D.C. Council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and David Catania (I-At-Large), the two main contenders in the city’s Nov. 4 mayoral election, put partisan politics aside on Friday night in remarks before the opening reception and awards ceremony for the city’s 24th annual Black Pride celebration.
The two praised each other for their support for the cause of LGBT equality and praised Black Pride as an important event that highlights the progress of the LGBT civil rights movement since the first Black Pride celebration took place in 1980.
D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) also spoke at the event. Bonds presented a resolution approved by the D.C. Council recognizing the Black Pride events and Sterling Washington, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, presented a proclamation issued by Mayor Vincent Gray honoring the Black Pride events.
“This is our largest opening reception by far,” said Earl Fowlkes, CEO of the Center for Black Equity, the LGBT advocacy group that organizes Black Pride celebrations in D.C. and in more than a dozen other cities in the U.S. and abroad.
“It was nice to have elected officials come out,” Fowlkes said. “And I think both Muriel and David were very gracious to each other and to us,” he said. “Both of them have been friends to the LGBT community and particularly to the black LGBT community.”
Fowlkes said between 300 and 350 people attended the opening ceremony, which took place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown D.C.
As many as 30,000 people were expected to participate in a series of Black Pride events May 23-26 that included forums and workshops, a film festival, dance parties, a block party at the Fairgrounds next to Washington Nationals Stadium, an outdoor health and wellness festival near Dupont Circle and D.C. Black Pride’s annual Memorial Day picnic at Ft. Dupont Park.
“It’s easy for us to look at the progress we’ve made,” Catania told the gathering. “But let me be clear. There is still work to do.”
He noted his role in introducing and helping to pass legislation on marriage equality, transgender rights and improvements in the city fight against AIDS. He said he is committed to continuing those efforts.
Bowser sounded a similar theme, saying many of the people attending the event have played a key role in advancing LGBT equality in the city and pledged to work with them to build on the progress already made.
“And although we are progressive and although we have achieved a lot in the District of Columbia, that progress and prosperity hasn’t touched all eight wards, has it?” she said. “It hasn’t touched all Washingtonians. It hasn’t touched everybody in this community either.”