January 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
LGBT contingent marches in D.C. King Day parade

Representatives of local LGBT advocacy organizations, including students with two Gay-Straight Alliance groups from area high schools, marched together on Monday morning in city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade.

With city residents watching from the sidewalks, the LGBT contingent joined other parade goers in walking about two miles along Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., which passes through neighborhoods in Southeast and Southwest Washington.

“It was the first Martin Luther King Day parade we’ve had in eight years,” said gay activist Nick McCoy, who helped organize the LGBT contingent on behalf of the D.C. LGBT Community Center.

“We were well received. We chanted and cheered all the way up MLK Boulevard to make sure we had a good LGBT presence,” McCoy said.

Among the LGBT groups participating in the parade were the LGBT Community Center; the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group; the D.C. Coalition of Black Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Men and Women; and Gay-Straight Alliance groups from D.C.’s School Without Walls and Arlington, Va.’s Washington-Lee High School.

McCoy, a member of the D.C. Center’s board, and Anna Bavier, a Center volunteer, coordinated the LGBT participation in the parade with the parade’s organizing committee, which was headed by Denise Rolark Barnes, editor and publisher of the Washington Informer newspaper.

Last month, Barnes said she was in full support of a call by gay activist and Ward 8 community leader Phil Pannell for LGBT organizations to participate in the parade. Pannell also served on the organizing committee.

“I think it was really good for the LGBT community to come out here to be seen in support of Dr. King’s message and also to let everybody see we’re here, we’re present and really just part of the overall community,” said Stein Club President Lateefah Williams.

Last year Williams, an attorney, became the first black lesbian to be elected president of the Stein Club, which was founded more than 30 years ago.

“Dr. King’s message for justice and equality still rings true today,” Williams said in a statement released by the Stein Club.

“While the District’s LGBT community has won many key struggles, including marriage equality, it is important to remember that there are still segments of our community who are struggling,” she said. “Too many youth in our city are still being put out of their homes for coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Too many transgender people in our city are being targeted by violence.”

Williams added, “Dr. King said, ‘An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.’ As we honor Dr. King today, it is important to remember that we must continue to fight so that the entire community can live safe, happy, healthy lives. We must ensure that all of humanity is treated with respect and has the necessary resources to thrive as human beings.”

Among the public officials participating in the parade were D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D); D.C. Police Chief Kathy Lanier; D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown (D-At-Large); and D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), in whose ward the parade took place.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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