Brooklyn Man Endured Homophobic Harassment From Neighbors, Threw A Block Party To Bridge The Divide

Kindness Party organizer, Jordan Reeves, preps volunteers before the event.

NEW YORK— Jordan Reeves didn’t move to New York to be anyone other than himself. Originally from Hueytown, Alabama, a neighborhood just south of Birmingham, Reeves grew up a devout and conservative Southern Baptist. As such, he faced the fear of ostracism and condemnation when he came out as gay. Reeves says he never suffered any homophobic harassment as an adult in the South, but he felt the environment there wasn’t as accepting as he imagined it would be in the Northeast. So, not long after graduating from college, he moved to New York City.

To his surprise, Reeves began to experience homophobic harassment in his new city — every so often someone would hurl a homophobic insult at him in the street. Things got worse in 2012, when he moved to his current apartment in Williamsburg. There, the harassment became consistent. It also became violent. A group of neighborhood youths, mostly young men in their teens and twenties, who hang out at the playground by his building, would shout slurs at Reeves when they’d see him walking by. Eventually, their taunts turned to violence — they threw beer bottles and shot fireworks at him, he said.

Reeves, who is naturally joyful and gregarious, was bothered, but not completely cowed. He’d faced his own fears coming out in Alabama, and he’d found his vocation in helping others do the same — Reeves runs an LGBTQ advocacy organization called VideoOut.

“VideoOut is building the largest library of coming-out stories anywhere in the world,” according to the organization’s website. The agency embraces the philosophy of gay rights activist, Harvey Milk, who believed that coming out is the most powerful tool LGBTQ people have in combating homophobia. “We strongly believe that every story creates empathy, and that empathy can be wielded as a powerful tool for advocacy, awareness, and education.”

Reeves sought to employ such empathy as a means of addressing the problems he faced in his neighborhood. He reached out to friends and community organizers for advice, and to members of the community for input. Ultimately, they came up with an idea called Kindness Party, an event they held on October 14. Listen to the full story —

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Brooklynite, Olivia Nanda, and neighbor, Victor Ayala take part in Fill the Street: A Sidewalk Chalk Challenge. The goal was to fill the entire street “with chalk art that focuses on kindness, our relationship with our neighbors, and our hope for the future of our community.”
A Williamsburg community member writes on the In Order To Feel Safe Wall. The Kindeness Party organizers asked participants to answer one question: ”What do you need in order to feel safe in your community?”
VideoOut volunteer, Douglas Turner.
I think a lot of the people who were making fun of me are caught in this intersection of this community. They represent all different walks of life, all different races, all different dogmas. And I had just never had a conversation with them…You have to go to the people who may even be part of the problem and ask them to be part of the solution. It’s no longer about who’s right and who's wrong, it’s about what’s best for everyone. And that includes the people who are shooting spitballs at you, and throwing the bottles at you, and setting off the fireworks towards you. And as counterproductive as that sounds, if you include them, if you work with them, then you are building a solution where everyone’s voices are heard, and that’s a solution that everyone can get behind. It’s a solution that will work.
— Jordan Reeves