LGBT Pride hit the streets on Bushwick on Saturday, June 21, when roughly 50 members and allies of GLOBE, Gays and Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered, staged a one-hour march through the Knickerbocker Avenue shopping district before returning to its home base on Grove Street near Myrtle Avenue for a barbeque that drew a crowd of 100.
Despite the small size of the marching contingent, participants were lively and colorful, showing the rainbow colors and engaging in boisterous chants that seemed to take onlookers by surprise, but elicited no negative responses in the largely Puerto Rican working-class neighborhood. At one point, when marchers occupied one street lane, a long series of cars passing alongside of them honked and waved in apparent support of the event’s inclusive message.
Participants alternated between spirited shouts of joy and more pointed assertions of pride. At times, the group chanted "Si se puede," Spanish for "Yes we can," and they also serenaded those on the streets with a rendition of Diana Ross’ "I’m Coming Out." But at other times, the messages were angrier – "Hey, hey, ho, ho, transphobia has to go" and "Hi haters, you see me, I see you."
Back on Grove Street, the celebration descended on a small park restored by Make the Road by Walking, the community action initiative of which GLOBE is a part. Among the crowd on hand were the two young men, Fernando Preda, 18, of East Harlem, and Bushwick resident Jeff Vasquez, 23, who are shown on the cover; the two are not a couple, but rather agreed to kiss for the camera as a good-natured Pride Day lark.
Vasquez talked about the abuse he suffered in high school from fellow students who threw things at him, jumped him, and warned others to steer clear of him based on their bigoted, and incorrect assumption, that anyone who is gay must have AIDS. Three months ago, as a member of GLOBE, he spoke to an assembly at a high school in Flushing, explaining the harm done to gay students because of homophobia from their peers and also talking about the need to protect themselves from HIV transmission.
"At first it was scary, because I was there as a gay man," Vasquez said of his appearance before the high school students.
Vasquez also talked about the difficulties his father had "as a Latino man" when he came out to him as a teenager. He explained that it took his father about two years to come around to accepting that his son was gay. Vasquez urged his father to join him at a GLOBE meeting, telling him, "If you say you love me, just try it." In time his father did, and the experience proved powerful and beneficial.
Preda talked about growing up, in both the Castle Hill section of the Bronx and in California, with parents who were drug users and who abused him at times. Still, he explained, both his father, who died, and his mother, now two years sober, were supportive of him when he came out to them at 14.
It was at that age that Preda contracted two STDs, an experience that talked him about the importance of safe sex.
"Sex is fun, but wrap it up," he said, in a message he would like to share with younger gays through the peer education program at GLOBE.
Magic Minthe, whose wife Rhonda Stubbs does HIV outreach at GLOBE, said that the march was a response to those in Bushwick who think LGBT people don’t "exist" there. "Now they know we’re here," she said. Minthe was at the barbeque with her two of her four children and Stubbs.
RaShawn Chisolm, a 37-year-old resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant, explained that he moved to Brooklyn in the past several years after living in Harlem because he is concerned that gentrification in Harlem is displacing the vibrant African-American cultural life that has long defined that neighborhood. A community activist, Chisolm also works on an Internet radio operation that hosts both gay hip hop music and public events programming.
For Enid Torres and Lila Andrianov, Ridgewood, a Queens neighborhood that abuts Bushwick, has been home for five years.
"Ridgewood is beautiful," said Andrianov, who is preparing to start nursing school.
Torres, a carpenter currently on disability after injuring her knee on the job, said that Friday afternoon GLOBE gatherings gave the couple the opportunity to meet others and "talk about the community."