AfterEllen visits the oldest continuously operating LGBT center in the US

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Can you guess where the oldest continuously operating LGBT center in the US is located?  Nope, it’s not in NYC or Los Angeles, although those are great guesses. To be fair, if it weren’t for the key words “continuously operating,” the LGBT center in LA would hold the title. However, because that center was closed for a period of time, this particular claim to fame belongs to none other than the Pride Center of the Capital Region in Albany, New York.

AfterEllen took a little road trip to New York’s state capital last week to meet with Executive Director and CEO of the Pride Center, Martha Harvey, who was recovering from a highly successful yet exhausting week of Pride. And we went bearing gifts! Baked by Melissa sent us on the road with their bite-sized sweets, made exclusively for Pride month. Thanks, Baked by Melissa! Look at these fabulous mini rainbow cupcakes!

photo by Baked by Melissa

photo by Baked by Melissa

And the sweet rainbow heart gift box they come in is perfect for Pride month, right?

 

Baked by Melissa

Baked by Melissa

 

The Pride center is located in downtown Albany, housed inside a quaint old brownstone building on Hudson Avenue. Conveniently, it is just steps from the gay bars on Lark Street, and based on appearance alone, not much has changed since it was founded in 1970. Of course, a lot has actually changed over the years, and this year the center brought on Martha Harvey as its new Executive Director and CEO, who brings her business background to the table. “We’ve scaled back recently in terms of staff, because I want to make sure the center remains sustainable,” she explained. “We’ve gone from a governing board to a working board, and we’re fortunate to have many volunteers from the community to keep our programs running.”

A few of those important programs include Vintage Pride, which connects LGBT seniors with social and educational events, and Center Youth, which provides HIV testing and an alternative prom for LGBT kids. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Despite the small staff, the center serves ten counties and provides a wealth of services and training for health providers, K-12 schools, colleges, businesses, organizations, and government agencies serving the LGBT community. And every year, rain or shine, they put on a Pride parade and festival like no other.

Photo by Jay Zhang

“It was ninety-five degrees in Albany during the parade. Heatstroke was in my future,’ Martha shared with me over our brightly-colored rainbow cupcakes. “But we had the largest parade in Albany’s history, so that was very cool. Also, the city turnout is a big way to cheer everyone on. Young, old, black, white, gay, straight, it is always the feel-good moment of the year. She was also pleased that the parade was featured in The Advocate this year as well.  “It was a lot of work, and worth every minute. Betty Who and Maxine Nightingale performed, and it brought the entire community together.” Crowds poured in from all over the region, and since the city is only a few hours drive from NYC, Albany is the perfect alternative if you’re looking to celebrate Pride outside of the congestion of NYC.

Martha, pictured above, and her wife of twenty-five years (legally married since 2009) Holly, have lived in nearby Hudson, NY for the past eleven years,

Albany has a rich political history, of course, being the state capital. And if you know your LGBT  history at all, you know that the origins of the gay rights movement began with The Stonewall Riots in New York City. You may not know, however, that Albany is where Marriage Equality for New York State was passed in 2011, making it the sixth state in the nation to pass the legislation. Further, Albany scored a 95% on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipality Equality Index. To top it off, the city’s gay and lesbian population was ranked at  66% above the national average in a 2000 census.

You can learn more about the Pride Center of the Capital Region HERE. And if you happen to drop by, I heard they love rainbow cupcakes.

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