January 19, 2016 at 10:49 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
LGBT contingent marches in D.C.’s MLK parade
Martin Luther King Day, gay news, Washington Blade

A small contingent of LGBT activists joined Monday’s 10th Annual Martin Luther King Day Peace Walk and Parade in Southeast Washington. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A small contingent of LGBT activists was among the thousands of local residents to brave freezing temperatures on Monday to march in D.C.’s 10th Annual Martin Luther King Day Peace Walk and Parade in Southeast Washington.

The six-member LGBT contingent marched behind the banner of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, which organized the contingent.

“It was a small but dedicated bunch of people,” said Charles Butler, a D.C. public school teacher and vice president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, who was among the contingent. “We talked to a lot of people. We got the name out there,” he said. “So just being there is helping to build bridges.”

Also marching with the contingent was David Mariner, executive director of the D.C. Center, two center volunteers, and a current and former student of Butler’s from the city’s School Without Walls High School. Butler said the students were members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance group.

The annual King Day Parade and Peace Walk travels approximately one mile along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, S.E. in the city’s Congress Heights section.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), and Council members LaRuby May (D-Ward 8), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) were among the city’s public officials participating in the parade.

Bowser and the Council members spent part of the day watching the parade from a reviewing stand located near the end of the parade route.

“It makes me feel good to be here celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Bowser told WUSA-TV. “He made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Butler said the D.C. Center’s LGBT contingent was recognized by one of the announcers at the reviewing stand as the contingent passed the stand, where TV news cameras, city officials, and parade organizers were standing.

“I know people in the grand stand were saying it was important to make sure that everyone in the community is accepted,” Butler said. “So when we were passing by the guy who was making the announcements – he made a point of saying how important it was that we were participating.”

Butler said Mariner recognized numerous other LGBT people, including some who work for the mayor’s office, who participated in the parade in separate contingents.

Mariner couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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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