Connect with us


Rat problem, rent hike delay Center’s move

Lease negotiations near completion; move-in to Reeves building expected in June



Reeves building, D.C. Center, gay news, Washington Blade
Reeves building, D.C. Center, gay news, Washington Blade

Center leadership is eager to complete the move into the Reeves building, despite hiccups in the process. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Michael Sessa, president of the D.C. LGBT Community Center, said the center knew the city’s decision in December to allow it to rent space in a desirable city building at 14th and U Streets, N.W. came with an “as is” provision.

Under the provision, the center is responsible for paying the full cost of any renovation work needed to get the first floor, store front space ready for the center and its mostly volunteer staff to move into the Reeves Center, an eight-story office and retail building.

But Sessa told the Blade last week that the extent of the renovation work needed is far greater than initially expected and would cost as much as $75,000.

“We had an inspection and found that a rat problem has been so bad that the entire place needs to be gutted,” he said.

“We have to have a demolition team come in and rip the floor up and rip down everything in the ceiling and the walls because the rats were living there for how many years – leaving rotted floors, urine and feces – the whole deal,” according to Sessa.

The discovery of the need for more renovation work came shortly after officials with the city’s Department of General Services [DGS] handed the center a proposed lease calling for $1,500 in rent over and above the $4,000 per month rent initially proposed for the 2,468 square foot space.

When Mayor Vincent Gray announced on December 11 that the city had accepted the D.C. Center’s bid to rent the Reeves Center space, center officials noted that the $4,000 per month rent was significantly less than the market value for rent in that area.

Sessa and center executive director David Mariner noted that the below market rent was part of a city program that seeks to bring non-profit community groups to the bustling business and residential area as a means of enhancing the neighborhood and community.

However, Sessa said that the additional $1,500 would create a burden on the center’s budget and finances. It was not part of the city’s request for proposals, or RFP, inviting bids from businesses or organization seeking to rent the space, Sessa said.

Sessa said he has been negotiating with DGS officials for more than two months over details in the lease, including the $1,500, which DGS says covers a share of building maintenance costs such as janitorial services.

During that time, the space has remained untouched because no work can begin until the lease is signed, Sessa said.

“It’s just been a lot of back and forth,” he said. “And now we’re at the last point. I have someone doing a legal review of the lease, and then we’re ready to go.”

Darrell Pressley, a spokesperson for DGS Director Brian J. Hanlon, told the Blade he expected negotiations over the lease to be completed within a week or two.

“The process in terms of the negotiations is still at play,” he said.

Sessa, meanwhile, said the center also discovered that the “as is” clause requires it to remove abandoned restaurant equipment left behind years ago by Ben’s Chili Bowl that once used the space. Among the equipment left behind is an enormous walk-in refrigerator that can’t fit through the doors.

“We have to get someone to come in and disassemble it inside the room and carry it out piece by piece,” he said.

Despite these hassles, Sessa said the center is looking forward to moving into the new space, which is double the size of its current space one block away at 1318 U Street, N.W. The building in which the current storefront space is located is slated to be demolished to make way for a new office building.

Reeves building, D.C. Center, gay news, Washington Blade

The renovation work needed for the space is far greater than initially expected and would cost as much as $75,000. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“Maybe in a couple of weeks we’ll announce a ‘ground breaking,’ he said, to kick-off the renovation work at the Reeves Center.

“Just so we get the community excited, we’re going to release the plans, the drawings to show people what the new space is like,” he said. “We’re going to put them online. You can meet the architect, meet the designer,” he said in discussing the planned ‘ground breaking’ event.

He said that if all goes according to plans, the center will hold a grand opening event in June in which Mayor Gray will be invited to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

As for the rats, Sessa said they are still living in the long abandoned space at the Reeves building into which the center plans to move. Holes in the floor leading to the building’s garage are believed to be their portal of entry.

“They keep saying the construction will solve it by sealing the holes,” Sessa said. “Well, yes, it will solve it. But unfortunately, we can’t save anything in that space, not a single thing – floor tiles, ceiling tiles, everything’s got to come up.”



Moore signs executive order to protect gender-affirming health care in Md.

Ceremony took place during Pride month reception at Government House



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on June 5, 2023, signs an executive order that protects gender-affirming health care in the state. (Photo from Moore's office)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Monday signed an executive order that protects gender-affirming health care in the state.

Moore signed the directive during a Pride month reception at Government House in Annapolis.

“In the state of Maryland, nobody should have to justify their own humanity,” said Moore. “This order is focused on ensuring Maryland is a safe place for gender affirming care, especially as other states take misguided and hateful steps to make gender affirming care cause for legal retribution. In Maryland, we are going to lead on this issue.”

“In signing this executive order, this administration is saying to all LGBTQIA+ Marylanders: You deserve to be your authentic selves — during Pride month and every month,” added Lieutenant Gov. Aruna Miller. “You deserve to live safely, openly and freely; and receive the gender-affirming care you need.”

Moore last month signed the Trans Health Equity Act, which requires Maryland’s Medicaid program to cover gender-affirming care. Moore on March 31 signed a proclamation that proclaimed the day as the International Transgender Day of Visibility in Maryland. 

Continue Reading


22 ways to celebrate Pride month in Delaware

From Wilmington to Rehoboth, there’s something for everyone



Delaware hosts an array of Pride-related events this month.


QUEER FILM: The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and CAMP Rehoboth kick off the three-day Pride Film Festival featuring 12 movies, ranging from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project,” which explores author Giovanni’s life and six decades of work. The schedule has not been announced yet as of publication of this guide. The films will be shown at Cinema Art Theatre at 17701 Dartmouth Rd. #2 in Lewes. $12 per film.

A HISTORY LESSON: Delaware LGBTQ history researcher Carolanne Deal explores the queer history of Sussex County and a new exhibition with parts of Delaware’s queer history in the Zwannendael Park by the museum with the same name. 5 p.m. at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes. Free.


PRIDE FESTIVAL: Delaware Pride is putting on its annual Pride festival, with more than 100 vendors and many entertainers making up the single largest LGBTA gathering in Delaware, the organization says. Seventeen entertainers are listed on Delaware Pride’s Facebook page, including “American Idol” contestant Alisabeth Von Presley – “Lady Gaga meets Pat Benatar with a dash of Michael Jackson,” Little Village Magazine writes; Aunt Mary Pat, the drag queen and singer; Jenna Tall, who’s won five Miss titles; The Manhattan Prairie Dogs, a dance group that’s legal to watch despite prairie dogs being illegal to keep as a pet in New York; and Ryan Cassata, a singer and public speaker on trans issues. That’s not even mentioning 83 vendors that are scheduled to attend. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at 411 Legislative Ave. in Dover. Free.

PRIDE AFTER-PARTY: Double D’s Taphouse is hosting an after-party throughout Saturday night for adults 21 and over, hosted by Scarlett Masters (who’s also hosting the drag bingo above). 6-10 p.m. at 137 Jerome Drive in Dover. $15.

COUNTRY DANCING: Get yir boots on and saddle up, gays! Atlantic Sands Hotel & Conference Center is hosting a country dance party for gay men and women in Rehoboth. 7 p.m. at 1 Baltimore Ave. on the Boardwalk in Rehoboth. $10.

BRING YOUR GAY ASS OVER HERE: Flash your colors at Wilmington’s Crimson Moon bar. Brush up on your gay history to understand why: When it was illegal to be gay, LGBTQ people put a colored handkerchief in their back pocket to signal their queerness to other community members. Community leaders periodically changed that color so they would not reveal their sexuality to undercover cops. Over time, it evolved into what it is today – a way to show who you are and what you’re looking for. 9 p.m. at 1909 W. 6th St. in Wilmington. No cover.


RUN FOR FUN AT THE FUN RUN: Fun for run, no, run for fun in Rehoboth, organized by a Delaware shoe store, Charm City Run. 8-9 a.m. at 200 Rehoboth Ave. in Rehoboth. Free.

MIDDLETOWN PRIDE: Middletown is hosting its second annual Pride Walk and Festival – with vendors this time. 12-5 p.m. in Middletown. Free.

BINGO FOR A CAUSE: AIDS Delaware is hosting a spring bingo with The Rainbow Chorale in the Mill Creek Fire Company’s Chambers, with all proceeds benefitting the two organizations. It’s hosted by drag queens Scarlet Masters and Aura Buboyz and organizers encourage guests to dress in Pride attire or your “best ally” attire. Doors open at 5 p.m., games begin at 6 p.m. at 3900 Kirkwood Hwy in Wilmington. $15 for admission and one game board.

SUPPORT AGING LGBTQ+ PEOPLE: Learn about the challenges facing older LGBTQ adults and resources for them in a roundtable discussion hosted by Sussex Pride at the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware’s building in Lewes. 6-7:45 p.m. at 30486 Lewes Georgetown Hwy. Free.  


A NIGHT OUT: Bring your friends and (queer) family to this LGBTQ social event at Constitution Yards Beer Garden. It had a record turnout of about 300 last year, and organizers are hoping to crack 400 this year. 6-9 p.m. at 308 Justison St. in Wilmington. Free. 

GAME NIGHT: If going out isn’t your thing and you’d prefer a more chill night, fear not: Sussex Pride is hosting a game night in the Epworth United Methodist Church. 6:30-8:15 p.m. at 19285 Holland Glade Rd. in Rehoboth. Free.


GET INTO THE HOMO SPIRIT: Listen to CAMP Rehoboth’s Chorus singing all-time favorites like Chad & Jeremy’s “A Summer Song,” Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park,” and, of course, a Beach Boys medley at Epworth United Methodist Church. Friday and Saturday 7 p.m., and Monday 3 p.m. at 19285 Holland Glade Road in Rehoboth. $25. 

GAYEST SONGS EVER: Celebrate the super gay pop hits of yesteryear (and this year) with performer Todd Alsup. 8:30-10:30 p.m. at The Pines, 56 Baltimore Ave. in Rehoboth. $25-150.


DRAG BRUNCH: Miss Troy, who is also performing at the Pride Festival, is hosting a drag brunch at The Queen in its Crown Room. The Queen is normally a live music venue but has a history of hosting all kinds of events. 12 p.m. at 500 N. Market St. in Wilmington. $39-61.50

POOL PARTY: If you want to take a splash in the pool while being a little tipsy this is the place to do it. Bring your own booze if desired, and bring food if you wish. 3-9 p.m. at 128 Honey Brook Lane in Felton. Free.

PLAY DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: Take a break from celebrating with a round of Dungeons & Dragons hosted by Sussex Pride at the Groome Church. 6:30-8 p.m. at 601 Savannah Rd. in Lewes. Free.


QUEER STORY TIME: Bring your little (or not so little) kids to the Woodlawn Library and read picture books with LGBTQ characters. You must register for the event beforehand here. Masks are strongly encouraged at the event. 11 a.m.-12 p.m. at 2020 W. 9th St. in Wilmington. Free.

BRING YOUR DADDY TO BRUNCH: Goolee’s Grill encourages you to bring your dad (or daddy) to this family-friendly drag brunch because it’s Father’s Day. The event is hosted by the runner up for Rehoboth’s Best Drag Queen in the 2019 Blade awards, Regina Cox. 12-2 p.m. at 11 South 1st St. $15.


ZOO VISIT: The Brandywine Zoo is holding its annual Pride Day – only the third – with educational programming, a scavenger hunt, and story time. 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at 1001 N. Park Dr. in Wilmington. $7 for seniors and youth, $9 for adults.


STONEWALL RELIVED: Listen to four actors recreate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising at CAMP Rehoboth with the words of those that were there – reporters, drag queens, trans youth, gay people, and homeless kids that confronted the police, letting out their anger. It wasn’t the first LGBTQ uprising of the era, but the most consequential. 4 p.m. & 7 p.m. at 37 Baltimore Ave. in Rehoboth. $25. 


GAY COMEDY: Standup comedian Jen Kober, an out lesbian from Louisiana, is touring the country and stopping in Rehoboth Beach at The Pines along with Jeff D. She won NPR’s Snap Judgment of Comedic Performance of the Year and went viral for her standup about Girl Scout cookies. 7 p.m. at The Pines in Rehoboth. 

Did we miss anything? Let the author know at [email protected] 

Continue Reading


People of Pride: A look at Maryland’s LGBTQ community

Prominent activists, leaders spoke with the Baltimore Banner



Marquis Clayton, 35, poses for a portrait around Mount Vernon in Baltimore on May 31, 2023. (Photo by Kaitlin Newman for the Baltimore Banner)

By John-John Williams IV | With the LGBTQ community under assault in many states, LGBTQ Marylanders say Pride month has taken on added meaning this year.

There are an estimated 11 million LGBTQ adults in the United States, with 151,000 in the state of Maryland, according to the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law. The community covers a diverse spectrum of genders, identities, races and cultures.

The Baltimore Banner spoke and emailed with members of the community about the meaning of pride and the greatest challenges facing the LGBTQ community. Here are their answers, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.

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

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade