This past Saturday was the first-ever Bronx LGBT Expo, in what is planned to be an annual event.
Clearly, by the turnout and the positive response to this exposition, the creators were spot on when they conceived the idea!
The vision of the event, conceived by artist, Jose Ramon Medina and Bronx Historical Tours founder, Alexandra Maruri, was to bring together local businesses, entrepreneurs, talent and artists from The Bronx, showcased under one roof in celebration of World Pride 2019 and the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and a half-century of LGBT liberation.
This vision became a reality thanks to the tireless efforts of The Bronx LGBT Expo CEO, Albert Rodriguez and a committed team of volunteers, who did an outstanding job bringing together the participating LGBT Bronx-based businesses that serve the Borough in a variety of industries, securing sponsors and donating their time to the set up of this event.
The venue hosting this event, is home to Bronx Barx, the only Doggie Daycare in the borough, and was clad with colorful rainbow flags, balloons and artwork covered walls.
Graciously opening up their space, this independently owned business reinvented their interior for the celebration, turning it into a forum for over a dozen enterprises to display their respective products and services.
The exhibitors consisted of both LGBT-owned companies as well as those in the Borough and surrounding area that serve, in a specific and heartfelt way, the LGBT community.
I had an opportunity to meet and chat one-on-one with Alexandra, Jose Ramon and the wide variety of exhibitors and speakers participating in the day's festivities. The atmosphere was upbeat, cheery and positive.
As an ally to the community, I attended along with my 15-year old daughter and we couldn't have found the staff and attendees more welcoming and eager to talk about their goods and services.
The cross section included a financial institution, healthcare providers, medical centers, a pharmaceutical company, outreach program organizations, a music and dance company, a specialist in counseling training and job placement, artists, authors, an online news outlet and more.
LIST OF THE BRONX LGBT EXPO
EXHIBITORS AND SPONSORS
Bronx Historical Tours
Gefface Photo Booth
(Latino Outreach and Understanding Division)
Mott Haven Historic Districts Association
Montefiore Medical Center
NYC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Recoveries R Us
In addition to the plethora of information shared, there was no shortage of swag and fun merchandise to fill the totes being given away!
Equally important and perhaps more heartfelt than creating a celebration and event to showcase local businesses, was the highlight put on mental health, namely, the emotional and mental illnesses that continue to affect individuals within the LGBT community with a panel that included mental health professionals, counselors and activists.
The panel was of an important aspect to The Expo, from day one when the event was conceived by Jose Ramon. As a survivor of mental illness himself, the Bronx artist has made it his mission to bring awareness of the suffering experienced by lesbians, gays, transgenders and others within the community, through his White Shirt Project and his ongoing advocacy.
Moderated by Gary Axelbank, founder and publisher of ThisIsTheBronx.info, the panel discussions began with and a prayer given by Rev. Carmen Hernandez. In his introductory speech Axelbank said it best, stating that this event was an example of inclusiveness for everyone to be who they are, "with no one left behind."
The morning panel included a special focus on the challenges facing those member of the Transgender community, which was led by Kim Watson, author of The Modern Woman and trans activist.
Nicole Bowles, another activist and founder of Sister 2 Sister 4 Real Network, made a heartfelt statement about how all humans should be treated with respect, asking for support and understanding within the LGBT community for their transgender brother and sisters.
The afternoon program focused on the important issue of depression, which is quite prevalent within the LGBT community, highlighting recovery services provided by non profits.
The event received television coverage as well from News 12 providing a great audio-visual overview of the day, entitled "Inaugural Bronx LGBT Expo creates safe space for community!"
Next year's 2nd Annual Bronx LGBT Expo is sure to be even more expansive so stay tuned for updates on the scheduled date!!
Until next time,
I don't need your tolerance
I don't need your acceptance
What I demand
is your respect
For my Humanity
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Elisa is a travel blogger and freelance writer. She is co-founder of TravelinCousins.com travel blog and writes a weekly column for ThisIsTheBronx.info.