First-ever LGBT Puerto Rican Diaspora Summit in New York City

NEW YORK CITY –  For many LGBT Puerto Ricans in the diaspora, carving a space to safely coalesce around their gender and sexuality as Puerto Ricans has proven to be challenging. This summer, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in partnership with the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College has sought out to change this. The first ever LGBT Puerto Rican Diaspora Summit, “LGBT Ricans: El Encuentro, Beyond Marriage Equality”, will unite key members of the Puerto Rican Diaspora as a part of the Puerto Rican Day Parade programming on June 11th, 2016, from 11am to 5pm.

“El Encuentro will facilitate LGBT leadership and its supporters for the island and the USA, to come together not just to celebrate recent historic achievements, but also to look toward the future and discuss ways to network and continue to work closely together toward ensuring justice, equality and safety for all.,” said Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, president of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. “I am proud of this summit and am certain that it will lead to an ongoing conversation between leaders in Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland, in which communities on both sides could tremendously benefit.”

 “El Encuentro” will serve as a forum, including government officials and Puerto Rican LGBT rights activists from both sides of the Atlantic and will take place at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work. “At Centro, we saw it as necessary to lend our knowledge and space for LGBT Puerto Ricans to come together in the context of the crisis,” said Edwin Melendez, Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. “People are organizing like never before as a reaction to the crisis, and as an organization we want to make sure that we include everyone and serve as a hub for knowledge and potential solutions to be shared across different groups.”

 Featured “El Encuentro” speakers include Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of San Juan; Melissa Mark Viverito, New York City Council Speaker, actress and advocate Johanna Rosaly, boxer Orlando “El Fenómeno” Cruz and human rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano. The Summit is co-presented by the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, and organizations Puerto Rico Para Tod@s and LGBT Puerto Rico.
 “LGBT Ricans: ‘El Encuentro’ is an effort to continue to build community. We’ve made great strides in the struggle for LGBT equality, but we haven’t achieved it yet. Even after we do achieve full equality, we must get to the issues of justice and liberation,” said Pedro Julio Serrano LGBT rights activist and “El Encuentro” Organizer. “That’s why we’ll come together as LGBT Puerto Ricans with our supporters, to empower, to build, and to move toward a more inclusive and just society for all.”

Serrano, alongside many others will be honored by the National Puerto Rican Day Parade at “El Encuentro”, as this year’s parade is dedicated to the advancement of the LGBT community on the island and the mainland.

During El Encuentro, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade will present special recognition to leaders being honored during Sunday’s Parade. These include:

Orlando “El Fenómeno” Cruz, olympic athlete and first openly gay boxer;
Ada Conde and Ivonne Alvarez, LGBT activists who filed a federal lawsuit seeking recognition of their Massachusetts marriage in Puerto Rico;
Dra. Rosalina “Talin” Ramos, LGBT activist and founder of la Parada de Orgullo LGBTT del Oeste;
Soraya Santiago, legendary activist and first woman to undergo gender confirmation surgery in Puerto Rico;
Sylvia Rivera, LGBT activist and leader in the Stonewall’s Riots (Posthumous);
Antonia Pantoja, founder of ASPIRA (Posthumous);
Her life partner, Wilhelmina Perry, founder of Faith Leaders of African Descent;
Barbra Herr, legendary transgender actress;
Karina Claudio Betancourt, LGBT activist and Director of Open Society Foundations;
Andy Praschak, founder of the Foundation for Human Rights;
Holly Woodlawn, transgender actress, model and activist, will be honored with a Posthumous Recognition.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, pioneer actress Johanna Rosaly and San Juan City Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz will be Parade “Madrinas” (Godmothers) of the LGBT contingent at #PRParade, in recognition of their tireless work on behalf of LGBT rights.

 LGBT Ricans: El Encuentro, Beyond Marriage Equality follows a successful summit held last month at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies to address the island’s economic crisis and its implications to stateside Puerto Ricans. El Encuentro is the first of a series of summits that will expand on the diverse panels held part of the series called “Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans”.

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