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Controversial minister endorses gay D.C. Council candidate

Rev. Wilson called ‘lesbianism’ threat to youth, families

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D.C. City Council candidate Clark Ray (center) accepted an endorsement this week from a controversial Baptist minister. (Photo courtesy of Clark Ray for Council)

Gay D.C. City Council candidate Clark Ray drew mixed reactions from the LGBT community this week when he accepted the endorsement of a minister who preached in 2005 that “lesbianism is about to take over our community.”

Ray, who is challenging LGBT-supportive Council member Phil Mendelson, noted that Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Anacostia, apologized for the remarks about lesbians and gay men in his widely reported 2005 sermon.

Ray said he and Wilson developed a friendship while meeting regularly over the past two years on a wide range of issues beginning when Ray served as director of the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation.

“What we’re trying to do today and I think what this is an example of is building a bridge,” Ray said at Denny’s Restaurant in Southeast D.C., where Wilson announced the endorsement Wednesday and pledged to work hard for Ray’s election in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

“We don’t agree on everything, the reverend and I,” Ray said at the announcement. “And I disagree on a number of topics that we’ve talked about. But the deal is we can talk about it. And I can learn from him and he can learn from me. … So I welcome the endorsement.”

Wilson told the gathering that as parks and recreation director, Ray showed a strong interest in the issues and concerns of residents in wards 7 and 8 and helped Wilson with several projects related to city recreation and senior citizen centers.

“We developed a very close friendship,” Wilson said. “I vigorously support his campaign for at-large member of the D.C. City Council. I will personally canvas my community to get out the vote in support of Clark Ray for at-large Council member.”

Members of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance criticized Ray for accepting Wilson’s endorsement, triggering a debate on the group’s blog, GLAAforum.org.

Bob Summersgill, a former GLAA president, pointed to published reports and transcripts of Wilson’s 2005 sermon, saying Ray’s acceptance of the endorsement appeared to be “pandering to one group while alienating others.”

In his sermon July 3, 2005, Wilson asserted that black families were being harmed by a growing number of young women who were rejecting men and forming romantic relationships with other women.

“Lesbianism is about to take over our community,” he said. “I’m talking about young girls.”

In remarks that drew expressions of outrage by LGBT activists and women’s rights groups, Wilson recounted how his son had complained that he could not find a date for his high school prom.

“He said, ‘Dad, I ain’t got nobody to take to the prom because all the girls in my class are gay. There ain’t but two of them straight and both are ugly.’”

Wilson continued, “But when you get down to this thing, woman falling down on another woman, strapping herself up with something. It ain’t real. That thing ain’t got no feeling in it. It ain’t natural.”

Turning to his concern about gay men, Wilson told his congregation, “Any time somebody got to slap some grease on your behind, and stick something in you, it’s something wrong with that. Your butt ain’t made for that.”

Following a flurry of news reports about the sermon, which began when the Blade broke the story after obtaining an recorded copy of Wilson’s sermon, Wilson issued an apology that some in the LGBT community said wasn’t sincere.

“Some people in the community were offended by the language I used in my message, which I will admit was intemperate,” Wilson told the Washington Post. “I apologize to anyone who was hurt by the language that I used.”

The Post reported that Wilson added, “I do not apologize for raising a very serious issue concerning our young girls, some as young as 10 and 11 years of age, who are engaging in same-sex relations.”

Three months later, in October 2005, Wilson angered gay activists on a separate matter when he reportedly blocked black gay activist and former Clinton administration official Keith Boykin from speaking at an African American civil rights rally on the National Mall known as the Millions More Movement March. Wilson served as national executive director of the march.

Boykin was scheduled to speak at the event following extensive negotiations between the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT group, and organizers of the Millions More Movement. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the event’s lead organizer, initially agreed to allow a gay speaker and didn’t object when activists decided Boykin would be a speaker representing the black LGBT community. Wilson objected late to Boykin taking the stage and his appearance was scrapped.

Ray said he believes Wilson has “come a long way” since his 2005 actions. Ray noted that while Wilson personally opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds, he chose not to become involved with efforts by his fellow ministers to campaign against the city’s same-sex marriage law passed by the City Council in December.

In a statement released this week, Wilson said, “I have enjoyed getting to know and working with Clark. He knows that I support full civil equality for all residents of the District of Columbia — including those who comprise the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Questioning (GLBTQ) Community.”

Ray supporter Joel Lawson, a gay activist and Dupont Circle civic leader, said Ray’s acceptance of the Wilson endorsement was an important conciliatory gesture.

“I think Clark is showing leadership in building a bridge through and across some very uncomfortable territory,” Lawson said. “We have gay marriage now. We’ve won. The question now is do we expand our discussions with one another within this family of D.C. residents.

“They have forged a very improbable connection,” he said of Ray and Wilson’s relationship. “And I think that is progress.”

But in the GLAA blog, Mitch Wood, the group’s president, expressed skepticism about how much Wilson may have changed in his views on LGBT rights.

“I am all for building bridges across cultures and demographics — but anyone from the gay and lesbian community should be exceptionally wary about embracing a ‘man of God’ with such a tarnished and divisive record,” he said.

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Jeremy

    June 18, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    are you kidding me? what’s wrong with this man? clearly it’s a popularity contest. my vote is going to mendelson after reading this article.

  2. SteveMD2

    June 20, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    I don’t know the individuals involved. But on one hand, religion is something that fixates in peoples minds, for good or for evil. So I am forced to ask Mr Wilson to prove it. He must become a no holds barred supporter of equal rights under the law for gay people, identical to str8 people. In public and in his church, even if, and i grant him this right, he does not want to do gay religious marriage ceremonies.

    On the other hand, there is the old but quite true comment that its hard to hate someone you know and respect. It sounds like this is working here. Also reminds me of the negotiations that went on for months that resulted in the Mormons supporting in Salt Lake City a non-discrimination bill for gays in housing and jobs. And saying “…gays are a valued part of our community….” Even though you can bet it will be a long long time before the mormons support anything like Marriage

    So : actions speak louder then words, Mr. Wilson. Simple as that. YOU have to prove yourself

  3. MitchW7959

    June 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

    I want to clarify that my comment on our GLAAForum blog was posted before the Rev. Willie Wilson’s statement issued this week in which he expresses his support for civil equality– and it speaks well of him that he chose to sit out the Bishop Jackson/Missionary Baptist misguided crusade to force a referendum or initiative on marriage equality.

    But it is not only the pastor’s record on LGBT affairs that are problematic. Wilson’s long-standing ties with the virulently anti-Jewish Nation of Islam’s Minister Louis Farrakhan, and his veiled threat of violence against Korean proprietors of corner stores in the Black community back in the 1990s, are other parts of the Rev. Willie Wilson’s history we should consider when weighing the validity of his bridge-building credentials.

  4. Worried about Ward 5

    June 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    We might be better of keeping an eye on the race in Ward 5, where one candidate – Delano Hunter – has actually taken money for the Prop 8 forces and is running a stealth campaign in a race where there are several candidates. You don’t see many Hunter signs, but he and the Prop 8 folks are very active in the churches and hear nearly beat incumbent Tommy Thomas in a key straw poll two weeks ago.

    Thomas may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he stood up on the issue of marriage equality, and it may cost him his seat. There are several candidates who may have better credentials and could do a better job. But the substantial gay population in Bloomingdale and other neighborhoods must consider the threat of having a Councilman who has taken money from the Prop 8 backers, and should force Mr Hunter to express his views openly and they should then vote strategically.

    Willie Wilson isn’t running for Council. But Delano Hunter is. And he’s flying under our radar right now.

    • Gina Santucci

      July 6, 2010 at 3:00 pm

      If Mr. Thomas loses his seat it will not be due to his lacklustre support of the marriage equality initiative, but more to his demonstrated (1) lack of interest in quality of life issues and (2) arrogant and divisive approach to his constituents.

  5. Peter the saint

    June 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    It’s a little off-topic but, since you brought it up: everyone (read: journalists and media) continue to “conveniently forget” that in fact, an out, african-american man WAS asked to speak at the Millions More March, and he did. He simply prefers to identify as same-gender loving (SGL) and not gay. Cleo Manago spoke, and I understand that he was very well received by the crowd. He is also a nice, very personable guy. So please, set the record straight, Blade. You should report the facts, not hearsay.

    Funny how an out, openly SGL man can speak with Louis Farrakhan on the National Mall, and everyone – EVERYONE – refuses to recognize him. Totally weird and manipulative on the part of “our” media. Hmm, what’s up w/ that?? I really do expect more from you guys.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same_gender_loving

  6. Rick Rosendall

    June 21, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    To Peter the Saint: Pardon me, but surely if a group is to be represented at an event, the group should be allowed to choose its own representative. The organizers of “We Are Family – Unity Weekend,” whose slogan was “Fighting Oppression and Homophobia in the Black Community, the Black Church and the Black March,” negotiated with Farrakhan and were to be represented onstage by Keith Boykin. Rev. Wilson broke this agreement and snickered as he barred Boykin from the stage. If you know about Manago’s involvement you should know about this as well. Hmm, what’s up with that? (as you put it)

    • Cleo Manago

      July 4, 2010 at 1:30 am

      Rick Rosendall, it appears that you are a white gay writer. As a writer, one would think you would have some interest in facts. The facts regarding what occurred pertaining to my invitation to speak at the MMM March in 2005 are available. All relevant parties are alive and well. I am alive and well. You said in your June 21st 2010 comments that, “if a group is to be represented at an event, the group should be allowed to choose its own representative.“ You clearly don’t live in the Black community, or have any connection with Black life and culture. You know who Keith Boykin is because he apparently is more acceptable to you, and he does hire a PR firm. It’s racist, revisionist and disrespectful for you and people like you to continue to misrepresent the MMM 2005 facts, and rely on a preferred (by the White gay community) version of history, as opposed to what indeed occurred. If you ever decide, do research. Call Bob Law, for example, who was in charge of speakers for the 2005 event. Call Min. Farrakhan. Call Minister Akbar Muhammad Farrakhan’s national representative. Boykin was never refused, Mr. Farrakhan never reneged after inviting him, and he and Rev Wilson never had an altercation on the day of the event. They never even saw each other. All myth. Sure, Keith and the White gay community wanted him to speak at that October 2005 event. People get to want things, but Boykin was never asked to speak, or invited. Gay identified members of the Black community, even in DC, never chose Boykin to speak. Boykin and his organization at the time – National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) – co-founded and fully funded by the HRC (not a Black community organization) – chose Boykin. Not the community. As a matter of fact, Black community did choose me. I’m just not your preference. I don’t desire to be. I prefer to be chosen by my community and I was. I can show where the Black gay identifying community’s magazine (Clique Magazine) – with the widest distribution at the time -did a cover story we me as “Man of the Year” resulting from my appearance at that march. Also we have literally thousands of emails from all over the nation and other countries. This is and was Black community. You can never know what you are talking about if you care nothing about the available facts. Reality is much larger than just what and who the White gay community approves of. Accept and tell the truth. If integrity has any room in your perspective, you can speak to me and others. I know of a number of same-gender-loving Black people who now realize they were misled – in terms of the facts – by NBJC and your White gay press. For more information and facts, I can be contacted at [email protected]

  7. Rick Rosendall

    June 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    To “Worried about Ward 5”: Delano Hunter is not flying under my radar. Saying he nearly won the straw poll at the D.C. Democratic State Convention is another way of saying that he lost, despite a concerted effort to turn out his supporters. Councilmember Thomas is not taking Hunter lightly, and neither are those of us determined to protect gay-supportive incumbents from anti-gay (NOM-backed) challengers. The key thing is to make sure that gay and gay-affirming Ward 5 voters turn out on September 14, and help the Thomas effort in the meantime.

  8. Peter the saint

    June 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    To Rick Rosendall: Sorry Rick, but I disagree. The March was not a representative Constitutional Congress or some-such. If you received an invitation to speak at Rick Warren’s church, let’s say… hey, fantastic. Warren would NOT be expected to ask an openly gay man or woman to address his “followers”… they are HIS followers (for good or bad sakes). It would not be appropriate for HRC or Task Force to then call Warren and complain that you were not the IDEAL speaker for his church – Warren would rightly ask “what business is it of yours? You think that YOU are the “true” representative of this community? Hmm, buzz off. Private event.” It comes down to personal relationships after all…

    And “what’s up with that” is: no, I am not hear-all, see-all, be all. Honestly, it’s not my focus, I didn’t attend, but I am concerned. So now I’m wondering, is the goal: “Boykin For President” in 2030?? No, I don’t know Rev. Wilson either, and if I did he would probably snicker at me as well. So I’m already biased to not like the guy. My main issue is justice and reality: I detest finding out when the media, any media, OMITTED information that they had, but claim to be in the business of informing the public, when in fact their main goal is massaging and SHAPING public thought. i.e. “the end justifies the means.” Call me a dreamer, an idealist, but I really don’t like being manipulated like that.

    Boykin obviously has quite a budding career as a “talking head” on TV. I’ve seen him as a guest for different issues including finance. So, good for him. And I hope “Fighting Oppression and Homophobia in the Black Community, the Black Church and the Black March” was successful to everyone who would attend. But hey – LOL – is there any way in heck I could claim to decipher the thoughts or doings of Farrakhan or Nation of Islam? Nope. I couldn’t and wouldn’t even begin to enter into the complexities that are involved in this issue, especially concerning all the players. But I do know that it’s truly unprecedented, speaking there about same-sex luuuuuuuvvvv. So I would hope it would be Kumbaya! And WOO-HOO! :P d:

  9. Rick Rosendall

    June 22, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Peter, you’re not being honest. This is not about Keith Boykin’s personal ambitions. Nor did I claim that the Millions More Movement March was a representative congress. I pointed out that the organizers of “We Are Family – Unity Weekend” had reached an agreement with Farrakhan and Wilson, and that Wilson broke that agreement on the day of the event. This was not some whim by a few people, but a substantial effort by the black gay community. And they did not take for granted that they were entitled to speak; again, they negotiated an agreement with Minister Farrakhan. In short: one side acted in good faith, and one did not. Try to change the subject if you like, but those are the relevant facts.

    • Peter the saint

      June 23, 2010 at 3:46 pm

      Rick: I’ve said what I wanted to say. Here, have at my random thoughts about it. I’m not even going to try to arrange or rearrange anything. Enjoy!

      Peace,
      P.

      Sure I’m being honest. The article was mentioning the slight to Boykin and his work. He has a – healthy – amount of personal ambition. So it must be noted in the equation.

      Was this a substantial effort by the black gay community? or the black gay community IN DC…

      I DO understand why it would be infuriating to expend the time and effort in good faith, and then be dissed like that. I wasn’t trying to change the subject, only add to it.

      Well, you claimed that (to paraphrase), “our group should be able to choose who represents LGBT/SGL at a major Capitol demonstration.” But obviously it’s a negotiation and dialogue, as you stated, not a monologue.

      I was simply objecting to the fact that the article above omitted saying something like “Another speaker was tapped to replace Boykin”. To say, that in fact, there WAS a speaker there who indeed did represent LGBT/SGL. He represented because he was there saying “I am black and gay” or whatever it was he said.

      I think it would have been even more of a disappointment if no one had been allowed to represent black, LGBTQ/SGL Americans. That would have been ZERO advancement. But in fact, advancement was made. Did Keith get to do it? No. But did it happen? Yes. like I said: Kumbaya. Or, Hooray :)

      I was just saying that it was an agreement that was totally contingent on Farrakhan et al… because it was their event. We could argue that they should have spoken up for our right to marry whom we choose… for total equality in everything. That would be better than the “scraps” of “please just let us SPEAK.” But, it was their party. And they invited us in for a bit for acknowledgement.

      It has something to do with SOMEONE’s personal ambitions it seems, because you obviously don’t like the fact that Cleo spoke. Even though the act was HISTORIC. Yet that doesn’t seem to make you happy. So I was commenting that Cleo’s name “disappears” from the records of history, for performing an historic act at the base of our Capitol. I don’t like that, it’s a bit Orwellian for me.

  10. Mykelb

    June 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    This reeks of the breakdown of the wall of separation between church and state.

    • Peter the saint

      June 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm

      We need some HEAVY disinfectant. Because the wall reeks EVERYWHERE it supposedly exists. And some of the bacteria appears to be spreading :\

  11. Frankie James

    June 24, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I bet he gets caught with Lesbian porn in his office or maybe with a Rented boy carrying his luggage.

    All these ministers spreading hate are so deep in the closet.

  12. Jack Splat

    June 25, 2010 at 8:22 am

    @Frankie James: Thanks so much for pointing this out. And, why does this minister know about using lube for anal? He is just too involved in what may be happening in the bedrooms of gays and lesbians. Does Clark Ray date black men? Something is a little off in that picutre. I smell a big funky DC rat.

  13. NoMercy2010

    June 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Rev. W. Wilson have something to gain out of this. Here is a man who was preaching all this BS about gays in his church. Now all of a sudden he is hanging with gays. I smell something real fishy. At first i was going to cast my vote for Clark but after seeing him with Rev. W. “The Devil in Sheep clothing Wilson” he lost my vote. Wilson is bad new and was always bad news. But like they say to each his own.

  14. Cleo Manago

    July 4, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Rick Rosendall, it appears that you are a white gay writer. As a writer, one would think you would have some interest in facts. The facts regarding what occurred pertaining to my invitation to speak at the MMM March in 2005 are available. All relevant parties are alive and well. I am alive and well. You said in your June 21st 2010 comments that, “if a group is to be represented at an event, the group should be allowed to choose its own representative.“ You clearly don’t live in the Black community, or have any connection with Black life and culture. You know who Keith Boykin is because he apparently is more acceptable to you, and he does hire a PR firm. It’s racist, revisionist and disrespectful for you and people like you to continue to misrepresent the MMM 2005 facts, and rely on a preferred (by the White gay community) version of history, as opposed to what indeed occurred. If you ever decide, do research. Call Bob Law, for example, who was in charge of speakers for the 2005 event. Call Min. Farrakhan. Call Minister Akbar Muhammad Farrakhan’s national representative. Boykin was never refused, Mr. Farrakhan never reneged after inviting him, and he and Rev Wilson never had an altercation on the day of the event. They never even saw each other. All myth. Sure, Keith and the White gay community wanted him to speak at that October 2005 event. People get to want things, but Boykin was never asked to speak, or invited. Gay identified members of the Black community, even in DC, never chose Boykin to speak. Boykin and his organization at the time – National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) – co-founded and fully funded by the HRC (not a Black community organization) – chose Boykin. Not the community. As a matter of fact, Black community did choose me. I’m just not your preference. I don’t desire to be. I prefer to be chosen by my community and I was.

    I can show you where the Black gay identifying community’s magazine (Clique Magazine) – with the widest distribution at the time -did a cover story we me as “Man of the Year” resulting from my appearance at that march. Also we have literally thousands of emails from all over the nation and other countries. This is and was Black community. You can never know what you are talking about if you care nothing about the available facts. Reality is much larger than just what and who the White gay community approves of. Accept and tell the truth. If integrity has any room in your perspective, you can speak to me and others. I know of a number of same-gender-loving Black people who now realize they were misled – in terms of the facts – by NBJC and your White gay press. For more information and facts, I can be contacted at [email protected]

  15. Cleo Manago

    July 4, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Typo correction: “I can show you documentation where the Black gay identifying community’s magazine (Clique Magazine) – with the widest distribution at the time -did a cover story with me as their “Man of the Year” resulting from my appearance at that march.” The few Black people who do read the White gay press need to see the facts in your paper.

  16. Cleo Manago

    July 4, 2010 at 3:08 am

    What I wrote before was based on “Peter the saint’s” commentary. I hadn’t even seen this (below). It’s complete fiction created by NBJC. Rosendall you need to research this, and stop reporting hearsay. That you guys never mention the Black Men’s Xchange (BMXnational.com) or my name, but the name of someone else homosexual, but was never asked to speak, is blatant White bias/racism.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Three months later, in October 2005, Wilson angered gay activists on a separate matter when he reportedly blocked black gay activist and former Clinton administration official Keith Boykin from speaking at an African American civil rights rally on the National Mall known as the Millions More Movement March. Wilson served as national executive director of the march.

    Boykin was scheduled to speak at the event following extensive negotiations between the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT group, and organizers of the Millions More Movement. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the event’s lead organizer, initially agreed to allow a gay speaker and didn’t object when activists decided Boykin would be a speaker representing the black LGBT community. Wilson objected late to Boykin taking the stage and his appearance was scrapped.

    Ray said he believes Wilson has “come a long way” since his 2005 actions. Ray noted that while Wilson personally opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds, he chose not to become involved with efforts by his fellow ministers to campaign against the city’s same-sex marriage law passed by the City Council in December.

  17. Black Mens Xchange NY

    July 25, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Get it right. Same gender loving (SGL) is a Black culturally affirming homosexual identity. SGL is an alternative to Eurocentric homosexual identities e.g. gay and lesbian which do not culturally affirm or engage the rich history and cultures of people of African descent. Specifically, the term SGL affirms Black homosexual and bisexual men and women through its African American conceptual origins, African inspired iconography, philosophy, symbology, principles, and values. The term SGL usually has broad, important and positive personal, social, and political purposes and consequences.

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17th Street High Heel Race draws large crowd

D.C. Mayor, three Council members, police chief mingle with drag queens

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34th annual High Heel Race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Close to 1,000 spectators turned out Tuesday night to watch D.C.’s 34th Annual 17th Street High Heel Race in which several dozen men dressed in drag and wearing colorful high heel shoes raced along a three-block stretch of 17th Street near Dupont Circle.

As she has in past years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose office organizes the annual event, gave the official signal for the runners to start the race from a stage at the intersection of 17th and R streets, N.W. 

Joining the mayor on the stage was Japer Bowles, who Bowser recently named as director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which plays the lead role in organizing the High Heel Race. 

Also appearing on stage after being introduced by Bowser were D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2).

Bowser, who along with the three Council members delivered brief remarks before the start of the race, said the event highlights the city’s diversity and resilience coming after over a year of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we want the world to know – that even in a pandemic, even when we had to trim the budget, we stayed focused on how we can make life better for our LGBTQ community,” Bowser told the crowd. “And we’re going to keep on doing it,” she said. “We’re investing in making sure everybody in our community is accepted and safe.”

D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, who walked along the three-block section of 17th Street before the race began, was greeted warmly by bystanders, some of whom called out his name to welcome him to what has become the city’s largest Halloween celebration.

“This is a great event,” Contee told the Washington Blade. “I enjoy coming out to be among D.C. residents and all who find our D.C. culture,” he said. “It’s just a great evening, so we’re happy to be out here supporting our community.”

Members of the D.C. police LGBT Liaison Unit were among the police contingent on duty at the event and overseeing the closing of the streets surrounding 17th Street.

Like past years, many of the race participants and dozens of others dressed in Halloween costumes paraded up and down 17th Street beginning at 6:30 p.m., more than two hours before the start of the race, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.  

However, the mayor this year gave the signal to start the race at about 8:35 p.m. Although a large number of drag runners participated in the race, some who planned to join the race didn’t make it to the starting line in time because they expected the race to begin at 9 p.m. as advertised, according to people in the crowd who knew those who missed the race.

To ensure that everyone had an opportunity to participate, Bowles and others from the mayor’s office agreed to hold a second race about a half hour after the first one. The number of participants in the second race appeared to be about the same as those who joined the first race, indicating many of the drag participants ran twice.

“This is a special treat,” said one bystander. “We got to see two races instead of one.” 

The High Heel Race was cancelled last year due to restrictions related to the COVID pandemic. Many in the crowd watching the race on Tuesday night said they were delighted the city decided to go ahead with the event this year at a time when other large events continue to be canceled or postponed.

Also similar to past years when the High Heel Race took place, the restaurants and bars that line 17th Street were filled on Tuesday night, including the gay bars JR.’s and Windows as well as the longtime LGBTQ-friendly Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse.

Prior to the mayor’s arrival, gay local radio and TV personality Jimmy Alexander of DCW 50 TV served as host to a drag show and costume contest on the stage. DCW 50 also set up and hosted a separate stage on the sidewalk next to JR.’s bar in which race participants and others dressed in costumes were invited to have their pictures taken and provided with copies of the photos of themselves.

“I think it’s amazing,” Bowser told the Blade after the completion of the first race. “It’s good to be back. It was tough missing a year of activities,” she said referring to the business shutdowns brought about by the pandemic. “We had a lot of great, beautiful racers. And so, I’m really excited about it.”

To see more photos from this event, click here.

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Gay attorney’s plans to run for Del. Senate foiled by redistricting

Activists say move will ‘dilute’ LGBTQ vote

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Mitch Crane, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay Democratic activist Mitch Crane. (Photo courtesy Crane)

Plans by Delaware gay attorney and Democratic Party activist Mitch Crane to run for a seat in the Delaware State Senate in a district that included areas surrounding the town of Lewes, where Crane lives, and Rehoboth Beach ended abruptly this week when state officials approved a redistricting plan that removes Crane’s residence from the district.

The seat for which Crane planned to run is in Delaware’s 6th Senate District which, in addition to Lewes and Rehoboth, includes the towns of Dewey Beach, Harbeson, Milton, and surrounding areas, according to the state Senate’s website. 

The seat is currently held by Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez, a moderate Republican who became the first Hispanic American elected to the Delaware Senate in 2012. Lopez announced in July that he would not seek re-election in 2022. 

The redistricting plan, which was approved by leaders of the Democratic-controlled Delaware General Assembly, places the section of the Lewes postal district where Crane lives into the 19th Senate District. Crane said that district is in a heavily Republican and conservative part of the state dominated by supporters of President Donald Trump who remain Trump supporters.

Under Delaware law, changes in the district lines of state Senate and House districts, which takes place every 10 years following the U.S. Census count, are decided by the Delaware General Assembly, which is the state legislative body.

Crane told the Washington Blade that neither he nor any other Democrat would have a realistic chance of winning the State Senate seat next year in the 19th District.

“Jesus could not win in that district if he was a Democrat,” said Crane.

Crane said a Democratic candidate could win next year in the reconfigured 6th Senate District now that incumbent Lopez will not be seeking re-election.

The Cape Gazette, the Delaware newspaper, reported in an Oct. 22 story that Crane was one of at least two witnesses that testified at a two-day virtual hearing held Oct. 18-19 by a State Senate committee, that the proposed redistricting would dilute the LGBTQ vote in the 6th District and the draft proposal should be changed.

 “The proposed lines remove a significant percentage of the LGBTQ residents from the current 6th District where most of such residents of southern Delaware live and place them in the 19th District which has a smaller such population,” the Cape Gazette quoted Crane telling the committee. “By doing so, it dilutes the impact of the gay community which shares political beliefs,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“The proposed lines dilute the voting power of the LGBTQ community in addition to others who respect diversity,” the Cape Gazette quoted 6th District resident Sandy Spence as telling the committee. 

In an Oct. 10 email sent to potential supporters before the redistricting plan was approved, Crane said he believes he has the experience and record that make him a strong candidate for the state Senate seat. He is a former chair of the Sussex County Democratic Party, where Rehoboth and Lewes are located; and he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Delaware State University’s graduate school, where he teaches American Governance and Administration.

He is a past president of the Delaware Stonewall PAC, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, and he’s the state’s former Deputy Insurance Commissioner.

 “I intend to focus on smart growth in Sussex County; work on the problems of homelessness and the need for affordable housing; and assuring that this district receives its fair portion of tax dollars,” he said in his Oct. 10 email message announcing his candidacy.

Crane said he posted a Facebook message on Oct. 26 informing supporters that the redrawn district lines removed him from the district, and he is no longer a candidate.

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MSNBC’s Capehart to host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch Nov. 6

Ashland Johnson to serve as keynote speaker

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Gay journalist Jonathan Capehart will host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pulitzer Prizing-winning gay journalist Jonathan Capehart, the anchor of MSNBC’s “Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart,” will serve as host for the 24th Annual SMYAL Fall Brunch scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6, at D.C.’s Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The annual Fall Brunch serves as one of the largest fundraising events for SMYAL, which advocates and provides services for LGBTQ youth in the D.C. metropolitan area. 

“Each year, a community of advocates, changemakers, and supporters comes together at the Fall Brunch to raise much-needed funds to support and expand critical programs and services for queer and trans youth in the DMV area,” a statement released by the organization says.

The statement says attorney and former Division I women’s collegiate basketball athlete Ashland Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the SMYAL Fall Brunch. Johnson founded the sports project called The Inclusion Playbook, which advocates for racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

Other speakers include Zahra Wardrick, a SMYAL program participant and youth poet; and Leandra Nichola, a parent of attendees of Little SMYALs, a program that SMYAL says provides support for “the youngest members of the LGBTQ community” at ages 6-12. The SMYAL statement says Nichola is the owner and general manager of the Takoma Park, Md., based café, bar, retail, and bubble tea shop called Main Street Pearl.

According to the statement, the SMYAL Fall Brunch, including a planned silent auction, will be live streamed through SMYAL’s Facebook page for participants who may not be able to attend in person. For those attending the event in person, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required, and masks will also be required for all attendees when not actively eating or drinking, the statement says.

The statement says that for attendees and supporters, the Fall Brunch is “a community celebration of how your support has not only made it possible for SMYAL to continue to serve LGBTQ youth through these challenging times, it’s allowed our programs to grow and deepen.”

Adds the statement, “From affirming mental health support and housing to fostering community spaces and youth leadership training, we will continue to be there for queer and trans youth together.”

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