If you’re a first-time reader of my blog, then you probably landed here because of my recent article in the Windy City Times. For those who are late to the table, Boystown has experienced an increase in violent crimes over the past month or so. The community (which includes residents and bar patrons) are scared for their safety, and rightfully so.
Many young Black GLBT citizens hang out on Halsted at night because they have no other safe space to go to. Some have accused these youths of being linked to the crime. Others care little to incorporate these young adults into the safety discussion. Other just want to see these Black GLBT youths go away.
Is there overlap between the young Black GLBT community and crime in Boystown? Maybe. It’s just as likely that there is overlap between crime in the neighborhood and bar patrons. Based on information from the authorities, some of these crimes were perpetuated by gang members who have no involvement with the Black GLBT youths whatsoever. So to say that the GLBT youth of color are largely responsible for the increase in crime has no factual basis.
What concerns me most is the fact that so many of the Boystown residents and bar patrons consistently overlook the Black GLBT youth. Some have even advocated an under-21 curfew, a completely unfeasible plan. Others have protested to close the Center on Halsted, which has been blamed as a source of problems. Rather than thinking about how to kick out or disacknowledge members of our community (and that is what they are), why don’t we find ways to incorporate them? Why not empower them and ourselves with a broader sense of community?
I want to expand on my Windy City Times articles and offer up some real solutions to address the community-building that must be done with regards to young GLBT minority groups. Others are working in coordinating with police and developing community-led anti-crime initiatives, which I applaud.
- A late-night community center specifically for GLBT youth. It would not just be a social hang out. It could host nightly entertainment events including live music and performance. I have a lot of connections with the poetry community (which has a reputation for being multicultural), and I know they would be all over this. Many in the arts community would love to donate their time as well.
- A mentorship program that pairs young GLBT members with older, responsible community members. Everyone needs role models. But sometimes it’s hard to find one, especially when you feel so neglected by society and the gay community at large. That’s why I think a program should be established (possibly through the COH) to pair young GLBT people with older GLBT citizens. Think of it as a Big Brother/Big Sister program for gays and transgendered people.
- Community-building forums. I think someone (COH perhaps) should host open forums where all members of the GLBT community are encouraged to attend and talk openly, in a respectful manner, about their viewpoints on a number of issues, from crime to race to Boystown’s identity. I think what deters many from working together is a lack of understanding. By bridging gaps, we can reduce the prejudice and fear, emboldening ourselves as one.