Brooklyn DA continues annual tradition of celebrating Pride Month
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office continued a tradition that was started by the late DA Ken Thompson with its annual Pride month celebration that took place at Brooklyn Law School in Downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday.
“I’m particularly happy to be with all of you today as we celebrate at my office’s pride event,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. “I’m always very inspired that these celebrations, our heritage events, and the work that we do in the community is driven so much by the assistant district attorneys and members of our staff.”
According to Gonzalez, the event is designed by members of the DA’s Office and is aimed at fostering trust in the community between the office and the LGBTQ community. It’s also meant as a way to educate assistant DA’s and to help them to better understand the LGBTQ culture.
“Our job is to keep Brooklyn safe and to strengthen trust in our justice system, and we can’t do that unless people from the community see us being a part of events, a part of the mosaic that makes Brooklyn beautiful,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t only want people to know us as prosecutors because they’ve been accused of a crime. Thanks to my staff for doing this so that the people of Brooklyn know that we care about all communities.”
Gonzalez, who marched in the Brooklyn Pride parade two weeks ago in Park Slope, said that Pride events are an important way to create allies.
“This year’s theme is ‘Don’t Hide Your Pride,’” Gonzalez said. “People need to be free to live their lives how they want to live, and love who they want to love without having to hide. It’s something that my office needs to pay attention to.”
This year’s honorees included CAMBA and specifically its Project Accept LGBT Youth (Project ALY) program, which was represented by Roselyn Campbell and Lisa Koffler; Michelle Lopez, a campaign coordinator with the Center for Disease Control’s HIV Treatment Works program; and attorney Carl S. Charles, who serves as the Transgender Rights Project Law Fellow at Lambda Legal.
CAMBA, a non-profit in Brooklyn that offers HIV and AIDS services, serves more than 45,000 people and families each year including 10,000 kids from the Rockaways to Brownville. More than 85 percent of those families are living in poverty. Project ALY specifically works with LGBT youth and offers ALY workshops to companies.
“The purpose of the Project Aly workshop is to bring LGBTQ acceptance and awareness to communities mostly highly impacted by HIV and AIDS,” Campbell said. “When LGBTQ youth are not accepted by their families, they are eight times as likely to try to commit suicide … and three times as likely to become infected with HIV.”
Lopez shared a story about growing up when her mother, who would not accept her for being bisexual, forced her to go to a voodoo priest. The priest would often gag her until she vomited, and would claim that it was demons escaping her body.
“He did this until I was 16 and I attempted suicide,” she said of the abuse that lasted between five and six years. “It was my fourth and last attempt.”
Lopez shared this story because, as she put it, that suppressing who she is was part of her family’s culture. She explained how in the United States, she feels much more free to be who she is and now advocates through her group, Caribbean American Pride, which was the first LGBTQ organization to march in Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Parade.
Finally, Charles discussed two heroes of the trans rights movement — Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson worked to create the Gay Liberation Front, and the pair worked together to create the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. These groups organized politically and provided housing to homeless members of the LGBTQ community. They funded the organization through money they made as sex workers.
“These are giants of the LGBTQ and the trans rights movement,” Charles said. “I would be remiss if I did not discuss their lives, what they stood for and how sadly they did not live to see the culmination of their work, of which my work is but a small branch and a tribute to their legacy.”
The event was closed out by Jennifair, a recording artist from Chicago who now calls Brooklyn home. She performed two songs before Assistant District Attorney Jaclyn Quiles thanked everyone for coming.
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