February 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm EST | by Staff reports
Local news in brief: Feb. 25

Gray creates new HIV/AIDS commission

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray was scheduled to announce on Wednesday that he has created a new Mayor’s Commission on HIV/AIDS “to help end the HIV epidemic in the District of Columbia, according to a statement released by the mayor’s office.

“The commission will focus on treatment, the needs of people living with HIV and expanded prevention to stop new infections,” the statement says.

“The objectives include the best way to achieve ‘Treatment on Demand,’ examining emerging trends and needs, developing evidence-based policies, improving access to critical support services (mental health, substance use, housing), recommending organization changes and improved citywide coordination, [and] maximizing research opportunities,” according to the statement.

It adds that the new commission would also advise Gray on the best ways the city can adopt President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy for D.C.’s AIDS programs.

The initial statement announcing the creation of the commission did not include a list of the names of the commission’s members. Visit washingtonblade.com for an update.


Pannell runs for Ward 8 school board seat

Veteran gay and Ward 8 community activist Phil Pannell has emerged as one of nine candidates competing for a vacant seat on the D.C. State Board of Education for Ward 8 in the city’s April 26 special election.

Pannell, a recognized expert on issues and problems related to city neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, said he is running on a platform to address such issues as school truancy, improved reading skills and ways to curtail an “epidemic” of youth violence in schools.

He said anti-LGBT bullying and harassment at schools is also an issue he plans to address if elected to the school board.

Races to fill vacancies for the Ward 8 and Ward 4 seats on the Board of Education have received far less media coverage than the competition for an at-large City Council seat vacated by Democrat Kwame Brown, who won election in November as Council Chair. The Council race will also be decided in the April 26 special election.

Ten candidates are competing for the Council seat. The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, is scheduled to hold a candidates forum and vote on an endorsement in the Council race at a meeting on March 14, to be held at Town nightclub.

The club voted at its monthly meeting Tuesday night to hold a separate forum for school board candidates on March 28, at which time the club will vote on endorsements in those two contests.

Pannell, a longtime member of the club, is expected to be among the frontrunners for a Stein Club endorsement at the March 28 meeting. He is the only out gay running in any of the three races in the April 26 election.

The other candidates competing with Pannell for the Ward 8 school board seat are Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, Anthony Muhammad, Tijwanna Phillips, Larry Pretlow II, R. Joyce Schott, Cardell Shelton, Trayon White Sr., and Sandra Williams.


Carlene Cheatam (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Longtime lesbian activist  Carlene Cheatam leaving D.C.

Veteran lesbian activist Carlene Cheatam, who helped form the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Men and Women in 1978, will be honored at a March 19 farewell party following her announcement that she will be moving to New Jersey later that month.

Cheatam said she is joining her partner, who resides in New Jersey, shortly after Cheatam retires from her job with the D.C. government, where she has worked at various city agencies as an administrator for more than 30 years.

The Rainbow History Project, which has designated Cheatam as an LGBT community pioneer, describes her as a highly acclaimed community organizer who has “actively expanded opportunities for Washington, D.C.’s gay and lesbian community, particularly for African Americans.”

The farewell tribute to Cheatam is scheduled for 8 p.m. March 19 at the Dupont Circle gay bar Fab Lounge at 2022 Florida Ave., N.W.


Gay youth gang linked to assaults, robberies in Chinatown

A gang or “crew” of gay male teenagers based in the city’s Trinidad neighborhood has been linked to thefts, fights with other gangs, and some robberies over the past year or more, according to D.C. Deputy Police Chief Diane Groomes.

Groomes and Ron Mouten, co-founder of the D.C. group Peaceoholics, which works to discourage youth participation in gangs and acts of violence, said the gay gang calls itself the “Check It” crew. Mouten said Check It has as many as 100 active members.

“Most of them act in an effeminate way, but they are tough, very tough,” said Mouten. He said the Check It crew got into a violent altercation with a rival crew last month outside the Potomac Gardens public housing complex on Capitol Hill, which is located about five blocks from the headquarters and drop-in center of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), which offers programs for LGBT youth.

Groomes said a number of Check It members have been arrested for thefts and fights in the Chinatown-Gallery Place area near the Verizon Center.

Gay and community activist Phil Pannell, who is running for a seat on the city’s school board from Ward 8, said he would push for stepped up action by the city to address the youth gang problem in the city if elected to the board.


Gay man accused of hate crime pleads guilty

A gay man charged with assaulting a panhandler and threatening him with a chain during an altercation outside the 17th Street, N.W. gay bar JR.’s in January pleaded guilty on Feb. 14 to two of three charges filed against him as part of a plea bargain agreement.

D.C. police initially charged Kevin “Jaden” Perry, 35, with assault, possession of a prohibited weapon (a chain), and threats to do bodily harm at the time of his arrest on Jan. 23. Police designated the incident as a gay-related hate crime.

The following day, the United States Attorney’s office dropped the hate crimes designation at the time of Perry’s appearance in court for an arraignment. A police report said officers listed the incident as “biased related” because the panhandler and an unidentified witness said Perry repeatedly called the panhandler a “faggot” at the time he allegedly assaulted him by punching him in the back. The police report says the panhandler was not injured in the incident.

Perry disputed those allegations, telling the Blade following his arraignment in D.C. Superior Court that the panhandler started the incident by calling Perry a “faggot” and lunging at Perry with his fists raised after Perry refused his request for money. Perry said he repeated the word faggot in the form of a question, saying he raised his own fists and waved a chain he carries to attach his wallet to his pants at the panhandler in self-defense.

According to the police report, the witness quoted Perry as saying to the panhandler, “I will kill you. You’re a faggot…I’m a real faggot, bitch. You don’t want to fuck with a real faggot, bitch. I will fucking kill you.”

Perry disputed that account, saying no one was on the street to witness the incident except the panhandler and two friends of Perry’s, who left JR.’s with Perry minutes before the altercation started. The two friends backed up Perry’s version of what happened.

According to court records, Perry pleaded guilty to charges of threats to do bodily harm and simple assault in exchange for the government dropping the charge of possession of a prohibited weapon.

Perry was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Marisa Demeo to 90 days in jail on each of the two charges to which he pleaded guilty. But the judge suspended the jail time and placed Perry on nine months of unsupervised probation. He is also required to pay $100 to the court’s crime victims fund.


Transgender woman found dead in Baltimore

A transgender woman was found dead Saturday in a vacant building in Northwest Baltimore, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun. An autopsy revealed that Anthony Trent, known as Tyra, died of asphyxiation.

Trent, 25, had been reported missing two weeks earlier. Homicide detectives are investigating.

A family member told the Sun that Trent was a vibrant person who loved animals and worked with people with disabilities.

Trent had been arrested dozens of times between 2003-2008 on charges of loitering and prostitution but had not been arrested since 2008.


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