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Obituary: Vann Chen, 52

Friends describe him as “icon” of DC gay nightlife; talented tailor and designer

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Vann Chen, a longtime D.C. resident and self-employed tailor and clothing designer, died March 31 at his Dupont Circle area apartment. He was 52.

Danny Aviance, his close friend and roommate for 17 years, said Chen died in his sleep. He said the city’s Medical Examiner’s office was still in the process of determining the cause of death.

Aviance said Chen was the youngest of nine children born and raised in Vietnam to Chinese parents. He said Chen arrived with family members in the U.S. in 1979 or 1980 on the West Coast. Aviance said Chen initially moved to the D.C. area to help his sister operate a family-run restaurant in Falls Church, Va.

During the years that Chen shared an apartment with him on 16th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle, Aviance said Chen established a following as an acclaimed clothes maker who enjoyed making a living sewing.

“He had a style like nobody else,” Aviance said. “He did everything from wedding dresses to throw pillows. He literally threaded his way into people’s lives.”

Aviance and Chen’s friend Eileen Rappoport said Chen also was well known in the 1990s and early 2000s as a popular figure at D.C. gay nightclubs, including Tracks and later Velvet Nation before the two clubs closed to make way for real estate development.

Rappoport called Chen an “icon” in the D.C. area to those who were regulars at some of those clubs, especially Tracks.

“When Vann arrived, it was a party,” she said. “His talent in bringing life and light to anywhere he went is legendary.”

Rappoport added, “He was also a talented designer and seamstress. Many a bride walked down the aisle in a Vann Chen original. And like his work with fabric, Vann weaved himself into my life and the life of many creating a family that celebrated the best of life and grieved when the worst occurred. He was there to support each and every one of us and made us better people along the way.”

Aviance said he remembers Chen as “the funniest, kindest, sweetest person” he ever knew.

Chen’s friend David Delatour said Chen excelled in interior design as well as clothing design and the term “tailor” by itself wouldn’t do him justice.

“Vann was a high-end artist. His canvas was the human body and the home, and his paint was fabric and the needle,” said Delatour. “I have never seen anyone do what he did with his craft.”

Delatour and Mark Lee, a nightlife advocate and former owner of the gay nightclub Lizard Lounge and other venues, said Chen was also a generous supporter of community fundraisers at the clubs, especially those for AIDS- and LGBT-related causes.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, April 28 at 9 p.m. with midnight toast on Chen’s birthday, at Townhouse Tavern Upstairs (next to Cobalt), 17th and R streets, N.W. In accordance with his wishes, Chen was cremated, with his ashes to be sent to Vietnam, where they will be buried at the site of his parents’ interment, Aviance said.

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Delaware

Delmarva Pride to feature drag, dancing, and more this weekend

Easton and Cambridge to host events

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A scene from Delmarva Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Delmarva Peninsula will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend, including drag shows, a festival, and much more. 

The Delmarva Pride Center will put on the annual Pride celebration starting on Friday, June 14, and it will go until Sunday to celebrate queer love and acceptance in Delmarva.  

The weekend kicks off on Friday with a free legal clinic in partnership with FreeState Justice at the Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, Md. Free legal services including name and gender marker changes, criminal record expungements, and peace and protection orders are just some of the services being offered. For more information visit freestate-justice.org.

Then on Friday night, the third annual Pride Drag Show will be at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., in Easton. Bring your cash as four drag queens and host Miranda Bryant put on the fundraising show, where 100% of ticket sales go to the Delmarva Pride Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performance begins at 7 p.m. For tickets visit avalonfoundation.org.

On Saturday there will be the Pride festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at  S. Harrison and E. Dover Street, in Easton. This free community festival will include vendors, live performances, and more. 

Saturday night the party gets going as Delmarva Pride will host its 2024 Pride Dance. There will be a DJ and drinks available for purchase. This event is for 18 and up and will include a cash bar for anyone 21 and up. No tickets are required. 

To round out your Pride weekend, on Sunday the Delmarva Pride Brunch will be held at ArtBar 2.0, 420b Race St. in Cambridge, Md. Tickets include food, access to the mimosa bar, and a drag performance. Tickets are available here

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Baltimore

People of Pride: Five Marylanders making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community

Baltimore Pride is this weekend

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Jabari Lyles poses for a portrait in East Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore on June 10, 2024. (Photo by Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | One hosts movie nights, karaoke and other events that provide a safe space for LGBTQ people. Another has become a sounding board for customers at his gay bar dealing with pressures of the outside world. And a third beats the pavement to promote political awareness about LGBTQ issues.

These are just some of the things five Baltimoreans the Baltimore Banner is profiling in honor of Baltimore Pride Month are doing in the fight for visibility, support and acceptance of their peers.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Delaware

Delaware’s Sussex Pride launches free statewide HIV, STI testing

Special program honors National HIV Testing Day on June 27

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Each year on June 27, people across the United States are encouraged to get tested for HIV. This year for Delawareans, it’s easier than ever.

Sussex Pride has partnered with STDCheck to offer free HIV and syphilis testing everywhere in Delaware. There are more than 20 locations across the state, making it simple to find a testing center.  

David Mariner, executive director of Sussex Pride, told the Blade, “We are thrilled with this new partnership with STDcheck. The ultimate goal is to empower individuals with knowledge about their HIV status, provide necessary support, and facilitate early intervention to improve health outcomes in our state.”

Finding a testing center, getting tested, and getting results is simple. Start by finding a lab near you using this link (https://www.stdcheck.com/std-test-center.php). Then call STDcheck at 800-456-2323 and request a free Sussex Pride HIV and/or syphilis test. Make sure to mention Sussex Pride in the call to get the test for free. Then schedule a time and get tested. 

“If you are HIV positive, the sooner you know, the better,” Mariner added. “Early and sustained treatment can help you live a long and healthy life. It can also help protect others.”

This special program is in honor of National HIV Testing Day, created in 1995 to highlight the lifesaving impact of HIV testing. HIV has historically had a disproportionate effect on the LGBTQ community. According to the CDC, 70% of all new cases of HIV in 2021 were among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.

The CDC’s theme for this year’s HIV testing day is “Level up your self-love: check your status.” The theme emphasizes, “valuing yourself, showing yourself compassion and respect, and honoring your health needs with self-love,” and the best way to do that is to test.

For more information on Sussex Pride’s testing program visit sussexpride.org/posts/testing/ and for more information on HIV visit CDC.gov/hiv.

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