At-Risk LGBTQ youth have a message to share at the divisive ATLAH sign

This story was also covered by The Huffington Post

“The homo demons have metastasized in Harlem restaurants possibly transmit sexual disease”

“Many of these homos moving into Harlem looking for Black meat”

A group of young adults, who are part of Harlem United’s HOME group for LGBT young adults of color, were out and about in Harlem on Saturday. They were doing a photoshoot with renowned yoga photographer Robert Sturman, who graciously donated his services. These young adults, many of whom are low-income, homeless, living with HIV, and/or at-risk for HIV, have been practicing yoga recently with Three and a Half Acres Yoga, a new initiative by Lara Land and Land Yoga to bring yoga to our program participants and others in upper Manhattan. The weekly yoga sessions quickly became one of the most popular activities at the HOME space and the shoot with Robert Sturman was a new peak for the participants.

Then we saw the sign.

Many of the young adults had never seen the sign before and were shocked at it.

Lionel, a Harlem United client, looked at the sign and said, “I came to Harlem for housing, not Black meat.”

The young adult participants immediately wanted to take a photo in front of the sign and Robert agreed that the juxtaposition would be a powerful and important message.

Our clients struggle daily with being made to feel like they are invisible. To be the subjects of Robert Sturman portraits echoes what we already know: these lives and these stories matter. When the group walked past the divisive sign, our young adult participants and Robert all agreed they needed to make a response: Harlem is our home too.

Francisco Lazala is a program coordinator with Harlem United’s program for at-risk young LGBTQ adults of color

Photograph by Robert Sturman