Pastors show support for Bronx Community Pride Center
By Sandra Santana Mariaca
A group of Christian pastors gathered to bless the new location of the Bronx Community Pride Center on January 25. The interdenominational blessing was held to combat discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“The blessing was important to build bridges between the faith and the LGBT communities that have overlap, especially in the Bronx,” said Dirk McCall, executive director of the center.
About 25 people attended the event, including many Bronx clergy.
“The New Day Church is supportive to the good job the center is doing,” said Cunningham. “It is a blessing it is reaching out to young people who are pushed out of their homes, abandoned, by providing services and housing assistance for them.”
Staff members and LGBT activists also attended the 90-minute event.
“Faith plays a huge role in the lives of Bronx residents and often times religious teachings have been used to marginalize and persecute LGBT people,” McCall said.
After 17 years in Mott Haven hosting activities that reach out to the LGBT community, the center had to find a new home last year because its original location was riddled with building code violations. A brand new office is now established at 975 Kelly Street, at the corner of Intervale Avenue and 163rd Street. It is located in a more central area and is handicapped accessible.
The Bronx Community Pride Center serves 4,000 clients annually, mostly young people. It also provides case management services and runs lesbian and transgender support groups as well as free of charge counseling for the LGBT community. The activities performed in the center range from cultural and performing arts classes to leadership coaching, HIV counseling and educational enrichment for people who want to study for their GED.
“The arts program works on the development of the client’s issues. They have the freedom to create and desire using whatever medium such as painting, performing arts and music,” said Charly Dominguez, the Youth Services coordinator.
The center also provides referrals to crisis shelters and many social service resources. Although there is no formal agreement with other organizations, center staff work closely with shelters such as The Green Chimneys in the Bronx,and Safe Space in Manhattan.
The Bronx Community Pride Center continues to face financial challenges. It receives funds from the state and the city Health Department and from the Department of Youth Community Development, as well as from some private donors, but fundraising is still a concern.
“The Center is in the South Bronx, where there is not a lot of people willing to invest their money,” said McCall.
It is a significant step ahead into an agreement within two communities that have been known not to tolerate each other in the society as a whole. This partnership brings both religion and the LGBT into good terms in the Bronx.
“We are determined to build bridges and educate religious leaders and institutions to help minimize the marginalization of LGBT people and increase acceptance for our community in all parts of the borough,” concluded McCall.