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P.G. County paid $3.4 million to anti-gay religious group

School system rented building from Bishop Harry Jackson, who fought marriage in D.C., Md.

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Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, gay news, Washington Blade
Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Bishop Harry Jackson (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Beltsville, Md.-based religious organization headed by Bishop Harry Jackson, who led campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage laws in D.C. and Maryland, received more than $3.4 million in rental income over a five-year period from the Prince George’s County Public Schools.

Under terms established in two leases, the P.G. County Public Schools rented 35,000 square feet of office space from September 2007 to August 2012 in an office building at 6251 Ammendale Road in Beltsville. The Blade obtained copies of the leases through a Maryland Public Information Act request.

P.G. County land records show that the building is owned by Christian Hope Ministries, Inc., for which Jackson serves as president. The building is also home to Hope Christian Church, where Jackson serves as pastor.

Briant Coleman, a spokesperson for P.G. County Public Schools, said the decision to rent office space at the Ammendale Road building was made by the school system’s former superintendent, John Deasy, who currently serves as superintendent of the Los Angeles Public School System.

Coleman said neither he nor the P.G. schools’ current superintendent, Alvin Crawley, know why Deasy selected the office building owned by Christian Hope Ministries other than that the building and rental agreement met the school system’s criteria for doing business with a vendor.

“Based on the best and final offer, we would make a determination as to whether or not a vendor can provide services we need and whether or not it was the most reasonable price available,” Coleman said.

Deasy, who left the P.G. Public Schools in 2008, didn’t immediately respond to a call and email sent to his Los Angeles office.

Jackson also didn’t return a call or respond to an email seeking comment this week.

Jackson and Deasy each signed the two leases. Also signing them was Gary W. Michael, who at the time was president of NAI Michael Companies, a property management and lease brokerage firm that Jackson retained to find a tenant for the section of the building that the church doesn’t use.

Michael, reached Monday at his office in Lanham, Md., said he recalls that the school system responded to a public listing his company issued announcing the availability of the office space for rent.

“I don’t have to support someone in every aspect for me to do business with them,” Michael said when asked if he knew of Jackson’s efforts to defeat marriage equality laws.

According to Michael, Christian Hope Ministries has a mortgage on the building. Land records show the organization paid $8.55 million for the building in February 2005.

“With their expenses and paying the mortgage there may not be a whole lot left over,” he said referring to the rental income.

One of the leases was for 30,000 square feet of office space on the second floor of the two-story building. The other was for 5,000 square feet of office space located on the building’s first floor.

The base rent was the same in both leases – $18.20 per square foot for the first year, with an annual increase of 3.5 percent. The 30,000-square-foot lease began in 2007 with a monthly rent of $45,500, with $546,000 to be paid the first year. In the fifth year, the school system was to pay $626,400 for the 30,000-square-foot space and $104,425 for the 5,000-square-foot lease if the school system remained in the building for the full fifth year.

In addition to what the leases described as the “base” rent, the leases called for the school system to pay 100 percent of the building’s property taxes, 41 percent of the building’s maintenance expenses, 48 percent of “all bills” for electricity, gas and water used on the premises along with sewer charges, and 41 percent of the total premium for fire and extended coverage insurance.

The leases also call for Christian Hope Ministries to pay a 6 percent leasing commission to NAI The Michael Companies on “all gross rent paid by tenant” during the full term of the leases and any renewals or extensions of the leases. The Michael Companies, among other things, were to collect the rent from the P.G. County Public Schools and disburse it to Jackson’s group after deducting the commission, according to the terms of leases.

An online listing shows that Jackson is currently looking for a new tenant in the building.

Peter Montgomery, an official with People for the American Way, an LGBT supportive group that monitors religious right organizations that oppose LGBT rights, including Jackson’s organizations, said he was unaware that the P.G. County Public Schools rented space in Jackson’s building.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with a church generating income from a business enterprise,” Montgomery said.

“There would be a problem if the county rented that space as a favor to Jackson,” he said.

Guidestar.com is an organization that monitors charities and provides access to IRS 990 reports that most charitable organizations with a tax exemption are required to file each year. According to Guidestar, Christian Hope Ministries is registered with the IRS as a church and is exempt from having to file a 990 reporting form.

“Revenue and expense data are not available for this organization,” Guidestar states on its website.

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Howard County activists and allies hit back at censorship, hate

More than 100 people attended ‘We ARE the People’ rally

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(Photo by Bob Ford)

A diverse crowd of 100 to 200 folks gathered at the Columbia Lakefront on Saturday to attend a rally to push back against censorship in the county’s public schools as well as homophobia and transphobia emanating from a group of conservative parents.

The rally called “We ARE the People” was organized in response to the comments and actions by members of a Maryland-based conservative group “We the People 2” that among other things are anti-masks, anti-vaccinations and are opposed to teaching racial history in the schools. They also oppose two books that are in Howard County Public Schools library shelves: “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy.”

Speakers at a We the People 2 rally last month at an Elkridge warehouse condemned the books, which contain LGBTQ characters, as sexually explicit. The group later filed police reports against the Board of Education alleging the books constitute pornography with “graphic sexual content and materials being used and disseminated in public schools,” according to the group’s press release.  A flier announcing this action used the loaded terminology, “We must not allow our children to be abused and victimized.”

Among the speakers at the Elkridge rally was Republican Gordana Schifanelli who is running for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Daniel Cox. Another speaker, George Johnson, a teacher from Baltimore City, was heard on a video of the event saying, “We’re doing God’s work because Marxism, homosexuality and transgenderism is the devil.”

In response, the pro-LGBTQ rally in Columbia announced the following:

We are taking a stance against hate in the community as we raise our voices in support of equity in our schools. Attacks on teachers and school staff have prompted us to stand united and drown out the noise.

In addition, We ARE the People states:

We stand for LGBTQ+ students and educational professionals

Teaching accurate history to our students

Supporting equitable practices in our schools

Providing students with relevant LGBTQ+ media through their school libraries

The two-hour rally, which was attended by several county council members, featured speakers representing a wide swath of community, educational, religious and political organizations. They included: Community Allies of Rainbow Youth (CARY), Black Lives Activists of Columbia (BLAC), Absolutely Dragulous, Howard County Schools, PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County, IndivisibleHoCoMd, Columbia Democratic Club, Howard Progressive Project, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC), HoCo Pride, Progressive Democrats of Howard County, and the Columbia United Christian Church.

Many of the speakers denounced the censorship of materials that are needed by many LGBTQ students. Genderqueer and non-binary students, they point out, are most vulnerable and need affirming literature to help with their development and self-acceptance. The speakers also decried hate speech, which has surfaced again, as well as the opposition to teaching history as it relates to race.

Others argued that the community must not sit back and take it from extremist groups.

“You are all defenders,” said Cynthia Fikes, president of the Columbia Democratic Club, in a fiery speech. “But to succeed a strong defense also needs a strong offense.”

The two books in question were recently the center of controversy in the Fairfax County (Va.) school system. The books were removed in September from the shelves of the high schools pending a comprehensive review following opposition from a parent at a school board meeting. It should be noted that both books were previous winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which each year recognize “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”  

The board established two committees consisting of parents, staff and students to assess the content of the books and make recommendations to the assistant superintendent of instructional services who would make the final determination.

One committee found that “Lawn Boy” includes themes that “are affirming for students” with marginalized identities. “There is no pedophilia in the book,” the committee added. The other committee found that “Gender Queer” depicts “difficulties non-binary and asexual individuals may face.” The committee concluded that “the book neither depicts nor describes pedophilia.” The books were restored to the shelves.

“As this backlash against LGTBQ+ literature demonstrates, we must be ready to stand up and defend the progress we have made,” said Jennifer Mallo, member of the Howard County Board of Education, expressing her own point of view. “We must ensure our elected officials understand and share our values and will fight for our marginalized students.”

The enthusiastic crowd was clearly pleased with the event.

“Today’s rally was meant to inspire our community to take action,” said Chris Hefty, who was the lead organizer of the rally and the emcee. “Action that protects our youth. Action that protects our educators and admins. This action comes in the form of advocacy, communication with elected officials so they know your voice, and through well informed voting to ensure those who represent us are those we know will support us. We shared a message of love, acceptance, and warmth.”

Hefty adds, “The unity we facilitated through this rally was a sight to behold. As the lead organizer I couldn’t have been more pleased! In the future we will be sure to better meet the needs of all our community members. We thank all those in our community for their support and feedback and look forward to accomplishing great things together moving forward.”

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January

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SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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