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Correspondence: Hate Crimes, Bias, and Silence

We received this letter today from Paul Morgan on behalf of OUTspoken for Equality:

Two events hit the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) community hard as this second decade of the twenty first century dawns frigidly on Buffalo, New York.  Lindsay Harmon was savagely stabbed, blinding her in one eye, while her attacker uttered anti gay slurs, as Lindsay exited Roxy’s nightclub with her girlfriend.  Investigations have not yet proven this to be a hate crime.

As this sobering attack filtered through Allentown’s close knit community, the LGBT community was affronted by an offense less physically violent, but every bit as insidious – the Rev. Darius Pridgeon arrogantly moved to the front of the pack of contenders for the vacated common council seat of Brian Davis.

Rev. Pridgeon had the support of the Brown administration.  He had the support of disgraced former council member Brian Davis.  He had the support of Grass Roots.  He DID NOT have the support of the largest population of LGBT individuals, businesses, professional, and medical service providers in all of Erie County.

A letter was sent to Rev. Pridgeon asking that he clarify offensive statements he made in relation to HIV/Aids and the gay community.  In addition Pridgeon was asked if his sworn religious convictions would interfere with his sworn civil responsibility to represent ALL residents of the Ellicott district, and the City of Buffalo at large.  Regrettably, he did not respond.  His silence spoke volumes.

While over 18 THOUSAND individuals from around the world expressed outrage and concern for Lindsay on facebook (PLEASE help support lindsay harmon, and STOP hate crime!), a few committed activists got busy on the ground challenging back room politics, the democratic political machine, and the status quo.  We were gratified to see mounting political pressure beginning to erode the small but powerful lobby for Rev. Pridgeon.   At this writing, the council appears poised to appoint another individual to this seat, and that is a small but encouraging toehold upon which to enter this new decade.

There is still much work ahead.  Education, advocacy, and the commitment of all LGBT individuals are required to battle the current legislative backsliding.  The reason we, the LGBT community, require hate crime laws and marriage equality legislation, is that we, LGBT Americans, continue to live a ‘separate but unequal’ reality.  We possess the inalienable rights of every American citizen, yet we daily face unrelenting religious and partisan defamation, physical threats, and myriad affronts to our families, and our character.  Lurking around every corner, whether at work, in the media, or in our most private lives- we are dogged by a pervasive bias, sanctimonious intolerance, and indifference to the violence we suffer in words and deeds.

Ironically the very term ‘Stonewall’ refers to civil rights unrest in 1960’s Greenwich Village by a few angry drag queens, many of them African American, who simply had enough of New York Cities Police abuses.   The ‘OUT’ in OUTspoken refers to the courage it takes to live an authentic life, as opposed to one lived in shame and hiding.  We in the LGBT community have HAD ENOUGH.  How we respond as a community is very much dependent on the response of elected officials to these two entirely unacceptable recent events.  We will continue to demand our undeniable civil rights as American citizens, and our innate dignity as human beings.  That is what WE have to say.  For their part, the Mayor and other officials remain provocatively silent.


  • pridgenfor seat

    A government of the people,by the people,and for the people. Not the 5 council members that took it upon themselves to overlook the voice of the people. This is a sad day for Buffalo,NY Ellicott District.

  • paul morgan

    A representative democracy in which individuals do not understand or participate in the electoral process is far from a ‘government by the people’.

    The appointment of this vacated council seat is the sole legislative responsibility of the common council, according to the city charter, and is a matter of law. The delegates ‘recommendation’ is just that, a non binding ‘recommendation’.

    The largely overlooked facts are these:
    1. Demone Smith, Bonnie Russell, and the grass roots political machine made no objection during the many months that Brian Davis was MIA, and the Ellicott district went entirely without legislative representation in the common council. He missed countless council sessions, and participated in next to no committee meetings. The constituents were left to fend for themselves, or to reach out to the other members of the council you disparage.
    2. The vote by democratic delegates, those shadowy figures that appear on the ballot with little or no name recognition by the general electorate, was a ‘weighted’ vote, meaning each delegate cast a hundred or more votes. In effect, Darius Pridgeon won by ONE vote, and that vote was most likely cast by Brian Davis, an admitted campaign finance criminal. How he had the unmitigated gall to show his face in public, much less try to anoint his successor is astounding.
    3.The only truly sad days for the Ellicott district were the many months in which Brian Davis kited countless checks to small businesses through out his district- to individuals who were too intimidated to come forward, or press charges. Where was the voice of righteous indignation when Ellicott district residents were being ignored and extorted?

    This was a good day- a very good day for the East Side, Allentown, and Buffalo politics. What is incumbent upon all of us now, is to put this rancor aside, and to work together to make our community stronger and less divisive.