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Mayor names new GLBT Affairs director

Sterling Washington lands the job; D.C. Center finds new home

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Sterling Washington, gay news, Washington Blade
Sterling Washington and Vincent Gray and Jim Graham, gay news, Washington Blade

Standing with openly gay DC Council member Jim Graham (right), Mayor Vincent Gray named longtime local activist Sterling Washington (left) to the post of GLBT Affairs director this week. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced at a news conference Tuesday night that he has appointed longtime gay activist Sterling Washington as the new director of the Mayor’s Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs.

At the same news conference Gray announced the city has accepted a bid by the D.C. LGBT Community Center to rent store front space in the city’s Reeves Center, an eight-story office and retail building located in the heart of the 14th and U Streets, N.W., entertainment district.

The mayor’s dual announcement drew applause from more than 50 LGBT activists who assembled in the Reeves Center’s first floor atrium, steps away from the interior entrance to the Center’s soon-to-be-opened offices.

“What a great time of the year to be able to make the announcement,” Gray told the gathering. “We are at the day when there will be a permanent home for the D.C. Center.”

Gray was referring to the D.C. Center’s years-long search for a permanent location that has brought it to at least three temporary locations over the past several years.

Its current home at 1318 U St., N.W., less than a block away from the Reeves Center, is about to be razed to make way for a new high-rise office and residential building similar to numerous other buildings popping up in the booming neighborhood.

In announcing Washington’s appointment to head the Office of GLBT Affairs, Gray said he is certain Washington will continue the office’s high standards set by his predecessor, Jeffrey Richardson.

Richardson left the GLBT Affairs post last month after Gray appointed him as executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Volunteerism, which is also known as Serve D.C.

Washington, 39, is a D.C. native with a political science degree from George Washington University and a music degree from Howard University. Among his numerous LGBT community activities, he was co-founder of the Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay Organization of Students at Howard known then as BLAGOSAH.

He worked as a presidential appointee in the Clinton administration in the 1990s and later worked for the D.C. HIV/AIDS services and prevention organization Us Helping Us. Washington currently serves as resources and grant development manager at the Center for Black Equity, which was formerly called the International Federation of Black Prides.

“Sterling Washington is well acquainted with a broad swath of the District’s LGBT community, and I expect him to be a natural fit for this important role,” Gray said.

“I’m proud that D.C. is a national and international leader in protecting our residents’ rights regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and Sterling is eminently qualified to continue the excellent work that Jeffrey Richardson has done in ensuring we continue to be a city that values safety and equality for all,” the mayor said.

“I’m honored to serve under Mayor Gray, who has a very clear outline of what he wants the LGBT community to be,” Washington told the Blade. “All of his priorities are integrating every member of the LGBT community into the city as part of his One City Action Plan.”

Washington said he will remain in his current job for the next few weeks and is scheduled to begin as director of the GLBT Affairs Office on Jan. 7.

D.C. Center President Michael Sessa said the developer that owns the building where the Center is currently housed had offered the Center a $15,000 rent rebate if it vacates the premises by Dec. 31.

Sessa said that as recently as Monday, with the Center still searching for a new home, it appeared that it would have to stay in its current building a while longer and miss out on the rebate offer.

But to his and Center Executive Director David Mariner’s amazement and delight, an official with the D.C. Department of General Services informed the Center late Monday afternoon that the city had accepted the Center’s bid for the Reeves Center space.

“We’ll be calling on volunteers and lining up help to move into the new space as best we can by the 31st,” Sessa said.

The D.C. Center’s new location at the Reeves Center consists of 2,468 square feet of space and it includes a street entrance on 14th Street as well as an interior entrance, according to Darrell Pressley, a spokesperson for the Department of General Services.

Sessa said the new space is about double that of the current space. He said the rent will be $4,000 per month, a figure between 50 percent and 60 percent below market value for rent in the area.

Sessa and Mariner said the below market rent is part of a city program that seeks to bring in community services to the bustling business and residential area as a means of enhancing the neighborhood and the community.

The rental agreement allows the Center to remain in the space for up to 15 years.

“The D.C. Center participated in a competitive bidding process for the space that included both non-profits and local businesses, submitting their original proposal in April 2012,” the Center said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday night.

“In June of 2012 the D.C. Center was notified they were not selected for the space,” the statement says. “The business that won the initial bid, however, decided not to move forward with the project, and the D.C. Center had the opportunity to resubmit their proposal in October 2012.”

Mariner said nine members of the D.C. City Council wrote letters in support of the Center’s bid for the Reeves Center space. He said gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who spoke at Monday’s news conference, was especially helpful in advocating for the Center to obtain the Reeves Center space, which is located in Ward 1.

In his remarks at the news conference, Graham thanked Gray for taking the lead in creating an atmosphere in the city supportive of LGBT equality.

“It’s just an enormous sigh of relief to see that the District of Columbia, which cares so much about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community and to say, ‘We want you at the Reeves Center at 14th and U,” Graham said.

“And we want you there for 15 years and we want you there for a reasonable rent, and we want you to feel secure,” he said. “I think the first person to thank for this and the attitude and fortitude that he brings to all of this is the Mayor of the District of Columbia, Vincent C. Gray. Thank you.”

Mariner said the rental agreement at the Reeves Center requires the Center to pay for renovations needed to convert what had been a restaurant into office and meeting space for the numerous LGBT groups that use the center for meetings and office space.

“As we move forward we are counting on our supporters to help with the renovation, both financially and with ‘sweat equity’” Mariner said. “We have a unique opportunity to create a space that we can be proud to call our own for the next 15 years, and a big job ahead of us.”

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. brian

    December 13, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Let’s hope THIS GLBT Affairs office isn’t used as another hollow dog and pony show by the Mayor and Chief of Police.

    Let’s also hope Sterling Washington is more dedicated to protecting DC’s LGBT residents against violent hate crimes than defending Mayor Gray’s and Chief Lanier’s sad records in failing to end them.

    If Washington intends to improve LGBT public safety, he ought to demonstrate he knows where his base line is. He can begin by providing credible answers as to how effective MPD has been under Gray and Lanier.

    How many anti-LGBT hate crimes since Mayor Gray has taken office (or Chief Lanier, for that matter) has MPD closed– WITH AN ARREST?

    Indeed, do the math from the answer to that, and please inform all of us as to what percentage of anti-LGBT murderers and other violent hate crimes perpetrators are getting away without any consequence for their anti-LGBT hate crimes.

    I’ll bet Sterling Washington and his boss would get lots of kudos for that kind of candor.

  2. Pat

    December 13, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Sterling is an excellent choice.

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Long-time LGBTQ activist running for Md. House of Delegates

Patrick Paschall is former FreeState Justice executive director

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Patrick Paschall (Photo courtesy of Eli Sauerwalt of Patrick Paschall for Delegate)

Former FreeState Justice Executive Director Patrick Paschall last week announced via social media that he is running for the Maryland House of Delegates.

“As a proud parent of two kids in Prince George’s County public schools, former Hyattsville City Council member, and lifelong civil rights advocate and policy analyst, I’ve spent my life and career working for equity, community and sustainability for my family,” Paschall said in a statement posted to Facebook on Nov. 23. 

Paschall, who currently is the American Rescue Plan Program Manager for the city of Hyattsville, previously served as executive director for FreeState Justice from 2015 to 2017. 

His LGBTQ advocacy work also includes serving as senior policy counsel for the National LGBTQ Task Force, as an organizer for Pride at Work and as a policy fellow for the National Center for Transgender Equality.  

He also worked for Family Equality Council, an organization advocating for the rights of same-sex couples and their children. 

“One of the things I’m running on is being a parent,” Paschall told the Washington Blade. “We can provide more opportunities for families to succeed in our communities.”

Paschall is running to represent District 22, which includes Hyattsville, where he has lived for over 10 years with his two children, who currently attend Hyattsville Elementary School, and his wife, who identifies as pansexual. 

He told the Blade he views his family as a “rainbow family,” but pointed out he and his wife did not have to endure the same difficulties as his friends who are married same-sex couples when they wanted to adopt children.

“When I became a parent, no one stopped by my house to make sure it was an adequate living situation for my child, no one checked to make sure I had a room dedicated to the child and for no other purpose,” he said. “But my friends Jamie and Sean went through all of that when they tried to adopt a kid.”

Paschall explained that even though he and his wife didn’t go through these experiences, there was still room for Maryland to improve in the areas of adoptions and civil rights. 

“It strikes me how much privilege I have because the state doesn’t design to make it hard for me like it does for so many same-sex couples,” he explained. 

Patrick Paschall with his family. (Photo courtesy of Eli Sauerwalt of Patrick Paschall for Delegate)

Much like with the recent elections in neighboring Virginia, Paschall said helping parents is an important issue for him — one he wants to carry to Annapolis — if elected “because my district deserves better schools for our kids, more child care options and family support like paid family leave.”

“I think that District 22 needs a voice in Annapolis to represent progressive parents and to exercise policy expertise in achieving the values of our community,” he added. “And I have the experience to get it done.”

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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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(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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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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