A state historical marker recognizing Philadelphia Gay News was unveiled October 13 at the site of PGN’s first office, 233 S. 13th Street. Before the unveiling, current and former staff members, community members, politicians, and supporters of the paper gathered together at a ceremony recognizing PGN’s 45 years of service to the LGBTQ community.
The marker text reads: “PHILADELPHIA GAY NEWS. Founded here in 1976, it is one of the most awarded weekly newspapers in the nation. A driving force in Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community, the PGN issued groundbreaking reporting on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and raised the visibility for LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality.”
Speakers at the ceremony, which was hosted by 6ABC meteorologist Adam Joseph, included PGN Publisher Mark Segal; Nancy Moses, Chair of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; City Councilman Mark Squilla; Michael Newmuis of Visit Philadelphia; and State Senator Nikil Saval.
After the marker unveiling, PGN presented two awards during a small gathering at the John C. Anderson Apartments. The PGN Lifetime Achievement award was presented to longtime Philly activist Tyrone Smith, and the PGN LGBT Ally award was presented to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. Also at the gathering, State Senator Christine Tartaglione and State Rep. Mary Isaacson presented citations in honor of PGN’s work, and Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal recognized PGN’s achievements.
When asked about how it felt for PGN to be recognized with the historical marker, Segal said the whole experience was “spectacular.”
“PGN is different from all other LGBT media in the nation. We were started by an activist, and we pioneered new forms of LGBT journalism,” Segal said at the ceremony. He thanked PGN’s staff and highlighted the paper’s groundbreaking HIV/AIDS features and early reporting on the trans community. “When we started out in 1976, not only did we have a building that didn’t have electricity or plumbing, but no mainstream journalism organization would accept us as members. Today, we are the most award winning weekly in the state of Pennsylvania.”
A continual theme of the celebration was the impact that PGN has had on not just the LGBTQ community, but all communities. Nancy Moses, Chair of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, recognized the historical significance of PGN’s work.
“Like the revolutionary broadsides, PGN forges consensus,” Moses said at the ceremony. “It sheds light on some of the most concerning and biggest problems of our time. It spurs people to action. The Philadelphia Gay News chronicles your community, but it also shapes it. Some might argue the Philadephia Gay News serves only the LGBTQIA community, but you and I know better. We know that the PGN is a Pennsylvania treasure, that it continues to serve as a role model for others across the nation. For everything you have done, for everything you have written, it isn’t just in service of your community. It’s in service of us all.”
City Councilman Mark Squilla, who represents the 1st Council District where PGN’s offices are located, spoke about how PGN helped many elected officials come to understand and support the LGBTQ community.
“It’s so important to remember the institutional knowledge and the people who came before us, because they allow us to stand on their shoulders,” Squilla said. “What’s amazing today, you see all the elected officials that are here, whether they’re city officials or state or federal officials, they all were touched by Mark Segal and the PGN, because they were able to see things in a different light.”
At the gathering in the John C Anderson Apartments, Tyrone Smith, a longtime LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activist who served as executive director of Unity, Inc., spoke to guests about growing up in Philadelphia and all that the city has given to him.
“I’m grateful for what I’ve been allowed to do to give back, and for what Philadelphia has given me,” Smith said. “To be able to work for John F. Street, Wilson Goode, Michael Nutter, our Black mayors in this city. To be able to be a part of the cultural moment, coming from a gay and lesbian position in life, to be able to connect with the larger part of Philadelphia, the Black community, who has responded to our needs. I thank god for people like Gussie Clark in City Council; I was able to receive a citation from her. That kind of history is mine, because Philadelphia has been so damn kind.”
Sen. Bob Casey recognized the work of LGBTQ+ pioneers as well as the continued need to push for equality for the LGBTQ+ community, including passing the Equality Act in Congress. “For LGBTQ+ Americans, this is a journey that we have to stay committed to,” Casey said. “We cannot grow weary, we cannot grow tired. We have to keep going.”