Activists, officials support bill combatting racism, discrimination

A committee of Philadelphia City Council this week approved a bill that would amend the city’s anti-bias ordinance.

The bill, originally introduced by Councilman Derek S. Green, will allow the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to deliver a cease-and-desist order to organizations with records of discrimination. If the bill passes two readings, it will ultimately go to Mayor Jim Kenney for his signature.

PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau and Director of LGBT Affairs Amber Hikes testified in support of the bill.

Landau referenced the racism hearing PCHR held Oct. 25 at which community members spoke about their experiences with racial bias in Gayborhood bars and nonprofits and PCHR’s press conference during which the organization offered recommendations to combat racism and discrimination.

“It sends a strong message to businesses that the city will not tolerate discrimination and will use any tools necessary to combat it so we can ensure that Philadelphia is a safe and equitable place for everyone to live and visit,” Landau said of the proposed amendments to the Fair Practices Ordinance.

Hikes noted the accomplishments of the Office of LGBT Affairs such as meetings with the newly appointed Commission on LGBT Affairs and initiating conversations with community groups and members on addressing racism and discrimination.

“Our intention is to open the lines of communication and to elevate the voices of the individuals who have been historically left out of the conversation and to bring more diverse perspectives to the tables,” Hikes said.

Additionally, four community activists testified in support of the bill.

Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, co-founder of the Black & Brown Workers Collective, discussed a video posted online in which ICandy owner Darryl DePiano repeatedly used a racial slur.

“Daryl’s use of the n-word moves beyond ‘just words,’” Muhammad said, also referencing an alleged racially charged dress-code policy. “We learned that the alleged no-Timbs policy — which we, the Collective, have pointed out — is a racialized dress-code policy aimed at declining entry to the bar from black and brown community members.”

Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club Co-Chair Malcolm Kenyatta said that “people aren’t making this up” in regard to how racial bias has been handled in the Gayborhood.

“The only true victory will be a victory that disrupts all systems of oppression and requiring and ensuring that all institutions operate according to our city’s very explicit and implicit values — diversity, inclusion and equity,” Kenyatta said. “Justice that isn’t intersectional isn’t justice at all.”

Asa Khalif, the head of the Pennsylvania chapter of Black Lives Matter, honored the black and brown activists “who are no longer with us but their spirit of courage, bravery and a burning demand for justice inspired us all.”

“This bill will give the government a powerful tool to fight discrimination in our city,” Khalif said. “If your business discriminates and fails to take corrective action, the city — with this bill — will shut down the revenue stream until you try a little harder to change your heart and the way you conduct business in the city of Philadelphia.”

Lee Carson, interim executive director for COLOURS, was the last person to testify in support of the bill.

“We must end the cycle of institutionalized oppression in public accommodations in Philadelphia,” Carson said. “We need to [tell] the rest of the Commonwealth and the country that we take acts of discrimination seriously.”

Following the hearing, Green told PGN he “introduced the bill based on attending the [fall PCHR] hearing, reading various news accounts and talking to other friends and contacts in the LGBTQ community about this issue.”

“I’m glad to have the support of the members of the community that came and testified regarding the issue that has been ongoing for a number of years,” Green said.