At times, Tuesday’s public hearing on racism and discrimination in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood – which attracted hundreds of people, some who were directed to an overflow room where they could watch a live stream of the event – sounded like a church: an amen or two, or a sustained hum done to salute an orators’ profundity, came like a reflex to the many individuals crammed in a second floor room at 801 Arch Street.
Roughly thirty speakers offered testimony Tuesday evening before the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, some of which was anecdotal and reflective, while others were call-to-actions and rebukes.
A good first step was how Ms. Rue Landau, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, described the gathering, which was absent of protest but not profanity.
And though it was claims of racism and discrimination at gay bars which served as the catalyst for the public educational hearing, Ms. Landau echoed many of the speakers who argued that the cause for grievance extends well beyond the corridors of Center City. Indeed, a few who testified spoke of being profiled, maligned or brutalized by Philadelphia police officers in the Gayborhood and elsewhere.
“We all need to work to eradicate the racism and discrimination in our City. We shouldn’t be talking about this in thirty years,” said Ms. Landau.
In the front row was a determined yet emotional gentlemen named Mr. Prentice Bush who during testimony began sobbing, saying at a tone above a mumble that: “We shouldn’t have to go through this.”
Mr. Bush, when given the floor to state his case, made clear that there’s nothing Mr. Darryl DePiano, a Gayborhood barkeep who was filmed repeatedly saying nigger, “can do, say, be or give to me!”
Sitting next to Mr. Bush was Mr. Asa Khalif of Black Lives Matter, who also had a message for Mr. DePiano.
“We are going to hit you economically,” he said, “we are going to continue to boycott you; we are going to continue to protest you, until you pack your sh*t and get the hell out of our community!”
The barkeeps were subpoenaed by the PCHR to attend, though it wasn’t clear whether or not Mr. DePiano was in attendance. Several City Councilmen were present, as was Mayor Jim Kenney, who called the video featuring Mr. DePiano “disgusting.”
The Mayor, who said he was heartbroken at the testimony given, went on to say:
“I think society has failed people in general… that doesn’t exempt the City from failing people of color who happen to be LGBT, but I think there’s always a way to start over… listen to what people have to say… and then put in place things that address the problem so that these young folks don’t have to feel the way they feel about being in this community.”
Mr. Malcolm Kenyatta, who this summer was a Clinton delegate at the Democratic National Committee and a young black man visibly frustrated with the onus being on the aggrieved to opine on racism and solutions to it, said to the white people in attendance: “The next step is on you!”
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo courtesy of the author.