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Once homeless, gay youth is college bound

‘There are still good people in the world’



Last November, Kadeem Swenson posed in shadow for this Blade photo, homeless and fearful of being recognized.

Today, Swenson is off the streets, interning in Mayor Gray’s office and preparing to start college full time in the fall. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Kadeem Swenson, a 19-year-old gay man, is far more interested in talking about his future than he is about his past.

Last week, at the Blade’s request, Swenson talked about what his activist friends and city officials are calling an extraordinary journey over the past two years from his status as a homeless youth to his current role as a college student and intern in the office of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.

“There are still good people in the world,” he said, when asked what lessons he learned from his recent experiences.

Swenson is taking summer courses at the Community College of the University of the District of Columbia. He will begin a full-time class schedule at the community college as a freshman in September.

He’s doing his internship under a city youth leadership program in the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, with the office’s director, Jeffrey Richardson, acting as his supervisor and mentor.

Richardson said he was pleased to allow Swenson to take a few days off two weeks ago to attend a student leadership camp on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. The event was organized by Campus Pride, a national LGBT organization working with students that invited Swenson to attend through a scholarship.

“I got a lot out of it,” Swenson said. “There were a lot of workshops and some real great keynote speakers. They work on action planning to build relationships and bring about change, not only on campuses but just in general.”

Shane Windmeyer, founder and executive director of Campus Pride, said he invited Swenson to attend the event after reading about Swenson’s plight as a homeless gay youth in the Blade last November.

“I was quite inspired by his story,” Windmeyer said.

Those who know Swenson in the LGBT community in D.C. have said they’ve been impressed by how he made the best of the circumstances he faced, including the circumstances that led to his becoming homeless.

That two-year period began when his parents kicked him out of their house in Waldorf, Md., after he told them he’s gay. He responded by coming to D.C., where he temporarily moved in with a student friend and persuaded his mother to enroll him in D.C.’s Ballou STAY High School.

A short time later, his friend and her family moved to another city, leaving him without a place to live. Without telling his teachers and schoolmates at Ballou, he moved into an abandoned apartment building in the city’s Congress Heights neighborhood near the school.

“I never really told anybody because I didn’t want anybody to have pity on me,” he told the Blade in an interview last November.

He managed to get through his junior and part of his senior year at Ballou with some financial help from his grandmother while living a secret life as a homeless person. He said he stayed most of the time in the abandoned apartment building, with no electricity or running water. He used nearby fast food restaurants and his school for eating and cleaning and other personal needs. He used a nearby self-service laundry to clean his clothes.

Last October, running low on money and deciding he wanted to find a safer and more stable place to live, Swenson confided in a school administrator that his parents “kicked me out” and he was looking for a place to live.

The administrator put him in touch with activist Earline Budd, whom the administrator met through Budd’s work in LGBT youth homeless programs. Budd, an outreach official with Transgender Health Empowerment, took immediate steps to find Swenson a temporary place to stay at a private shelter.

She and Brian Watson, another official at T.H.E., then arranged for Swenson to move into the Wanda Alston House, which T.H.E. operates with the help of city funding. The multi-bedroom house in Northeast D.C. was opened to provide a place for homeless LGBT youth to live while they seek a more permanent living arrangement.

Swenson said he stayed at the Alston House from November of last year until shortly after his graduation in June from Ballou, when he moved into a dormitory on the UDC campus to take summer courses in English, math and philosophy.

He says he has big plans for his education, with an eye on eventually landing a career in the international media industry.

“I haven’t decided what I want to do within international media, but I want to do something that deals with music, television and movies – on the business side,” he said.

He’s starting his studies at the UDC community college in the liberal arts area, with a plan to transfer to a four-year college in another state.

“I’m looking at UCLA among other schools,” he said.

His college plans will depend on a means of obtaining financing, hopefully through a scholarship, he said.

Windmeyer of Campus Pride said his organization helps promising LGBT students find scholarships and financial aid, and he plans to work with Swenson on that front.

Swenson said his discovery that good people exist in the world has come about through what he says has been the help he has received from people he’s met over the past year through a network of contacts in the LGBT community and the D.C. government.

He received a scholarship from an association representing Korean grocers through a contact he met from D.C. gay activist and Ward 8 community leader Phil Pannell that is helping him pay his tuition at UDC.

Through other local activists, Swenson met education advocate and local community philanthropist Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who has provided him with a grant to help him with his education and living expenses.

In September, Swenson will be featured in a report on the LGBT public television series In the Life, which is scheduled to air on D.C.’s WETA-Channel 26 at an as yet to be announced date. A camera crew from In the Life followed Swenson around in the mayor’s office and traveled to Vanderbilt University in Nashville to follow him as he attended seminars and other events at the Camp Pride.

“I can say I’ve learned a lot in the last year,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of stuff in the community, I spoke at Youth Pride. I was a speaker at Black Pride.”

Among the highlights of his activities associated with his internship at City Hall, Swenson said, was the opportunity to march in the city’s Capital Pride Parade with the mayor and his contingent of city officials.

“I made a lot of connections and I’ve had a lot of help on the way and I know that I’ll be OK because I have so many resources that I can turn to,” he said. “And I’m in a position now that I can help other people by telling them about these resources.”



Celebrity News

Anne Heche dies after removal from life support

Actress dated Ellen DeGeneres in late 1990s



(Screenshot/YouTube Inside Edition)

Actress Anne Heche died after she was removed from life support on Sunday, nearly two weeks after her Mini-Cooper crashed through a two-story house in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista neighborhood. Investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department believe she was intoxicated at the time.

She sustained a severe anoxic brain injury along with severe burns and was being treated at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital, near Chatsworth in the San Fernando Valley.

The 53-year-old actress who was a star of films like “Donnie Brasco,” the political satire “Wag the Dog” and the 1998 remake of “Psycho,” had been declared legally dead under California law on Friday, however, her family kept her alive long enough to be an organ donor.

In a statement Friday, the LAPD announced that: “As of today, there will be no further investigative efforts made in this case. Any information or records that have been requested prior to this turn of events will still be collected as they arrive as a matter of formalities and included in the overall case. When a person suspected of a crime expires, we do not present for filing consideration.” LAPD detectives had previously made public that investigators into the crash found narcotics in a blood sample taken from Heche.

The actress’s family released a statement on Friday:

“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend. Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact,” the statement added.

Heche was married to camera operator Coleman Laffoon from 2001 to 2009. The two had a son, Homer, together. She had another son, named Atlas, during a relationship with actor James Tupper, her co-star on the TV series “Men In Trees.”

Laffoon left a moving tribute on an Instagram reel in which he also gave an update on how their 20-year-old son Homer Laffoon is coping with the loss of his mother.

“I loved her and I miss her, and I’m always going to,” he said adding: “Homer is okay. He’s grieving, of course, and it’s rough. It’s really rough, as probably anybody can imagine. But he’s surrounded by family and he’s strong, and he’s gonna be okay.”

“Rest In Peace, Mom, I love you, Homer,” the actor’s 20-year-old son, Homer, said in a statement after Heche was declared legally dead on Friday.“ My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” read the statement. “After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully, my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom. Over those six days, thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me. I am grateful for their love, as I am for the support of my Dad, Coley, and my stepmom Alexi who continue to be my rock during this time. Rest In Peace Mom, I love you, Homer.”

Tupper, a Canadian actor who starred alongside Heche in “Men in Trees,” had a 13-year-old son, Atlas, with her. “Love you forever,” Tupper, 57, wrote on his Instagram post’s caption with a broken heart emoji, which shared an image of the actress from Men in Trees.

Between 1997 and 2000, Heche was also in a relationship with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

“This is a sad day,” DeGeneres posted on Twitter. “I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.” The year after her break-up with the comedian, in September 2001, Heche recounted in her memoir “Call Me Crazy,” about her lifelong struggles with mental health and a childhood of abuse.

KTLA’s entertainment reporter Sam Rubin noted that over the past two decades, Heche’s career pivoted several times. In 2017, she hosted a weekly radio show on SiriusXM with Jason Ellis called “Love and Heche.”

In 2020, Heche made her way into the podcast world. She launched “Better Together” which she cohosted alongside Heather Duffy Boylston. The show was described as a way to celebrate friendship. 

She also worked in smaller films, on Broadway, and on TV shows. She recently had recurring roles on the network series “Chicago P.D.,” and “All Rise” and was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.”

People magazine reported that several of Heche’s acting projects are expected to be released posthumously.

These include “Girl in Room 13,” expected to be released on Lifetime in September, “What Remains,” scheduled to be released in 2023, and HBO Max TV series “The Idol,” created by Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) and Euphoria creator Sam Levinson.

In her Instagram post from earlier this year Heche stands between her sons Atlas, 13 and Homer, 20.

From KTLA:

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Celebrity News

‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

George Takei tweets ‘we lived long and prospered together’



(Screenshot/YouTube The Smithsonian Channel)

She was a groundbreaking cultural icon who broke barriers in a time of societal upheaval and battling for the civil rights of Black Americans. An actress, a mother and thoroughly devoted to the legions of fans of “Star Trek,” Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Uhura, has died at 89.

The announcement on her Facebook page by her son read:

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World

I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.

Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.

Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.

I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.

Live Long and Prosper,

Kyle Johnson

Nichols was born in Robbins, Ill., in 1932, according to her IMDb page. Legendary composer Duke Ellington “discovered” Nichols and helped her become a singer and dancer. She later turned to acting, and joined Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” where she played Uhura from 1966 to 1969.

Out actor George Takei who played ‘Sulu’ on Star Trek the original series with Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Nyota Uhura, at a Star Trek convention in this undated photo. (George Takei/Twitter)

It was in that role of Uhura that Nichols not only broke barriers between races, most famously her onscreen kiss, the first between a Black person and a white person, with castmate William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk, but she also became a role model for young Black women and men inspiring them to seek out their own places in science, technology, and other human endeavors.

In numerous interviews over the years Nichols often recalled how the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the series.

When the first series ended Nichols went on to become a spokesperson for NASA, where she “helped recruit and inspire a new generation of fearless astronauts.” She later reprised her role in several successful “Star Trek” films and continued to advocate for the advancement of Black Americans especially in the areas of science and technology.

Formerly a NASA deputy administrator, Frederick Gregory, now 81, told the Associated Press he once saw an advertisement in which Nichols said “I want you to apply for the NASA program.”

“She was talking to me,” he recounted. The U.S. Air Force pilot would apply and later become the first African American shuttle pilot.

President Joe Biden weighed in Sunday afternoon on her passing in a statement issued by the White House:

In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.
A daughter of a working-class family from Illinois, she first honed her craft as an actor and singer in Chicago before touring the country and the world performing with the likes of Duke Ellington and giving life to the words of James Baldwin.
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she shattered stereotypes to become the first Black woman to act in a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek. With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.
Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society.

Nichols son said that services will be private for family members and her closest friends.

In 2008 the actress at a news conference, coordinated by the filmmakers of the motion picture “TRU LOVED,” in honor of the more than 900 students at Los Angeles’ Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s School of Social Justice who participated in the GLSEN Day of Silence.

Nichelle Nichols speaks on LGBTQ rights:

Her fellow castmate and life long friend, openly Out actor George Takei shared his sadness on hearing of Nichols’ passing on Twitter:

From the September 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Channel: “Star Trek’s decision to cast Nichelle Nichols, an African American woman, as major character on the show was an almost unheard-of move in 1966. But for black women all over the country, it redefined the notions of what was possible.”

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols on Uhura’s Radical Impact:

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Emma Corin becomes first nonbinary person featured on cover of American Vogue

The star of The Crown opened up about their identity.



Emma Corrin Jamie Hawkesworth/Vogue

Emma Corin was announced as the cover star of the August edition of Vogue. It’s the first time a nonbinary person is featured on the cover of American Vogue.

Corin posted the cover photo and wrote, “My grin really says it all! A huge honour to be your August cover.”

In early 2021, Corin quietly came out as a queer and nonbinary, changing pronouns to “she/they” in their instagram bio. Currently Corin sticks to pronouns “they/them.”

“I feel much more seen when I’m referred to as ‘they,’ but my closest friends, they will call me ‘she,’ and I don’t mind, because I know they know me,” Corin explained during the interview with Vogue.

Corin stated that they’ve still gone on dates with various kinds of people and set no limit on who they date. “I like people,” they simply said and shrugged.

Corin also shared some of their dating experiences. “My first date with a girl, they were like, Oh! You’re a baby queer!” Corin said, “It was amazing. We actually didn’t end up seeing each other again, but she really gave me the lowdown.”

Besides, Corin was frank about their conflicting feelings towards gender and sexuality issues. “I’m working out all this complex gender and sexuality stuff. And yet, I’m seeing a guy? That feels very juxtaposed, even if I’m very happy.”

Corin is known for playing Diana on the Netflix series The Crown.

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