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Mautner Project to become part of Whitman-Walker

Groups call move ‘collaboration’ rather than merger



Leslie Calman, Mautner Project, gay news, Washington Blade
Leslie Calman of the Mautner Project

‘We are very excited that we’ll be working with Whitman-Walker Health,’ said Leslie Calman, the Mautner Project’s executive director, who is stepping down from the organization. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization based in Washington, D.C. since its founding in 1990, will become an arm of D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health in what leaders of both groups are calling an “historic collaboration.”

In a joint statement released on Tuesday, the two organizations said the arrangement will bring the Mautner Project’s programs and staff under the “umbrella” of Whitman-Walker, an LGBT community health care provider founded in 1978.

“We are very excited that we’ll be working with Whitman-Walker Health,” said Leslie Calman, the Mautner Project’s executive director. “It has a long, prestigious history of providing culturally sensitive health care services to Washington’s LGBT community.”

Calman said the joining of the two organizations would allow Mautner to “offer more critical services to a greater number of women who need those services throughout the region; it’s a natural fit.”

Don Blanchon, CEO of Whitman-Walker, said bringing Mautner’s programs into Whitman-Walker’s operations would enhance the longstanding mission of both organizations.

“Mautner Project has been dedicated to the health and wellness of Washington’s lesbian community for over 20 years,” Blanchon said. “We’ve been looking for a way to expand our health care services to women and Mautner Project’s programs and reach within their community will help us fulfill that mission.”

Although the joint statement released by the two organizations repeatedly uses the term “collaboration” to describe the new arrangement between the groups, details released by the groups give the appearance of a corporate merger.

Calman told the Blade that Mautner Project’s status as an independent non-profit corporation will cease to exist in the coming months as the organization closes its books and shuts down its office at 1300 19th St., N.W.

She said five of the Mautner Project’s six employees will continue to work on Mautner’s programs as Whitman-Walker employees working out of Whitman-Walker’s headquarters building at 1701 14th St., N.W.

Calman said she is leaving Mautner to become the CEO of a global health organization called Engineering World Health, which provides technical assistance on medical equipment in developing countries in Africa.

She said Mautner Project’s annual budget over the past several years has been about $950,000. Whitman-Walker spokesperson Chip Lewis said Whitman-Walker’s 2013 budget and projected revenue is $30.6 million.

Whitman-Walker emerged in the 1990s as the city’s largest private health care provider for people with HIV/AIDS. In recent years, Whitman-Walker has become a primary medical and dental care provider for all health care needs.

“Our mission is to be the highest quality, culturally competent community health center serving Washington’s diverse urban community, including individuals who face barriers to accessing care, and with a special expertise in LGBT and HIV care,” the statement announcing the new arrangement with Mautner Project says.

Unlike Whitman-Walker, Mautner Project has not offered direct medical services. Instead, the organization says on its website that it was founded to provide a wide range of support for lesbians with cancer and other serious illnesses through support groups, education and training of medical providers.

“Educating health care providers about the needs and concerns of their lesbian, bisexual and transgender clients” has been a key part of Mautner’s mission, its website says.

Calman said Mautner wasn’t facing an immediate financial crisis at the time its board decided to approach Whitman-Walker about a possible merger. But she said the board and staff became increasingly aware of the growing difficulty for smaller non-profit organizations like Mautner to raise money and serve the number of clients in need of services.

“The Mautner Project could have continued as an independent non-profit in the immediate future, meaning the next few years,” Calman told the Blade. “But the environment is getting harder and harder,” she said in referring to lining up donors willing to support a group of that size.

Corporate donors and foundations have been calling on small non-profits to “collaborate” or merge with other similar groups to eliminate what they consider a duplication of administrative costs such as office equipment, rent and executive directors’ salaries, Calman said.

“So it was a very deliberative, very thoughtful exploration of possibilities,” she said. “For us it’s really been about keeping the organizational programs and making it stronger and guaranteeing it into the future.”

Calman noted that in addition to continuing its services for lesbians with serious illnesses such as cancer, the Mautner programs at Whitman-Walker will also continue various illness prevention programs established by Mautner. Among them are cancer screening, smoking cessation and obesity reduction.

“Mautner Project will continue its operations at the Whitman-Walker Health’s 14th Street headquarters uninterrupted, led by Jacquetta Brooks, the current director of services at Mautner Project,” the joint statement says.

In its 2010 990 finance report filed with the IRS, the most recent such report available for public inspection, the Mautner Project reported it had sustained a deficit or debt of $107,107. The same report says Mautner had a deficit or debt of $264,390 in 2009.

Calman told the Blade that while Mautner often sustained a debt, the deficit figures reported in the group’s 2010 990 report gave an exaggerated perception of the actual debt, which she said was much smaller due to grants or other income that Mautner received shortly after the report was filed.

She said Mautner’s and Whitman-Walker’s respective boards agreed to keep confidential any debt that Mautner may have had at the time of the joining of the two groups.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



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



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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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9



David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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