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Center Advocates for Fair Treatment of LGBT Immigrants
On December 13, Director of Center Wellness Andres Hoyos, joined Center clients in testifying before New York City Council’s Committee on Immigration. The legislative body was specifically looking into how NYC immigrants are treated in detention centers and considering resolutions "urging the United States Department of Homeland Security to investigate abuse allegations and take action to ensure the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants." Cecilia Gentili is a transgender immigrant from Argentina who faced both sexual assault and verbal abuse in detention centers before she was ultimately granted asylum after being in this country for 10 years. With true perseverance and the help of the Center, Ms. Gentili found the resources she so desperately needed to overcome the immense obstacles she faced. "Please remember my story," she told council members. "I urge you to support these resolutions ensuring proper treatment of LGBT immigrants in U.S. detention centers." Hoyos went on to give the legislative body specific recommendations for vastly improving the current system including, "ensuring that voices of LGBT immigrants are heard within the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) and encouraging the creation of an LGBT immigrant committee, whose job will be to ensure that all literature created by the MOIA is inclusive of LGBT immigrants." The Center will continue speaking out for the rights of LGBT Immigrants and providing services to help them succeed. Cecilia Gentili noted her gratitude for our help:
"The Center helped me tremendously. You gave me a sense of worthiness and the strength to become a productive member of society. That ultimately led to my favorable asylum decision."
Youth Pride Chorus Delights New York City Audiences and Changes Young Lives
On December 3, members of the Youth Pride Chorus (YPC) mesmerized audiences with two performances of their Listen to the Music winter concert at The Kitchen in Chelsea. Singing and dancing to hits by Pink, Cyndi Lauper and many more, the group ignited the performance space with the collective power of LGBT youth voices, following months of intense preparation. YPC is a joint endeavor between the Center’s Youth Enrichment Services and Big Apple Performing Arts. For nearly a decade YPC has galvanized lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allied youth ages 13-22 and given them the opportunity to find a safe, nurturing performance arena to work collaboratively, gain confidence and be proud of who they are. Through fun and rigorous weekly rehearsals, YPC singers train in voice, dance, and song interpretation, developing both artistic excellence and leadership skills.
"When you hear them sing you can’t help but cry tears of joy," said a recent audience member. “The Youth Pride Chorus is a total inspiration for our entire community. They are our future!”
Just one day after the Listen to the Music concerts, YPC performed the song "True Colors" with singer and LGBT advocate with Cyndi Lauper, at her at her Home for the Holidays True Colors Fund benefit for homeless LGBT youth. See video here
Center Sparks Inspiration for Center Halfway Around the World
The Blue Diamond Society, the leading LGBT rights non-governmental organization (NGO) in Nepal, has started construction on a community center, the first such facility in South Asia, and modeled after our Center. Sunil Babu Pant, founder of the Blue Diamond Society, and Asia’s first openly gay politician, visited our Center in 2007 when he was here to receive the Philippa de Souza Award from the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the organization's annual top distinction for human rights defenders worldwide. Pant was inspired by the people he met, and the community he saw at our Center, and thought South Asia could use such a space. Four years later, construction is almost finished on the Himalayan Pink Resource Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal, South Asia’s first LGBT community center. Members of the Center’s senior staff had the honor of meeting Pant on his recent trip to New York, at a fundraising and informational event about his new Center, hosted by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. Pant is a member of Nepal’s Parliament and a prominent LGBT rights activist and we’re proud to have him as a friend and ally. "We are honored and humbled to know that our Center is the source of inspiration for this new Center in Nepal," said Executive Director Glennda Testone. "It's amazing to hear that our influence is being felt halfway around the world, and we’re thrilled to know that LGBT South Asian people will have a Center of their own to find safety, solace and home."
You can read more about Nepal’s LGBT Community Center here
Center's Andres Hoyos Receives Prestigious Social Work Award
On December 1, Director of Center Wellness Andrés Hoyos, received an Emerging Leaders Award from the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-NYC). Hundreds gathered at Jing Fong Restaurant in Manhattan to pay tribute not only to Hoyos, but a host of other influential social workers. Through its leadership awards, NASW-NYC recognizes social workers who demonstrate exemplary leadership qualities and a unique commitment to the improvement of social and human conditions. Hoyos is a gay Latino man, originally from Colombia, who has been working in social services since he was a teenager. He began his career in his native Medellín, where he worked with an NGO to establish the first ever national HIV/AIDS hotline in Colombia. Hoyos has worked at the Center since 2003. In 2007, he founded and became director of Center Recovery, the first and only state licensed substance abuse prevention program serving the LGBT community in New York. Hoyos currently serves as the Director of Center Wellness and under his leadership the program has provided vital support social services to tens of thousands of LGBT people. His commitment to social justice has been infused throughout his work at the Center, his private practice, and most recently, as an Adjunct Professor and Faculty Advisor at NYU’s School of Social Work. The Center congratulates him on this well-deserved honor!