A PRIDE PROFILE IN COURAGE

June 25, 2019 at 4:45 am

We’ll take you inside Marsha’s House, a homeless shelter for LGBTQ young adults, and follow the journey of a courageous and resilient young man as he navigates the shelter system.

For more information about Project Renewal, which operates Marsha’s House, click here. 

 

Youth Shelters and Drop in Centers

Ali Forney Center
212.222.3427
224 W. 35th St. Suite 1102
New York , NY 10001
www.aliforneycenter.org

Streetwork Harlem Drop-In Center
209 West 125th St
2nd Floor New York, NY 10027
212-695-2220

Medical Services

Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
212.271.7200
356 W. 18th St.
New York, NY 10011
www.callen-lorde.org

Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)
212.367.1000
119 W. 24th St.
New York, NY 10011
www.gmhc.org

 

Aired on June 24, 2019. 

Transcript Print

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>> SO, I'M GOING TO BE PACKING
UP.
THIS IS MY EMT BOOK, MY BOOK FOR
EMS.
I WANTED TO WORK IN, YOU KNOW, A
SPACE WHERE I'M ABLE TO MAKE
SOMEONE'S LIFE MUCH BETTER, TO
SAVE SOMEONE'S LIFE.
IT'S SOMETHING INCREDIBLE I CAN
SHARE WITH A LOVED ONE.
I WAS ABLE TO HELP THAT PERSON
IN A TREMENDOUS WAY.
AND I DECIDED THAT MY LIFE WORK
SHOULD BE EMS.
YOU KNOW, AND I DID IT WITH JUST
LITTLE PENNIES IN MY POCKET.
I DECIDED I WAS GOING TO ENROLL
IN AN EMERGENCY PROGRAM.
AND I GOT MY EMS CERTIFICATE.
I'M GOING TO LEAVE A GOOD BOOK.
GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH.
I'M GOING TO LEAVE THIS BOOK AND
SEE WHAT THE SAYINGS -- AND
THAT'S AN INDIVIDUAL WHO MIGHT
NEED THEM, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
>> I'M CITY COUNCILMEMBER RICHEY
TORRES.
I REPRESENT COUNCIL DISTRICT 125
WHICH IS THE CENTRAL BRONX.
THE FIRST TIME I ACKNOWLEDGED MY
SEXUALITY WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL TO
MY DEBATE COACH, WHO ALSO
HAPPENED TO BE GAY.
WHEN I FOUND SOMEONE IN MY LIFE
WHOM I ADMIRE WHO WAS ALSO LGBT,
IT INSPIRED ME TO COME OUT.
HERE IN THE BRONX, THERE ARE NO
GAY MECCAS, LIKE THE VILLAGE OR
CHELSEA.
THE LGBTQ POPULATION IN THE
BRONX IS MUCH LESS VISIBLE, MUCH
MORE DISPERSED BECAUSE
HOMOPHOBIA CONTINUES TO RUN DEEP
IN THE SOCIAL LIFE OF THE BRONX.
THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY, ESPECIALLY
IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR,
CONTINUES TO BE A TARGET OF
DISCRIMINATION.
YOU HAVE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO
CONTINUE TO BE BULLIED IN THEIR
SCHOOLS.
YOU HAVE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO
CONTINUE TO BE EVICTED FROM
THEIR HOMES AT THE HANDS OF
THEIR OWN PARENTS.
AND A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO, I
CAME TO DISCOVER REAL GAPS IN
THE SHELTER SYSTEM AND ITS
FAILURE TO PROPERLY SERVE THE
LGBTQ COMMUNITY.
I WAS ABLE TO PERSUADE THE CITY
TO CREATE THE FIRST EVER DHS
SHELTER SPECIFICALLY FOR THE
LGBTQ COMMUNITY.
>> THIS IS AN 81-BED SINGLE
ADULT FACILITY FUNDED BY THE NEW
YORK CITY HOMELESS SERVICES.
WE WORK WITH YOUNG ADULTS
BETWEEN THE AGES OF 18 AND 30
WHO IDENTIFY AS PART OF THE
LGBTQIA PLUS COMMUNITY.
WE PROVIDE CASE MANAGEMENT
SERVICES, PEER COUNSELING,
ENTITLEMENT COORDINATION,
HOUSING COORDINATION AS WELL AS
VOCATIONAL SERVICES, INCLUDING
VOCATIONAL COUNSELING AND JOB
DEVELOPMENT.
SO WE CHOSE THE NAME OF MARCIA'S
HOUSE AFTER MARCIA P. JOHNSON.
SHE WAS A TRANSA-ACTIVIST, VERY
WELL KNOWN IN NEW YORK CITY.
SHE STARTED WORKING WITH YOUNG
TRANS LGBT YOUTH WHO WERE NOT
RECEIVING THE SERVICES THEY
NEEDED TO FUNCTION ON A
DAY-TO-DAY BASIS.
AND SHE HELPED TO PROVIDE
EMERGENCY HOUSING SERVICES,
THINGS OF THAT NATURE, TO THESE
YOUNG PEOPLE AND WE THOUGHT IT
WAS, YOU KNOW, ONLY RIGHT THAT
WE NAME THE FACILITY AFTER HER.
>> SO MY NAME IS LESLIE.
I'M 26 YEARS OF AGE.
MOVED INTO MARCIA'S HOUSE IN
SEPTEMBER OF 2018.
I WAS ACTUALLY BORN IN JAMAICA
AND I WAS RASZED IN THE BAHAMAS.
IT'S BEEN A LONG JOURNEY.
I FEEL LIKE I'M STILL ON MY
JOURNEY, STILL MOVING, TRYING TO
DO WHAT I NEED TO DO.
I ALWAYS KNEW THAT I WAS
DIFFERENT FROM OTHER GUYS.
I ALWAYS KNEW THAT I FELT
DIFFERENT FROM OTHER GUYS.
I ALWAYS KNEW THAT I ACT
DIFFERENT FROM OTHER GUYS.
YOU KNOW, IT MADE ME FEEL
DIFFERENT FROM THEM AS WELL.
THE F WORD, FAG, GAY -- THESE
DIFFERENT TERMS FOLLOWED ME FROM
REALLY YOUNG TO MY LATE TEENS.
MY MOM FOUND OUT I WAS GAY.
PEOPLE BULLIED ME BECAUSE I WAS
GAY.
I FELT LIKE I HAD NO ONE TO TALK
TO.
AND BEING IN THE CARIBBEAN AND
GROWING UP IN THE CARIBBEAN,
IT'S TOUGH.
AND AT THIS PARTICULAR POINT IN
MY LIFE, AT AGE 16, I TRIED TO
COMMIT SUICIDE.
IT FELT LIKE THE WORLD WAS
CAVING IN ON ME.
IT FELT LIKE THE BEST THING TO
DO WAS TO TAKE MY LIFE.
THE NEXT BEST THING WAS TO GET
RID OF MYSELF BECAUSE CLEARLY NO
ONE WANTED ME AROUND.
EVEN MY ADULT LIFE, THERE WAS
NAME CALLING.
JUST A LOT OF NEGATIVITY.
THAT'S WHY I TOOK THE STEP TO
MOVE TO A CITY THAT WOULD BE
MORE ACCEPTING OF MY LIFE-STYLE
AND WHO I REALLY AM AND MY
TRUTH.
I MOVED.
I MOVED AND I WAS STAYING WITH A
RELATIVE AND THAT DIDN'T END
WELL.
AND I WAS PUT ON THE STREET
BASICALLY.
WHEN YOU REACH TO YOUR LOWEST
POINT AND YOU REACH A PART OF
YOUR LIFE WHERE YOU FEEL LIKE
THERE IS NO OTHER PLACE, THERE'S
NO OTHER PERSON AROUND, AND
THERE'S NO OTHER WAY AND YOU
REALIZE THEN THAT GOD IS YOUR
ROCK.
>> A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO, IF YOU
WERE A 21-YEAR-OLD LGBTQ YOUTH
WHO HAD BEEN EVICTED FROM YOUR
OWN HOME BY YOUR OWN PARENTS, IT
WAS OFTEN TOO DANGEROUS FOR YOU
TO GO INTO A DHS SINGLE ADULT
SHELTER.
YOU WERE ALSO INELIGIBLE FOR DIY
CITY YOUTH SHELTER WHICH SERVES
YOUTH UP TO 21 AT THE TIME.
AND ONLY A MAXIMUM OF OF 0 DAYS.
TO EXPECT SOMEONE TO RECEIVE
SHELTER OVER THE COURSE OF 60
DAYS AND MAGICALLY FIND
PERMANENT HOUSING IS
UNREALISTIC.
AND WHAT'S WONDERFUL ABOUT
MARCIA'S HOUSE, IT PROVIDES
SHELTER SPECIFICALLY ORIENTED
FOR THE LGBT COMMUNITY SO IT
FUNCTIONS AS A SAFE SPACE, FREE
OF HARASSMENT, DISCRIMINATION,
AND VIOLENCE.
AND FOR THE FIRST TIME THE LGBTQ
COMMUNITY HAS A SHELTER DESIGNED
SPECIFICALLY WITH THEM IN MIND,
WITH US IN MIND, BEING A MEMBER
OF THAT COMMUNITY MYSELF.
>> DIFFERENT SPACES PROVIDE
DIFFERENT ENERGY.
IF YOU'RE IN AIMEN'S SHELTER, AN
ALL MEN STRAIGHT SHELTER, YOU'RE
NOT GOING TO SEE TWO MEN HUGGING
AND KISSING AND ALL OF THAT, YOU
KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
BEING QUEER, FRIENDLY, YOU'RE
JUST NOT GOING TO BE THAT.
AND MARCIA'S HOUSE IS THE FIRST.
I ACTUALLY SEE PEOPLE, YOU KNOW,
BEING THEMSELVES, YOU KNOW,
EXPRESSING WHO THEY REALLY ARE.
>> WE ARE WORKING WITH PEOPLE
WHO ARE IN SOMETIMES THE MOST
TRYING POINT IN THEIR LIVES, AND
OFTENTIMES THERE IS A LACK OF
SUPPORT SYSTEM, WHICH WE ALL
NEED A SUPPORT SYSTEM TO ACHIEVE
THE GOALS WE SET FOR OURSELVES.
IN ANYONE'S LIFETIME, OBSTACLES
ARE GOING TO BE MANY.
BUT WHAT THESE YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE
SHOWN ME IS THAT YOU CAN
CONTINUE TO GROW THROUGH THE
PAIN.
AND I THINK THAT THAT'S ONE OF
THE KEY TAKE AWAYS FROM MY DAY
TO DAY INTERACTIONS WITH THEM.
>> WE'RE IN A SHELTER THAT
PRIMARILY SERVES LGBTQ YOUTH OF
COLOR.
IF YOU'RE AN LGBTQ YOUTH OF
COLOR, YOU RARELY SEE
REPRESENTATIONS OF YOURSELF IN
THE MEDIA.
HERE YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO
REPRESENT YOURSELF THROUGH YOUR
OWN THOUGHTS, THROUGH YOUR OWN
IMAGES, ON YOUR OWN TERMS.
THE CREATION OF A MURAL CAN BE
AN EXERCISE IN SELF-EMPOWERMENT.
YOU SEE IMAGES OF AFFECTION,
IMAGES OF SUPPORT AND
TOGETHERNESS, EVERYONE EMBRACING
EACH OTHER, STANDING TOGETHER,
AND YOU HAVE MARCIA JOHNSON
LOOKING AS THOUGH SHE'S IN
HEAVEN LOOKING DOWN WITH PRIDE
THAT HER DREAM OF AOMORI KWAL
SOCIETY HAS BECOME A REALITY.
>> LET'S HOPE AND PRAY, LET'S
PUT IT IN THE ATMOSPHERE.
I'LL PUT IT IN THE ATMOSPHERE.
I HOPE THEY LEAVE BEFORE THIS
AIRS.
I'M GOING TO STAY THANKFUL.
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>> PROUD OF YOU, MAN.
>> THANK YOU.
>> YOU DID IT.
YOU TOOK EVERY STEP YOU NEEDED
TO TAKE AND YOU REALLY MADE SURE
THAT YOU STAYED ON TRACK AND
KEPT YOUR SPIRITS HIGH AND YOU
EARNED EVERYTHING YOU GOT NOW.
SO IT'S REALLY JUST A TESTAMENT
TO THE HUMAN SPIRIT AND WHAT YOU
CAN DO WHEN YOU REALLY FOCUS AND
YOU TAKE OBSTACLES AS
OPPORTUNITIES.
>> YES.
>> AND I'M REALLY PROUD OF YOU.
WE'RE ALL REALLY PROUD OF YOU.
YOU WORKED YOUR WAY THROUGH
IMMIGRATION ISSUES, ENROLLED IN
SCHOOL ALL WHILE WORKING AND
PICK UP A SECOND JOB AND SAVED
THIS MONEY AND WENT TO HR A.
APPOINTMENTS WHEN WE NEEDED HIM
TO.
AND WHEN THERE WERE ISSUES WITH
THE PAPERWORK, NO MATTER HOW
MANY TIMES, HE PUSHED THROUGH.
ALL WHILE WEARING A SMILE ON HIS
FACE, YOU KNOW.
AND ALL WHILE -- WHILE INSPIRING
OTHERS TO KEEP GOING.
IT REALLY JUST -- IT'S THE
REASON THAT WE'RE HERE.
IT'S THE REASON THAT WE COME TO
WORK EVERY DAY, FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
LIKE HIM TO HAVE A SHOT.
YOU KNOW, LOOK WHAT YOU DO WITH
IT.
>> YOU'RE HEARING THIS.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO HEAR THAT
FOR YOU?
>> IT'S JUST -- IT'S JUST LIKE,
YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE
YOUR LIFE IS SAD, YOU KNOW, YOU
FEEL LIKE -- HOW MUCH MORE CAN I
TAKE?
HOW MUCH MORE CAN I ACTUALLY PUT
IN?
HOW MUCH MORE AM I WILLING TO
SACRIFICE?
AND I JUST KEPT PUSHING AND I'M
JUST HAPPY THAT I'M ABLE TO HEAR
IT FROM SOMEONE WHO SAW, YOU
KNOW, THAT I WAS DOING IT, AND
THEY SAW THAT I WAS TRYING TO
PUT IN THE WORK AND THEY SAW
THAT I WAS RESILIENT AND I KEPT
GOING, NO MATTER HOW MANY DOORS
KEPT SLAMMING IN MY FACE, I KEPT
CREEPING AROUND INTO THE
WINDOWS.
I FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU'RE BROKEN
AND MOST PEOPLE, IT REALLY
DEPENDS ON THE INDIVIDUAL, A
FIGHTER IN THEM.
AND I HOPE THIS INSPIRES AND
TELLS -- LEAVE A POSITIVE
PICTURE TO SOMEONE ELSE THAT
SOMETIMES WHEN WE GET BROKEN,
IT'S REALLY TOUGH TO FIND THAT
RESILIENT SPIRIT IN US TO KEEP
FIGHTING BECAUSE I COULD HAVE
GIVE UP.
I COULD HAVE FAILED OUT ON
DRUGS, I COULD HAVE END UP IN
SEX WORK.
I COULD HAVE DECIDED TO JUST
KILL MYSELF BECAUSE I WAS VERY
LOW AND HURT AT THAT POINT IN MY
LIFE.
BUT LOOK AT ME TODAY.
>> THANK YOU.
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>> JUST TAKE YOU GUYS IN THE
ROOM.
WHY ARE YOU --
>> AH, YES.
I HAVE AFFIRMATIONS ALL OVER THE
ROOM.
JUST A LITTLE REMINDER OF THINGS
THAT KEEP ME GOING.
THINGS THAT KEEP MY MIND FOCUSED
AND ON TRACK.
THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING IN THE
ROOM.
WHICH IS MY MIRROR.
I LOVE THE MIRROR.
I'M GOING TO BE DOING A LITTLE
BIT OF CHANGING UP TO IT, BUT
THIS IS ME FOR NOW.
ONE WEEKEND.
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Funders

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