Building Community Across Borders

 In: Articles

On March 16, 2020, SAGE’s LGBTQ+ elder centers across New York’s usually bustling boroughs did not open their doors. Like so many other non-profit organizations and businesses forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many questions and not enough answers.

SAGE Centers acted as an essential lifeline for older LGBTQ+ New Yorkers, providing meals, access to the internet, a harassment-free space to relax and socialize, and critical care management services. The loss of these facilities, coupled with the impacts of the pandemic, could be devastating.

LGBTQ+ elders have shown us for generations how to come together in times of crisis and take care of our own. Now it was our turn to take care of them. SAGE pivoted our direct services model – establishing weekly check-in calls, helping our constituents receive safe food deliveries, and creating secure virtual programming.

Now, a year later, we offer over 100 weekly virtual programs, our staff and participants have become used to meeting on Zoom, and in some cases, our ties to community have strengthened and expanded far beyond our expectations.

Jueves de Película started as a simple idea: deepen ties of community between Spanish-speaking SAGE participants in the Bronx and those of SAGE’s Puerto Rico affiliate at Waves Ahead. Jose Collazo, the Site Manager at SAGE Center Bronx at Crotona Pride House, and Wilfred Labiosa, Executive Director of SAGE Puerto Rico, brainstormed on how to stay connected. The result was Jueves de Película, a weekly Zoom movie night featuring LGBTQ+ movies in Spanish with English subtitles.

These films did more than create a fun weekly activity, they created a safe space to share conversations about issues impacting LGBTQ+ older people – ageism, homophobia, transphobia – despite whether they lived in New York or Puerto Rico. Today, the program has grown by over 150% and includes LGBTQ+ elders living in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, San Juan, and Caba Rojo.

Despite the initial challenges of hosting virtual activities, Jueves de Película demonstrates the power that technology has to break down the barriers formed by location or mobility and gave our community the opportunity to connect in a way that we could not before.

Hear more about this beautiful collaboration between SAGE Center Bronx at Crotona Pride House and SAGE Puerto Rico from Wilfred and Jose themselves!