Asbury Park Center integrates LGBTQ programming

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Rainbow circle with family and a child

In the Community

After years of massive redevelopment, Asbury Park has become a hipster’s paradise. The rising tides of gentrification have been extraordinary for city businesses. The beachfront has now become a place where families and young folk can grab a cocktail at one of many local fine dining restaurants. For many shore residents, the transformation has been exhilarating and a long time coming. For others who live west of the tracks, community need has been overshadowed by a new eastside beachside culture.

“We would like to be a safe place
for our youth, a place for parents to discuss some of their experiences
and concerns”

The LGBTQ community has often been cited as contributing to the revitalization of Asbury Park, a social phenomenon researchers have coined “Gaytrification”: the process by which a neighborhood goes from undesirable to hip and in demand due to the influx and residence of an increased gay population.

Gaytrification is not a new concept but its use can often be misleading. Gentrification derives from the old French word genterise meaning “high born, and noble.” Who is the Gay in the Gaytrification? African American and other ethnic marginalized mixed-income community residents in other major U.S. cities have experienced cultural displacement under the guise of inclusion and tolerance while continuing to lack community resources. How do we preserve the cultural heritage and identity of the LGBTQ community who are at an economic disadvantage?

One in eight same-sex couples in the United States are Latino and one in five same-sex couples are people of color. LGBTQ people continue to face harder economic despair. African-American same-sex couples live at a significantly higher rate of poverty than African-American heterosexual couples. African-American same-sex couples are also three times more likely to live in poverty compared to Caucasian same-sex couples.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey in 2015, transgender people are four times as likely to have a yearly income under $10,000 and twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the typical person in the United States. One in five has reported being homeless at one point in their lives and over 90-percent experience harassment and discrimination within the workplace.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Co-Director and Community Partner of Oceans Family Success, Dennis LoGiudice, along with Rainbow Talk coordinator Arthur Jones to discuss the importance of integrating LGBTQ programming for all members of the community to access.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background here at Oceans Family Success Center?

Dennis LoGiudice: I am the Co-Director and Community Partner for Oceans Family Success Center. My previous experience has been in education, non-profits, and government. I have been working at OFSC for about four months now.

OFSC is a family-geared community center located in the heart of Asbury Park. The mission of Oceans Family Success Center is to strengthen and empower families in the Greater Asbury Park Community through collaborative activities and educational programs. We have programming on financial literacy, resume building, navigating the college process, women’s empowerment, grief counseling, healthy eating and SNAP-Ed programs, tenants’ rights, mentorship, etc. We are currently working on developing a peer recovery program. In addition, we have Rainbow Talk, which is an all-inclusive group that discusses current events and issues within the LGBTQ community.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

DL: One of the things I have enjoyed most throughout my career is to empower people to learn self-advocacy and then to pass that skill on to others. That’s one of the main goals of this organization, so it’s a perfect fit for me.

How has Oceans Family Success Center addressed the growing needs of the local LGBTQ population? 

DL: The Rainbow Talk program was created by one of our volunteers, Arthur Jones. He has been here at OFSC since its opening in 2016. He provides outreach to the community and has built up the attendance of this group quite a bit.

We have received a great deal of feedback, especially regarding the LGBTQ community. We would like to be a safe place for our youth, a place for parents to discuss some of their experiences and concerns, a senior support group, and a group that talks about sustaining healthy relationships. Readers should feel free to email Dennis@OceansFSC.com. He would love to hear your ideas and feedback. Meanwhile, let’s hear from a volunteer.

Arthur Jones. I would love to hear how you get involved with Oceans Family Success.

Arthur Jones: It’s a funny story: advocacy led me to more advocacy. I was on channel 12 news supporting breast cancer awareness. Later that day, a friend spotted me outside Ocean Family Success on Springwood Avenue. That’s when she introduced me to the team at OFSC where they were in the process of creating volunteer positions for youth and family programs. I have a disability with my vision, and I thought it would be an excellent opportunity for me to volunteer as a mentor. That was in 2016.

How did you come up with the idea to create an LGBTQ group?

AJ: I had the opportunity to join the parenting advisory board to really get to hear what the communities need. At OFSC we were making strides with our programs, financial literacy, women’s empowerment, gang diversion. What was missing was Rainbow Talk. I feel like being a “certain age” I helped pave the way for LGBTQ rights, and it was time to give back.

What types of group topics do you discuss at Rainbow Talk?

AJ: Everything! Transphobia and homophobia, especially within different community cultures. Gender identity and expression.

What has been your biggest barrier working with the communities needs?

AJ: Methamphetamine abuse has been on the rise in the LGBTQ community and having the proper resources to effectively treat these unique needs can be challenging. Other local agencies have been successful in addressing HIV prevention, especially through social media app advertisements. We do not provide 12 step meetings, but Rainbow Talk is a safe place to talk about harm reduction and advocate for healthy lifestyle choices.

Having the opportunity to help someone else has really helped me. I wish when I was younger there had been more organizations that provided these types of services. It makes me feel like I matter, it gives me a purpose, a sense of being. I am grateful for this program. No matter what, you will eventually hear your story.

Rainbow Talk meets every Tuesday from 5–6 pm at Oceans Family Success Center, 1201 Springwood Ave #105, Asbury Park.