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Philly has first march celebrating LGBT people of color

The march comes as the city still grapples with the recent arrest of two black men at a Starbucks and a legacy of discrimination in the Gayborhood.

Deej Johnson (right) and others march around City Hall in Philadelphia’s first Black Pride march.
Deej Johnson (right) and others march around City Hall in Philadelphia’s first Black Pride march.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Chanting "I'm proud of my black skin, I'm proud of my brown skin," 35 people walked in the streets surrounding City Hall during Philadelphia's first march to honor LGBT people of color.

Wednesday's march kicked off the five-day Philadelphia Black Pride festival, which is in its 19th year, though this is the first time it's featured a march.

"This is a chance to just have something of our own, even though we welcome our white brothers and sisters in solidarity," said Antar Bush, an LGBT community organizer who planned the march with the help of the city's LGBT Affairs Office. "It's not about exclusively. It's about being more inclusive."

Other cities such as New York and Miami also hold events for LGBT people of color. Those events are separate from the annual Pride parades held nationwide in cities, including Philadelphia, each year.

The Black Pride festival comes as Philadelphia tries to overcome its legacy of racism in the Gayborhood, where most bar owners are white and the city has acknowledged discrimination has existed for decades. The event also comes two weeks after the arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Center City sparked national backlash and questions about how customers reacted.

We asked attendees of Wednesday's march how much progress Philadelphia has made in addressing racism in the LGBT community and what work remains. Here is what they said.

‘We’ve done a lot with our gay and lesbian community, but we haven’t dealt with the racism’

‘There’s still too many people that are afraid of black people’

‘It’s not just the LGBTQI community. It’s all communities when it comes to racism’

‘We’re having really tough conversations, and it’s important to do that’

Calls to boycott the bar ICandy erupted in 2016 when a video was posted on YouTube of owner Darryl DePiano saying the N-word. Black patrons at other Gayborhood bars also reported having to show multiple IDs to gain entry and bouncers turning them away for wearing sweatpants or Timberland boots.

The city subsequently mandated anti-bias training at Gayborhood bars and at the Mazzoni Center, the city's largest LGBT health-care provider. The center's CEO was ousted last year amid allegations she had fostered a hostile environment for people of color and covered up a medical director's sexual misconduct. The hiring last month of a straight Latina woman as the nonprofit's new CEO has since drawn backlash due to its lack of transparency.

On Wednesday, though, the theme was unity. Romaine Gibbs, a gay Philadelphia man, had everyone link arms before the march began.

"When we bind and unite like this," Gibbs said, "people cannot destroy us."

Mayor Kenney, who also spoke, said the LGBT community and people of color deserve respect.

"You are my brothers and sisters," Kenney told the crowd. "You are human beings who deserve dignity."

The Black Pride festival continues Thursday with a panel discussion at the University of Pennsylvania's LGBT Center about discrimination and stereotypes. Various bars throughout the city will also hold events through Sunday.