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‘This is a very big deal’

Obama, NAACP announcements infuse Black Pride festivities with celebratory flair



Black Pride, Retro Dance Party, Gay News, Washington Blade

Revelers at last year's Black Pride. (Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Change is in the air and prominent local black LGBT activists say its effects will be palpable at this weekend’s Black Pride festivities.

It’s debatable what led to the timing of President Obama’s announced change of heart on same-sex marriage — he told ABC’s Robin Roberts in a May 9 interview that he “think(s) same-sex couples should be able to get married,” an unprecedented statement for a sitting U.S. president — but whether it was the timing of the North Carolina amendment to ban same-sex marriage, Vice President Joe Biden’s shockingly unbridled comments the weekend before on “Meet the Press” or just the final stop on his self-proclaimed “evolution” on the issue, the announcement came as a shock to many, especially since it’s an election year. But the comments and the subsequent announcement by the NAACP of its endorsement of same-sex marriage make for a radically altered climate for D.C. Black Pride and several other piggy-backing black LGBT events happening this weekend.

Local black activists and promoters say almost universally it’s an exciting turn of events.

“It made me very happy,” says Kenya Hutton, a Black Pride board member. “Being the first American president to do so is very important.”

“I was absolutely elated,” says Linda McAllister, owner of D.C. lesbian bar Lace. “It’s a very historic moment … It’s unbelievable. I could not have been more pleased.”

“My first reaction was, ‘Yes, thank God he did it,’” says lesbian event promoter Ebone Bell. “It was like, ‘Thank you,’ for the first time in history we have a president who stood up for the right thing.”

Others say the announcement itself was not such a shock, so much as the timing of it.

“My initial thoughts were ones of astonishment that a sitting president up for reelection would come out so strongly in support, that’s the first thing,” says lesbian Khadijah Tribble. “Then I thought, yes, this is the man we all got behind as a staunch supporter of LGBT rights, so I was not surprised on one level but I just didn’t expect this timing at all.”

Sharon Lettman-Hicks, who prefers the term “sister of the movement” to straight ally (she’s married to a man but is also executive director of the LGBT rights group National Black Justice Coalition), agrees.

“I was extremely proud,” she says. “I was in shock and awe, but also just extremely proud that he would do this in such a polarizing political climate, but he was willing to step outside of the world of politics and really put human dignity first.”

And although the announcement has no legislative impact — marriage in the U.S. continues to be largely a state issue — many locals the Blade spoke to for this piece say it’s still a watershed moment because it’s giving straight black Americans a forum in which to discuss the LGBT people in the community.

The announcement has many angles — the fact that Obama, as the first U.S. president of color, is the first sitting president to make such an unequivocal statement is one thing. But it’s perhaps doubly significant that Obama is black since many African-American Baptist ministers preach anti-gay theology. White U.S. clergy do as well, of course. Just this week, the YouTube-posted video of North Carolina minister Charles Worley advocating putting gays and lesbians in an electrified pen like cattle until they starve to death went viral. But there’s perhaps a vociferousness to the rhetoric in black America that is often a bit different.

“It’s going to take a while to digest the issue but the big thing is that people are talking about it now,” says Earl Fowlkes, president of the Federation of Black Prides and also a long-time board member for D.C. Black Pride. “To have a black president talking about gay issues and same-sex marriage, these things are largely unspoken of in the black community, which is pretty much where the straight white community was 10 years ago. But when the president speaks and you have an organization as well respected as the NAACP, where half the chapter presidents are church people and they’re saying, ‘What’s the big deal?,’ it allows activists like myself to step forward and gives us ammunition.”

Several interesting points come up in these conversations — Tribble says that growing up in the South, black LGBT people were largely accepted as long as they abided by an unwritten “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”-type social policy.

“There were a lot of LGBT people growing up that although technically they were closeted, we all knew it,” she says. “They were still accepted within the church, they were still at the family cookouts, this is Aunt so-and-so and the aunt’s best friend who’s always with her. They came to everything and really weren’t treated any differently, but we just didn’t name it or talk about it even though they still had a place in the African-American community.”

Sheila Alexander-Reid says Obama’s announcement gives straight black Americans a catalyst to finally talk about LGBT issues.

“This way they can say, ‘What do you think about what Obama said,’ not, ‘What do you think about Johnny or Suzie?,” she says. “These are conversations that are long overdue. A lot of these people are very entrenched in their homophobia.”

Lettman-Hicks says black straight Americans aren’t so much squeamish about LGBT issues as they are uncomfortable with any talk of sexuality.

“It’s not an LGBT issue, it’s a sexuality issue in which LGBT issues fall under that,” she says. “If you want to have an intelligent debate about black people, you have to understand black people and black sexuality … so many discount the challenges that our community has faced. We were beaten, raped, brought here and sold as slaves, there’s a level of indignity that we faced as an oppressed people so in many ways we’re having the wrong conversation. Black America needs to have a robust conversation about human sexuality in general.”

She says, though, that Obama and the NAACP’s positions are excellent jumping-off points for those discussions.

But what about Obama’s reelection odds — will the LGBT support he picks up offset straight black Americans who may jump ship?

“I think it will help him overall,” says SaVanna Wanzer, a transgender activist and Whitman-Walker Health board member. “Number one, because it was the right thing to do. I think he will lose some support, yes, but the people who want human interests and civil rights first will still be on his side.”

“There will be some who back off, but no one in my family in Alabama is not going to vote for him because of this issue, I’m sure,” Tribble says. “Even the ones who tell me I’m going to hell, they still think I’m going to hell, but they won’t back away from Obama just because of this.”

Others say that while Obama’s statements are to be celebrated, the black LGBT community in D.C. spends too much time worrying about marriage rights when it has more pressing issues — transgender health, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse and more — that should be on the front burner.

“I usually refrain from commenting,” says Earline Budd, a long-time advocate for disadvantaged transgender D.C. residents. “Day in and day out, like right here just now in my office, I have a 21-year-old HIV-positive person with a major infection. I just don’t have time to think about marriage. I do believe those who are out there on the front lines in the marriage battles, that we need that, but it’s just not on my agenda at this time … This whole thing with HIV, which is affecting more and more young people all the time, is much more pressing.”

Wanzer agrees.

“I’m thankful for his support, but there are much more pressing needs, especially with the transgender community,” she says.

Even so, many expect the Black Pride festivities to have an increased excitement and energy this year because of recent events.

“I know Eleanor [Holmes Norton] will be commenting on it, the mayor will be commenting on it, there’s definitely going to be a huge acknowledgement about this at Black Pride,” Fowlkes says. “Every time I’m at the mic, I’ll say something about it. What you’re really doing is giving people permission to celebrate it … we’re going to be making that acknowledgement at all our events so people can clap and feel happy because this is a very big deal.”

Black Pride, related events abound this weekend

Today (Friday)

An opening reception is held for Leandrea Gilliam this evening at 6:30 at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.).  Gilliam is the care advocacy program manager of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League and a Wellmore Cook Community Service Awardee.  Admission to this event is free. For details, go to

Author of “King Peggy,” Peggielene Bartels, signs copies of her book tonight at 7:30 at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.).  The book is about Bartels’ journey to becoming king of the African village Otuam in Ghana. The book costs $25.  Proceeds will go to the nonprofit organization, Otuam Community Development Corp.  Find more information at

RainbowConnects is hosting speed dating in the Yellowstone/Everglades Room at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.) tonight at 7. Admission is free. For details, visit

“She’Baltimore,” a play written and directed by Ira Kip, opens at Warehouse Theater (1071 7th St., N.W.) tonight at 8. Admission is $25. For more information, email [email protected] or go to

The 5000 Men Pride Mega Party featuring Ashanti is tonight at FUR Night Club (33 Patterson St., N.E.). Doors open at 10. Cover charge ranges $20-$50. For more information, visit

Saturday, May 26

Representatives from Capital One Bank will be on-site at the Capital One Job Fair held from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Olympic Room at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.). The event is free. For details, visit

Angela Harvey presents “The Key to the Perfect Orgasm” today at 12:30 at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.) in Congressional Room A. Admission is free. For more information, visit

New York Life Job Fair is held in the Sequoia Room at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.) today from 12:30-3 p.m. The event is free. For details, visit

A film festival is being held at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.) from 2-5 p.m. The films that are playing include “Change,” “Finding Me: Truth” and “Taboo Yardies.” Admission is $15. For details, visit

Terry W. Sidney is reading “The Four of Us” at the Mead Lab Theater (916 G St., N.W.) today at 2 p.m. Admission is $20. For more information visit or

Chocolate City Pride hosts the Tropical Heat Rooftop Party today from 3-8 p.m. on top of the Ibiza Roof (1222 1st St., N.E.). The event will include free food. Admission is $10. For more information, visit

Buttafly Soul is hosting a Poetry Slam today from 5-8 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.). Admission is $15. For details, visit

Black Men’s Xchange D.C. presents Revelation tonight at 7 at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.). The panel discussion will be moderated by the reality T.V. star Karamo Brown. For details, visit

Layla Lounge (501 Morse St., N.E.) hosts the annual Manhunt Party tonight from 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Passes are on sale at

A soul train dance party is being held at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.) tonight from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. The event features DJ Mandrill. Admission is $15. For details visit

Lace Nightclub (2214 Rhode Island Ave., N.E.) hosts Insomniac, the after-party tonight from 3:30-8 a.m. Complimentary breakfast will be provided. For details, visit

Sunday, May 27

A faith service is today from 9-11 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave., N.W.). The event is free. For more information, visit

“It’s a Family Affair” is held at Francis-Stevens Educational Campus (23 & O St., N.W.) today from noon-6. Admission is free. For details, visit

Island Inferno annual pool party takes place at Great Waves Water Park (4001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria, Va.) today at 3. There will be free food, cash bar and a body contest. For more information visit

Klimex Mega Party is tonight at the Love Nightclub (1350 Okie St., N.E.) from 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Table reservations begin at $500. For details, visit

Monday, May 28

Chocolate City Pride hosts a cookout at Fort Dupont Park (3600 F St., S.E.) today from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit

Layla Lounge (501 Morse St., N.E.) hosts the Apocalypse party tonight from 9 p.m.- 2 a.m.  Admission is $10.  For details, visit







PHOTOS: DCGFFL 25th Anniversary Party

Gay flag football league marks milestone at Penn Social



The D.C. Gay Flag Football league held a party celebrating their 25th season at Penn Social on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) held a 25th season anniversary party at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. Proceeds from the event benefited the LGBTQ youth services organization SMYAL as well as the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more



(Book cover image courtesy of Hachette Books)

‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
$29/320 pages

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.” 

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women  still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort.  There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches. 

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.

“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”

“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.

Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.

“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”

Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.

You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Rupert Murdoch’s powers on full display in ‘Ink’

Media baron helped pave the way for Brexit, Prime Minister Thatcher



Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb) and Andrew Rein (Rupert Murdoch) in ‘Ink’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s loathsome traits are many, but his skills to succeed are undeniably numerous. 

In the first scenes of John Graham’s West End and Broadway hit drama “Ink,” an exciting year-long detail from the life of a burgeoning media baron, Murdoch’s powers of persuasion are on full display.

It’s 1969 London. Over dinner with editor Larry Lamb, a young Murdoch shares his plan to buy the Sun and rebrand the dying broadsheet, replacing the Daily Mirror as Britain’s best-selling tabloid. What’s more, he wants to do it in just one year with Lamb at the helm. 

Initially reluctant, Lamb becomes seduced by the idea of running a paper, something that’s always eluded him throughout his career, and something Murdoch, the outsider Australian, understands. Murdoch taunts him, “Not you. Not Larry Lamb, the Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, not the guy who didn’t get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, who didn’t get a degree from anywhere. Not you.”

Still, Lamb, played convincingly by Cody Nickell in Round House Theatre’s stellar season-opener, a co-production with Olney Theatre Center, remains unsure. But Murdoch (a delightfully brash Andrew Rein) is undeterred, and seals the deal with a generous salary. 

Superbly staged by director Jason Loweth, “Ink” is riveting. Its exchanges between Lamb and Murdoch are a strikingly intimate glimpse into ambition involving an ostensibly average editor and a striving money man who doesn’t like people.  

Once on board, Lamb is trolling Fleet Street in search of his launch team, played marvelously by some mostly familiar actors. He makes his most important hire — news editor Brian McConnell (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) — in a steam bath. The remainder of the Sun’s new masthead falls handily into place: Joyce Hopkirk (Kate Eastwood Norris) the women’s page editor whose forward thinking is marred by her casual racism; Zion Jang plays Beverley Goodway, an awkwardly amusing young photographer; persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Michael Glenn) who learns to love ugly things; and an old school sports editor who proves surprisingly versatile, played by Ryan Rillette, Round House’s artistic director. 

At Lamb’s suggestion, the team brainstorms about what interests Sun readers. They decide on celebrities, pets, sports, free stuff, and —rather revolutionarily for the time —TV.  Murdoch is happy to let readers’ taste dictate content and the “Why” of the sacred “five Ws” of journalism is out the window. 

Murdoch is portrayed as a not wholly unlikable misanthrope. He dislikes his editors and pressman alike. He particularly hates unions. His advice to Lamb is not to get too chummy with his subordinates. Regarding the competition, Murdoch doesn’t just want to outperform them, he wants to grind them to dust. 

Loewith leads an inspired design team. Scenic designer Tony Cisek’s imposing, inky grey edifice made from modular walls is ideally suited for Mike Tutaj’s projections of headlines, printed pages, and Rein’s outsized face as Murdoch. Sound designer and composer Matthew M. Nielson ably supplies bar noises and the nonstop, pre-digital newspaper clatter of presses, linotypes, and typewriters.

From a convenient second tiered balcony, the Daily Mirror’s establishment power trio Hugh Cudlipp (Craig Wallace), Chris Lee Howard (Chris Geneback) and Sir Percy (Walter Riddle) overlook all that lies below, discussing new tactics and (mostly failed) strategies to remain on top.   

Increasingly comfortable in the role of ruthless, sleazy editor, Lamb is unstoppable.

Obsessed with overtaking the Daily Mirror’s circulation, he opts for some sketchy reportage surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Sir Alick (Todd Scofield). The kidnappers mistook Muriel for Murdoch’s then-wife Anna (Sophia Early). Next, in a move beyond the pale, Lamb introduces “Page 3,” a feature spotlighting a topless female model. Awesta Zarif plays Stephanie, a smart young model. She asks Lamb if he would run a semi-nude pic of his similarly aged daughter? His reaction is uncomfortable but undaunted. 

For Murdoch’s purposes, history proves he chose well in Lamb. By year’s end, the Sun is Britain’s most widely read tabloid. Together they give the people what they didn’t know they wanted, proving the pro-Labour Daily Mirror’s hold on the working class is baseless and paving the way for things like Brexit and a Prime Minister Thatcher. 

“Ink” at Round House closes soon. See it if you can.

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