Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Memorial Service and New Homeless Shelter

[New York City - Manhattan] Integrity joined with The Latino Commission on AIDS, Committee on Solidarity of Jorge Steven Lopez, The LGBT Community Center of New York, The Office of New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Dignity NY, PFLAG NY and the Episcopal Church of St. Luke in the Fields for a Vigil, Memorial Service, and Community Mobilization in Memory of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado. Jorge Lopez was a gay/trans teen who was brutally murdered in Puerto Rico last week.

Memorial services were held across the continental US as well as Puerto Rico on Sunday.  In New York City, The Episcopal Church of St. Luke in the Fields and Integrity were both invited by the wider community to take leadership roles in the organizing and running of the events.

Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember-Elect Daniel Dromm (both of the LGBT community) spoke against the hatred against our community, which is often harder on the LGBT community of color.  They called for more education and community involvement.  The Rally traveled by candelight to the doors of St. Luke in the Fields where participants were greeted by Integrity members and The Rev. Mary Foulke of St. Luke in the Fields.  There was standing room only as the service began.

Daniel Leyva, the primary organizer of the event spoke about how important it is that the religious community that is supportive of the LGBT community to speak out about these injustices.  Earlier this year, Senator Ruben Diaz, also a Pentecostal minister, led a rally where he brought several thousand Pentecostal ministers and leaders to New York to speak out against the LGBT community and especially in response to Marriage Equality. Mr. Leyva reiterated that not all the religious are like Senator Diaz's group, and he praised the Episcopal Church and Integrity.

[New York City - Astoria Queens] Episcopal Community Services of Long Island partnered with The Ali Forney Center to  meet basic emergency needs, increase coping and decision making capacities, and assist in planning for the re-integration into community living, of homeless and  runaway youth who identify as LGBT in the New York City area to open the St. Andrew's Center in Astoria, NY on Monday 23 Nov.

Bishop Larry Provenzano and his wife were in attendance at this opening as were Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember-Elect Daniel Dromm (both members of the LGBT community).  The Rev. Charles McCarron and lay leader Michael Meaney (donations coordinator for the project) were instrumental in this partnership with the Ali Forney Center. "I believe that the Ali Forney Center at St. Andrew's is a wonderful example of how different groups can work together toward the same goal.  The young people we serve are perhaps the most marginalized of the homeless, yet they are young enough to change their lives with some compassionate and non-judgmental help.  As Gay New Yorkers we should all be proud of the work that the Ali Forney Center has been doing for years and I am pleased that the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island has joined in this important work.  It would be fantastic if more people could help the Ali Forney Center to grow and accomplish even more on behalf of our GLBT youth.  One of the quotes I put up on a wall in the center is something I think works for the youth and for the volunteers as well, 'The purpose of life is a life of purpose'." said Michael Meany, who organized donations and volunteers to get the project done.

"It really meant a lot to this community to see the Church, or Episcopal Church, stand with the most vulnerable of our community and dedicate time and talent, and almost 500k in funds.  I am so proud of the Diocese of Long Island and grateful to Michael Meaney, Father McCarron and Bishop Provenzano for all their work," said Chap Day, Province II Coordinator for Integrity USA who was in attendance. "Bishop Provenzano and the Diocese of Long Island are a beacons of hope to the LGBT community here in Queens, and an example of community cooperation that I hope other dioceses will mimic."

There is an ongoing homeless youth crisis in New York City and nation-wide. In New York City, that number is believed to be between 12,000 and 15,000. Approximately 3,000 to 8,000 homeless youth in New York City are LGBTQ. This calculation is based on research that demonstrates that 20 to 40 percent of all homeless youth identify LGBTQ.

The Ali Forney Center is named for Ali Forney. Ali Forney was a homeless queer teen who was forced to live on the streets of New York during the 1990s. Ali was dedicated to the safety of other homeless queer youth; he was a committed HIV prevention worker, and aggressively advocated that the NYPD investigate a series of murders of the homeless queer youth he had befriended. Ali was an inspiration to those who knew him.  In December of 1997, Ali was murdered on the streets. His tragic death called attention to the atrocious conditions for homeless LGBT youth in New York. Ali's murderer has never been identified.

The dedication ended with a community reading of a prayer Ali Forney wrote:

I believe that one day, the Lord will come back to get me. Hallelujah.  If I live right, Hallelujah, I will go on to that righteous place. I believe that one day, Hallelujah, all my trails, all my tribulations, they will be over.  I won't have to worry about crying and suffering no more.  I won't have to worry about being disappointed, because my God, Hallelujah, is coming back for me.  Whether I am a man with a dress and a wig, My God will love me for who I am!  I might not walk like I'm supposed to walk.  I might not have sex with who I'm supposed to have sex with.  My God will love me for what I am! So don't worry about me, worry about yourself. Because as long as God believes in me, I'm not worried about what folks say, Hallelujah.

You Can Help With This Project: An Invitation From Michael Meaney:
At the coming season of Our Lord's birth there are special ways to help.  There is no holiday line in the budget so we depend on generous donations. As we shop for ourselves and gifts, it would be fantastic to remember the sacrifice Our Lord made for us and try to make some sacrifices for others.  Christmas is a particularly difficult time for our teens at the center, perhaps the most marginalized of all the homeless.  In a season often associated with family it is easy to see why young people would have feelings stirred up.  We are asking for gift cards in only ten and twenty dollar denominations to McDonald's, Target and CVS only.  We want to limit ourselves to these three places so teen jealousy does not appear.  These gift cards will give our teens some buying power that they do not usually experience.  Please send out an email to your family and friends asking for help as well.

Gift cards can be sent to Michael Meaney c/o Zion Episcopal Church 243-01 Northern Boulevard, Douglaston, NY 11363.  Contact me for other donation destinations.  It would be best if donations could be received early, before December 15th, so we know what we have to work with.  The Ali Forney Center at St. Andrew's will have 16 residents for the holidays and Ali Forney has some 65 residents in their living shelter system to treat this holiday season. coordinating this all can be a difficult task for the Ali Forney team, so we ask that gifts are limited to the pre mentioned items.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Vigil, Memorial Service & Community Mobilization in Memory of Jorge Steven López Mercado

Sunday 22 November
5pm Vigil at Pier 45 (Christopher Street Pier)
6:30pm Memorial Service at St. Luke in the Fields (Hudson St and Grove St)

Integrity will be joining several other organizations in participation in this event. We hope you will try to join us in solidarity with the López Mercado family and others across the country.

Jorge Steven López Mercado, a gay/trans teenager was found beaten, decapitated, dismembered, and burned about a week ago in Puerto Rico because of his sexuality.  The killer is claiming "gay panic" after he discovered that Mercado, who was in drag, was a male.  The killer met Mercado while looking for women in an area known for prostitution.  Activists are demanding that the alleged perpetrator be charged under the new U.S. federal hate crimes law which includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

Hundreds of people took part in a march through San Juan last night to demand an end to homophobia. The López Mercado family fully accepted the openly gay teenager--Mercado's ex-boyfriend continues to speak publicly on the family's behalf.

New York Congressmembers José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez have both condemned the gruesome murder. And New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office has co-sponsored this vigil.