The sun in the sky on Wednesday evening had called it quits, the moon was preparing for its shift, and the young protesters, though a bit winded and shadowed by police, were still articulating demands, chants and pro-black affirmations throughout Center City Philadelphia, where for nearly two hours they aggressively confronted persons and establishments that they perceive either are engaging in, or being indifferent to, anti-black racism, including an elderly non-profit executive who, in attempt to make her train home,claimed to be so terrified by the assemblage that cops instead escorted her out the station and into one of their SUVs.
Ms. Jane Shull, the executive director of Philadelphia Fight, the city’s largest HIV/AIDS service organization, wasn’t the reason the activist cohort had initially gathered, but rather she was spotted, followed and sometimes cornered by the group – which was made up of individuals from The Black and Brown Workers Collective, The Philly Coalition for R.E.A.L Justice and ACT UP – once they exited upon police’s command a space where their original target, Ms. Nelly Fitzpatrick, the Mayor’s LGBTQ Liaison, was being honored.
Prior to the confrontation with Ms. Shull, which was executed due her non-response to a list of demands put forth by the BBWC – “Her silence means she doesn’t respect black and brown workers,” said Shani Akilah, the founder of the BBWC and a former employee of Philadelphia Fight who told me last night that “we were not dangerous and it speaks volumes that she was afraid of the same people who she employs” – more than a dozen vociferous citizens surrounded Ms. Fitzpatrick, a former Assistant District Attorney, and demanded she resign, a call that not only had been issued before Wednesday, but which had been bolstered this week via an echoing of it from several social justice organizations.
The issue of racism in the Gayborhood, though known about and discussed for years within the LGBTQ community, was made mainstream last week when a video surfaced of Mr. Darryl DePiano, the white owner of ICandy, calling patrons who requested free drinks “niggers.”
Mr. DePiano has since apologized, but nonetheless the protesters on Wednesday visited his established, went inside, where only five patrons were seated at the bar, and loudly condemned both his apology and the unflattering utterance that preceded it. Sister Akilah has called for the community to divest from ICandy, and since the video was published, business has, according to its general manager, “severely dipped.”
Observers of the drama have predicted that ICandy won’t last past the fourth quarter of 2016, and one source told me that surrounding bar owners are toying with the idea of approaching Mr. DePiano with a proposal to buy the location.
A public hearing on racism and discrimination in the Gayborhood sponsored by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, which was organized prior to the video’s release but wasn’t made public until afterwards, is scheduled for October 25th.
It appears the City of Philadelphia no longer has a consumer protection department, but the hearing will allow complainants – a number of whom have an angst with the anti-street-wear dress-code that many of the Gayborhood bars have adopted, including ICandy, who has banned Timberland boots – to go on the record, though the next steps after that are still unclear, as the City itself can’t shutter a private business for its internal policies and procedures.
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Photo courtesy of the author.