CLAREMONT VILLAGE — A fledgling Bronx lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group will host what they hope will be one of the largest Bronx pride events ever this Saturday, a little more than a year after the borough’s only LGBT center was toppled by a corruption scandal.
The new Bronx LGBTQ Center is run by a handful of volunteers and still lacks a physical space. By last week, it had collected just enough money to throw the pride festival.
“We’re doing a number of things with no money and no space, but a group of very dedicated volunteers,” said Peter C. Frank, one of the center’s founders and its board secretary. “We hope that the mere fact we’re able to do these things will draw people into the community.”
In June 2012, the Bronx Community Pride Center, which had long hosted an annual Bronx pride festival, shut its doors a few weeks before the event. The LGBT center had run out of money, largely due to its former executive director, Lisa Winters, who was charged that month with looting thousands of dollars from the center for her personal use.
Frank, a Yonkers-based activist who had organized a gala for the old center before its demise, rushed in with a few friends to try to save the festival.
After they pulled off the last-minute event, the small pack of volunteers decided to form a new nonprofit to replace the shuttered center.
Since then, the group has applied for nonprofit status, met with the borough president, and corralled a board of directors.
Last month, the group held a press conference at Bronx Borough Hall to condemn a recent string of anti-gay attacks in the city, led an outreach walk through the South Bronx and marched in Manhattan’s Pride Parade.
Their mission is to unify The Bronx’s sometimes isolated and often overlooked gay and lesbian residents, while ensuring that the borough is a safe, tolerant place for them to live.
“I think we’ve made tremendous progress,” Frank said.
Late last month, the Bronx LGBTQ Center learned that there had been a mix-up and they still owed the Parks Department several thousand dollars in permit fees for their planned July 20 festival.
So they appealed to supporters for donations, not sure what response they would receive.
Within a matter of weeks, individuals and organizations from The Bronx and beyond had donated more than $3,000 — enough to carry on with the festival.
“These past couple weeks have filled me with so much hope for [the center’s] future and growth,” said Tym Moss, a Washington Heights resident who helped organize last year’s Bronx pride festival and has since become the new center’s president.
Saturday’s festival at Crotona Park is set to include some 40 entertainers — from reggae, R&B, Latin and even opera singers to comics to drag performers styled after Prince and Whitney Houston. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other elected officials are also scheduled to stop by.
The event is also a health fair, which will feature free HIV testing and other medical screenings, as well as dozens of different agencies passing out information.
The festival is one of several outreach and wellness events the group has planned.
In the coming weeks, the center hopes to partner with other organization to host town hall meetings, legal clinics, peer support groups and candidate forums, all in donated temporary spaces.
On Thursday, the center is joining other agencies to co-sponsor a LGBT-oriented self-defense workshop run by Quinn’s office at 6 p.m. at Mullaly Park.
Meanwhile, the group’s founders are trying to recruit dues-paying members, who they believe will keep the center sustainable and its leaders accountable.
Any would-be members who can’t pay the full $30 annual dues, however, can pay just $1 and volunteer at events.
Moss, an entertainer who plans to belt out his rendition of “New York, New York” on Saturday, said he hopes to do two things at the new center’s inaugural festival.
“Raise awareness,” he said. “And have a hell of a good time.”