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50th anniversary of March on Washington nears

LGBT contingent planned for Aug. 24 commemoration



1963 March on Washington, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1963 March on Washington, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington will be celebrated next month. (Photo in public domain)

Local organizers of the 50th anniversary commemoration of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 civil rights March on Washington are calling on members of the LGBT community to participate in the re-enactment of the historic march set to take place Aug. 24 on the National Mall.

D.C. statehood and gay rights activist Jerry Clark, who was appointed by Mayor Vincent Gray to a committee to help recruit volunteers and participants for the march, said he is calling on local and national LGBT groups to help organize an “identifiable” LGBT contingent in the march.

“I would like to see an eye-catching LGBT contingent,” said Clark, who noted that national organizers of the march are supportive of LGBT equality.

Clark said LGBT activists involved with the march are committed to the goals and objectives of the event set by national organizers, including officials with the groups that worked with Martin Luther King on the 1963 march. Among them are the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Also playing a key role in organizing the 50th anniversary march and a week of related events is the King Center, the Atlanta-based organization created by the late Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, and other King family members.

King’s daughter, Bernice A. King, CEO of the King Center, said in a June 23 statement announcing plans for the 50th anniversary commemoration that a broad coalition of civil rights organizations would be involved in a series of events leading up to the Aug. 24 march.

“Our coalition hopes to make the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and my father’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech a meaningful experience which addresses the urgent causes of jobs, justice and freedom,” Bernice King said.

A July 8 statement released by the New York City-based National Action Network, headed by civil rights leader and commentator Rev. Al Sharpton, named more than 20 civil rights, labor, and faith-based organizations that are recognized as co-endorsers of the march. Among them are five national LGBT groups: the Human Rights Campaign, National Black Justice Coalition, Family Equality Council, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.

Clark said members of Mayor Gray’s local organizing committee are encouraging supporters from all communities to sponsor local events during the week leading up to the Aug. 24 march. He said he expects at least one event to honor Bayard Rustin, the out gay civil rights organizers credited with playing the lead role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington as one of King’s top lieutenants.

Rustin died in 1987 at the age of 75.

A spokesperson for the King Center in Atlanta said on Tuesday that organizers have yet to announce the names of the speakers at the march and rally set to take place at the Lincoln Memorial, the same location where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Clark said he was hopeful that at least one LGBT representative would be selected to speak at the event.

Black gay activists in D.C. were credited with persuading organizers of the 1983 20th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington to agree to allow black lesbian poet and writer Audre Lorde speak at that event.

The decision to allow Lorde to speak came after then D.C. congressional Del. Walter Fauntroy, one of the lead organizers of the 1983 march, initially opposed allowing an LGBT speaker. Fauntroy’s opposition prompted local black gay activists Phil Pannell, Mel Boozer, Ray Melrose, and Gary Walker to stage a sit-in at Fauntroy’s Capitol Hill office. The four were arrested in an action that drew national media coverage.

Following behind the scenes negotiations in which Gil Gerald, an official with the National Coalition of Black Gays, spoke directly with Coretta Scott King by phone, Mrs. King and other top leaders of the march agreed to have an out gay speaker.

Gerald, who isn’t involved in this year’s march, said he is hopeful that an LGBT person will be chosen as a speaker.


District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’



Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out just before the pandemic in collaboration with Wells Fargo. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship each year of their community college experience as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

Meanwhile, the foundation is also expanding its new BIPOC scholarship, which announced its next round of recipients on May 22. The scholarship is currently supporting between 500 and 555 scholars across the country.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

This year, Point also did a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

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