Community Briefs: Dante Austin memorial scholarship; LGBTQ+ archival exhibit; Interfaith Pride service

Dante Austin smiles at DVLF's 25th anniversary celebration.

GOAL launches Dante M. Austin Memorial Scholarship

The Greater Philadelphia Gay Officers Action League recently announced the Dante M. Austin Memorial Scholarship. Austin, a former deputy sheriff who served as the Sheriff’s Office LGBTQ+ liaison, died by suicide in 2019. The scholarship is open to those enrolled in a program related to emergency services, public safety, mental health, psychology or social work, and who have an interest in improving public safety or mental-health services for local LGBTQ+ communities. 

The scholarship recipient will receive a $1,000 award payable to their school, courtesy of the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, where Austin was a board member. 

In 2013, Austin was the first out gay deputy to join the sheriff’s office. As LGBTQ+ community liaison, a role he took on in 2017, Austin advised the Philadelphia police force on LGBTQ+ issues and ultimately improved how officers interacted with LGBTQ+ community members. He was also a veteran, an uncle, a son, a brother and a friend. 

“We often say that Dante was the best of us,” St. Nicholas Tees, acting president of Philly GOAL, said in a past interview with PGN. “He was who we should all aspire to be.”

Applicants must submit a letter of enrollment from their school, as well as a statement detailing their career objectives and how they will provide positive change for the LGBTQ+ community. Applications will be accepted until Aug. 31 and can be accessed here: https://www.phillygoal.org/dante-scholarship-application.

Broadway concert to benefit Mazzoni Center, honor iconic composer 

This fall, Mazzoni Center will honor composer Stephen Schwartz, who is best known for writing the music for hits such as “Wicked,” “Pippin” and “Godspell.” The LGBTQ+ nonprofit health-care provider will host a Broadway-music showcase as part of its inaugural Mazzoni Center Honors event. The Nov. 13 event, where all proceeds will benefit the center, will feature Broadway composers, songwriters and theatrical and pop performers serenading Schwartz with numbers from his catalog.

Performers include Jason Robert Brown, Paula Cole, Charlotte d’Amboise, L Morgan Lee, Telly Leung, Terrence Mann, Lizzy McAlpine, Alex Newell, Philly’s Lauren Hart, as well as the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. Schwartz will receive an award in light of his musical and humanitarian contributions to society.  

“It is my great honor to pay tribute to Stephen’s extraordinary music while supporting the vitally necessary mission of the Mazzoni Center,” Brown said in a press release. “I can’t think of a more perfect combination of causes to fill my heart and creative soul.”

The evening’s performers include members of the LGBTQ+ community who have shattered the glass ceiling; Lee and Newell are the first out trans and nonbinary actors, respectively, to be nominated for a Tony Award. 

Leung, one of the stars in the most recent Broadway revival of Schwartz’s “Godspell,” noted their relationship to Schwartz and his work

“I’ve known Stephen since I was a college student…and he has always been a ‘gift’ to me,” Leung said in the release. “I’m thrilled I get to celebrate his music with this incredible line-up of artists whilst raising money and awareness for the great work being done at Mazzoni Center for the LGBTQ+ community.”

For tickets and more info, visit mazzonicenter.org/gala.

Mural Arts to host reception for LGBTQ+ archival exhibit

In honor of Pride month, Mural Arts Philadelphia will host the opening reception for the exhibit “And Into the Streets,” a public art project by Rami George. The reception will take place on June 28 at 6 p.m. at Louis Kahn Park, where the exhibit is displayed. Concurrently, LGBTQ+ poets and essayists — curated by Blue Stoop — will read excerpts of their work, including David Acosta, Krys Malcolm Belc, Emma Copley Eisenburg, Adiah Siler and Taylor Townes. The evening will also include ephemera by local BIPOC artist collectives KYKY Archives and FORTUNE.

“Into the Streets” consists of representations of LGBTQ+ life, including public and private intimacies, political protests and moments of joy. The exhibit expands on the time that George spent in William Way’s John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives, where John Anderies, director of the archives, helped guide them in developing their project. 

“It was beautiful to be in the archives and to feel these resonances to our current moment,” George said in a press release. “Seeing protests for reproductive rights or connecting activism around HIV/AIDS to the COVID-19 crisis has been enlightening. Of course, they’re different, but also at stake is what is shared, and like COVID-19, the AIDS crisis is still ongoing. Surrounding these issues are these beautiful moments of tenderness, love and joy.”

Mazzoni Center to hold interfaith Pride service

The team at Mazzoni Center is planning an interfaith Pride service in partnership with local clergy members, to take place on June 25 at 3 p.m. at Arch Street Presbyterian Church. The service will consist of music, readings, creative ritual and interactive connection.

“Our goal is to create a service where all participants will feel affirmed, held, validated, uplifted, connected, seen, and loved,” David Weisberg, Mazzoni Center executive development and communications officer, said in a press release. “We want everyone, regardless of their faith tradition or whether they have a faith tradition, to feel represented and included.”

Waheeda Shabazz-El, Goodwill Ambassador at Philadelphia FIGHT, is part of the team that organized the service. She is a Muslim woman who has been living openly with HIV for more than two decades. 

“Raised by a gay man and a Pentacostal grandmother before HIV and raised up by the LGBTQI+ community after my HIV diagnosis, I am honored to celebrate pride and faith with you,” Shabazz-El said in the release. “We stand together in our faith and in our pride, refusing to be diminished, and with an enduring determination to create a world that is safe for all of us to have a human experience that is free from stigma and discrimination.”

Rabbi Alissa Wise is another clergy member and service organizer. She pointed out that community services like this are vital in a time when conservatives are launching political attacks against LGBTQ+ communities, especially encroaching on the rights of trans youth. 

“These efforts contribute to a rise in violent hate crimes targeting queers,” Wise said in the release. “In response, we must come together at the polls, in the streets, and in the pews to defend queer people. This Pride service is part of that defense and is a powerful reminder that communities of faith, grounded in the belief that all people are created in the image of the divine, love, respect and celebrate queer love and lives.”

The service is presented in collaboration with local LGBTQ+ and religious organizations including The Attic Youth Center, Bebashi, COLOURS, galaei, Independence Business Alliance, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, J.Proud, Philadelphia Black Pride, Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers, Tribe 12 and William Way LGBT Community Center.