The owner of a Philadelphia gay bar, ICandy, has made headlines for his racist slurs recorded on video.
But the LGBT regulars of the establishment say these comments are not an isolated incident. They say the video exposes a racist culture that people of color have experienced since the 1980s.
"The minute you walk into the Gayborhood as a black or brown person, you feel it," Shani Akilah Robin told the Associated Press. "They play our music and target us for the very blackness they're making money off of. This is the reality of being black and queer in America."
Robin is the founder of the Black & Brown Workers Collective. The group has protested outside of iCandy and rallied for the resignation of the city’s LGBT liaison, Nellie Fitzpatrick.
Groups like ACT UP Philadelphia and Black Lives Matter Philadelphia have joined the collective in these protests. According to comprehensive reports from Ernest Owens — a journalist with Philadelphia magazine's LGBT vertical, G Philly — these organizations are calling for change from city leaders and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations in how anti-blackness is addressed in the LGBT community’s sacred spaces.
Ricky Peterson, the target of the slurs made by ICandy owner Darryl DePiano in the video, said that he hasn't returned to the gay bar where he worked or to the gayborhood because he “hasn’t felt comfortable.” Peterson said he was the only black or Latino person working behind the bar, and that he left feeling “targeted.”
Earlier in September, another bar, Woody’s, was accused of discrimination for its dress code that protestors believed targeted black and Latino patrons.
In response, the city’s executive director of the Commission on Human Relations, Rue Landau, subpoenaed the gayborhood bar owners, requiring them to provide copies of their dress codes at a hearing later this month. In addition, activists from the coalition occupied a City Hall flag-raising ceremony during OutFest, a yearly celebration of National Coming Out Day held last Sunday.
Philadelphia was the center of national news in 2014 when three attackers were charged in a mob beating that left a gay couple hospitalized. Philip Harrison and Kevin Harrigan pleaded guilty to charges before their cases went to trial and received probation sentences. Kathryn Knott went to trial, was convicted and sentenced to five to 10 months. She was released in June.
Racial tension in gay spaces has come to light in the gayborhoods of many major cities. In Atlanta, similarly to Philadelphia, patrons slammed dress code policies at Blake’s on the Park for being racist. A bar owner in Louisville, Ky. apologized for racist and sexist remarks directed at a patron. Even an account from San Francisco shows one man’s experience with racism in the Castro.
Though DePiano apologized, activists in Philadelphia are demanding more than words. And they will no longer give their money to establishments where they are not respected.