Community Briefs: Prevention Point celebrates 30th anniversary; African American Museum event

Illustration by Ash Cheshire.

Prevention Point Philadelphia rings in 30th anniversary  

On October 18, Prevention Point Philadelphia celebrated 30 years of providing a wealth of services to the community, including medical services like testing and PrEP clinics, behavioral health services like a medication-assisted recovery program, prevention services like syringe exchange and more. José Benitez has served as the organization’s executive director for the past 15 years. 

The Prevention Point team celebrated the occasion, presented by Philly AIDS Thrift and Sunray Specialty Pharmacy, with an event at Globe Dye Works featuring a silent auction, original artwork by participants in Prevention Point’s Art as Harm Reduction workshops, and recognition of Prevention Point co-founder and activist José de Marco with the Judy Porter Award, as well as former Pa. Gov. Edward Rendell with the Founders’ Award. President and CEO of AIDS United Jesse Milan Jr also gave remarks at the event, and WHYY 91FM Anchor Cherri Gregg served as emcee. 

“I cannot see this city existing without Prevention Point or harm reduction,” de Marco told PGN. “The legacy they leave is one of averting thousands of HIV infections. They work with some people that have the most complicated lives; those are usually people that have active drug addictions, and usually people that do not feel welcome in traditional AIDS service organizations. But because Prevention Point has always been staffed by active users or community people that understand what it’s like to be on drugs and do sex work, that’s part of the legacy they leave.”

Data from Prevention Point’s fiscal year of 2021-22 show that for the first time in the 30 years of providing its syringe services program, Prevention Point collected more syringes than it distributed. Also during that time, more than 36,000 people received services from the organization. “Probably a lot of folks have never had to do sex work, they’ve never been homeless, they’ve never had to be beat up by a drug dealer, all of these things that people forget about,” de Marco said. “They come to Prevention Point just to sit for a couple of hours to get a respite and a cup of coffee, something to eat. I think they try to meet basic human needs, because that is harm reduction.”

African American Museum to host intersectional event

The African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP), in collaboration with the Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, will host the event “Pride & Prejudice I: Intersections” on Friday, Oct. 21. Curated by Nina Elizabeth “Lyrispect” Ball, director of programming at the AAMP, the event will feature panelists who will discuss the intricacies and intersections of being Black and Brown and part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“I wanted to add dimension beyond stereotype, combat assumption without lived experience and to provide a tool that might bridge just one chasm in the Black community, to move us closer to collective liberation and efficacy,” Ball said in an email. 

The panelists include Kai Davis, a Black, queer writer, performer and teaching artist from Philly; E Morales-Williams, program coordinator for me too. International; Pastor Clarence Hayes Jr., who founded Truth and Life Empowerment Community Ministries, Inc; Kiron Williams, a Black trans man who is a musician and LGBTQ advocate and activist; and Rev. Meagan McLeod, founder of Spiritually Chosen. Dennis Maurice Dumpson, founder and principal consultant of #InvestBLK, will moderate the event. 

“A lot of people take for granted what it is like to be at the intersection of multiple marginalized communities in America,” Ball said. “All the featured speakers identify as Black or Brown. But some of us identify as women, others as queer or lesbian or non-binary or trans, or bi or gay… some practice faith that is not the predominate American religion, or not at all. Now, imagine falling into three or more of those ‘categories.’ Finding affirming peers and supportive friends in a singular space becomes exponentially more challenging in a world where safe spaces are necessary.”

She cited Black and Brown LGBTQ people in history who have made long-lasting imprints on society, including Lorraine Hansberry, Bayard Rustin, and Alain Locke, who has a historical marker in the AAMP’s plaza. 

“Underscoring themes of ‘resilience,’ ‘the journey,’ and ‘layers of dimension,’ I wanted to uplift the work of living artists featured in our current exhibition “Vision & Spirit: African American Art, Works from the Bank of America Collection,” like Corey Pemberton, Whitfield Lovell, and Willie Little who all identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.” 

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UPenn LGBT Center celebrates 40th anniversary

This year marks 40 years since the University of Pennsylvania’s LGBT Center has been creating a safe space for queer and trans students. Center staff have pushed for many administrative changes on Penn’s campus, such as creating a map of gender-neutral bathrooms and making it easy for students to add their pronouns and name of choice in Penn’s system.

“Penn’s LGBT Center has had my back since I started my Ph.D.,” Ira Globus-Harris told the University of Pennsylvania Almanac. Globus-Harris is working toward their Ph.D. in computer and information sciences in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Creating positive change at an institution as large as Penn is hard and slow work, and the center does an admirable job.” 

The center offers a variety of resources, including resources on how to get placed in gender-inclusive housing, the opportunity to apply for grants to assist students with gender transitions, and trans support groups. Other resources include a mentor program, access to an LGBTQ library, educational programming, and access to student organizations like Association for Queer International Students and FGLIQ, which is geared toward first-generation, low income queer undergradutes, graduate and professional students, and Penn alumni.

“The center holds fast to its social justice beginnings, focusing on both individuals and environmental factors, to ensure Penn’s LGBTQ+ communities feel welcome,” LGBT Center Director Erin Cross told the University of Pennsylvania Almanac. “We’ve done a lot, but we still have more to do. We want the center to be a place to study, chat, and celebrate—where you truly feel you belong, no matter who you are.”

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