New Bronx LGBT Center Takes Shape

Attendees watch performers at the Bronx LGBTQ Pride & Health Fair on July 20 at Crotona Park, one of the events organized by the new Bronx LGBTQ center to promote awareness. (Photo from the Bronx LGBT center via Norwood News)

Attendees watch performers at the Bronx LGBTQ Pride & Health Fair on July 20 at Crotona Park, one of the events organized by the new Bronx LGBTQ center to promote awareness. (Photo from the Bronx LGBT center via Norwood News)

It’s still looking for a permanent home, but a new Bronx LGBTQ center is hoping to fill a void and create a central space for the community in the borough, reports Norwood News’ Hugh Thornhill.

When the Bronx Community Pride Center in Longwood shut down in June 2012 – after its former executive director Lisa Winters was charged with embezzling over $140,000 and later convicted – the borough no longer had a place for Bronx LGBTQ members.

Though the new center does not affiliate itself with the old center in any way, it will be providing the same type of services for the LGBTQ community in the Bronx and upper Manhattan. These services include an area for members of the LGBTQ community to meet and socialize, receive support and services from other organizations, and to educate and advocate for issues important to the LGBTQ community.

A former head of the Bronx Community Pride Center underscores the importance of having a site specifically geared towards the LGBT community.

“The center [the Bronx Community Pride Center] was a physical site where LGBT people could go for support and when it closed, they had other places, but none which were explicitly LGBT,” said Dirk McCall, a former executive director of the Community Pride Center. “Supportive programs exist [elsewhere in the Bronx], but LGBT is not their main focus.”

Tym Moss, volunteer president and co-founder of the center, comes from a real estate and more recently an entertainment background, which includes performing at center events.

After he learned about the Lisa Winters scandal, he and a group of friends, including Peter Frank, an LGBTQ activist, and Reverend Carmen Hernandez-De Armas, president and founder of the NYC LGBTQS (S stands for straight allies) Chamber of Commerce in Bedford Park, formed an ad hoc committee. From there they incorporated and filed for non-profit status. Moss was asked if he would be president of the new organization.

Having a center is not just about providing a support space in a borough that was lacking one. It’s also in response to the rise of reports of violent acts against community members.

(…) According to NYPD Detective Timothy Duffy, there have been a total of six hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community in 2012 within the Bronx. Four of them were felonies, while two resulted in misdemeanors. In the past six months, there have been a total of six reported incidents, all of them [resulted] in misdemeanors.

According to Sharon Stapel, the executive director of the Anti-Violence Project, the amount of violence hasn’t gone up. The reasons more people have been reporting more is because they are aware of organizations like AVP and the new center.

“Since we’ve been in the Bronx we’ve seen an increase of reports of violence in the borough,” said Stapel. “That doesn’t mean that the violence is increasing, it just means people are more aware of AVP services and the fact that they can make a report.” Members of the LGBTQ center have been holding events to build awareness and raise momentum – efforts that have caught the eye of politicians.

A community outreach walk at Mullaly Park on June 21 that lauched the center’s opening saw members, advocates and politicians in attendance, including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“We will continue to give them space in Borough Hall free of charge, and we’re going to continue working with them and try to get them financiers.” said Diaz Jr.

More recently on July 20, Crotona Park saw the 2013 Bronx LGBTQ Pride & Health Fair, organized by the center.

(…) The fair included performances from LGBTQ entertainers and political guest speakers including Speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn, who is lesbian, and former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr.

Moss sees a welcoming future for the LGBT center in the Bronx.

“I’m learning as I’m going along, but I’m amazed at how positively we’ve been received in the community,” said Moss. “I think people have realized how much this borough needs an LGBTQ center.”

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