole. Private development of the pier would further distance the L.G.B.T.Q. youth from the West Village, they feel.