Controversy around inclusion in Philadelphia’s gayborhood has flared up again now that three area organizations are partnering with the club ICandy, to reach out to people of color.
ICandy became a flashpoint for racial tensions after a video of its owner Darryl DePiano using the “N word” went viral last fall. Since then, some in Philly’s LGBT community are boycotting the club, while those who are partnering with I-Candy want to work with DePiano to promote change.
Philadelphia Black Pride, the Colours Organization, and Social Life Entertainment LLC, are partnering with his club, ICandy. Philly Black Pride will use the club for Pride month events for the next two years.
Le Thomas, the group’s executive director, said he wasn’t on board when a community member initially asked him to reach out to DiPiano: “At first I had reservations because I thought more about myself than I did about anything else and I was like ‘No,'” said Thomas.
But he eventually decided that it was his organization’s job to change the culture from the inside. “No one is negating the trauma people have felt from being discriminated against. But we can’t hold him accountable if we don’t show him the right way. And who better to do that then people of color? We have an opportunity to work on race relations and that’s what we’re doing to hopefully get rid of the institutionalized racism,” he said.
Earlier this week, DePiano released a video apology, saying “To anyone of any race that I have offended, I do sincerly apologize. I am extremely sorry.”
But not everyone agrees with the partnership. Fame Neal, a Philadelphia native who started an online petition to boycott ICandy said DePiano shouldn’t be able to continue to profit off people he offended. “The bottom line for me is that the owner is racist,” said Neal. “You know, I go to where I feel safe and I go to where I know I’m accepted by the owner, by the staff. I don’t feel like that is something that someone should put aside in the name of partying or going out to have a drink,” she said.
In May, Mayor Kenney signed a bill unanimously passed by City Council that gives the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations the power to temporarily close businesses found to have a pattern of discrimination. It has not exercised that power yet.