“If you are LGBT, the neighborhood here in Bushwick is pretty cool,” Rhonda Stubbs explained as she marched with roughly 60 others this past Saturday, June 16, in the community’s second annual Pride celebration.
The event, which included a barbeque in a pocket park at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Grove Street following a march of roughly 20 blocks, was sponsored by Gays and Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered (GLOBE), the LGBT unit of Make the Road By Walking, a social action organization that tackles economic, housing, youth, and justice issues.
The point Stubbs made about her neighborhood echoed a key theme of the GLOBE celebration. In a press release, the group explained the gathering was intended “to show that LGBT people also live and congregate in the outer boroughs, not only in the Village [and] to show that LGBT people are proud of who they are and the communities they live in.”
Stubbs was there with her lesbian partner of six years, Magic Minche (pictured in pink at the top right), their toddler son, their grade school daughter, as well as several young nieces and cousins their daughter’s age.
Both Stubbs and Minche work for GLOBE, doing peer educator HIV prevention outreach, much of it in the community’s three high schools.
Dee Perez (pictured on cover), a transgendered woman who founded GLOBE almost 10 years ago and secured its first independent funding in 2004, explained that as a young, effeminate gay boy she survived in high school only two weeks, so horrific were the taunts. She spent the next three years mostly on the streets and became involved with drugs.
“I saw myself and I said this isn’t me,” Perez explained of her return home from the streets. “I was a straight-A student.” The support of her mother, the caring shown by their parish priest, and training in organizing from Make the Road changed her life, and now she works to change Bushwick.
“In Chelsea, people say, ‘Oh, no, Bushwick. I’m not going over there.’ But it’s not like that anymore.”
As the crowd marched through the mixed residential and commercial blocks surrounding Make the Road’s Grove Street office, some decked out with Puerto Rican flags from the previous weekend, their working class neighbors, most of them Spanish-speakers, were curious, some bopping their heads to the rhythm of the drums. Only one trio of young men, standing in front of a barbershop, called them out, and even then, the mood remained relaxed. The marchers chanted, “Si, se puede” (“Yes, we can”) and the youths sang back, “No se puede,” to the same beat.
Perez spoke proudly of her group’s work in the schools, of the impact they have had on gay kids and on any of the students exploring sexuality and the need to be safe. And, after dismissing the “negativity” of the barbershop crew, she said, “We have loved ones, we have homes, and we want people here to know that we want to live in solidarity with them.”