Fitzpatrick willing to take heat in Gayborhood racism controversy

    Nellie Fitzpatrick

    Nellie Fitzpatrick

    As the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations prepares to host a public hearing on racism and discrimination in the city’s LGBTQ community Tuesday night, the city recently announced the formation of a Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs.

    Establishing the panel was a longtime plan, according to the Kenney administration. But its debut coincides with a heightened push for curbing racism in the city’s Gayborhood after an online video surfaced a few weeks ago of a club owner using racial slurs in conversation.

    The city’s director of LGBT Affairs, Nellie Fitzpatrick, has taken some heat from activist groups such as the Black and Brown Workers’ Collective. They have claimed she is a part of a history of white leadership that doesn’t understand the plight of “marginalized” communities, and they have said she hasn’t done enough to curb the racism some say is rampant in the city’s gay community.

    “This isn’t about me,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is about racism, not only in the LGBT community, but in our city and in our nation. If this group needs to use me to bring attention to that issue and to further that issue, I’m OK with that.

    “This really is about getting to the core of what needs to be done,” she added. “I’ve  been in contact with many people around the community, including activists and advocates that go back decades fighting this very same issue.”

    Complaints about racism in Philadelphia’s LGBT community are nothing new, but it was the surfacing of a years old video of Darryl DePiano,  owner of the well-known Gayborhood bar iCandy, using the n-word that set off this latest controversy.  

    Activists have called for Fitzpatrick to step down, but she is adamant that she will not.

    “My activism and my advocacy is within government structures,” she said. “I can’t do my job as effectively inside these walls without the voices outside of them demanding things.

    “I have been someone who has been advocating this whole year to establish ways to bring more of the community into government,” she added. “To make things right, we need to organize and we need to move community in the direction of combating the issue, which is racism. It cannot stand in our city and we have the systems in place to tackle it.”

    For more of Jennifer Lynn’s interview with Nellie Fitzpatrick, press play at the top of this page.

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