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Activists rally for gay minister facing eviction

Faith Temple pastor opened home of 24 years for Bible study, church events

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Robert Michael Vanzant, gay news, Washington Blade

Faith Temple pastor Robert Michael Vanzant opened his home of 24 years for Bible study, church events, but now he may lose that home. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Rev. Robert Michael Vanzant, 59, the outreach pastor for D.C.’s Faith Temple, a Christian church with a special outreach to the African-American LGBT community, says he’s doing his “very best” to keep his spirits up at a time of need.

His Northeast Washington home of 24 years is in foreclosure and the Bank of America, which holds the mortgage, is taking steps to have him evicted.

“I’ve spent my entire life serving God and my community,” Vanzant said in an open letter to the bank that he released last week. “When I became disabled and my income dropped, I reached out and asked for a modification so that I could continue to pay my mortgage. You denied my request and set me up for foreclosure and eviction.”

Last week, friends and associates at Faith Temple joined the D.C. anti-foreclosure group Occupy Our Homes in staging a protest demonstration on his behalf outside the Bank of America’s loan office on U Street, N.W., just off 14th Street.

The protest organizers say Bank of America appears to have violated a city law that requires lenders to enter into a mediation process with borrowers who have fallen behind on their mortgage.

An official with the city agency that administers the mediation program said its intent is to determine whether a borrower is qualified for one of nearly a dozen federal programs that encourage and in some cases pay lenders to modify the terms of a mortgage to lower the monthly payments and enable a mortgage holder to keep the home.

Vanzant has served as a pastor at Faith Temple since the church was founded in 1982. He said he moved into his house on the 5500 block of 5th Street, N.E., in 1988 as a tenant before buying the semi-detached townhouse in 2003 from his landlord.

Isaiah Poole, a longtime member of the church and friend of Vanzant’s, said Vanzant has long opened his house for church functions, including Bible study classes. Poole said Vanzant also has opened his home as a shelter for people in need.

Vanzant told the Blade his problems began in 2008 when he became disabled due to illness and was later approved for disability status. He said that although he was no longer able to keep his full-time day job with the Metro transit agency, for the next year and a half he managed to continue making his mortgage payments through a disability insurance policy he had and later through Social Security disability benefits.

“I called the bank in early 2009 and said my income was going to change soon and I needed to talk about streamlining my mortgage,” he said. According to Vanzant, bank officials told him there were no mortgage assistance programs available for people who were current on their payments.

He said he next contacted several mortgage counseling organizations that promoted themselves as experts in helping people at risk for foreclosure. One of the organizations advised him to withhold his mortgage payments and place the money in a savings or escrow account, with the intent of working out a mortgage modification plan with the bank at a later date.

“And so that’s what I did,” he said.

But by early 2010, Bank of America began foreclosure proceedings and refused to discuss any mortgage adjustment options that had been widely publicized in the media and by the Obama administration.

“I received something from the law office that was representing the bank that they were foreclosing,” he said. “At the same time I received a notice from the Landlord-Tenant Court from the bank’s lawyer about an eviction.”

Added Vanzant, “That’s when she [the bank’s lawyer] told me, ‘They don’t want to talk to you. They won’t have anything to do with you. They don’t have anything to say to you.’”

Mike Haack, an organizer for Occupy Our Homes and one of the leaders of the protest demonstration last week, said the group plans further protests if Bank of America doesn’t demonstrate a good faith effort to work out a way for Vanzant to save his home.

“We feel the bank can take steps to allow him to keep his house,” Haack said. “The Reverend is an asset to the community.”

Vanzant, who was being treated at Howard University Hospital at the time of the Sept. 6 protest, said a representative of the bank called him at the hospital that same day, leading him to believe that the protest may have “alerted” the bank to his plight.

“I told them I couldn’t talk to them at that time because I was under medical treatment,” he told the Blade. “I said I would like to talk to them the next week.”

He said the bank’s representative called again last Friday and he arranged to speak with the representative this week.

“I’m trying to arrange for some legal representation before I talk to them,” he said. “I’ve made mistakes in the past and have had what my friends say was some bad advice” by organizations he paid to help during the past two years.

Brian Sullivan, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the federal government’s mortgage assistance programs, said HUD strongly urges consumers not to pay anyone for so-called mortgage assistance services. He said HUD has a long list of HUD-approved mortgage counseling organizations and all of them offer their services for free.

He said Vanzant would likely qualify for a mortgage modification program, but a final determination on his qualifications would depend on the specific status of his mortgage, such as whether it is associated with federally linked agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

“He has to provide all of this information to whoever he selects to help him get through this process,” Sullivan said.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Zion

    September 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Homosexuals don’t go to heaven. Solar Flares, CME’s and sunlight, sun’s energy, radiation and substance added to Water, air, and food with God, His word, His Son, His Son’s Blood and Holy spirit, truth, purity and righteousness, is coming for Bank of America and all that exists in the universe, Earth , All heavens and beyond, Past present and future, Eternally and NO-ONE can remove Him from there in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!
    Solar Flares and CME’s Plus God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Light and energy of the Sun is upon the wage earner exploiters of Bank Of America and other banks as the Lord being a swift witness against them and those who support them, as well as All others for a blessing or curse, to each his own reward for what they have done to others and continue doing so without repentance when asked to.
    Matthew 3:11
    I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
    The Reign and Indignation of God
    Isaiah 66:14 When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, And your bones shall flourish like grass; The hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants, And His indignation to His enemies.
    15 For behold, the Lord will come with fire And with His chariots, like a whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire.
    16 For by fire and by His sword The Lord will judge all flesh; And the slain of the Lord shall be many.
    17 “Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves, To go to the gardens
    After an idol in the midst, Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse,
    Shall be consumed together,” says the Lord.

    Malachi 3
    The Coming Messenger
    1 “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me.
    And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,”
    Says the Lord of hosts.
    2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?
    For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap.
    3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.
    4 “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the Lord, As in the days of old, As in former years.
    5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me,” Says the Lord of hosts.
    6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
    7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’
    Do Not Rob God
    8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
    9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.
    10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
    11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts;
    12 “And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the Lord of hosts.
    The People Complain Harshly
    13 “Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the Lord, “Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’
    14 You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the Lord of hosts?
    15 So now we call the proud blessed, For those who do wickedness are raised up;
    They even tempt God and go free.’”
    A Book of Remembrance
    16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.
    17 “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.”
    18 Then you shall again discern Between the righteous and the wicked, Between one who serves God And one who does not serve Him.
    Malachi 4
    The Great Day of God
    1 “For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.
    2 But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
    3 You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this,” Says the Lord of hosts.
    4 “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.
    5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
    6 And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
    Psalm 21:9
    You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger; The LORD shall swallow them up in His wrath, And the fire shall devour them.
    Psalm 89:46
    How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?
    Isaiah 9:19
    Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts The land is burned up, And the people shall be as fuel for the fire; No man shall spare his brother.
    Ezekiel 21:31
    I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow against you with the fire of My wrath, And deliver you into the hands of brutal men who are skillful to destroy.
    Ezekiel 22:21
    Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst.
    Ezekiel 22:31
    Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD.
    Ezekiel 38:19
    For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: ‘Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel,

  2. Zion

    September 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    1 Corinthians 6
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    Do Not Sue the Brethren

    6 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!

    7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? 8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

    Glorify God in Body and Spirit

    12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.

    15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.”[b] 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

    18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[c] and in your spirit, which are God’s.

  3. Zion

    September 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Romans 1
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    Greeting

    1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

    7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Desire to Visit Rome

    8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

    13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.

    The Just Live by Faith

    16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,[a] for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”[b]

    God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

    24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

    26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

    28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[d] unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

  4. Rick

    September 13, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    I’d like my bank to forgive part of my mortgage and lower my interest rate as well. And I’m gay. Why won’t the Blade write a story to pressure the bank to do so? Because I’m not black, disabled, or a minister?

  5. Rick

    September 14, 2012 at 10:35 am

    How come the Blade is pretending this is news? Lots of people have lost their homes or are on the verge of doing so in this economy. Why the special treatment for this person?

  6. Zion

    September 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Everyone wants to blame others or take credit for what God is doing to banks greed, exploitation of peoples wages and affliction against His Children. This is what’s up. God and Jesus added to the Sun’s energy, substance, power and light which is added to our atmosphere, light, air, water, earth and beings, to perform His will and judgement. Solar Flares, CME’s and sunlight, sun’s energy, radiation and substance added to Water, air, and food with God, His word, His Son, His Son’s Blood and Holy spirit, truth, purity and righteousness, is coming for Bank of America and all that exists in the universe, Earth , All heavens and beyond, Past present and future, Eternally and NO-ONE can remove Him from there in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!
    Solar Flares and CME’s Plus God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the Light and energy of the Sun is upon the wage earner exploiters of Bank Of America and other banks as the Lord being a swift witness against them and those who support them, as well as All others for a blessing or curse, to each his own reward for what they have done to others and continue doing so without repentance when asked to.
    Matthew 3:11
    I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
    The Reign and Indignation of God
    Isaiah 66:14 When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, And your bones shall flourish like grass; The hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants, And His indignation to His enemies.
    15 For behold, the Lord will come with fire And with His chariots, like a whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire.
    16 For by fire and by His sword The Lord will judge all flesh; And the slain of the Lord shall be many.
    17 “Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves, To go to the gardens
    After an idol in the midst, Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse,
    Shall be consumed together,” says the Lord.
    Psalm 21:9
    You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger; The LORD shall swallow them up in His wrath, And the fire shall devour them.
    Psalm 89:46
    How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?
    Isaiah 9:19
    Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts The land is burned up, And the people shall be as fuel for the fire; No man shall spare his brother.
    Ezekiel 21:31
    I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow against you with the fire of My wrath, And deliver you into the hands of brutal men who are skillful to destroy.
    Ezekiel 22:21
    Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst.
    Ezekiel 22:31
    Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD.
    Ezekiel 38:19
    For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: ‘Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel,

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Local

D.C. area LGBTQ bars, eateries receive $100K COVID-19 relief grant

Pitchers, League of Her Own received NGLCC, Grubhub funds

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indoor dining, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. LGBTQ sports bar Pitchers and League of Her Own, its adjoining lesbian bar, are among the nation’s first LGBTQ bars that serve food as well as alcoholic beverages to receive a $100,000 COVID-19 relief grant under a $2 million Community Impact Grant Program.

The program, aimed at supporting LGBTQ-owned and LGBTQ-allied small businesses struggling from the pandemic, was launched in September as a joint project of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which goes by the initials NGLCC, and the global online food delivery company Grubhub.

In a Tuesday announcement, NGLCC and Grubhub said Pitchers and League of Her Own, which operate as one business in adjoining buildings in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, are among the first three recipients of $100,000 grants under the Community Impact Grant Program. The other two recipients are FOODE + Mercantile of Fredericksburg, Va., and Café Gabriela of Oakland, Calif.

“Following this initial round of recipients, more grants will be issued in late 2021 and early 2022,” the announcement by the two groups says. In an earlier announcement, the groups said the application period for the grants program took place from September through Oct. 12, and the grants would range in amounts from $5,000 to $100,000.

“The impact of COVID-19 has been debilitating for countless restaurant and bar owners, including the many LGBTQ+-owned restaurants across the country who have persisted through lockdowns, operational changes and labor supply shortages,” said NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson. “We’re grateful to have partnered with Grubhub to offer real lifelines to support businesses throughout the nation,” Nelson said.

“Building community in a fun and safe place has been our mission since the very beginning,” said David Perruzza, the owner of Pitchers and League of Her Own. “We’re relieved and thankful for these funds, and are looking forward to more stable days ahead,” Perruzza said.

“As a trans masculine and queer immigrant person of color, I’ve worked hard and put all my love and energy into building a beautiful and welcoming space in Café Gabriela,” said owner Penny Baldado. “I’ve remained resilient through COVID, and this grant is the injection of funds that we need to continue along our journey to full recovery,” Baldado said.

The statement announcing the first three grant recipient says funds for the $2 million grant program were generated by Grubhub’s “Donate the Change” program of which NGLCC became a partner in June. Grubhub says the program asks customers receiving food delivered by Grubhub “to round out their order and donate the difference” to the charitable fund.

“COVID has turned the restaurant industry on its head the last 18 months, and at Grubhub, we’ve been working hard every day to support our restaurant partners across the country,” said Amy Healy, Grubhub’s vice president of government relations. “As the world starts to return to a new normal, we’re proud to partner with the NGLCC and provide these grants to LGBTQ+-owned and LGBTQ+ ally-owned restaurants across the country that are pillars of their communities.”

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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