LBGTQ community rallies against hate

A new support center looks to help

On the May evening when Mark Carson was shot and killed in the West Village, Bronx resident Chloe Figueroa was walking down the same street.

Carson, a 32-year-old gay man, was strolling with another man in that section of Manhattan on May 19 when he was shot in the face by Elliot Morales, 33, who had been taunting Carson and his friend with homophobic slurs.

Figueroa was one of some 40 attendees at a press conference organized by the Bronx LGBTQ Center on June 8, to draw attention to what its members say is a troubling upward trend in hate crimes against the city’s gay community. Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and State Senator Jose Serrano joined the Center’s president Tym Moss and other community leaders at the Bronx County Building on the Grand Concourse to address the recent increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in across the city.

“It was important for me to come,” to show support at the press conference, said Figueroa, 22. “I was walking in the Village, where it’s supposed to be safe.”

The city’s Anti-Violence Project, an advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, communities, as well as those with HIV, reported that hate crimes against the community increased by 4% in 2012. In May alone, five such crimes were reported in Manhattan, including Carson’s murder, an attack against two gay men near Madison Square Garden, and assaults on gays near Union Square and in Midtown.

Moss, however, emphasized that hate crimes in the outer boroughs are underreported. To complicate matters, members of the LGBTQ community are often victimized by law enforcement after reporting a crime, Moss said. Nearly 40% of LGBTQ victims who reported crimes to the police in 2012 also reported officers mistreated them while they reported the crimes, according to the Anti-Violence Project.

“Many people think this only happens in Manhattan, but this takes place everywhere, even in the Bronx, and this is going to stop now,” Moss said in his address, stressing the urgency to get the new center up and running.

Last year, another resource center for the LGBTQ community, the Bronx Community Pride Center, was forced to close due to financial problems, when the organization’s then- executive director, Lisa Winters, was accused of embezzling $338,000 from its budget for personal travel and other improper expenditures. That center moved from Mott Haven to Kelly Street in Longwood last year, but is in the process of being dismantled.

The new center, which has no affiliation with the Pride Center, has no funding yet.

“We are starting out with absolutely nothing,” Moss said.

For community members like Reverend James Dusenbury, who founded “In the Life Ministries,” a support ministry for Bronx LGBTQ, the press conference was long overdue.

“We needed to come together to say that enough is enough,” said Dusenbury. “I believe that silence is condoning the activity.”

Since Dusenbury opened the church seven years ago, reaction has been either “extremely accepting or extremely antagonistic,” he said. He has dealt with people driving past the church calling it a “faggot church,” and worse. But he hasn’t strayed from the original mission.

“Every borough had a gay church except the Bronx,” Dusenbury said. “So I decided to come to the ‘forgotten borough.’” He said the presence of leaders like Diaz and Serrano at the Friday event cast light on a problem many in the borough ignore.

The new Center in the Bronx will partner with the Anti-Violence Project, the Bronx Pride Coalition, and other Bronx-based advocacy groups to organize a Health and Pride Fair on July 20 at Crotona Park and a series of Town Hall meetings to address LGBTQ issues starting in August.

Figueroa says she has relied on a center in Upper Manhattan for the last two years because of the lack of resources in the Bronx. She hoped the press conference was a sign things will change for the better for the Bronx LGBTQ community.

“I didn’t know about the violence in the Bronx because it’s not reported, and I live in the Bronx, so I felt like I needed to come here,” she said.

The story was updated on June 13 to reflect that the newly started Bronx LGBTQ Center has no affiliation with the Bronx Community Pride Center, which closed last year and is in the process of being dismantled.

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  1. Pingback: Voices of NY » » Bronx LGBT Fights Against Hate, for Embattled Pride Center

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