Housing, Gentrification and Queer Safety Actions in NYC Tomorrow

There are three really interesting actions taking place this weekend in NYC to bring attention to issues that are critical to poor & working class people, blacks and Latinos—particularly women, and queer/gender non-conforming people (and all the places where those identities intersect). If you’re in NYC I strongly advise trying to make it to one or more of these if you’re able:

11am, Harlem, NYC. “Hands Across Harlem”
The Coalition to Save Harlem is holing a Hand Across Harlem demonstration to protest the city’s plane to re-zone 125th Street, which would effectively kill most small independent black/Latino-owned business along 125th, and drive rents in Harlem even further into the stratosphere, opening the area up for increased gentrification. Protesters are planning to meet at 11am at 125th St and Broadway, and form a human chain at noon across 125th Street, river to river. At 1pm a rally will begin at 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell. For more background read the NY Observer Article. (The photo above is of Sikhulu Shange, owner of Harlem Record Shack, which has become the symbol for the types of long-held indigenous businesses in danger of closing). I think this campaign is worthwhile, but for nearly as long as Black people have been in Harlem, I would venture to say we have not ever owned a majority of the businesses.

1pm, Downtown Brooklyn, NYC. “Fed Up Homeowners ‘Auction Off’ Brooklyn Supreme Court”

Hardworking homeowners being devastated by subprime mortgages and foreclosures are placing the Brooklyn Supreme Court (360 Adams Street—front steps facing Cadman Plaza W.) up for public auction on Saturday April 12th at 1:00pm. Frustrated by financial institutions’ unwillingness to negotiate solutions to the current crisis, New York City homeowners who are a part of CHANGER’s 300 strong city wide organizing campaign, DO SOMETHING, in partnership with United Community Centers will rally, hold a home foreclosure auction, and release new data on the inner workings of foreclosure auctions. Visit Community CHANGER online for more information.

1:30-6:30pm, Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, NYC. “Safe Neighborhood Summit.”

The Summit will kick off the Safe Neighborhood Campaign with speakers, workshops on preventing violence and challenging police violence, and community strategy sessions.

The Safe Neighborhood Campaign is a program initiated by the S.O.S. Collective of the Audre Lorde Project, which works to address an increase in violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit. And gender nonconforming people in communities of color. The Summit takes place in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton St. (between Brooklyn & New York Ave.) C to Kingston-Throop, A to Nostrand Ave, B43, B44, B25. Register now online, Or by phone at: 718-596-0342 ext 22, ask for Ejeris.

S.O.S. is currently inviting organizations, businesses, religious institutions, and schools to become “Safe Spaces” which pledge to intervene in and prevent harassment or violence on their premises. Some “Safe Spaces” also agree to be “Safe Havens” which agree to provide sanctuary to community members escaping violence. We are guided by the belief that we can create violence free neighborhoods one Safe Space at a time.

There are a couple things happening next week you should know about too! Stay tuned!

Rest in Peace: Bob Kohler

I learned a few days ago, that Bob Kohler, Queer liberation activist, died.

I didn’t know Bob well, but had spent time with him when I was working with FIERCE! –a queer youth of color community organizaing project. Bob was a long-time resident and business owner of the West Village, and a real vet of the Stonewall riots (probably one of the few white men in attendance). He was always very supportive of the work FIERCE! was doing, and always turned up to assist us when he could.

He always shared very openly his life, his work, and the history of the West Vill, Stonewall, the Gay Liberation Front, his lifelong friendships with Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, and any other work he was involved in. He was a real shit-stirrer, and sometimes not in the best way. He could be extremely cranky, too!

I mean, REALLY, cranky!

But at the end of the day, Bob always had our back. And not just other activists and organizers. Bob helped a lot of homeless queeer youth who would have otherwise been jobless or homeless. In terms of his activism, he also worked outside the “gay civil rights” paradigm, and very much sought to support Black and Latino struggles, especially around homelessness and police brutality.

He led a really interesting life, and I am glad to have crossed paths with him for the short time I did. The Village Voice just republished a 1999 profile of him…

In 1999, after his arrest in front of One Police Plaza /a>, where protesters set up vigil after the police shooting of Amadou Diallo, Kohler told the Voice:

“I do not equate my oppression with the oppression of blacks and Latinos. You can’t. It is not the same struggle, but it is one struggle. And, if my being here as a longtime gay activist can influence other people in the gay community, it’s worth getting arrested. I’m an old man now. I don’t look forward to spending 24 hours in a cell. But these arrests are giving some kind of message. I don’t know what else you can do.”

Some folks I know are having a political funeral for Bob, starting this Sunday, December 9th, beginning at the NYC LGBT Center at 4pm, and ending at the Christopher St. piers.