FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LGBTQ ORGANIZATIONS COME TOGETHER TO HONOR MISS MAJOR GRIFFIN-GRACY AND JAY TOOLE
Building Housing LGBTQ Groups Officially Named
Miss Major-Jay Toole Building for Social Justice at Private Ceremony
Monday, August 26, 2013 (NEW YORK, NY) – A building located at 147 W. 24th St. in Chelsea which houses five of the city’s longest standing LGBTQ people of color and low income people-led organizations – the Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE, Queers for Economic Justice, Streetwise and Safe and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project - was officially named the Miss Major-Jay Toole Building for Social Justice in honor of two veterans of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in a private ceremony today.
“Naming the building which serves as both a home and an organizing hub for so many LGBTQ people of color in New York City in honor of two warriors who have been at the forefront of movements for LGBTQ liberation is a reflection of the many ways their lives and struggles continue to inspire our work,” said Naa Hammond of FIERCE on behalf of the five organizations located in the building.
For over 40 years, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy has been an activist, instigator, and community organizer. From the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion to her current work as Executive Director of the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), Miss Major has worked tirelessly for social justice and the human rights of transgender women of color. She identifies as a father, mother, grandmother, and grandfather to her own children, and to many in the transgender community. Miss Major has spoken around the world about concerns of transgender women of color in the prison industrial complex. Her life and campaigns are currently the focus of a feature length documentary film, which will be released in 2014.
Reflecting on her long legacy of activism, Miss Major described having a building named in her honor as one of the highlights, but emphasized “I ain’t nobody special, I’m just one of the girls. All these working girls of color need to know what is possible.”
Born in 1948, Jay Toole grew up in an Irish Catholic home in the South Bronx during the 1950’s. At the age of 13, when Jay returned home with the classic butch haircut of the day, a flat top, her father threw her out immediately. With no one and nowhere to turn, she lived on a park bench in Washington Square Park for the next 8 years, and did not have an apartment to call her own until November 2000. She spent five years navigating the NYC homeless shelter system. During her time on the streets she was arrested for crimes such as sleeping on a subway bench, sexual deviancy based on not wearing 3 articles of women’s clothing, and was beaten and abused by the NYPD regularly. Jay identifies the assistance of a few supportive queer individuals from the outside as the one reason she made her way out of the shelter system. It’s precisely this kind of hands-on support that led Jay in 2002 to become a Co-Founder and the Shelter Director at Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), the first and only LGBTQ organization to facilitate for queer individuals inside the shelter system. Jay began a new chapter in 2012, moving forward with her long time dream of Jay’s House the very first LGBTQ adult shelter in the country. Jay’s House will bring together a resource center, support and services, housing, follow up care, skill shares, mentorship and hold hands as people move through difficult systems, such as health care.
“Naming this building after Major and myself is so humbling, this building has been a refuge for so many queers including myself,” Toole said. “You know it’s like a one stop shop that folks in our community know is a home, a safe space for queer folks where there are no judgments. This just ain’t no ordinary building, this is a community building movement that believes and makes sure no one is left behind, and I do mean nobody.”
Learn more about the Miss Major-Jay Toole Building for Social Justice and the organizations currently housed there at: www.mmjt.org.