In the final week of Pride Month, WHYY’s N.I.C.E. team hosted “City of Love: Philly’s Role in the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement,” featuring queer activists and the fight for LGBTQ+ protections in Philadelphia.
The city has a long-rooted history of LGBTQ+ activism, including the Dewey’s Lunch Counter Sit-In and the July 4th Independence Mall march of 1965, one of the earliest organized marches focusing on LGBTQ+ rights.
Rue Landau was one of the panelists for Sunday’s event at Lutheran Settlement House. “She is running for a Councilmember At-Large seat on Philadelphia’s City Council, and if elected in November, will be the city’s first openly LGBTQ+ Council member.
Landau said she believes the city has been ahead of the curve when it comes to LGBTQ+ protections — but noted active efforts, like book bans at the Central Bucks School District and other suburban communities, are a concern.
“I’ve got a 15-year-old son,” Landau said. “I want him to read everything he can get his hands on. There is no reason to limit young people’s minds, their experiences, and their creativity and what they’re really just trying to explore.”
Another discussion amongst panelists was the 2020 removal of a Gloria Casarez mural from Philadelphia’s Gayborhood. Musician and artist Samantha Rise, said it’s important to preserve segments of LGBTQ+ culture within the city’s varying cultures and communities.
“What does it look like when we’re proactive about when we protect the things that are precious to us? This conversation points to what’s precious,” Rise said. “It points to a wound. It points to the erasure of a legacy, Right? A place where we want to see ourselves and recognize ourselves.”
“Today, a group like this can gather together on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of Frankford,” said David Fair, a longtime LGBTQ+ and AIDS activist and deputy CEO of Turning Points for Children. “There are many, many, many communities that are threatened by the political culture today, that many people in this room are threatened by different identities that they have in their own body. But I think that we have the opportunity, for the first time, to actually join together to protect ourselves and to advance ourselves. That’s something we should own and cherish. Because, believe me, for most of the LGBTQ rights movement, we didn’t have that.”
Conrad Benner of Streets Dept, a photo blog that discovers new art on the streets of Philadelphia, and Lee Carson with Public Health Management Corporation served as moderators. Other panelists included Kelly Burkhardt, the LGBTQ+ Liaison and Victim Coordinator for Philadelphia DA’s Office, and Galaei Executive Director Tyrell Brown.
Sunday’s N.I.C.E. event was supported by The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund.
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