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Gray under fire from McClurkin, D.C. ministers

City to pay ‘ex-gay’ singer $10,000 for cancelled appearance

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Freedom Plaza, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade, Vince Gray

Mayor Vincent Gray withdrew an invitation for Donnie McClurkin to perform at last weekend’s festivities. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Controversial gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, who has said God delivered him from the “sin” of homosexuality, has accused D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray of violating his civil rights by requesting that he withdraw as a performer at a concert last Saturday at the Martin Luther King Memorial.

Gray spokesperson Doxie McCoy released a statement to the Blade on the day before the concert saying the mayor directed the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to ask McClurkin to withdraw on grounds that his appearance would be a “distraction at an event about peace, love and justice for all.”

The mayor’s directive came one day after gay activist and longtime civil rights advocate Phil Pannell said McClurkin’s past inflammatory statements comparing gays to drug dealers and prostitutes were “vile” and were at odds with King’s call for ending discrimination and injustice.

The Commission on the Arts and Humanities, a city agency, organized the concert as the kick-off for a series of events over the next two weeks to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 civil rights March on Washington at which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

McCoy said the mayor’s office had not been aware that the commission invited McClurkin to perform at the concert, which was entitled “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King.”

In a video released several hours before the 8 p.m. concert was scheduled to begin on Aug. 10, McClurkin said the mayor’s office and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities incorrectly claimed he and the city came to a mutual agreement that he withdraw as a performer.

“Last night on the way to the airport we received a phone call from the promoters who received word from the mayor’s office…that I was not welcome and uninvited the night before the concert,” McClurkin said on his video, which was posted on YouTube.

“It’s bullying,” he said. “It’s discrimination. It’s intolerance. It’s depriving someone of his civil rights when told he cannot come to an event and by coming it would cause a disruption.”

In an Aug. 11 press release, a spokesperson for the Baptist Convention of the District of Columbia and Vicinity said “pastors from throughout the city contacted the mayor’s office to insist” that McClurkin, himself a minister, be included in the concert as planned. The release says Gray ignored the request.

“Mayor Gray has systematically and deliberately done everything possible to strike at the fabric of the faith community – at least the sector of us who opposed his views,” Rev. Patrick J. Walker, president of the Baptist group, stated in the release. “This, however, is an atrocity and cannot be tolerated.”

Walker was among the leaders of the opposition to D.C.’s same-sex marriage law at the time the proposed measure came before the City Council in 2009.

The Washington Post reported Monday night that mayoral spokesperson Rob Marus said the city still plans to pay McClurkin $10,000 he is owed under a performance contract drawn up at the time the Commission invited him to take part in the event.

LGBT advocates in D.C. and in other parts of the country, upon learning of McClurkin’s latest comments criticizing the mayor’s decision to seek his withdrawal from the King Memorial concert, defended Gray’s action, saying McClurkin’s record as a leader of the “ex-gay” movement made him a divisive figure.

“If Donnie McClurkin was a white supremacist who called African Americans ‘vampires,’ ‘sissies’ and ‘evil’ people, then compared our existence to diabetes, he would never have been invited to perform on any stage in the District,” said gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green of Ward 8. Green was referring to words that McClurkin used to describe gay people in past public appearances.

“All I ask is we end the double standard,” Green said in a Facebook posting Monday night. “The days of the great Bayard Rustin are no longer here. There is no more delegating my gay brothas and sistas to the back room to shut their mouths for the good of the cause. We are all part of the cause!” he said.

Journalist and commentator Rod McCullom, who writes about issues affecting the black LGBT community on his blog Rod 2.0: Beta Gay News, disputed in a blog posting Monday night McClurkin’s claim that he was a victim of discrimination and bullying when Mayor Gray took steps to cancel his performance at the King Memorial.

“McClurkin is correct about one thing,” McCullom wrote. “This is about ‘bullying’ and ‘intolerance’…except he is not on the side of ‘love, unity, peace and tolerance.’ McClurkin has become the poster child for the church-based homophobia and intolerance that is harassing, bullying and making life horrible for millions of black gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender youth in the church.”

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Virginia

Youngkin vetoes bill that would have expanded Va. bullying definition

Bisexual state Del. Joshua Cole introduced House Bill 536

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks at a CNN Town Hall on March 9, 2023. (Screen capture via CNN)

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday vetoed a bill that would have added sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the state’s definition of bullying.

Lawmakers earlier this year approved House Bill 536, which bisexual state Del. Joshua Cole (D-Fredericksburg) introduced. 

“While I agree with the general purpose of the legislation, regrettably, the General Assembly did not approve my amendments,” said Youngkin in a statement. “Those recommendations would have expanded the definition of bullying to encompass all possible motives.”

“School administrators must work to prevent bullying and support our students’ mental health through a healthy learning environment, but the narrow definition provided in the legislation could be interpreted to exclude groups not included in the Virginia Human Rights Act, such as bullying victims raised with traditional values or those who are in foster care,” added the Republican.

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Rehoboth Beach

Selling Rehoboth: Lee Ann Wilkinson wins prestigious real estate award

Longtime agent on beach prices, her LGBTQ allyship, and more

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Lee Ann Wilkinson doesn’t see real estate prices coming down anytime soon at the beach. (Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

Longtime Delaware real estate leader Lee Ann Wilkinson of Berkshire Hathaway recently celebrated a major industry award after being named No. 1 in total sales volume for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Network. Wilkinson, a Blade contributor, centers much of her work in the coastal communities of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. We caught up with her to discuss her long career in real estate, her LGBTQ allyship, and more.

Washington Blade: I learned your parents were in real estate, and you began working with them early on in your career. Did you initially intend to follow in their footsteps? 

Lee Ann Wilkinson: Not really. I majored in art. When I got out of college I couldn’t really find a job. So, my parents said, “You need to come work for us.”

Blade: I understand that as an art history major turned writer. Speaking of that: I know you have written some pieces for the Blade, about real estate trends, and the like. How do you pick your topics for these articles? 

Wilkinson:  People always want to know about real estate. Whether buying a first home, second home, a home to invest or retire in. It amazes even me how much interest there is. And it’s not just people looking to buy a $7 million home on beachfront property. It’s people looking to get something in budget for their family.

Blade: I know you have a lot of work in Rehoboth, the Delaware Valley’s historically gay beachside community. Was there ever a time you were NOT selling property to – I guess it was fair to say 40 years ago – mostly gay men? 

Wilkinson: Ha, I grew up coming down for the summer until my family moved here full-time from Norristown, outside of Philly. We had businesses and family in Rehoboth. I think Rehoboth has always been gay-friendly. We never thought about it. My grandfather had a house in Rehoboth before I was born. The gay population was always welcome.

Blade: Do you have a connection to the LGBTQ community beyond real estate? 

Wilkinson: Absolutely. One of my closest friends is a guy I went to college with at the University of Delaware, Joey. You know, Joey was maybe my first gay friend. In fact, we all went to the Easter Sunrise Service on the beach in Rehoboth. We have gay family members, so I have never thought that much about it being anything different.

Blade: I know you recently won a prestigious award with Berkshire Hathaway and were surprised to come in first place. Why?

Wilkinson: For the past 20 years or so we have been in the top 10. We started doing these national things with Berkshire Hathaway. To get in the top 10 was amazing to me especially going up against states like Florida, New Jersey, not to mention San Francisco or Bay Area agents. I just never thought we’d get to the number one spot. My only issue is — where to go now?

Blade: Where do you make your primary residence? Is that Lewes? Do you see the president on occasion? 

Wilkinson: I haven’t seen him at the beach. But he’s on the bike trail a lot. He pops up having breakfast. He goes to Mass at St. Edmond’s in Rehoboth on Saturday evening. But I’m often too busy with work on weekends to catch sight of him.

Blade: Having been in the industry 40 years, how do you find ways to get excited about your work? 

Wilkinson: I really am passionate about it. I really love a challenge. That’s part of the appeal for this job. I always like matching people with things. I really liked getting people the right bathing suits years ago. Selling, it’s just something I’m good at. I would get customers walking outta’ the store with three or four bathing suits when they only wanted one. 

Blade: Are you considering retiring in the next few years? Or will you always be associated with the industry on some level. Maybe as a mentor or silent partner? 

Wilkinson: Oh, no, I’ll always be involved. Three of my four daughters work for me. I am not retiring anytime soon. And if I did, they would be here to continue it on, and I am sure I’d weigh in.

Blade: So, this is very much a family legacy?

Wilkinson: Yeah. My parents are 87 and 91 now. Some 20 years ago mom predicted we’d see an increase in prices, people moving here, etc. I don’t know how she predicted it but mom is right.

Blade: Any current trends you’re noticing? 

Wilkinson: This cycle of people moving here, and prices increasing, and all the building happening. People think the prices are going to come down, but I don’t see that happening.

Blade: Tell me about that. Are the new building ventures changing the faces of Rehoboth and Lewes? After not visiting the Jersey Shore for over a decade I’ve been going the past few summers to my cousin’s place in Cape May. It’s a trailer on a nicely maintained campground and it’s what she can afford. And, there’s so much building happening there.

Wilkinson: Right? It’s about finding a second home you can afford. And, in terms of building projects, the good thing about Rehoboth and Lewes is they are strict on what you can and can’t build downtown. They aren’t going to tear down homes to build multi-family condos, not yet anyway. In Spring Lake, you are seeing townhomes. So, building is happening and we have some condos, but it’s great to not see “overbuilding” happening in these historically smaller cities.

To learn more about Ms. Wilkinson, or property in Sussex County, DE be sure to look for articles she publishes in the Blade and visit the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group website.

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Local

Blum named director of new LGBTQ program at Carr Center

Program to expand research, training on safeguarding human rights

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Diego Garcia Blum

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].

Congratulations to Diego Garcia Blum on his new position as director, Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program, at the Harvard, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. This new program will expand research and training on safeguarding the human rights of LGBTQI+ people worldwide. It will address the escalating crisis of violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals globally. The vision is to establish the Carr Center as a key international nexus for LGBTQI+ human rights policy, training, ideas, and dialogue

 “The heart of this program is empowering and supporting the brave LGBTQI+ activists working in challenging and often perilous environments,” Garcia Blum said. “Through our training and high-impact research, we aim to supercharge their efforts.”

Prior to this, he has had a varied and impressive career. Recently he served as a Social Change Fellow at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. He worked with the Human Rights Campaign, serving on its Board of Governors. Prior to that, he worked as a nuclear engineer at Orano, a French company. It is described as a global leader in nuclear fuel cycle products and services, from mining to dismantling, conversion, enrichment, recycling, logistics and engineering. He has won many awards for his work and education. The Innovation CORE award at Orano; The Dean Joseph Weil Leadership Award, University of Florida; Most Outstanding Master in Public Policy Student – Ellen Raphael Award, Harvard Kennedy School. 

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