Gloria Casarez was a revolutionary, Philadelphian who died in 2014 from breast cancer. In 2015, artist Michelle Angela Ortiz and the Mural Arts Philadelphia worked with her family, friends and the community to create a mural that captured not only the image of Gloria, but her legacy through the work she did to further civil rights in our area.
This mural tells the story of her upbringing, Philadelphia loves, and the work she led within the LGBTQ community, fighting poverty, homelessness, and amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities. She was a fierce Latina who inspired many people and movements here and beyond.
In a few weeks, this mural will be demolished by a NYC Midwood Investment & Development despite over 3 years of organizing & public outcry to halt their project.
We need your help telling Midwood Investment & Development to GTPHuck OUT of Philly.
Please help us #KeepGloriaOn12th today by clicking below & spreading the word to your community!
“I created this mural in honor of Gloria’s legacy. The mural was created with over 50 of her friends & family and supported by the Mural Arts Program Of Philadelphia. The circle surrounding Gloria’s portrait was inspired by Pima Mexican Pottery from Chihuahua, Mexico where Gloria’s ancestors are from. The circle then pans out to create an echo effect as a symbol of Gloria’s experiences reverberating out into the community where she worked. Around the circle is one of Gloria’s quotes:
“Engage, Find Your Voice, Expand Your Community”MICHELLE ANGELA ORTIZ, Mural Artist
Why should we #KeepGloriaOn12th ?
This mural is a literal huge representation of the legacy of Gloria Casarez, the first Director of LGBT Affairs in Philadelphia. It honors the Dyke March, gay couples, and the struggles of poverty faced by thousands in our city. You can’t go down 12th Street without seeing the vibrant colors of a woman of color who celebrated not only Philadelphia but the Gayborhood. Located in Center City, the mural creates a statement – keeping women of color who fight for justice in an obvious place where they belong – front and center. It is no accident that the mural was erected in the middle of the Philadelphia Gayborhood, a place for queer people to come and feel like they belonged.
What does demolishing this mural mean? It means the erasure of a prominent Woman of Color’s artwork and mural timeline of Gloria’s legacy. It means an erasure of a Latina Philadelphian. It means the destruction of a visible reminder of the history of this neighborhood that made it what it is.
What else will we lose? If Midwood demolished this block, we will also lose a slice of history.The Henry Minton House is located next door to the mural and is also scheduled for demolition. Henry Minton was an abolitionist, caterer, musician, and restaurateur. In this Philadelphia residence, he entertained Frederick Douglass and gave John Brown a place to stay shortly before the Harpers Ferry raid. He frequently hosted his neighbor, William Still who is often called the “Father of the Underground Railroad.” Many buildings associated with Black history in Philadelphia have been torn down and disregarded. We have a chance here to save an essential piece of our city’s history. We will also lose an important gathering ground. Non-capitalist public spaces are shrinking in our city. There are those among us that fight for our Parks and Libraries where you can just be. The Gloria Casarez Mural represents a space where all are welcome and where you can be literally looked over by someone who fought for you. Philadelphians have come to depend on the mural as a place to gather, to speak out, to protest, to mourn, and to celebrate. Demolishing this mural erases this space in Center City. It gives the message that we are no longer welcome there. We are not welcome in what used to be our neighborhood.
Why now? We are in a pandemic and need to stay safe and socially distant, so virtual protests are what we have at our fingertips. Midwood Investment & Development is located in New York City. They own properties throughout the country, including at least 36 properties in Philadelphia. They are not interested in preserving what makes Philly unique, but building and replacing it with what you might see in gentrified neighborhoods. They want people who live on New York City salaries to feel comfortable moving to Philadelphia. They are not building for the average Philadelphian. They are building to make money off of the neighborhoods and urban vitality that Philadelphians like Gloria Casarez & Henry Minton have spent their lives building.
We have created this website to consolidate information about the Gloria Casarez mural, the Henry Minton House, the danger facing the Camac Baths, and Midwood’s intention to destroy our city’s culture and history. We want to give people a place to take action including a place to send your stories about why Gloria was important to you, what she meant to you, what the Gayborhood means to you, what preserving history means to you. We hope that maybe sharing stories would be a way to show Midwood what they are erasing and unite us as Philadelphians.
Meet Gloria Casarez
Gloria Casarez was the City of Philadelphia’s first director of LGBT affairs, appointed in 2008. During her tenure as director, Philadelphia adopted the broadest LGBT rights protection in the nation and ranked as the number one city nationwide for LGBT equality. Prior to that, Casarez was the executive director of GALAEI from 1999-2008, as well as a founding member of the Philly Dyke March and a long-time activist for marginalized communities. She married her long-time partner Tricia Dressel in 2011 in New York City. Casarez passed away on October 19, 2014, at the age of 42, after a valiant battle with breast cancer.