Rashawn & Beyond: Anti-Violence News for Queer People of Color

The Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund aims to establish a sustainable tribute to Rashawn that promotes critical thought about the impact of violence and intolerance, particularly upon queer communities of African descent.

Through this blog, we provide action alerts, event postings and breaking news as a means of informing these communities in ways that enable them to combat racism and homophobia.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Black Gay Network Press Conference

CONTACT: Daevon Hibbert, New York State Black Gay Network, 212.828.9393 ext 135, or cell 646.784.3726

What: Press Conference

When: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 - 10:00am

Where: NW Corner of 125th Street & Broadway, Manhattan, NY 10036

Who: Confirmed Speakers include: Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY); Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; NY City Councilmember’s Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson and Yvette Clarke; Clarence Patton, Anti-Violence Project; Mark McLaurin, New York State Black Gay Network; Maurice Franklin, Masons of New York

New York, NY - The New York State Black Gay Network decided to take homophobia in the Black community head on with a bold new transit/billboard campaign, which they are launching at a press conference in Harlem with Congressman Charles Rangel, Borough President Scott Stringer and other guests. The press conference is being held on 125th Street & Broadway, in front of two large Billboards that read "I AM GAY, And This Is Where I Stay." Far away from traditional gay neighborhoods like Chelsea and the West Village where many gay marketing campaigns are targeted, this campaign is being rolled out in subway stations in Black communities like Harlem, Bed-Stuy, Jamaica, Brownsville and East New York, where most Black gay men live.

"Black gay men have always been a part of every aspect of the Black community, it's not a matter of acceptance from the community of some foreign presence, it is about acknowledgement, love and respect from our own for us," said Mark McLaurin, Executive Director of New York State Black Gay Network. "If we want to stop the spread of HIV, Black gay men need to know that their lives matter in the very communities in which they live."

Twenty-five years into the HIV epidemic, Black Men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the group most impacted by the HIV epidemic. A 2005 five-city Centers for Disease Control study showed a staggering 46% of all Black men who have sex with men may already be HIV positive. Other studies have concluded that the stigma of being gay in the Black community remains one of the reasons for high rates of infection among Black MSM.

"We hope that these billboards remind our neighbors, our family members, and religious leaders that we are part of this community," continued McLaurin. "When you verbally or physically bash Black gay men, you are bashing somebody's brother, father, friend or lover."

Black gay men in New York City have also been subjected to a rash of attacks and murders. Most recently, Black gay recording artist Kevin Aviance was attacked after leaving a club. Black gay activists say that much more harassment and verbal attacks go unreported.

The transit campaign is part of NYSBGN's Campaign for Black Gay Men's Lives. To learn more about visit www.nysbgn.org . To see the transit/billboard campaign, visit www.wearepartofyou.org

Anthony R. Morgan
Director of Programs

New York State Black Gay Network

103 East 125th Street
Suite 503
New York, NY 10035
T. 212.828.9393 x137
F. 212.828.1661
C. 646.335.5696

“The day will come when you will trust you more than you do now, and you will trust me more than you do now. And we can trust each other. I really do believe that we can all become better than we are. But the price is enormous – and people are not yet willing to pay it.”
-James Baldwin

Friday, August 04, 2006

Celebrate Rashawn's Life at Brighter Days II

Join the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund for our second annual "Brighter Days" party. This year's event is an official Pride in the City party, co-promoted through People of Color in Crisis and featuring DJ Hard Hittin Harry and C2, so there's bound to be a lively crowd on the dancefloor. Translation: You'll fit right in!

The music? Classics.
The cover? $10
The cause? Our fight against racism, sexism & homophobia.

What other Pride party can say that?!?

Where & When
The Chocolate Bar
45 Waverly Ave
Between Park & Flushing
Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York
August 06, 2006
8:00p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

100% of the donations collected at the door will go toward supporting the work of the RBMF, particularly the $1500 scholarship awarded annually to a college-bound NYC high school student committed to the fight against injustice.

Unable to attend the event? No problem! Click here to make a tax-deductable donation online.

About our "Brighter Days" events:
By identifying queer-friendly spaces as viable sites to raise consciousness and build community, Brighter Days events confront and repudiate the stigmas attached to our safe spaces. Further, by providing quality parties with a distinctly celebratory tone, the events also distinguish the vibrant legacy of Rashawn Brazell's life from the bleak shadow cast by his death.

Read more about this and other RBMF initiatives by clicking here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Beating, shooting mar black gay pride festivities

Detroit police investigating alleged hate crimes
By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
Originally printed 8/3/2006 (Issue 1431 - Between The Lines News)
PULL QUOTE: "We as an entire community have to step up and stand up for those of us who cannot, will not or are unable for whatever reason to protect themselves."
- Grace McClelland, executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center
DETROIT - It was much "Hotter than July" last weekend for Detroit's LGBT community, but not for the happy reasons intended by the Detroit Black Pride Society. Instead, at least one gay man and one transgender woman were victims alleged hate crimes.
At around 11 p.m. on July 28, Julia Lynn Marsh, 19, says she was robbed and assaulted by three men within sight of her home at the Ruth Ellis Center's transitional living facility.
Marsh said that her attackers said, "You want to dress like a woman? We'll treat you like one," and that she was hit in the head with a crowbar as she escaped. Marsh said that her purse was stolen during the assault.
Despite the fact that Grace McClelland, the center's executive director, and Marsh herself say that two officers responded the scene, the Detroit Police Department was unable to locate a police report on the incident as of press time.
The violence continued through the early hours of Saturday morning. At about 2:30 a.m., a Detroit gay man, who asked that his name not be used, was shot in the stomach during a robbery outside of the Woodward. The victim said that he was shot while pursuing a man who had stolen a pair of Cartier glasses he was wearing. The thief ran behind a second man, who shot the victim.
"The guy who shot me, he said something like, 'Get off me, fag,'" the victim told BTL from his room at Henry Ford Hospital.
A witness at the scene told BTL that in addition to the thief and the shooter, two other men were involved in the robbery and shooting.
Detroit Police Department spokesman 2nd Deputy Chief James Tate confirmed the shooting and said that officers arrested four men in a vehicle matching the description given at the scene near Six Mile and Oakland. Tate said that no weapon was found, and that according to the police report a total of five men were involved in the robbery and shooting. As of press time there was no information available on an arraignment for the suspects in the case.
Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, said he received reports of "several instances" of anti-gay violence during the weekend and that his organization is looking into them.
McClelland had strong words about the incident and about the LGBT community's response to violence against it.
"This was a horrific incident," she said about the beating and robbery of Marsh. "A young transgender woman cannot be safe walking down her own block to her own home. At least not in this part of Detroit. Even more unfortunate is the fact that this was just one of many (alleged) gay bashings that occurred throughout the city over black gay pride week."
"We as an entire community have to step up and stand up for those of us who cannot, will not or are unable for whatever reason to protect themselves," she added. "The community's got to stop sitting on its heels around these young people south of Eight Mile."
Speak OUT
If you have been a victim of anti-gay violence or police harassment, contact the Triangle Foundation at (313) 537-3323.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

U.S. Park Officials Try To Block Black Gay Pride Event in New York

By Keith Boykin

U.S. Park Service officials are trying to put the brakes on one of the biggest activities for this weekend's black gay pride in New York City. Every year for the past 5 years, thousands of black gay men and lesbians have convened at Jacob Riis Beach for a Sunday afternoon festival as part of the annual Pride In The City weekend. The events have taken place peacefully and without incident every year. But this year, park officials who administer the beach are trying to halt the celebration.

People Of Color In Crisis (POCC), a local AIDS organization that hosts the weekend, has been engaged in a 6-month back-and-forth discussion with park officials to secure a permit for the annual Sunday afternoon beach party. But late this afternoon, POCC received a letter from park officials that they would not be allowed to use the beach after all, according to Gary English, POCC's executive director.

Park Service Sets Overly Restrictive Rules
In a letter to English, Park Superintendent Lisa Eckert cited park service violations stemming from previous events as a justification for halting the current event. The previous violations included failure to limit the event to 1,500 people, failure to remove trash, obstruction of the boardwalk, and failure to shut down the event by 9 p.m., according to Eckert.

In a response letter from POCC, English denied the accusations. "We picked up the trash" and "did not obstruct the boardwalk," POCC said. In fact, the group argues that it "left the beach cleaner than we found it." English called the park service decision "harsh and unreasonable," a part of a pattern of mistreatment, he said, and suggested that "racism and homophobia" might be behind the decision. Last year, for example, beach officials "locked the public restrooms because they felt the Black gay men at the event would do 'hanky panky' in there, so we had to supply portable bathrooms," English said.

"We picked up the trash; we left the beach cleaner than we found it and we did not obstruct the boardwalk." -- Official response letter from POCC

Tokes M. Osubu, executive director of Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), agreed with English. “I have been to every single Pride in the City event at Riis Beach for the past five years. What I’ve experienced was hundreds and hundreds of Black gay brothers and sisters having a great time and being themselves," he said. " Were some folks loud and outrageous? Of course! But we always prided ourselves in how we respected our hosts (both POCC and the National Park Service) by cleaning-up afterwards and leaving when we were told. If these shortcoming occurred in other years, who was told? Why weren’t deposits withheld?”

For its part, the park service said that it had spent "countless hours in discussions" about the event and ultimately would only allow it to take place on a very limited basis. The rules would allow POCC only to set up a single tent in the baseball field for HIV testing but would not allow any entertainment or music anywhere on the field or on the beach. Furthermore, the park service imposed a restriction that only 200 people could attend the event at the tent or on the ball field. The park service also instructed POCC to eliminate its scheduled performances and the "hot body contest" set to take place that day. The letter ended with a suggestion that POCC hold the event "some time later in the month."

Park Service Response Unacceptable
That's an outrage, and the park service officials need to hear from the public that this is unacceptable. How can you limit a public black gay pride event to 200 people, and why is that even necessary? The Pride In The City beach party has been an enjoyable and peaceful tradition at Riis Beach for years, and park officials should not be allowed to stop the show now. As English points out, "There have been no stabbings, no shootings, and no overdoses." In fact, the letter from the park service itself makes no mention of any police incidents or violations at any point during the history of the event.

So what's this all about? Are the park service officials afraid of having thousands of black people come into this mostly white beach community? Do they care that this event has been going on peacefully for years without any problems? And what would happen if thousands of black gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people simply showed up on their own, which is likely to happen either way?

When POCC first ran into interference on the issue, the group contacted New York City Councilwoman Letitia James and Rep. Anthony Weiner, the U.S. Congressman who represents Brooklyn. James and Weiner intervened on the organization's behalf, but it made little difference to the defiant park service officials who refused to budge. That's too bad.

There's a clear choice here for park officials, and it's time for the officials to reconsider their decision. I have no doubt that thousands of black gays and lesbians will converge on the beach on Sunday, whether or not the park officials like it. We live in a free country and black people don't need a permit just to show up at a beach. But here's the choice. Officials can either help make this a pleasant and organized experience or turn it into a potentially disorderly and chaotic one.

As GMAD's Osubu pointed out, “This event has been heavily promoted for months, and many hundreds of people are going to show up on Sunday." He said "there is simply no way, at this late date, to publicize its cancellation effectively" and he advised the park service "that they stand a much greater chance of the day turning sour if a thousand folks show up for nothing than if they let the festivities proceed.”

He's right. It's better for the city and the parks department to allow this event to take place under the auspices of an established non-profit organization than to have thousands of angry participants show up at the beach on Sunday. The park service can either do it right and everybody's happy, or they can do it the wrong way and nobody's happy. It's their choice.

Call or Email Park Service Officials
Billy Garrett, Gate Park Manager
(718) 338-3605
Barry Sullivan, Gateway General Superintendent
(718) 354-4665
Lisa Eckert
Superintendent, Jamaica Bay Unit
(718) 338-3799 phone
(718) 354-4605 fax
Public Affairs Office
210 New York Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10305
(718) 354-4606