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LGBT groups rejected for D.C. funded grants

Criteria for City Fund grant approval process questioned

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Vincent Gray, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade
Vince Gray, activists, Vincent Gray, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade, Capital Pride Parade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray encouraged LGBT groups to apply for the grants. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A foundation retained by the D.C. government to award city funded grants to local non-profit organizations under a newly launched program turned down grant applications from six LGBT organizations and another three groups that provide services to LGBT clients.

The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region announced on April 16 that it had approved grants of up to $100,000 each for 58 non-profit organizations out of a total of 315 groups that applied for grants under the $15 million City Fund program created by Mayor Vincent Gray.

The six LGBT oriented groups – including the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, Casa Ruby, and SMYAL – were among 257 of the 315 organizations applying for a grant that were turned down, according to information released by the Community Foundation.

Casa Ruby is an LGBT community center based in Columbia Heights that reaches out to the Latino and transgender communities. SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders) provides services for LGBT youth.

The other LGBT specific groups turned down for grants were the Center for Black Equity, which, among other things, coordinates black LGBT Pride events and sponsors conferences for the black LGBT community; the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign; Us Helping Us, an AIDS service organization that reaches out to black gay and bisexual men; and Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s largest AIDS service organization that provides health related services to the LGBT community as well as other communities.

Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), which, among other things, provides services for transgender sex workers; and Food and Friends, which provides home-delivered meals and nutritional services to people with HIV and other serious illnesses, including LGBT people, were also among the groups turned down for grants under the City Fund program.

“Today, the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, the Center for Black Equity, Casa Ruby, SMYAL, Us Helping Us, HIPS, and the Human Rights Campaign expressed their deep disappointment that not a single local LGBT organization received funding under the City Fund,” a joint statement by the groups says.

“Currently, very few services specifically targeted to the LGBT community are publicly funded in Washington, D.C.,” the statement says. “This lack of targeted funding is particularly problematic as the LGBT community is dealing with a variety of challenges around HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and stigma; youth homelessness; healthcare access – including mental health services; disproportionate levels of anxiety, depression and substance abuse; and high levels of unemployment in the transgender community,” according to the statement.

“We are hopeful that the Community Foundation will take a hard look at this issue and urge the Foundation to learn more about the needs of the LGBT community,” the statement says. “A dedicated public funding stream needs to be made available for programs and services for the LGBT community.”

Ruby Corado, founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, said she has called on officials with the Community Foundation to meet with LGBT community representatives to discuss concerns that no LGBT specific groups were approved for a City Fund grant.

Terry Lee Freeman, president of the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, told the Blade in a statement on Monday that last week’s grant awards were the first of at least three rounds of grant awards that will be made this year and early next year.

She said the Community Foundation is urging organizations that weren’t approved in the first round to apply again for grants under the program.

“We received 315 applications totaling over $30 million in requests for this round alone,” she said. “We were able to fund 58 programs totaling over $3.5 million. That leaves over 250 applications that were unfortunately not accepted for funding in this round, including many wonderful organizations with important missions,” she said.

“The review committee carefully considered all applications and the process was highly competitive,” she said. “There are a number of reasons why an organization might not be funded. In some cases it’s because they do not fit with the guidelines or funding criteria or did not properly complete the application.”

Criteria listed on the City Fund website include a requirement an organization must have an IRS 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status; that it cannot be an “advocacy” organization; it must have an annual budget of at least $100,000; and it must submit an audited financial report showing financial stability.

At the request of Gray, the D.C. Council in 2013 approved funding of $15 million for the grant program. A write-up on the fund’s website says the program is aimed at supporting “effective non-profits that provide critical programs and services across the city.”

The goal of these programs, the write-up says, is to “grow and diversify the District’s economy, educate and prepare the workforce for the new economy; and improve the quality of life for all.”

At an LGBT Pride forum organized by the Blade last June, Gray urged LGBT organizations to apply for grants under the program, saying the criteria for awarding grants “are broad and certainly would include the kinds of issues we are talking about here tonight.”

But Freeman said in her statement on Monday that the mayor’s office directed the Community Foundation to limit the focus of the grants on seven “issue areas” that include the arts, education, environment, health, job readiness, public safety, and senior services.

“The fund was set up to target issue areas rather than specific populations,” Freeman said. “The issue areas were created by the D.C. government and provided to the Community Foundation to enact as the fund administrator.”

Freeman added, “Funding in each issue area is intended to serve as wide and diverse a population as possible, including District residents in the LGBT community.”

She noted that grants approved for at least two organizations – TrueChild and Metro Teen AIDS – will address LGBT-related issues.

Riki Wilchins, executive director of TrueChild, said the organization isn’t specifically LGBT oriented but specializes in educating the public on gender role issues and gender role discrimination that impact the LGBT community. Wilchins said the TrueChild grant approved by the Community Foundation calls for following up on earlier research by TrueChild to develop educational programs and “interventions” to prevent violence against trans women of color.

The program is aimed at changing the hearts and minds of young straight males who are most often identified as the perpetrators of violence against transgender women and LGBT people in general, Wilchins said.

Adam Tenner, executive director of Metro Teen AIDS, which reaches out to LGBT youth and other population groups through HIV prevention programs, said a $46,000 grant approved by the Community Foundation for Metro Teen AIDS will be used to expand an existing program called REALtalk.

According to Tenner, Metro Teen AIDS and a partner group will train over 60 young people “to make more than 5,000 contacts with youth throughout the city” to educate the youth on HIV prevention. He said LGBT youth will be involved in the program.

Community Foundation spokesperson Jenny Towns said the foundation doesn’t release its reasons for turning down grant applications and leaves it up to the organizations themselves to release such information.

In the case of the LGBT groups, Casa Ruby and the D.C. Center released to the Blade a brief summary sheet they received from the Community Foundation stating why their grant application was declined.

“Overall, the proposed program had a nice design and referenced a need in the community,” the statement said about the D.C. Center’s proposal. “A large portion of the requested funding was for a staff position,” it said. “There were questions over the sustainability of the project: What would happen to this position and the program if you did not receive funding next year? The amount of the request compared to the organizational budget was high,” the statement said.

In the case of Casa Ruby, the Community Foundation said in its summary statement Casa Ruby didn’t submit with its application an audited financial statement or a certificate of good standing required of all applicants, and submitted an “incomplete budget versus actuals” in connection with the group’s income.

Corado said she will check with the person who prepared the Casa Ruby grant application, but as far as she knows, everything requested was submitted with the application.

“I feel a grant giving organization would work with us,” she said. “They could have called us and worked with us to get all the information they needed. Any funder that really cares – they will work with you.”

She said she was troubled that the Community Foundation has turned down grant applications for all of the LGBT groups that submitted proposals, including Casa Ruby’s. She said the Casa Ruby proposal was aimed at helping trans people find employment in the city.

Earl Fowlkes, president and CEO of the Center for Black Equity, said he is skeptical of the Community Foundation’s suggestion that LGBT organizations may not have been approved for a grant because criteria set by the city called for “issue” oriented grants rather than grants targeting a specific population group.

“That to me is not an excuse,” Fowlkes told the Blade. “We have a large LGBT population in the District and we have a large LGBT population that is very visible and has a great deal of community needs,” he said.

“Obviously we’re disappointed that none of us were funded,” Fowlkes said. “We’re kind of shocked that none of us were funded. And we all couldn’t have written bad grants.”

Fowlkes and representatives of the LGBT groups aside from Casa Ruby and the D.C. Center said they had not received information from the Community Foundation explaining why their applications were declined as of late Monday.

Paul Guequierre, spokesperson for the HRC Foundation, said the HRC Foundation proposal called for “engaging educators, families, and students in the community to decrease bullying and increase respect for diversity.” He said the program would focus on 500 educators and 30 schools in Wards 1, 7 and 8.

Shawn Jain, a spokesperson for Whitman-Walker Health, said Whitman-Walker applied for a $100,000 grant to boost its patient centered medical home program, which helps patients manage and organize their own care at the organization’s Elizabeth Taylor Clinic.

“We don’t know what the reason was,” he said, when asked why the City Fund declined to approve the grant. “We got a notice saying we have to call them to find out.”

Jain added, “We congratulate the organizations that received their grants.”

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness

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Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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