Trans Activists Seek City Support for Jobs Fair

Audre Lorde Project activists picket mayor’s office, pressing him to pitch in

The office of Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who just last week was reelected by a wide margin, was the target this Tuesday of a vocal demonstration by representatives of TransJustice, a working group within the Audre Lorde Project, the queer people of color community center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

The picketers, who gathered from noon to 2 p.m. outside the gated entrance to the City Hall grounds on Lower Broadway, were calling attention to a December 3 jobs fair planned for transgendered New Yorkers and what they said was the Bloomberg’s administration’s refusal to participate in the effort.

“We want city jobs now,” the demonstrators chanted. “Jobs are a right, not just for the rich and white.”

Spokespeople for TransJustice said they first contacted the mayor’s office in advance of an October 26 press conference they held at City Hall to announce the December 3 event, the Trans People of Color Job and Education Fair, the first such event of its kind.

“After having invited both candidates for mayor, along with City Council officials to endorse us at the press conference, the mayor’s scheduler came back to us saying, ‘We’re sorry, but he won’t be able to make it,’” said Imani Henry, one of the job fair organizers who participated in the demonstration.

Two members of the City Council, Margarita Lopez, a lesbian who is finishing up her final term representing Lower Manhattan District 2, and Letitia James, who represents Brooklyn’s District 35 that includes Fort Greene, were on hand October 26 to voice their support for the jobs fair.

Taila Thomas, a TransJustice working group member, said that Bloomberg walked by the press conference as it was going on, but chose to ignore the event. The mayor’s press office was unable to detail what communication, if any, it was aware of between the Bloomberg administration and the jobs fair organizers.

“But if he endorses it now, of course we would accept it,” Thomas said at the demonstration Tuesday. “His political campaign commercials stated that Bloomberg listens to the people of New York. Well, we are the people of New York. It would mean a lot if the city gave us endorsement, because other organizations would then also follow.”

To date, Con Edison and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are the largest employers who have agreed to participate in the December event. Other organizations that have confirmed include The New School University’s Eugene Lang College, the Fortune Society, a non-profit group that educates the public about prisons, the State University of New York at Purchase, the LGBT Community Center, the Empire State Agenda, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

But Henry and Thomas also voiced disappointment that other major employers among the 150 contacted, including American Airlines, New York University, and IBM, have declined to participate.

Thomas argued that the problems facing transgendered and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers “mirror those faced by all communities of color.”

At this juncture, TransJustice is choosing to focus on economic empowerment, specifically broadening opportunity beyond the sex work that is too often seen as the only recourse.

“Because of violent harassment many people in our community aren’t able to finish high school,” Thomas said. The protesters were out on Lower Broadway “because we want to be able sustain ourselves,” she added. “We are strong people of color and we need to be taken seriously and be respected as human beings.”

The Trans People of Color Job and Education Fair will be held at the Pennsylvania Hotel in midtown on December 3, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 718-596-0342, ext. 18.

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