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Kameny’s work finds new home

Library of Congress to preserve gay activist’s 70,000 letters, documents

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Veteran D.C. gay rights leader Franklin E. Kameny has turned over more than 70,000 of his personal letters and documents to the Library of Congress, which will make them available to scholars and researchers.

At a ceremony scheduled for Oct. 6 at the library’s ornate Thomas Jefferson Building across the street from the U.S. Capitol, library officials were expected to join Kameny and many of his longtime friends and supporters to commemorate the library’s acquisition of the Kameny papers.

Kameny, 81, is credited with playing a lead role in launching the modern U.S. gay rights movement in the early 1960s after government officials discovered he was gay and fired him from his job as an astronomer with the Army Map Service.

In what gay activists see as a monumental twist of fate, the product of Kameny’s work on gay rights causes for nearly 50 years will now be placed in the same Library of Congress Manuscript Division that holds original documents of Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Susan B. Anthony, and Bayard Rustin, among many other historic figures.

The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History also has accepted a collection of 1960s-era protest and picket signs from the Kameny collection that Kameny and his supporters used for the nation’s first-ever gay rights demonstrations in front of the White House.

“After examining the Kameny papers, Manuscript Division historians judged them to be a rich and valuable resource that would allow researchers to more accurately understand the evolution of the homosexual rights movement into a significant social and political force,” said John Earl Haynes, a 20th century political historian at the Manuscript Division.

“The personal detail provided by the material on Mr. Kameny himself and those he assisted in similar circumstances is of unusual value,” Haynes said.

“Nearly 50 years go, the United States government banned me from employment in public service because I am a homosexual, Kameny said in a statement. “This archive is not simply my story,” he said. “It also shows how gay and lesbian Americans have joined the American mainstream story of expanded civil liberties in the 20th century.

“Today, by accepting these papers, the nation preserves not only our history, but marks how far gay and lesbian Americans have traveled on the road to civil equality,” he said.

Haynes said officials with the Manuscript Division first contacted Kameny about obtaining his papers in 1995 after they read an article about Kameny’s work by gay historian David K. Johnson. The article appeared in the official journal of the Historical Society of Washington.

 

Documents valued at $75,000

 

Earlier this year, a group of gay rights advocates and supporters founded the Kameny Papers Project, an ad hoc group created to raise money to facilitate the transfer of the papers to the library, according to gay public relations executive Charles Francis, the lead organizer of the project.

Francis said the group’s main purpose was to raise funds to buy the papers from Kameny — so that he could be compensated for his life’s work — and then donate the documents to the Library of Congress.

Its first task was to help Kameny assemble the papers in or orderly fashion and to have them appraised by a professional document appraiser. The appraiser determined the papers had significant historic value and were worth $75,000.

“With advancing years and limited means, Frank Kameny was not eligible for a federal tax deduction, as is common with such an extraordinary donation,” the Kameny Papers Project said in a statement.

Former California congressman and philanthropist Michael Huffington made the single largest contribution toward the purchase of the papers from Kameny, Francis said. He said the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay political group, and the gay groups Gill Foundation, Bohnett Foundation, Log Cabin Republicans, Liberty Education Fund, and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force also contributed to the fund.

Others firms and individuals that provided pro-bono services or contributions included Francis, New York gay businessman Donald Capoccia, the gay public relations firm Witeck-Combs Communications, the Joiner Law Firm, attorney Michele Zavos, and activists Gregory King, Elizabeth Koontz, and Ellen Ratner, according to the Kameny Papers Project.

Huffington and Capoccia have been longtime contributors to Log Cabin Republicans, and Francis is one of the founders of the Republican Unity Coalition, which has billed itself as a gay-straight alliance of prominent Republicans that support gay civil rights.

 

Kameny vs. J. Edgar Hoover

 

Gay historians have described Kameny as the architect of the modern U.S. gay rights movement, crediting him with transforming the fledgling “homophile” movement of the 1950s into an assertive civil rights struggle for gays and lesbians.

Most gay activists view the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York’s Greenwich Village as the spark that ignited a new phase in the gay movement that celebrated the slogan, “Out of the closet and into the streets.”

But gay historians like Johnson have credited Kameny with establishing, beginning in 1961, the philosophical and tactical underpinnings for the Gay Pride marches and political advocacy work that followed the Stonewall riots.

Kameny was the gay movement’s equivalent of Bayard Rustin, according to D.C. gay activist Rick Rosendall, in referring to Rustin’s role as a lead strategist for Martin Luther King in the black civil rights movement.

Shortly after being fired from his job at the Army Map Service, Kameny founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, the city’s first gay rights group. Kameny initially modeled the group after Mattachine Society chapters that had formed since 1950 in Los Angeles and other cities.

In some of his earliest papers now preserved at the Library of Congress, Kameny took exception to the prevailing view by Mattachine Society leaders that the groups should keep a low profile. Nearly all of the early Mattachine groups limited their work to research about homosexuality, educating the public on the subject, and helping other homosexuals adjust to society’s anti-gay prejudice, Johnson wrote in his 2003 book, “The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government.”

“Under Kameny’s leadership, the MSW would not remain underground and seek heterosexual authorities to speak on its behalf,” Johnson wrote. “On issues of homosexuality, Kameny argued, ‘we are the experts and the authorities.’” Johnson quoted him as saying.

Among Kameny’s innovations was the publication of a Mattachine Society of Washington newsletter, which the group sent to most top U.S. government officials, including President John F. Kennedy at the White House and all of Kennedy’s cabinet members, and then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Although most government officials did not appear to pay much attention to the newsletter, Kameny said he was startled in the summer of 1963 when FBI agent John A. O’Birne called Kameny by phone and requested to meet with him.

Kameny said he and Mattachine Society member Bob Bellanger had no idea why they had been summoned to a meeting with the FBI, an the two wondered whether a crackdown against Mattachine was in the works.

To their amazement, Kameny said, O’Birne politely asked him and Bellanger to remove Hoover’s name from the Mattachine Society mailing list, saying that Hoover did not wish to have his name on such a list. Kameny said he told O’Birne that he would have to consult other members of the group about this request and would get back to the FBI with the group’s response.

“I sent them a letter setting conditions for our removal of Hoover from our list,” said Kameny.

The conditions included a requirement that the FBI provide the group with the name of another FBI official to be placed on the newsletter list in place of Hoover and that the group would reserve the right to send Hoover a one-time mailing if an important issue arose.

The FBI never responded to Kameny’s letter. “Hoover stayed on our mailing list until the day he died,” said Kameny.

Hoover, who became notorious for keeping secret files on political activists and politicians – including President Kennedy – appears to have had the tables turned on him by discovering he was powerless to have him name removed from a homosexual rights group, gay activists have said.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Kameny served as an administrative counsel to gays who encountered problems obtaining or keeping security clearances issued by the federal government, becoming one of the nation’s recognized experts on gay-related security clearance issues. He also represented members of the military under investigation for being gay. In advising gay service members, Kameny coined the phrase, “Say nothing, sign nothing, and get counsel.”

He is also credited with creating the slogan, “Gay is Good,” which activists used in protest marches and Gay Pride festivals.

 

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District of Columbia

Wanda Alston Foundation chosen as Casa Ruby receiver

Judge approves move at recommendation of D.C. Attorney General

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June Crenshaw is the Wanda Alston Foundation’s executive director. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Friday, Aug. 12, appointed the Wanda Alston Foundation as the city’s receiver for the LGBTQ community services center Casa Ruby in a role in which the Alston Foundation will assume full control over Casa Ruby’s operations and finances.  

Judge Danya A. Dayson stated in an order she issued at 2:27 p.m. on Friday that she appointed the Alston Foundation for the receivership role at the recommendation of the Office of the D.C. Attorney General, which asked the judge to place Casa Ruby in receivership in a court motion filed on Aug. 3.

Founded in 2008, the Wanda Alston Foundation provides housing and support services for D.C. homeless and at-risk LGBTQ youth ages 18 to 24 and advocates for expanded city services for LGBTQ youth, according to a statement on its website.

During a virtual court hearing on Thursday, Aug. 11, Dayson approved the AG office’s request to place Casa Ruby under receivership. During the hearing, Adam Gitlin, chief of the AG office’s Public Integrity Section, announced that the AG office had two organizations under consideration for the Casa Ruby receiver – the Alston Foundation of D.C. and the Baltimore-based LGBTQ services organization Safe Haven, which has announced it planned to open a facility in D.C.

Gitlin asked the judge if the AG’s office could have one more day to make a final decision on which of the two groups should be named as the Casa Ruby receiver, and Dayson granted his request.

Among those who spoke at the Aug. 11 hearing was June Crenshaw, the Wanda Alston Foundation’s executive director. Crenshaw told the judge her organization has long supported the mission of Casa Ruby and it was prepared to do all it could to continue that mission in its role as receiver.

In a seven-page order issued on Aug. 12 approving the AG’s recommendation that the Alston Foundation be appointed as receiver, Dayson restated her earlier findings that the AG’s office provided sufficient evidence that a receivership was needed. Among other things, she pointed to the AG office’s allegations that Casa Ruby and its founder and former executive director Ruby Corado violated the District’s Nonprofit Corporations Act. 

“The District alleges in its petition that Defendant violated the Act by failing to maintain a lawfully constituted Board of Directors, failing to maintain control and oversight of the Corporation; permitting Ruby Corado, the executive director, to have exclusive access to bank and PayPal accounts held in the name of, or created to benefit, Casa Ruby; and permitting Corado to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars of nonprofit funds without Board oversight and for unknown reason,” Dayson stated in her order.

“Accordingly, it is on this 12th day of August 2022 hereby ORDERED that the District’s motion for appointment of a receiver is GRANTED, and it is FURTHER ORDERED that until further order of this court, the Wanda Alston Foundation, Inc., 1701 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W., 2nd Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036 (the “Receiver”), is hereby appointed as Receiver,” Dayson declared.

Dayson stated in her Aug. 12 order that she has “hereby lifted” her Aug. 3 order granting the AG office’s request that Casa Ruby’s bank accounts and all financial assets be frozen. The Aug. 12 order states that the receiver will now have full control over the bank accounts and Casa Ruby assets.

But the judge adds in her latest order, “Notwithstanding the lifting of the August 3, 2022, freezing Order, Ruby Corado shall not regain access to the affected accounts.”

In addition, Dayson “further” states in her Aug. 12 order that Casa Ruby’s “trustees, directors, officers, managers, or other agents are hereby suspended and the power of any directors or managers are hereby suspended. Such persons and entities shall have no authority with respect to Casa Ruby’s operations or assets, except to the extent as may hereafter be granted by the Receiver.”

The order concludes by directing the receiver to prepare a written report to the court by Sept. 13, 2022, on these issues:

• Assessment of the state of Casa Ruby’s assets and liabilities

• Identification of potential D.C. grant funds that could still be accessed if Casa Ruby met the grant requirements and how Casa Ruby could meet those requirements

• Determine whether Casa Ruby can pay outstanding financial obligations, including but not limited to employees, landlords, and vendors

• A recommendation regarding whether Casa Ruby’s Board should be reconstituted, and it should resume providing services, or instead whether Casa Ruby should be dissolved in an orderly manner pursuant to D.C. Code.

Corado also spoke at the Aug. 11 virtual hearing through a telephone hookup. Among other things, she said she does not oppose the appointment of a receiver.

But Corado disputed the AG office’s allegations against her and Casa Ruby, claiming the group’s financial problems that resulted in its shutdown of most Casa Ruby programs were caused by the D.C. government’s decision to discontinue many but not all city grants providing funding for Casa Ruby.

In its court filings, the AG’s office has disputed Corado’s claims, saying the city grant funds for many of Casa Ruby’s programs were suspended or discontinued because Casa Ruby failed to comply with the grant requirements that all city grantees are obligated to comply with.

“The mission of the Wanda Alston Foundation is to eradicate homelessness and poverty for LGBTQ youth between ages 18 and 24, the group states on its website. The statement adds that the Alston Foundation seeks to accomplish that mission by advocating for LGBTQ youth by “providing programs including housing, life skills training, case management services, linkages to medical care and mental health care and other support services, support in staying and returning to school, and employment support.”

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District of Columbia

Another gay couple assaulted in D.C. in suspected hate crime

Two men holding hands when hit from behind by group of attackers

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Chuck Johnson (left) and J.P. Singh were assaulted in June. (Photo courtesy the couple)

A gay male couple informed the Washington Blade this week that they were assaulted by a group of young men on June 17, at least of one of whom shouted the word “faggots,” while the couple was holding hands walking home on the 1500 block of T Street, N.W. a few doors away from their house.

One of the two men suffered a broken jaw and fractured thumb when two or three of the attackers punched and kicked him in the head and face after knocking him to the ground, according to a D.C. police report that lists the incident as a suspected anti-gay hate crime.

The incident took place about six weeks before another gay male couple was attacked and punched in the head and face by a group of young males appearing in their late teens as at least one of them shouted “monkeypox faggots.” The incident occurred on Aug. 7 along the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W. in the Shaw neighborhood as the men were walking to a nearby bus stop.

D.C. police, who have released photos of two suspects in the Aug. 7 incident and a photo of one suspect in the June 17 case, say no arrests have been made in either of the cases but both cases remain under active investigation.

The two victims in the June 17 case identified themselves as J.P. Singh, Professor of Global Commerce and Policy at George Mason University, and Charles D. “Chuck” Johnson Jr., CEO and President of the Aluminum Association industry trade organization. They initially identified themselves in a little-noticed article about the incident that they wrote and published on June 23 in the blog Medium in which they also posted a photo of themselves.   

“We, JP and Chuck, are a middle-age interracial gay couple,” the two wrote in the article. “We have been together for nearly 27 years, and live in a gay neighborhood in Washington, DC.  On Friday, June 17, while walking back from the gym at 10 p.m. and holding hands, a group of young African American men assaulted us on our street,” the two wrote.

Their article goes on to explore issues surrounding racial justice and crime, and the possible impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on police response to crime, including anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, among other related issues.

 “Assaults like ours open wounds in our society around race and LGBTQ issues,” they state in the article. “Through writing this article, we want to emphasize context and healing, and not encourage racialized ways of thinking that we associate with divisive tactics.”

Singh told the Blade the incident began on T Street, N.W., steps away from their house and in front of the house of gay D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kyle Mulhull. He said a group of the attackers approached him and Johnson from behind and the couple didn’t see the attackers until they were struck with punches.

“Before we knew it, I heard Chuck yell,” Singh said. “And when I turned to him, I felt a punch on my ear.”

According to Singh’s account, the attackers ran toward 15th Street and Johnson ran after them presumably to be able to inform police of their location, with the intent that the attackers could be apprehended.

But Singh said that another group of attackers emerged from an alley and appeared to have joined the first group and began assaulting Johnson again. The D.C. police report says officers responding to a 911 call from Johnson arrived on the scene when Victim 1, who was Johnson, was observed at the intersection of 15th and U Streets, N.W.

“The officers observed that Victim 1 was bleeding from his mouth as a result of the assault,” the report says. The report says the officers call the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department for assistance.

“Victim 1 stated that he and Victim 2 were walking eastbound in the 1500 block of T St., N.W. when 4 to 8 suspects approached from behind and assaulted them with punches,” the report continues. “Victim 1 stated that at least one of the suspects yelled homophobic slurs at him as the assault was perpetrated.

Singh said he accompanied Johnson to the emergency room where he was treated and underwent surgery two days later to treat his jaw, which was broken in two places. Singh said Johnson was also treated for a fractured thumb.

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Comings & Goings

Brian Reach joins Arlington Food Assistance Center

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Brian Reach

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Brian Reach on his new position as Associate Director of Marketing and Communications of the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). Reach has more than 18 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and deep roots in Northern Virginia.  

Charles Meng, CEO of AFAC said, “I’m very pleased to have Brian Reach on our staff as we enter a new and very challenging year. A year when even more families suffering from inflation in food and fuel are coming to our doors seeking help.” 

Jolie Smith, director of development at AFAC added, “Brian will be a wonderful addition to the AFAC development team as we start our new year with a strong focus on new opportunities outside of Arlington County. Given his experience, he’ll be a significant part of our new growth and development.”  

Reach previously worked at MCI USA (formerly The Coulter Companies) in a number of positions including director of Information Systems and Credentialing. Before that he was with the Interstitial Cystitis Association as its nonprofit coordinator/accounts receivable coordinator; and the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, Fairfax, Va., as Education coordinator.

Reach is an activist and leader in the LGBTQ community. He currently serves as president and executive director of NOVA Pride, a 501c3 he founded in 2011, as well as on other LGBTQ boards and task forces. A Northern Virginia local, whose grandparents met at Fairfax High School, he is extremely passionate about the area and is personally dedicated to making an impact on the lives of his neighbors in need. He has worked on political campaigns in Virginia for Jennifer Wexton, Justin Fairfax, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Kerry, Chap Peterson, and Al Gore.

Reach is currently attending George Mason University and was a business major at Northern Virginia Community College.

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