Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gender Neutral Bathrooms: Diesel Cafe Leads the Way

On May 22nd, 2014, the Somerville Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to amend Somerville’s human rights ordinance to include gender identity as a protected class. This got a lot of people thinking about what we can do to make Somerville safer and more welcoming to transgender people. One easy thing to do is to change single-stall bathrooms into gender neutral bathrooms. Transgender people often feel unsafe using multi-stall restrooms, where they may be misgendered and encounter verbal or physical abuse. Having a single stall, gender neutral bathroom means that they can use the bathroom safely, and no one will question their right to use that bathroom.

I interviewed Jess Brasil, the Operations Manager at Diesel Café, Bloc 11 Café, and Forge Baking Company about Diesel Café’s gender neutral bathrooms.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

LGBT Liaison Logo

The LGBT Liaison has a new logo! Thanks to the Webmaster for designing this beautiful image that captures the spirit of our office.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

hear me OUT

hear me OUT
An Intergenerational Oral History Project for the Somerville LGBT Community
A partnership between the SCOA LGBT Board, Somerville High School GSA, and Tufts University LGBT Center

Somerville LGBT youth and older adults can sign up to participate in a unique intergenerational project that pairs older adults in the Somerville LGBT community with Tufts and Somerville High School Students. In this 7-week program you will develop a partnership with an LGBT member of the Somerville Council on Aging, learn how to capture and record your personal story, gain new insight into the history of the LGBT community in Somerville and Massachusetts, craft interview questions create a specific story, and produce a recording that can be shared with the community at large as an on-going resource.

For more information, please contact Simone Martell at the Somerville Council on Aging at SMartell@somervillema.gov.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shoveling for Somerville

It Takes a Village to make a city a home.

Want to be more engaged in Somerville's Village?  There are many ways we in Somerville show our pride through giving, sharing or building strong connections. 

We can help make our day-to-day routine have more meaning and build stronger neighborhoods by participating more.

Here are some ideas for making your neighborhood great:

  •       Surprise someone you know who has a hard time shoveling by doing their whole walk (bennies for you: exercise bonus and warmed cockles in your heart).
  •       Sign up to be a Shoveling Volunteer with SomerServe to help us connect seniors and people with disabilities with help (bennies for you: knowing you did a good deed).
  •       Dig out a hydrant so it's completely clear from the street through to the sidewalk (bennies for you: your home and your neighbor's homes are safer).
  •       Keep a shovel for you and your neighbors to share to clear the sidewalk, dig out a car, or push out the edges after the snowplow comes by (bennies for you: you can take pride in being helpful and prepared).
  •       One day each winter take your shovel and go door-to-door to help out with clearing walks (bennies for you: get to know your neighbors).
  •       Do an exchange by helping your neighbor or landlord clear their walk and driveway in exchange for parking your car in the driveway (bennies for you: prime real estate for your car).
  •       Organize a team of friends, family, neighbors or members of your religious center to shovel out seniors and people with disabilities (bennies for you: bonding with great people).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Got questions about a relationship?

Know the signs of partner abuse?

Domestic violence is common throughout every possible community no matter how much a family earns or how much education anyone has.  It doesn’t matter what country an abuser or survivor comes from.  It doesn’t matter the gender, the status of dating or marriage, age, or sexual identity.  It DOES matter if we know what are healthy relationship signs and what are NOT healthy.  For ourselves, our kids, co-workers, neighbors, or other people in our lives, we’re sharing the signs and where you can turn to with questions.

RESPOND, Inc., a pioneer in the movement to end domestic violence, is New England's first domestic violence agency and the second oldest in the nation. Its work began in the early 1970s, when four Somerville, Massachusetts women started a grassroots effort to support victims of domestic violence by opening their own homes as safe havens for women fleeing abuse. In 1974, these "founding mothers" formed RESPOND, Inc. For over 35 years RESPOND has provided life-saving shelter, support services, training and education to more than 100,000 members of the community.

What is Abuse?

It’s abuse if a partner ever:
·  Hit, kicked, shoved, strangled or hurt you in any physical way?
·  Screamed at you, put you down, threatened, ridiculed or criticized you repeatedly?
·  Been constantly or violently jealous?
· Punched the wall or broken things in anger?
·  Blamed you for their problems?
·  Used or threatened to use a gun, knife or other weapon against you?
·  Told you no one will believe you?
·  Kept you from seeing your friends or family?
·  Coerced or forced you to participate in sexual acts?
·  Kept your paycheck from you or restricted access to your money?
· Relentlessly called, texted, IM'd, e-mailed or used other forms of technology to harass you?
· Followed or stalked you?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may need some help. Below is a list that will help identify a high risk domestic violence relationship. This list is intended as a guideline; if "yes" is answered to one or more of these questions, please call RESPOND's 24/7 hotline 617-623-5900 to create a safety plan, get more information and learn what you can do to minimize the level of risk.

Relationship Signs to Look At 

Is there or has there been:
1. An escalation in violence (severity or frequency) within the past year?
2.  Access to guns and/or weapon(s)?
3. Recent estrangement (left/ended the relationship or recent separation within the last year)?
4.  Unemployment?
5.  Threats, display of or use of a weapon(s)?
6.  Threats to kill you/your children/family?
7.   Avoided arrest or police involvement for domestic violence?
8. Child(ren) from another relationship?
9.  Forced or coerced sex?
10.  Strangulation/choking, past or present?
11. Use of drugs?
12.   Abuse of alcohol?
13.  Control of daily activities?
14.  Violently or obsessively jealous?
15.  Violence during pregnancy?
16.  Attempted or threatened suicide?
17.   Threats to kill or harm children?
18.  Fear of being seriously harmed or killed?
19.  Stalking/monitoring/harassing?

Now What?
If so, you may be in an abusive relationship. Sometimes people are not sure if they are being abused. Abuse is a pattern of controlling and coercive behavior one individual uses over another to gain power and control in the relationship. People who are abused often blame themselves, think no one will believe their story or think their situation is hopeless with no way out. If you have experienced these things, are being hurt or abused in any way, it is not your fault! At RESPOND, we will help you find strategies to keep safe. You are not alone. Please call RESPOND's 24/7 hotline at 617-623-5900 for more information, options, resources and referrals.

If you concerned for a friend, loved one, colleague or family member, please call the 24/7 hotline 617-623-5900. RESPOND can listen and help determine the best way to approach your loved one to let them know there is help.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Global Muslim Women's Shura Council: six principle objectives

Colorful Women in Hijabs
by Lail a Shawa (starsonadarknight)
Part Two: review of the teachings of Islam regarding domestic violence.

The Global Muslim Women's Shura Council condemns domestic violence as an absolute violation of the teachings of Islam.

The Holy Qur'an clearly advocates against domestic violence, promoting harmony and affection between husband and wife. 

The Maqasid al--Shari’ah
According to scholarly consensus, the six “principle objectives” (maqasid) of the Shari’ah demand the protection and promotion of religion (din), life (nafs), mind (‘aql), family (nasl), dignity (‘ird), and wealth (mal) in society. Inflicting injury on one’s spouse is a violation of at least four of these fundamental principles –the objectives of Life, Mind, Dignity, and Family – which the Shari’ah aims to protect and which undergird Islamic law.

The Protection of Life: Under Shari’ah, the objective of Life upholds the sanctity of human life according to the dignity God bestowed on humankind, and it protects against bodily harm of any kind. Domestic violence endangers lives of countless women every day.

The Protection of Mind:  Domestic violence harms the minds of all parties in the household, including the partner who is subjected to violence and the partner who commits the aggression. Growing up in a violent household damages children’s psyche, making them prone  to depression, psychosis, and violence. The

Protection of Dignity: The objective of Dignity maintains the worthiness and nobility of each human being, which he or she is given by God. This edict protects against slander, the breach of privacy, everyday fear, and disrespect; it also promotes basic human freedoms. All forms of domestic violence breach this principle.

The Protection of Family: Finally, domestic violence violates the objective of Family, which makes the family a safe refuge for all of its members. Domestic violence also harms the family by precluding a loving and trusting relationship between the husband and wife. Violence may lead to divorce.

The Global Muslim Women's Shura Council is an inclusive council of Muslim women scholars, activists, and specialists.  The Shura Council endeavors to connect Islamic principles to society's most pressing issues and develop holistic strategies for creating positive social change. In the following statement, the Shura Council condemns domestic violence as an absolute violation of the teachings of Islam. For more information about the Global Muslim Women's Shura Council, please visit: www.wisemuslimwomen.org/about~shuracouncil

The above text is solely quoted from
·        Domestic Violence: A Violation of Islam,” The Global Muslim Women's Shura Council (two page handout).  The American Society for Muslim Advancement, New York (NY).
·        Domestic Violence: A Violation of Islam,” The Global Muslim Women's Shura Council (six page digest).  The American Society for Muslim Advancement, New York (NY), 2012.

475 Riverside Drive, Suite 248, New York, NY 101 15
For more information, please visit:

Part One: 

Global Muslim Women's Shura Council Condemns Domestic Violence

Appeared on October 7, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sharing his words

Featured Speaker, Corey Yarbrough (Hispanic Black Gay Coalition) 
2013 Domestic Violence Awareness Event
Public Safety Building, Union Square, Somerville 
October 2, 2013

Thank you for the warm welcome, here this evening.  Thank you especially to Sonja Darai and the City of Somerville for inviting me here today to speak.  It’s also great to be back in Union Square – the neighborhood where my work in Massachusetts began as a community organizer in 2008.  It’s quite a full circle moment that takes me back to my hunger for creating a difference and passion for seeing meaningful change in all of our communities.

As it was stated in my introduction, I am the co-founder and Executive Director of the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition.  HBGC is an organization I co-founded with my partner out of our own experience moving to Boston as two gay men of color looking for community, social support, and fierce advocacy provided by others in our community who looked like us, could identify with us, and had a sense of urgency to unite the resources in our communities to provide for our community. 

As the only non-profit organization in the Greater Boston area solely invested in serving and empowering the Latino and Black LGBT community, we face a heavy burden for meeting the unique and diverse needs of our community. Some ways in which we are doing so include offering coming out support, sexual health testing and counseling, spiritual care, sensitivity trainings and civic engagement opportunities.

One of the highlights over the last two years that I look forward to discussing more today is our TOD@S initiative.   TOD@S  is an inter-agency collaboration of The Network/La Red, The Hispanic Black Gay Coalition, The Violence Recovery Program at Fenway Health, and Renewal House. Together we work to improve and increase access to intervention and prevention services for LGBTQ  Black and Latino people affected by partner abuse.  Since 2011, we have worked together to bring culturally grounded services and awareness raising events to the LGBT community in Boston and surrounding cities like Somerville.

But my desire to see a world rid of discrimination, violence, and partner abuse is not just a professional calling – but a deeply personal one as well.  As many of you may be able to identify with, my upbringing has always been saturated by acts of violence. 

As a Black male rooted in American culture, I often witnessed the multi-faceted violence perpetuated by our government and society through racist behavior, educational disparities, and police harassment. 

As a child, one of my earliest memories is of my parents having heated arguments in their bedroom and, one night, peaking in to witness my father shoving my mother down to the ground. 
As a young adult, those childhood experiences would haunt me once again after hearing of my own brother’s suicide, following a string of intimate violence with his girlfriend that everyone simply dismissed as two young people being crazy in love.  

And then there is my own experience as a gay male growing up in a society that made me ashamed to live openly and freely.  Believe it or not, at one point, I actually felt more protected and secure buried deep in the closet rather than “coming out” and facing isolation from my family, ex-communication from my church, and discrimination from a harsh, judgmental world.   These fears would bring be face to face with my own experience with sexual assault and partner abuse as a teenager. 

In that moment of experiencing abuse, I was faced with a Catch-22:  Do I publicly “out” myself as a gay man to expose my abuser?  Would I risk religious, societal, and family rejection by doing so?  Is it even abuse if another man is the perpetrator?  Isn’t part of being a strong, independent Black man, learning dealing with things like this on my own?  Did I deserve this for being different?

For the first time in my life I felt powerless, a lack of control over my own body, and more shameful than I could’ve ever imagined. 
I share these stories with you today not to list my credibility for serving as today’s featured speaker.  Not even to further contribute to the somber mood that is to be expected at community vigils like these.  I share these stories with you all here today to help shatter the stigma and reveal that you are not alone.  You are not alone in your experiences and stories.  You are not alone in your feelings and pain.    And you are not alone in your anger and desire to fight back.   

At today’s vigil, we are here to remember those we have lost to domestic violence and uplift others who have been impacted by domestic violence and partner abuse.  For me, remembering and honoring those affected by violence and abuse (like the names we just heard today) requires restoring power --- power in ourselves as individuals, power as a collective community, and the power of our community agencies to effectively identify and respond to the needs of everyone in our community.

First, we find power in knowing that we are not alone.  Though the “who what when and where” may shift periodically, the impact that violence has had on us all is difficult to ignore.    Our stories, regardless of how irrelevant or embarrassing we have been conditioned to believe they are, are powerful beyond measure.  For example, your story of experiencing domestic violence as a heterosexual male may help a friend take a relative more seriously when they reach out for support.    Your story of cultural abuse from a partner, may help others realize that abuse come in other forms beyond physical.  Your story of supporting a friend through partner abuse, may inspire someone else to learn the warning signs of partner abuse and how to respond accordingly.  

For those who are still a little skeptical, I have the data to back it up to.  Earlier this year, TOD@S completed a community assessment among individuals who identified as Latino or Black and also as lesbian, bisexual, gay, and/or transgender.  We asked them to share their thoughts on finding and accessing domestic violence services as LGBTQ people of color in the Boston area. 

When asked “What is the best way to communicate information about partner abuse to the community?” 80 percent of respondents said “hearing personal stories from those affected by partner abuse” would be most helpful.  This complimented 55 percent of our respondents admitting that partner abuse is rarely or never discussed in their community.

Embracing and sharing our experiences, in a safe and appropriate environment when one is ready and able, holds the key for healing from our pain, uniting others across cultural and socioeconomic lines, and igniting a cultural shift that can bring meaningful change on both an individual and social level. 
So I will hope you stand resolved with me to find the power in our own experiences as a means to find healing within and impact the world around us.  We all have a story, even if it is one that comes from your experience here today. 

But if I was to be honest, I must share that it will take more than our individual stories to create the conditions where we will no longer need to have vigils like these for generations to come.  Though storytelling is a great start, It will also take pulling together the resources of our community and working with our community agencies to force the change we wish to see. 

In the same TOD@S community assessment, we asked:  “What Would Prevent You From Seeking Support Services if You Were Experiencing Partner Abuse in Your Relationship?” .  Multiple responses were recorded and we found:

 51% - over half of all respondents, said fear and distrust of law enforcement would prevent them from seeking support services if they were experiencing partner abuse.

53%, said fear of discrimination from service providers

55%, revealed lack of cultural understanding would prevent them from seeking support services if they were experiencing partner abuse

and at 58% concerns regarding confidentiality topped the list.

These findings reveal that it will take more than our stories, more than our well intentions, and more than our language of inclusion for all to overcome the mountain of fears and barriers that exist for survivors of domestic violence, particularly those who come from underserved and marginalized communities.  It will take us asking the hard questions and finding the right answers that will guide our actions.

Questions such as how our privilege (be it our race, our socioeconomic status, our gender, our education level, our resources) can be used to uplift, rather than oppress, other communities?     

Questions that analyze the impact of racism, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia in our ability to provide meaningful services at our local agencies.

It will require exploring how violence and abuse are replicated on a societal level through our education system, in our criminal justice system, and in our health care system, among others. 
It will take challenging the agencies, that WE may feel comfortable in, to do more to create a welcoming and safe environment for others from a different background.  

And yes, it will take holding our elected officials and community leaders accountable to all of the communities they are in office to represent.

So, I hope you all will also stand resolved with me to use today’s vigil not just to mourn and bring awareness to those who are no longer with us, but to also challenge ourselves to play a  greater role in this movement to eliminate all forms of abuse in our community. 

Together, we truly can dismantle this system of violence with everyone at the table, but it will take us building off of the strength of today’s vigil to create new opportunities for those unable to stand with us here today.  

I hope all of you will join me, and the other agencies represented here today, to move that work forward. 

Thank You.