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Carmen Neely From Harlem Pride: "Providing services for the people where the people are"

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Harlem Pride is a 3-year-old not-for-profit organization co-founded by Carmen Neely and Lawrence Rodriguez. Founded initially as a house party in Harlem to celebrate PRIDE, the pair expanded their idea to incorporate their friends, neighbors and community members, which became, Harlem Pride making it the first ever official PRIDE celebration in Harlem.  The organization now has a full board of directors and 501c3 tax exempt status.

 As we start Black History Month, GLAAD sat down with Carmen Neely, President of Harlem PRIDE to highlight their work in Harlem and across the city.

Mari Haywood: What is your mission for the Harlem Community PRIDE center?

Carmen Neely: The planned community pride center will act as a hub and a resource center for Upper Manhattan’s SGL/LGBT community members and organizations.  It will provide space for meetings and activities, as well as conference rooms and office space for SGL/LGBT organizations. This center would celebrate the illustrious history of Harlem; provide educational, social and cultural programming for all members of our community, office space for local organizations, safe space for our youth, and a comfort zone for our elders.  

MH: What events are being planned or have taken place to bring awareness about the planned community center?

CN: On January 12th, we held a Town Hall meeting to introduce our new programs, activities and events, which included the petition for a community pride center.  An initial article about the center was published on ELIXHER.com. Later, a GLAAD blog was published on January 16th, and on January 29th an article ran in the Daily News highlighting Harlem Pride and the planned community center. In the near future we will begin a capital campaign to start raising funds and continue speaking with community members, local businesses and organizations, as well as local elected officials to gain further support.  We hope to have the center up and running by 2015.

MH: Harlem is so rich in culture specifically with the African-American community, how will you ensure that members of the community know the center is open to all races with Harlem's community becoming more diverse in its population?

CN: We want everyone to know that Harlem Pride is not just for African-Americans; it is for anyone who resides in Harlem, from river to river, and from 110th Street to 155th Street and beyond.  We are inclusive of the wonderful diversity that exists in Harlem and are open to all.

MH: Until the opening of the community center, how can someone become invovled with Harlem PRIDE?

CN: Anyone who is interested in participating with Harlem Pride can visit our website at www.HarlemPride.org email us at info@harlemPRIDE.org, or call us at 347.846.0362 for more information.

MH: Are there any events Harlem PRIDE will be sponsoring or a part of for black history month?

CN: Yes, we will be hosting a Harlem Pride Night at Billie’s Black Restaurant and Bar on Tuesday, February 19th from 5:30PM to 8:30PM.  This event will be both social and educational, as we honor SGL/LGBT figures from the Harlem Renaissance to the present.

MH: PRIDE events typically are viewed as celebrations with attendance being high to mainly parties and evening events, What other events does Harlem PRIDE host that brings more of an educational and informational perspective to PRIDE?

CN: Harlem Pride is an annual event held during the last weekend of June that consists of a VIP Launch Party Cocktail Reception on Friday.  Saturday is our Harlem PRIDE Day celebration in the park, and Sunday is Family Day.  Our first two family day events were held at Harlem Lanes Bowling Alley.  Last year and this year, we will march in the NYC PRIDE March on Sunday for Family Day.  First and foremost, Harlem Pride is a family event.  You can bring your 2 year old child or your 80 year old grandparent to all of our Pride events except, of course, our VIP Launch Party Cocktail Reception which is a fundraiser. From year to year we’ve added events throughout the week and in the future, we plan to make Harlem Pride a weeklong celebration. 

MH: Being a Transgender person of color the struggle we face is very personal to me, what programs does Harlem PRIDE have that are specific to Transgender people of color? 

CN: 2013 is the first year that Harlem Pride has scheduled year-round programming. We are currently working on a community forum that would discuss Transgender issues and have reached out to several community organizations to help us plan it.  We have tentatively scheduled that community forum for November 2013.

MH: Since the start of Harlem Pride, what are some monumental moments you can recall that have shown you that creating this organization was the right decision?

CN: The greatest monumental moment for me is when we realized what Harlem Pride meant to the community at our very first Harlem Pride in 2010.  There were several of our elders who were crying.  When asked why they were crying, their response was that for as long as they’d lived in Harlem, they never thought they’d see a Pride celebration out in the open in Harlem. It was then that I knew we had to work to make Harlem Pride a solid member of the Harlem community.

A second monumental moment is seeing all the support we received when some local churches were reportedly against our being in Marcus Garvey Park in 2011.  We had letters of support from Riverside Church, GMAD, and several elected officials; including Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Christine Quinn, Senator Tom Duane, Assemblyman Keith Wright, and Assemblyman Herman Ferrell. We were provided with increased police protection and we had a wonderful record number turnout.

The most recent monumental moment, is having decided to spearhead the effort to bring a community pride center to Harlem.  

 
MH: In 5 years, where would you like to see Harlem Pride?

CN: In five years Harlem Pride would like to have an entire week of Pride activities, increase its year round programs and activities, expand its volunteer and membership base, create a scholarship program and of course, open the community pride center.

For more information on Harlem Pride and Carmen Neely, visit HarlemPride.org.

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