Ronald I. Jacobowitz (1959-1995) was born in Newburgh, New York, and worked in several positions, including as a teacher in the New York City public school system and an opinion clerk for the Court of International Trade. In the 1980s and 1990s, he was involved with gay rights activism and community organizing in the Bronx, where, from 1986 to 1994, he lived at 3202 Kossuth Avenue, apartment 3D, off Mosholu Parkway. He served as a policy consultant for the Manhattan-based Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and a community organizing consultant for the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (now the Anti-Violence Project; AVP).
Organized LGBT activism in the Bronx began in the early 1980s with the Bronx Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, with which Jacobowitz was associated. He went on to co-found Gay Men of the Bronx (GMOB) in 1990, and Bronx Lesbian and Gay Men United for Political Action (BLGMUPA) in 1992. GMOB provided discussion and HIV+ groups and social, cultural, and educational events. In 1991, it demonstrated against gay bashing outside the Bronx Conservative Party headquarters in Morris Park and also worked to correct a slanderous story in The Bronx News, which cited a man who accused GMOB of promoting male prostitution near Zerega Industrial Park, a gay cruising area. BLGMUPA distributed a bi-monthly newsletter to 3,500 people, helped fight for citywide domestic partnership legislation, and advocated for the borough’s LGBT residents by engaging with elected officials. Both GMOB and BLGMUPA, along with Bronx Lesbians United in Sisterhood (BLUS), participated in the 1993 March for Truth in Ridgewood, Queens, to challenge the homophobic backlash to the “Children of the Rainbow” public school program.
Jacobowitz also organized the 1992 “We Are Everywhere!” conference, which was held at Lehman College and sought to create a grassroots network for LGBT New Yorkers, particularly those in the outer boroughs. Over 400 people attended. That same year, he received the City of New York Certificate of Appreciation from Mayor David Dinkins for his LGBT advocacy work in the Bronx and throughout the city. He was also involved with the New York AIDS Coalition (Committee for AIDS Funding), the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Coalition for Inclusive Multi-Cultural Education, and the Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies (which advocated for the passage of domestic partnership legislation).
In 1996, a year after his untimely death, Kossuth Avenue between Mosholu Parkway and East 208th Street was co-named “Ronald I. Jacobowitz Place” in his memory. His papers, which provide insight into LGBT activism in the Bronx in the 1980s and 1990s, are housed at the New York Public Library.
This entry is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.