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Mayoral candidates march in Pride Parade

Pro-LGBT rivals highlight tough choice for activists in race



Tommy Wells, 2013 Capital Pride Parade, gay news, Washington Blade
Tommy Wells, 2013 Capital Pride Parade, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) (on left), and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) all marched in Saturday’s Pride parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) – each of whom is running for mayor – waved to thousands of cheering onlookers on Saturday as they marched in D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade.

Mayor Vincent Gray, who has yet to announce whether he will run for a second term but who many believe will throw his hat in the ring, also marched in the parade, with LGBT supporters and city employees marching in his contingent.

The fact that four prominent politicians and long-time LGBT allies are either running or expected to run for mayor in the April 2014 Democratic mayoral primary highlights what many activists say is D.C.’s status as one of America’s most LGBT supportive cities.

But for many in the LGBT community, the fact that four longtime friends are running or likely to run against each other poses a dilemma. On what basis will they choose one over the other, some are asking.

In interviews with the Washington Blade during LGBT Pride month, several activists who discussed the upcoming mayoral election said it is far too early to make a decision on whom to back, even among those who supported Gray in his 2010 mayoral election campaign.

“We don’t know who else will get in the race,” said gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who supported Gray in 2010 and who has written several commentaries for the Blade praising Gray’s administration for making important improvements in the city, including the local economy.

“It’s much too early to make a decision,” Rosenstein said.

Veteran gay and AIDS activist Cornelius Baker, however, said he remains a strong Gray supporter and he and many others in the LGBT community he knows won’t line up behind anyone else until Gray makes his intentions known.

“We’re all waiting for him to give us the word that he’s running,” said Baker at a Black LGBT Pride event two weeks ago. “I’m ready to do all I can to support him because he’s done an excellent job on the issues that are important to me.”

Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, a non-partisan advocacy group that rates candidates based on their record and positions on LGBT-related issues, expressed caution about basing a decision on who to back solely on a candidate’s general statements of support.

“All friends are not created equal,” he said. “It behooves us to look inside the wrappers and compare the candidates’ records on translating their friendly words into results,” said Rosendall. “But that’s for another day – it’s Pride, and we have much to celebrate.”

Rosendall backed Gray in the 2010 election.

Christopher Dyer, who served as director of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs under Mayor Adrian Fenty, said he’s supporting Bowser, who was a strong Fenty supporter in the 2010 election in which Gray beat Fenty in a hotly contested race.

Also backing Bowser is gay activist and businessman Everett Hamilton.

If Fenty’s LGBT backers transfer their support to Bowser, who was a strong political ally of Fenty’s, the Ward 4 Council woman could receive a considerable boost for her campaign among LGBT voters. Fenty won in most of the city’s election precincts with high concentrations of LGBT residents in his unsuccessful bid for a second term in 2010.

Gay Democratic activist John Fanning said he is among the Ward 2 LGBT residents supporting Evans in the mayoral election next year.

“Jack has the experience and has paid his dues,” said Fanning, noting that Evans has been on the D.C. Council since 1991.

Mark Lee, an advocate for nightlife businesses and a business columnist for the Blade, said the mayoral contenders’ strong record of support on LGBT issues opens the way for LGBT voters to look at other issues.

“The hard work by community leaders over many years has made LGBT issues non-controversial in District politics or governance,” Lee said. “As a result, we now have both the opportunity and obligation to participate as full citizens and evaluate candidates on a wide range of issues.”

In media interviews during the past few weeks, each of the three Council contenders in the mayor’s race as well as Gray have said they welcome voter scrutiny of their positions and records on all issues.

Meanwhile, at least two others have given hints that they were considering entering the race. Gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) reportedly is weighing a run, according to political insiders. Should he run and win, Catania would make history by becoming the first out gay person elected mayor of D.C.

Robert C. Bobb, who served as city administrator under former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and later as president of the D.C. school board, is also said to be considering a run for mayor next year. Bobb expressed support for LGBT rights during his campaign for the school board post in 2006 as well as during his tenure as city administrator.

Catania, a longtime vocal supporter of LGBT rights, was the author and lead advocate for the city’s same-sex marriage law, which the D.C. Council passed in 2009. He recently switched from serving as chair of the Council’s Committee on Health to being chair of the Committee on Education, where he has emerged as a vocal advocate for school reform.

Evans, Bowser and Wells each voted for the marriage equality law after advocating for such legislation since winning election to the Council.

“I intend to spend more time focused on that, and when and if I decide to do something else I’ll make that decision, but it’s hard to do two tracks,” Catania told the Blade while marching in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday. “People often make calculations that are not thoughtful and I want to postpone that campaign mode as long as possible,” he said.

 Michael K. Lavers contributed to this report.

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  1. brian

    June 11, 2013 at 9:27 am

    How are victims of rape, sex assaults and hate crimes going to feel safer in ‘one city’ if a mayor’s PD continues to cover up crimes and falsify crime statistics?

    How do we achieve a ‘walkable city’ if council members who are supposed to be providing credible police oversight don’t?

    How can we be certain a mayor won’t simply appoint mediocre cronies as Fenty did?

    Which mayoral candidate has promised a nationwide search for a truly excellent police chief to end the culture of deception and cover-ups at MPD?

    • Rick Mangus

      June 17, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      Brian, this is the way this city is run and always has been run, by smoke and mirrors.

  2. Peter Rosenstein

    June 12, 2013 at 10:40 am

    The way this column is written it appears that I am not still a supporter of all the work that Vince Gray has done as Mayor- I want to make it clear that I am. When I said that not all the candidates have yet entered the race that includes the Mayor who hasn’t said yet whether he is or isn’t a candidate. The Democratic primary hopefully will be moved to June or later under the bill that Chair Mendelson has said he wants to introduce. I support that and would even suggest a September 2014 primary. Just so we don’t keep the current date which is much too early and falls on April Fools Day. Can’t wait to see what the late night comedians would do with that.

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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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