The dozen or so young people who turned out for Monday evening’s mayoral forum at the LGBT Community Center and ended up stealing the show for their impassioned demonstration on behalf of the Dignity For All Student Act (DASA), an anti-bullying measure that the Bloomberg administration is refusing to implement, are affiliated with Generation Q, a five-year old program for queer youth in Queens.
The program, which is housed on the second floor at 30-74 Steinway Street in Astoria, offers services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning youth, 13 to 22, every day from about 11 a.m. until at least 7:30 p.m. Generation Q is funded by the Forest Hills Community House, a longtime service organization that got its start as a settlement house early in the last century.
According to Marisa Ragonese, who directs the operations at Generation Q, the group has worked on training young people to become more politically active and visible, both in their home communities and throughout the city. Activism on behalf of DASA was a natural for the most motivated of the program’s members.
“When we found out that Mayor Bloomberg was fighting against the Dignity for All Students Act, we were extremely hurt,” said Keith Mulet, 19-year-old student at John Jay College active with the group since he was 19, who was among Monday’s demonstrators. “When he called DASA ‘silly’ we were offended. Our fear and our pain isn’t silly.”
Mulet also commented on the courage it took for his colleague Cynthia McBride to interrupt the evening’s moderator, Miriam Yeung, to launch the protest.
“We were all terrified of speaking up,” Mulet said. “It was the scariest for Cynthia. She had to interrupted the moderator and ask the candidates herself. It’s sometimes scary to fight for your rights. But hearing the crowd cheer for us, and knowing that we represent young LGBT people, a group that is always ignored by media, made us much more confident. We represented all the kids who were beat up, scared, depressed, and terrified of having their own voices heard.”
Ragonese said the members are determined to keep the pressure on the mayoral candidates in the wake of the forum, and will particularly press Human Resources Administration Commissioner Verna Eggleston to keep her pledge to arrange a meeting between Generation Q and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Ragonese said her organization has a core of about ten young people who access the center on a regular basis each week, another several dozen who attended less regularly and up to 300 who attend special parties and other events Generation Q hosts.
The group is launching a stage presentation, “y2YO!” written by Generation Q members to educate the wider community about issues facing LGBT youth. It will premiere on Thursday, April 21 at the groups headquarters at 6 p.m. The following two nights, “y2YO!” will be presented at Wild Café, 59 E. Fourth St. in Manhattan, between Second Avenue and Bowery at 7 p.m.
For more information on Generation Q, call 718-204-5955 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.