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Why Have a Safety for All Communities Day?

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In the wake of a high-profile incident of violence, people approach me with the same question: what does the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) do to end violence? As AVP's Local Organizer, I am asked this question several times a week -- while doing outreach in bars, in safety trainings and during general conversations about my work. As incidents of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and HIV-affected (LGBTQH) people gained visibility throughout the past year, I was asked this question more frequently.

When someone poses the question, I tell them: AVP has services for LGBTQH people who have experienced or witnessed violence. We organize to end the culture that creates violence.

The reality is AVP's work is more complex than this answer would suggest. In the past year, we have seen high levels of visible and severe violence in New York City: in Staten Island, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. We answer our hotline as it rings off the hook. We work to support survivors and their families and friends. We send alerts, organize vigils and respond to media inquiries, all to let our communities know about the work that we and others do to address violence.

In December 2010, AVP came together with fourteen other organizations to respond to these incidents. Collectively, we are comprised of LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrant communities, youth, adults, allies and survivors of violence. We issued a statement in the Huffington Post, "Shoulder to Shoulder, Ending the Violence," where we addressed our work to change the culture that creates bias. We continue to meet, engaging in our best thinking, creating action steps. Together, we now ask you: what will YOU do to end violence?

The question became all the more urgent this week when we learned that "I HATE THE GAYS" was written into wet cement on a sidewalk at 8th Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets in Chelsea. This language contributes to a culture of violence that makes New York City more dangerous for everyone.

Today, Tuesday, May 24, our fourteen organizations and others have come together to host Safety for All Communities Day. We invite all of New York City to join us. Today there are events across neighborhoods and boroughs, and you will find us doing what we do best, how we know best: ending violence.

Others who will be there are endorsers of Safety for All Communities Day including the Ali Forney Center, Audre Lorde Project, Brainpower, Bronx Community Pride Center, Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Coalition for Queer Youth, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, El Puente, FIERCE, Gay Men of African Descent, Gay Men's Health Crisis, Hear Me ROAR! Project, LGBTQ Intimate Partner Violence Task Force, LGBT Justice Project of Make the Road NY, LGBT Law Project of NYLAG, LGBT Center, Latino Commission on AIDS, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York City Anti-Violence Project, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, OneCleanWorld Foundation, Safe Homes Project, Sanctuary for Families, SWISH, Sylvia Rivera Law Project and others.

When I give my outreach pitch, I am always ready for any possible response. Lately, I've heard, "How can I help?" Our work needs community support to keep it going. Every new person helps to change the culture of violence. That is why I know I'll see you with us today, on Safety for All Communities Day.