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Madre de Sergio Urrego lucha contra el bullying en Colombia

Alba Lucía Reyes Arenas se convirtió en una activista vocal

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Alba Lucía Reyes Arenas en Bogotá, Colombia, el 24 de septiembre de 2018. Su hijo, Sergio Urrego, se suicidó en 2014 después de ser víctima del bullying homofóbico por parte de la administración de su colegio en la capital colombiana. (Foto del Washington Blade por Michael K. Lavers)

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Alba Lucía Reyes Arenas está bien orgullosa cuando habla de su hijo, Sergio Urrego.

Ella dijo al Washington Blade el 24 de septiembre durante una entrevista en la capital colombiana de Bogotá que le gustaba la opera desde era “bien joven” y leyó su primer libro, “Historias sin fin,” cuando tenía seis años. Reyes dijo que su hijo era ateo y le gustaba el arte y las políticas.

Urrego también era miembro de un grupo de estudiantes anarquistas.

“Tengo muchas cosas que contarte,” dijo Reyes. “Para todas las mamás, nuestros hijos son muy especiales, pero Sergio si es desde era una personita si se interesaba por las cosas que son eran más de su edad.”

Urrego tenía 16 años cuando se suicidó el 4 de agosto de 2014.

Administradores y un psicólogo al colegio católico de Urrego en Bogotá lo atacaron después de que un maestro vio una foto de él besando a su novio en su móvil.

Los padres del novio de Urrego le acusaron de abusar sexualmente a su hijo. Urrego debía haber comenzado a asistir otro colegio el día después de su suicidio.

La muerte del hijo ‘fue algo angustiaste’

Reyes estaba en la ciudad colombiana de Cali cuando supo por primera vez que algo andaba mal con su hijo.

Ella regresó a Bogotá y llegó a su hogar alrededor de las 9:30 p.m. Reyes dijo entre lágrimas que la primera cosa que encontró era una nota con “letra muy grande” de su hijo.

Reyes dijo que al principio pensó que se lo había dejado a su madre, pero fue por ella. Reyes dijo al Blade que su hijo escribió, “Yo no podía ir al colegio porque se me presento un problema.”

“Cuando yo vi esta nota, yo dije algo pasó,” ella dijo.

Reyes dijo que luego fue al dormitorio de su hijo y encontró libros en su cama y una nota que le pedía que se los diera a sus mejores amigos. Reyes también encontró otras notas que su hijo había escrito antes de su suicidio.

“Fue algo angustiaste,” ella dijo. “Fue doloroso.”

Ley colombiana ahora prohíbe discriminación homofóbica en escuelas

La muerte de Urrego provocó indignación entre los activistas LGBTI en Colombia.

Reyes el 11 de septiembre de 2014 presentó una tutela contra del colegio de Urrego.

Un tribunal en Bogotá, unas semanas después, falló que Urrego había sido víctima de discriminación, pero Reyes no recibió ningún daño y el fallo no ordenó al Ministerio de Educación de Colombia que revisará las políticas del colegio.

Reyes apeló el fallo ante el Consejo de Estado, que considera las apelaciones de los tribunales administrativos. El entonces Procurador Alejandro Ordóñez — un oponente vocal de los derechos LGBTI que el presidente Iván Duque el pasado mes nombró como el nuevo embajador colombiana ante la Organización de Estados Unidos — falló en contra de Reyes basándose en que las escuelas tenían el derecho de prohibir “los besos y los abrazos.”

La rectora del colegio, Amanda Azucena Castillo, renunció el 10 de octubre de 2014. La Corte Constitucional de Colombia el 21 de agosto de 2015 revocó la decisión del Consejo de Estado y falló a favor de Reyes el 11 de diciembre de 2015.

Escuelas en Colombia no pueden discriminar en contra de sus estudiantes por razón de su orientación sexual. Una enmienda a la ley de no discriminación que incluye el nombre de Urrego también requiere que las escuelas colombianas actualicen sus políticas para garantizar que no sean discriminatorias contra la comunidad LGBTI.

‘Siempre me acompaña’

Reyes desde la muerte de su hijo se ha convertido en una activista vocal contra el bullying.

Ella estaba entre los 31 activistas LGBTI desde todo el mundo que asistió una cumbre del Human Rights Campaign que se realizó en Washington en abril.

Reyes en mayo viajó a Cuba para participar en eventos del Día Internacional contra la Homofobia, la Transfobia y la Bifobia que fueron organizados por el Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX). Mariela Castro, la directora del CENESEX que es la hija del expresidente cubano Raúl Castro, invitó a Reyes de participar en un taller a la sede del CENESEX en La Habana.

Reyes este año lanzó oficialmente la Fundación Sergio Urrego, que busca poner el fin a la discriminación en las escuelas colombianas y evitar el suicidio entre ellos que sufren la discriminación.

El dijo al Blade que el suicidio es la segunda causa de muerte en “nuestros jóvenes.” Reyes también notó estadísticas que indican 192 personas entre las edades de 15 y 24 en Bogotá se suicidaron este año.

“Es algo que aquí no se toca,” ella dijo. “No hay una institución que se brindando atención inmediatamente a los niños que están en crisis.”

La fundación ha respondido a casi 70 casos. También tiene talleres para niños y padres en empresas y en otros lugares por el país.

“Mi propósito es evitar que casos como los de Sergio de se sucede,” dijo Reyes.

Reyes en julio habló a un concierto en la Plaza Bolívar de Bogotá durante las celebraciones del Orgullo de la ciudad. Se terminó el 25 de septiembre una campaña de los medios sociales de la fundación con el hashtag “Celebro soy yo” que buscaba dar recursos y seguridad para aquellos que sufren discriminación.

“Esa campaña me da fuerza para continuar, para seguir,” dijo Reyes. “Ese tipo de campaña se ayudan. Ese tipo de campaña llegan al corazón de la gente.”

Alba Reyes participa en una marcha del Orgullo en Bogotá, Colombia, el 1 de julio de 2018. (Foto cortesía de Fundación Sergio Urrego.)

Reyes terminó la entrevista por decir que su hijo sería orgulloso de ella y del trabajo que hace en su nombre.

“Sea un angelito,” ella dijo. “Siempre me acompaña.”

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Rep. Pocan introduces legislation to create nat’l LGBTQ history museum

Bills seek answer on including site as part of Smithsonian

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Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) has introduced legislation seeking to create an LGBTQ history museum. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) has introduced legislation that would set up the process to create a National Museum of American LGBTQ+ History & Culture, potentially as an official site within the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Pocan, one of nine openly gay members of the U.S. House and co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, said in a statement Thursday the measures would are effort to preserve LGBTQ history “as our community faces unprecedented attacks and attempts to erase our history.” The pair of bills is H.R.9070 and H.R.9071.

“It is vital to remember our collective past – particularly when certain states seek to constrain and repeal existing rights by passing bills that harm LGBTQ+ youth and our community at large,” Pocan said. “Let’s tell these stories, and honor the many contributions the LGBTQ+ community has made to this nation with a museum in Washington, D.C.”

The first bill, according to a news statement, would creates an eight-member commission of individuals with expertise in museum planning or LGBTQ+ research and culture “to look into the viability of establishing such a facility in the nation’s Capital.”

Among other things, the commission would be charged with recommending a plan on action for museum, including fundraising for the museum, and submitting to Congress a plan for construction of the museum, the statement says.

The bill would also instruct the commission to address whether the museum should be part of the Smithsonian Institution, based in the nation’s capital and the world’s largest museum and research complex, per the news statement. The full study, the statement says, would have to be completed in 18 months.

If the Smithsonian were to adopt the a museum on LGBTQ history and culture, it would be similar to other museums under its jurisdiction focused on minority populations in the United States, including the National Museum of African American History & Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian.

The second bill, according to a news statement, would be eligible for consideration by Congress after the commission completes its work and issues its recommendations and allow for formal creation of the museum. More than 50 lawmakers, including all nine openly gay members of the U.S. House, co-sponsor the legislation.

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District of Columbia

Judge postpones ruling on whether Casa Ruby should be dissolved

Request by Corado for gag order to stop ‘one sided’ information denied

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A judge denied Ruby Corado’s request for a gag order in the ongoing case. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Thursday said she was not ready to issue a ruling on whether the LGBTQ community services center Casa Ruby should be dissolved as recommended two and a half weeks earlier by a court-appointed receiver that took control of Casa Ruby’s operations.

Judge Danya A. Dayson stated at a Sept. 29 court status hearing that the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, which filed civil charges against Casa Ruby and its founder and former executive director Ruby Corado in July, needed more time to complete its investigation into Casa Ruby’s operations.

“We think it may be premature to immediately commence proceedings for dissolution while our investigation is still pending,” Cara Spencer, an official with the Office of the Attorney General, told the judge. “We’re still gathering information. We still intend to shortly serve discovery so we can bring it to a resolution promptly,” she said.

The AG’s office filed a civil complaint against Casa Ruby and Corado on July 29 alleging that the LGBTQ group had violated the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act for the past several years. The complaint says improper actions by Corado, including the unaccounted-for expenditure of funds and a failure by the Casa Ruby Board of Directors to provide oversight led to a financial crisis.

The complaint notes that Casa Ruby employees were not getting paid and over $1 million was owed to landlords in back rent for at least three buildings Casa Ruby used for its offices and to provide emergency housing for homeless LGBTQ youth.

With Corado spending most of the past year in El Salvador, according to Casa Ruby employees, the employees and managers struggling to keep its operations going said they were forced to shut down all operations in late July.

Corado, who attended the Sept. 29 status hearing through a phone hookup, said she had yet to retain a lawyer due to a “shortage of funds.” She told Dayson she expects to finally retain an attorney but said she had not received a copy of the receiver’s report that recommended Casa Ruby be dissolved. One of the attorneys with the AG’s office told Dayson the office sent a copy of the report to four email addresses it had for Corado and Casa Ruby.

At the judge’s request, one of the AG office officials sent another copy of the report to Corado during the hearing to an email address that the judge asked Corado to provide.

Dayson on Aug. 12, at the recommendation of the AG’s office, appointed the Wanda Alston Foundation, a D.C. organization that provides housing for homeless LGBTQ youth, as the Casa Ruby receiver. One day earlier, Dayson approved the AG office’s request that Casa Ruby be placed under receivership.

On Aug. 3, also at the request of the AG’s office, the judge issued an order that all of Casa Ruby’s bank accounts and financial assets, which had been under the sole control of Corado, be frozen. Dayson lifted that freeze after the Alston Foundation assumed control of Casa Ruby under the receivership.

As she had at the Aug. 11 court hearing, Corado stated in the Sept. 29 hearing that Casa Ruby’s financial problems were caused by the D.C. government withholding as much as $600,000 in grant funds for services Casa Ruby had provided.

Officials with the D.C. Department of Human Services, which initially approved the grants, have said some of the grant funds were withdrawn or cancelled because Casa Ruby failed to comply with the terms of the grants. In some cases, the officials said, required financial reports were not filed to substantiate how the funds were spent.

Corado also asked Dayson at the Sept. 29 hearing to order the receiver and officials with the AG’s office stop releasing “one-sided” information that she said was falsely placing her and Casa Ruby in a negative light through reports in the press.

“The story that has been painted is that Casa Ruby left the clients in the cold,” Corado said. “That is not accurate.”

When asked by Dayson what she wanted the court to do, Corado said, among other things, she did not want the receiver to be allowed to disclose information about what happened in the court proceedings that Corado said was being reported by the press inaccurately.

She said highly negative publicity resulting from the release of information from the previous court hearing resulted in her receiving death threats and damage to the engine of her vehicle in an act of vandalism that cost $1,700 to repair.  

Dayson said Corado appeared to be seeking a gag order to prohibit the receiver or the AG’s office from discussing or releasing information that was part of the public record. Saying there were insufficient grounds for such an order, Dayson announced she was denying a request to seal court records or issue a gag order against the receiver.

The judge ruled in favor of a request by the AG office attorney to file an amended complaint for the case, directing them to file the amended complaint by Nov. 28. Court records show that Dayson directed the parties to return to court for scheduling hearings on Oct. 28 and Jan. 6. 

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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