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A dream fulfilled

MLK memorial, years in the making, resonates with LGBT community

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The civil rights movement pioneered by Martin Luther King, Jr., has inspired many leaders of the LGBT movement. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

(UPDATE: The MLK Memorial dedication ceremony has been postponed due to  Hurricane Irene. It is expected to be rescheduled for September or October.)

When a tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is dedicated this weekend, it will mark more than the addition of a new monument to Washington, D.C.’s landscape.

It will symbolize the civil rights leader’s success.

The stone likeness rises as the first monument to a man of color on the National Mall, 48 years after King described his then ground-breaking dream, and in a nation where — at least ostensibly — much of that dream has been realized.

The movement was a model for countless others, including the LGBT rights push, which has shared nonviolence tenets and even leaders like gay, black activist Bayard Rustin.

Yet most similarities end there.

While fruits of the civil rights movement are evident in modern America — apparent in a widening black middle class and a black first family in the White House, for instance — the gay rights movement’s successes have been slower coming.

Same-sex marriage rights remain tenuous and limited to a handful of states; despite hate crime legislation, the threat of violence continues to deny many gays and lesbians a basic sense of safety in their hometowns.

As the nation prepares to welcome King to the National Mall, community leaders share their outlook on the LGBT movement with the Washington Blade — from a California group using civil unrest to humanize the struggle; to the partner of late gay and civil rights icon Bayard Rustin working to keep his ideals alive; to former NAACP leader Julian Bond, who uses his status as a key historic civil rights figure to promote the LGBT rights struggle as a modern civil rights fight.

They point to entrenched faith-based bigotry, and even a lack of movement cohesion, as obstacles. But each believes that by using King’s model of continued struggle, the LGBT dream of full equality can be achieved.

Images of change

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. sitting in an Alabama jail cell. Firefighters battering blacks with powerful jets of water. Jeering whites pouring condiments over the heads of stoic lunch counter protesters.

They’re images that moved activist Robin McGehee, as a child growing up in Jackson, Miss.

And today as executive director of GetEqual, she organizes demonstrations to create actions and images she hopes will drive home the plight of gay and lesbian men and women just as powerfully. An absence of such visual tools encouraged McGehee to form the group, with offices in Berkeley, Calif., and Washington, D.C., in January 2010.

“We had that in reference to the AIDS movement in ACT-UP, and fighting for adequate health care. But in reference to a full civil rights fight for equality, I couldn’t think of one iconic action,” she said.

The group has orchestrated more than 40 actions in the last year, including one in which military veterans handcuffed themselves to the White House fence to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The group honed use of such actions at the Highlander Research and Education Center, a New Market, Tenn., center that trained members of the original civil rights movement. McGehee and other LGBT equality activists underwent training at the historic center in January 2010.

“Not until you can give literal imagery to that discrimination do people really resonate or get it,” McGehee said.

Yet despite mirroring the earlier movement’s successful tactics, activists’ success in mainstreaming LGBT rights remains light years behind that of racial equality — something McGehee blames on entrenched religious bigotry.

“We’ve gotten into a moment where people are using the Bible as a weapon,” said McGehee, pointing out that while religious rhetoric once justified slavery and racism, cultural changes eventually erased such thinking. “… I don’t think we’ve jumped that hurdle with regard to gays.”

McGehee is encouraged, however, by more subtle success in incorporating gays and lesbians socially. Just a few years after Ellen DeGeneres thought twice about coming out on TV, realistic portrayals of gays and lesbians are common on TV.

“In time,” she said, “I think we’re gonna get there.”

A life of service

The former partner of Bayard Rustin said the gay civil rights leader would be happy with the arrival of marriage equality, but would have pushed for it in all 50 states. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

Walter Naegle had certainly heard of Bayard Rustin, the relentlessly active civil rights agitator who gained as much notoriety for his efforts to win black equality as for his open homosexuality.

But on the day he ran into the civil rights legend on a New York City corner in April 1977, he didn’t recognize him: Rustin wasn’t carrying his trademark walking stick.

“When he gave me his name, I knew,” said Naegle, whose chance meeting with Rustin lead to a 10-year relationship that ended only when the activist died in 1987.

More than two decades later, Naegle keeps Rustin’s ideals alive, working with filmmakers to promote “Brother Outsider,” a portrayal of Rustin’s story, executing his estate and generally overseeing the use of his image.

He believes Rustin’s courage, openness and tireless work — he was in his 70s and still agitating when he died — have helped make him resonate as an icon of the human rights movement.

By the time Naegle met Rustin, the activist had long been a legend. Rustin had worked with A. Philip Randolph to strengthen relationships between blacks and labor unions, but was perhaps best known for his role organizing the 1963 March on Washington.

He’d also become a gay rights icon before it was fashionable: Rustin was essentially outed in 1953 when he was arrested on a “morals charge,” yet he refused to deny the charges or his sexual orientation.

“He didn’t have to hide anything,” he said. “He was just going to be who he was and let the chips fall where they may.”

Rustin would pay the price for that openness.

“Whenever he would rise to a certain level, particularly in the African-American civil rights movement but also in other movements, something would happen and someone would try to chop him down,” Naegle said.

Nonetheless, “He was not defeated. He didn’t turn around and stop his activism — he just worked on the sidelines.”

Rustin remained active with several organizations, including the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, at the time of his death.

Years later, his story still has the power to inspire. Naegle said a book of his letters is slated for publication in March, in time for what would have been Rustin’s 100th birthday.

Naegle believes his partner would have been “heartened” to see marriage equality happen in even one state. But he wouldn’t have been satisfied with limited success.

“It’s fine to have these victories in urban areas,” Naegle said. “But people all over the country should be entitled to the same thing.”

“Gay and lesbian rights are not ‘special’ rights”

Julian Bond’s new fight

Former NAACP Chair Julian Bond likens the modern LGBT movement to the push for black civil rights in the ‘60s. (photo courtesy of wikimedia.org)

Where others may see conflict between the black and gay rights agendas, Julian Bond sees similarities.

Both groups struggle against bigotry based on personal characteristics. Both are entitled to basic rights by the same Constitution. And both benefit from each others’ successes.

Indeed, he argues, “People of color ought to be flattered that our movement has provided so much inspiration for others — that it has been so widely imitated,” Bond, who works as an adjunct professor at American University, told the Blade.

The man who has worn many hats as a Georgia lawmaker and leader with both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP, has more recently directed his outspoken energies to the conflict between civil rights and gay rights advocates.

It’s a particularly touchy dispute. Old school civil rights leaders and even some black gays bristle at LGBT activists’ use of King’s rhetoric to promote their agenda as a  modern civil rights movement. Some site racial divisions within the LGBT movement, and argue that discrimination faced by gays isn’t as harsh as that faced by blacks.

Yet for Bond, there isn’t much of a dispute: The two groups must lock arms.

“Many gays and lesbians worked side by side with me in the ’60s civil rights movement. Am I now to tell them thanks for risking life and limb helping me win my rights, but they are excluded because of a condition of their birth?” he said. “That they cannot share now in the victories they helped to win?”

Bond has lent his outspoken rhetoric and organizational skills to many causes over the years.

While a student at Morehouse College, in Atlanta, in the ’60s, he helped organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he was the first president of the SPLC and was board chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1998 to 2010.

He’s become one of the most vocal mainstream voices in the movement to promote equal treatment for gays and lesbians, going as far as to boycott the funeral of King widow Coretta Scott King in 2006 after the services were arranged at an anti-gay church.

In July, Bond spoke at an NAACP forum discussing gay and lesbian issues in the black community, featuring openly gay black comedian Wanda Sykes and CNN anchor Don Lemon.

“People of color carry the badge of who we are on our faces. But we are far from the only people suffering discrimination,” Bond said. “Sadly so do many others. They deserve the law’s protections and civil rights too.”

Bond’s comments stand in contrast to the black community’s historically conservative stance on gay issues.

Yet he said one need only look at the personal examples set by the lauded civil rights leaders to see whether such thinking is in line with King’s dream.

“We cannot know what Dr. King would have thought about today’s GLBT movements,” Bond said. “But if we consider the prominent role his widow, Coretta Scott King, occupied in speaking out on GLBT rights, it is hard to believe that he would not have done the same.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. laurelboy2

    August 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    The mainstream African-American community is largely very bigoted against the LGBT community. African-Americans have maintained, themselves, that there is no parallel between their fight for civil rights and the gay community’s. So, what’s in it for us to celebrate MLK, his monument and his “dream”??

  2. Andy Niable

    August 26, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Robin, I love ya, but with all due respect and appreciation for your energy and drive: How many times did MLK chain himself to Eisenhower’s, Kennedy’s, or Johnson’s White House fence?

    Indeed, Bond is correct: we need to reach out and build coalitions–just like MLK and the CRM did–to achieve goals and get results in order to get equal.

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Autos

A car fit for a queen

New $342,000 Rolls-Royce SUV will leave you speechless

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Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Last month, I was invited to test drive the ultimate SUV: a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. My partner Robert and I—nerdy fans of all things BritBox—decided to take this swanky ride on a two-day outing to Charlottesville. After all, meandering along Virginia’s bucolic backroads was the closest we were going to get to an English countryside. While we were trying to summon forth our inner Mr. Darcy, we discovered quite a few fun surprises in this regal SUV along the way.  

Rolls-Royce Cullinan
$342,000
Mpg: 12 city/20 highway
0 to 60 mph: 4.5 seconds

The Cullinan has a noble pedigree, named after the largest diamond ever found—a hefty 1.33-pound gem that is now part of the British Crown Jewels. There are other royal connections to Rolls-Royce, of course. Queen Elizabeth—who was trained as a World War II mechanic and, at age 95, still drives herself sometimes—has a vast car collection with many a Rolls. And both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle arrived at their weddings in a 1950 Phantom IV, made specially for the queen back when she was a mere princess. Yet despite its 114-year lineage, the luxury automaker has worked hard to keep pace with modern tastes and technology. 

Hence the Cullinan, the first-ever SUV in the Rolls-Royce stable. This tony horseless carriage has a $342,000 base price that quickly skyrockets with natty options. My test vehicle, for example, was $450,000—including $20,000 for a trendy detailing package. Other notable extras: lambswool floormats, contrast seat piping, black stained ash wood trim, and an embossed “RR” monogram on the doors and headrests. You also can opt for a cooling bin large enough for two Champagne flutes and a whiskey decanter. The best add-on, though, was the starlight headliner. To create the faux nighttime sky, it takes two craftspeople up to 17 hours to perforate 1,900 holes. Then fiberoptic lights are inset at various angles so that each “star” actually twinkles. And—crikey!—there’s even a shooting star feature. 

Exterior niceties are just as impressive, such as the anti-spin device to ensure the “RR” logo remains upright on each wheel cap at all times. Depending on customization, those fancy wheels can easily cost $4,000—each. The famous Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament is available in silver, gold-plated or illuminated polycarbonate. To prevent theft, the statuette automatically disappears beneath the hood when the engine is off. But perhaps the most impressive feature is also the least obvious, at least until you slip behind the wheel and fire up this high-class colossus. That’s when the finely tuned, twin-turbo V-12 engine roars to life and effortlessly glides you down the road. 

Driving such a sophisticated land yacht—which weighs almost three tons—feels like riding on a cloud. Surprisingly, there’s little body roll when cornering and no shuddering during quick stops. Think sleek Cutty Sark versus lumbering cruise ship. There were several major storms during our time in this vehicle, causing other drivers to pull off the road or frantically try and outrun the rain. But the Cullinan stayed steady, holding the road as we battered our way through heavy winds and torrential downpours. Another nice touch: Hidden in each of the rear coach doors was a full-size umbrella, which popped out at the push of a button. When we put the wet umbrellas back into their secret compartments, air vents quickly dried them out. Mary Poppins should have been so lucky.

The skies cleared the final day of my test ride, so I sped around the Beltway for one last hurrah. Perhaps because a Rolls-Royce is more refined and understated than any in-your-face Ferrari or Lamborghini, no one tried to race me down the road. Instead, there were lots of approving smiles and a big thumbs up or two. No, I didn’t respond with a royal wave. But I doubt anyone would have blamed me if I did. After all, driving a Cullinan makes you feel like queen for a day. 

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Real Estate

A real estate language primer

A few terms to know before you buy a home

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Before you start the home buying process, there are a few key terms to know.

When working with first-time buyers, I often hear them say, “I have a stupid question.” I automatically respond that there’s no such thing. 

What they think may be a stupid question almost invariably has been asked before by many other people in the same situation. The answer to a stupid question almost always makes you smarter, so what they really have may be a “smart question.”

Several questions that were recently asked of me have prompted me to take another look at what I discuss in my initial buyer consultations, so let’s start there. 

A Buyer Consultation is an initial meeting with a buyer, whether face-to-face, by telephone, or by Zoom or similar interactive means, where we exchange information about the buyer’s needs and the services I provide and determine whether we shall work together exclusively and for how long.

If we decide to go forward, we sign an Exclusive Buyer Representation Agreement, which allows an agent to be the buyer’s advocate by solely representing the buyer’s interests in a real estate transaction, protecting the buyer’s confidentiality, and providing essential services reserved for a client-based relationship. In the DMV, absent such an agreement, agents must legally represent and owe allegiance to a seller they have never met of a property they have never seen.

In D.C., our real estate contracts consist of 33 paragraphs of boilerplate language vetted by a committee of agents, brokers, and attorneys, updated as needed to comply with legislative changes and regulatory requirements. In other words, they contain a lot of “legalese.” In addition, there are a plethora of addenda that may apply to a real estate transaction.

It is important, therefore, for clients to understand what they are reading before signing and, rather than simply having buyers sign an offer electronically, I believe in providing them with a sample contract package and reviewing both the documents and the process with them to explain terms, market norms, and potential consequences of making certain choices.

The terms below seldom change in any meaningful way and learning them can be a good way to begin to understand the contract process.

Time is of the Essence, which is found at the top of our purchase contract, means that deadlines are fixed. There is no “wait just a minute more” unless both parties agree to an extension of time in writing.

An Earnest Money Deposit, generally an amount in excess of 3% of the offered price, accompanies or follows an offer and is held by a real estate brokerage or settlement firm until needed at closing. 

The terms Settlement and Closing are interchangeable and denote the signing and recording of documents transferring the property from seller to buyer.

A Contingency is a condition that must be met for the contract to proceed to settlement. An example might involve a satisfactory home inspection or appraisal, sale of a prior home, or receipt of financing. Compare it to a situation unrelated to real estate, such as “if you wear a mask, then you may enter the grocery store and shop.”

Home Inspections are typically conducted after a contract is Ratified, meaning all parties have agreed to the price and terms. They may allow for repairs to be negotiated with the sellers or for simple acceptance or rejection of the property based on the findings. Some buyers opt for a Walk-and-Talk inspection, which is conducted prior to submitting an offer. The cost is less, since buyers take their own notes and no report is issued. The offer the buyers make will be well-received by the sellers without the delay of a contingency. 

An Appraisal is ordered by the lender to determine the value of the property and whether that value supports the amount of the loan being made to the buyers. Don’t confuse this with an Assessment conducted by city assessors to determine value for property tax purposes. 

A Title Search is conducted to determine that there is nothing in the chain of ownership that would prevent the sale of the home. Title Insurance insulates the lender from issues such as fraud, forgery, liens, and other items that may not have been discovered in the initial search. The buyers may also purchase title insurance to similarly protect themselves.

In closing, a word about Closing Costs, the amounts paid to lenders, attorneys, brokers, and municipal offices at settlement for expenses incurred in completing the property transfer. The earnest money you have on deposit will be credited to you for these one-time costs or for the remainder of your downpayment. As J. G. Wentworth says, “It’s your money. Use it when you need it.”

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs

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Dining

Seven new restaurants to try this fall

D.C. restaurant scene thriving again after rough year

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Le Diplomate, dining, food, French cuisine, gay news, Washington Blade
If you like Le Diplomate, you’ll love new concept Bread Alley in Union Market offering, you guessed it, Le Dip’s famous breads. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The fall dining scene is as hot as ever. Here are some of the top tickets to look out for:

RAMMYs: Sept. 19 marks the annual D.C.-area restaurant industry awards, the RAMMYs. Many of the categories this year are unique to the challenges restaurants faced in 2020. Held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the awards “created timely categories that speak to all the ways the region’s uniquely met those challenges,” according to the RAMMYs. Such categories include “most innovative to-go packaging”, “outstanding COVID-safe redesign,” and “most impressive pivot to provision or market.” 

Jane Jane (1705 14th St. NW): 

Highly anticipated retro-chic cocktail bar Jane Jane quietly opened after more than two years in the making. Co-owned by gay men Drew Porterfield, his partner Ralph Brabham, and friend JP Sabatier, Jane Jane’s mid-century-style throwback offers classic cocktails and upgraded bar snacks. It’s located in the new Liz development on 14th Street.

Thirsty Crow (3400 11th St. NW):

Part sports bar, part cocktail bar, Thirsty Crow opened just last week in Columbia Heights. It sits in the subterranean level of Michelin Bib Gourmand-winning Makan, serving cocktails and bites inspired by Malaysian flavors, like its sister restaurant on the ground level. Chef James Wozniuk of Makan is overseeing the menu of snacks like shrimp chips and larger plates like spicy fried chicken with sambal.

No Goodbyes (1770 Euclid St. NW):

The Line Hotel previously played host to a suite of restaurants: A Rake’s Progress, Brothers and Sisters, and Spoke English. When these restaurants left this Adams Morgan hotel, the spaces sat mostly vacant until No Goodbyes slid into the ground floor. An all-day dining place that “taps the farmers, fishers, and small-time ranchers in DC’s own backyard,” according to its website, the menu sits squarely on a Chesapeake Bay foundation. Mid-Atlantic dishes, from fish to fowl, play large on the menu.

Bread Alley (1250 5th St NE):

The intoxicating tower of carbs that greets diners when they walk into buzzy Le Diplomate is getting its very own dedicated space, aptly named Bread Alley. A tiny location in the Union Market area, the shop just launched selling only the three types of bread that arrive complimentary at the start of any Le Dip meal: thick-crusted classic baguette, multigrain boules, and cranberry-walnut boules. It will eventually also sell pastries, jams, butter, honey, and other accouterments. Bakers begin their craft at 3:30 a.m. and offer their wares starting at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. or sold out, whichever arrives earlier.

Bistro Du Jour (99 District Square SW) 

Bistro Du Jour will be gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design’s third waterfront venue at the Wharf. A café in the Parisian style, it will lean heavily on croissants and cappuccinos during the day, moving to Champagne and larger savory dishes by night. The bistro will sell current partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery’s fresh baked goods and pastries, and will showcase traditional fare like coq au vin, French onion soup, steak frites, and foie gras for lunch and dinner. The bistro will display an extensive bubbly section, as well as a chic espresso bar and an outdoor patio. Brunch is in the works.

SUCCOTASH Prime (915 F St., NW)

After a yearlong hiatus, SUCCOTASH Prime recently reopened at the end of August. SUCCOTASH Prime, also run by gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, is an updated version of the restaurant, still with Chef Edward Lee at the helm. The refreshed SUCCOTASH opened as a southern steakhouse with an Asian twist, featuring smoked steaks, fried oysters, collard greens, ham, and kimchi side dish. Live music is also planned.

Via Roma (4531 Telfair Blvd #110, Camp Springs, Md.)

Via Roma is a restaurant where you can enjoy the pies, you just can’t call it “pizza.” Just opened a few weeks ago, the restaurant serves pinsas, a pizza-like dish using dough made from a heady mixture of wheat, soy, and rice flours, and then proofed for more than a day. The spot calls itself the first Pinsa-certified restaurant in Maryland, and aims to reflect the laid-back, Mediterranean atmosphere of Naples (the owner also runs an Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified restaurant in Maryland). Beyond Pinsa, it also serves Maryland crab tater tots, panini, pasta, salad, and Aperol spritzes.

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