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BOWSER TOPPLES GRAY

Graham loses; prospect of no gay representation on Council

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Muriel Bowser, mayor, D.C. Council, Democratic Party, primary, gay news, Washington Blade
Muriel Bowser, mayor, D.C. Council, Democratic Party, primary, gay news, Washington Blade

Council member Muriel Bowser defeated Mayor Vince Gray, setting up a contest with gay Council member David Catania in November. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) won 13 out of 16 precincts believed to have high concentrations of LGBT residents in her victory over Mayor Vincent Gray and six other candidates in the city’s Democratic primary on Tuesday.

In final but unofficial returns released by the Board of Elections and Ethics, Bowser had 44 percent of the vote compared to 32 percent for Gray in one of the city’s lowest turnout elections.

Bowser’s decisive win created deep disappointment among the large number of LGBT activists supporting Gray, many of whom consider him the nation’s most LGBT supportive mayor. His initiatives on transgender equality earned him strong and loyal support from the transgender community.

Although Bowser had a strong showing in voter precincts with high concentrations of LGBT residents, some activists backing Gray said they would take a careful look at gay Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who will be running against Bowser as an independent candidate in the November general election.

“I am still proud of our mayor, Vince Gray,” said gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who co-founded Gray Pride, an LGBT group that campaigned for Gray.

“I will be listening very carefully to what Muriel Bowser says and does to bring our party together and also curious of the tone and approach that David Catania brings to this race,” Hudson told the Blade.

Transgender activist Jeri Hughes, along with Hudson, were among the many LGBT supporters that attended Gray’s election night gathering at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill.

Like many Gray supporters, Hughes blamed Gray’s defeat on the decision by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen to publicly disclose two weeks before the election that businessman Jeffrey Thompson implicated Gray in a scheme to raise more than $500,000 in illegal funds for Gray’s 2010 election campaign. Gray has long denied having any knowledge of the scheme, which the U.S. Attorney’s office has been investigating for four years.

“My thinking is that Ron Machen should be forced out of D.C.,” Hughes said following Gray’s concession speech. “His innuendo affected the outcome of this election, and the District of Columbia is going to have to pay for it,” she said.

Vincent Gray, Democratic Party, District of Columbia, primary, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray lost his bid for re-election, weeks after the U.S. Attorney implicated him in a scheme to raise illegal funds for his last race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“Vincent Gray did an excellent job as the mayor,” Hughes said.  “And it’s a sad thing that innuendo can influence an election to where someone who has done an excellent job can lose in the last stages of his campaign.”

In what political observers are calling one of the biggest upsets in this year’s City Council elections, gay four-term Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) lost his re-election bid to political newcomer Brianne Nadeau, a civic activist and vice president of a local public relations firm.

Final but unofficial returns reported by the Board of Elections show Nadeau received 5,755 votes, or 58.7 percent, compared to Graham, who received 4,003 votes, or 40.8 percent. Absentee and provisional ballots had yet to be counted.

Nadeau expressed strong support for LGBT rights while criticizing Graham for an ethics charge involving a Metro development contract that led to a decision by his Council colleagues to vote 11 to 2 to officially reprimand him last year.

Saying Graham’s ethics charge followed the arrest and prosecution of two other D.C. Council members on corruption-related charges, Nadeau called on voters, including LGBT voters, to elect her to send a message that political corruption is unacceptable.

Graham’s long record as a champion for LGBT rights and his work in fighting AIDS as the former executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic made him highly popular in the LGBT community. And his reputation as one of the Council’s strongest providers of constituent services made him highly popular among the ward’s highly diverse population groups, including Latino and African immigrants.

Most political observers in the ward believe the ethics issue was the key factor in Graham’s loss of support from many of his constituents, including LGBT residents.

Nadeau beat Graham decisively in four of six Ward 1 precincts believed to have large numbers of LGBT residents in Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and the U Street, N.W. corridor. Graham won just one of the six precincts — Precinct 36 in Columbia Heights — by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.

He lost Precinct 137 in the U Street corridor by just one vote, with Nadeau receiving 125 votes to Graham’s 124 votes. Nadeau won the others by margins of greater than 10 percent.

“We did our best to represent the great diversity of this ward, bringing together people of all backgrounds in a common purpose who deserve good representation here in Ward 1,” Graham said at his election night gathering in a restaurant in Mount Pleasant.

“Let’s give all of the people who worked so hard a round of applause because we have solid support from African Americans, solid support from Latinos, solid support from the Ethiopian community, solid support from the Vietnamese and pretty solid support from people who look like me,” he said.

Jim Graham, gay news, Washington Blade, Democratic Party, primary

Gay Council member Jim Graham was defeated on Tuesday, ending a 16-year run on the Council. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

In her victory speech at another restaurant at 11th and U streets, N.W., Nadeau thanked Graham for what she said were his years of service to Ward 1. But she also reiterated her campaign call for addressing ethics in government.

“Today voters embraced ethical leadership focused on making Ward 1 more affordable and improving our neighborhood schools,” she said. “Together we built a strong grassroots movement for progressive change, one that resonated far and wide with voters.”

With Nadeau and Bowser perceived as being strongly committed to LGBT rights, even though their records could not stand up to the accomplishments of Graham and Gray on those issues, many LGBT voters chose to base their vote on non-LGBT issues, according to activists following the city’s April 1 primary.

“All of the candidates are great on our issues and we are really fortunate to have an embarrassment of riches among the candidates,” said gay businessman Everett Hamilton, who is among Bowser’s leading LGBT supporters.

The six other Democratic mayoral candidates, all of whom expressed strong support for LGBT equality, finished far behind Bowser and Gray.

Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) came in third place with 13 percent of the vote. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) came in fourth with 4 percent. Busboys and Poets restaurant owner and progressive activist Andy Shallal finished fifth with 3 percent followed by Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) who received 2 percent. Former State Department official Reta Lewis and businessman and singer Carlos Allen received less than 1 percent.

Similar to other D.C. residents, most LGBT voters are registered Democrats. But at least some longtime LGBT Democratic activists have said they would seriously consider backing Catania in the general election in November.

Gay Democratic activist Paul Kuntzler, a founding member of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, supported Gray in the primary. In a letter he sent to Catania’s office on Wednesday, Kuntzler said he’s supporting Catania over Bowser in November.

“I believe David will make a great mayor,” he said. “I also believe he will win in November. I have voted for him every time he has been on the ballot.”

A poll released by the Washington Post in late March, however, showed that Bowser was favored by voters participating in the poll by a margin of 56 percent to 23 percent. Catania’s campaign manager, Ben Young, said the poll was conducted just two weeks after Catania declared his candidacy for mayor and after Bowser had been campaigning for more than a year.

Young, along with other Catania supporters, said Catania’s support would rise in the coming months as he steps up his campaign.

In other races, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), won his primary contest by beating Democratic challenger Calvin Gurley by a margin of 81 percent to 18 percent. A series of attack ads lodged against Mendelson by the Labor Committee of the Fraternal Order of Police, which acts as the local D.C. police union, accusing Mendelson of failing to take adequate measures to fight anti-LGBT hate crimes appears to have had no impact on the election.

Incumbent Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, won in a six-candidate race by capturing 53 percent of the vote. Challenger Nate Bennett-Fleming, who campaign aggressively for the LGBT vote, came in second with 22 percent. Challenger John Settles received 14 percent, with Pedro Rubio and Kevin Valentine receiving 7 percent and 3 percent.

Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) defeated two Democratic challengers in his primary contest by capturing 79 percent of the vote. In Ward 6, where the Council seat is being vacated by Tommy Wells, who ran for mayor, Wells’ former chief of staff, Charles Allen beat former U.S. Senate staffer Darrel Thompson by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent.

In a hotly contested race for the city’s shadow U.S. Senate seat, incumbent Paul Strauss defeated challenger Pete Ross by a margin of 60 percent to 38 percent.

D.C. congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) ran unopposed in their respective races.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. brian

    April 2, 2014 at 8:04 am

    “Gray – who remains under investigation over a shadow campaign during his 2010 bid against then-Mayor Adrian Fenty – specifically thanked the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance as he spoke to his supporters…”
    ************************************************************
    Hmm. And I thought, “GLAA does not make endorsements in partisan races.”
    ;-)
    BTW, Mayors Crackhead, Cronies and Crooked all got my vote at least once. There is no shame in being fooled by a public official– only in not doing something about it.

    It’s good we can look forward to a more open mayoral general election campaign. A fuller airing of problems– as well as proposed solutions– that really matter in the lives of District residents, both LGBT and straight, has got to be a good thing.

  2. Richard Rosendall

    April 2, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Brian, your saying “hmm” does not change the facts. GLAA has repeatedly stated that our candidate ratings are not endorsements. Nor do we just announce ratings; we published every candidate’s full responses to our questionnaire. If we were going to arbitrarily fudge the numbers to help certain candidates and hurt others, we could have spent far less time and trouble. We spent a great deal of time on consultations with other activists in drafting our policy brief before even working on the questionnaire; and we spent nearly three hours at our ratings meeting going over each candidate’s response question by question. You ought to learn to modulate your tone, Brian, and allow some shades of gray (no pun intended) into your stark, outraged characterizations. You evidently wanted us to simply trash the mayor because if continued problems with the police. In fact, as you know, GLAA worked with several other LGBT groups, including GLOV, DC Trans Coalition, Rainbow Response, and others in responding in detail to the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force Report. We continue working in coalition to engage the police constructively. Chief Lanier has embraced most of the Task Force’s report. No, of course we are not done. We must continue to press and be vigilant. But just trashing people accomplishes nothing. In any case, criticizing our approach is one thing. Implying that there was something shady in GLAA’s ratings process is baseless and out of line. The candidates got the ratings they earned, as the published evidence at http://www.glaa.org amply shows. So Vince Gray thanked GLAA lst night. Oh, scandal! Please. We have been working with him for decades. He is a proven friend and ally. I did not say he is a paragon of godlike perfection. He expressed surprise some weeks back at having received the top score in GLAA’s rigorous process. It is easy for you to trash us because you are focused only on one thing; but as our policy brief shows, we have a lot of issues to track. Vince’s strong positives on LGBT issues outweighed his negatives. Advicate after local LGBT advocate has praised him for his leadership. Are all of those activists somehow bought off? You must know better. And at this point, after his gracious concession speech, it is boorish of you to persist in your absurdly un-nuanced trashing of him.

  3. brian

    April 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    “Chief Lanier has embraced most of the Task Force’s report. No, of course we are not done. We must continue to press and be vigilant.” –Rick
    ==================================

    And I’ll just bet you/GLAA and Mendelson take Chief Lanier at her word again, huh? Not even Lady Gaga can re-invent her self better than our police chief.

    But seriously, all of you guys (Gray, Mendelson and GLAA) ought to stop blaming MPD for YOUR own failures to act effectively to bring anti-LGBT hate crimes to an end.

    Stop hiding behind the Chief and blaming the Police Union and everyone else but yourselves for your failures to bring MPD’s institutional homophobia and transphobia to an end.

    Every police chief in the world knows how to take orders and clear guidance from their civilian bosses. So stop your public fiction that somehow it’s the fault of rank-and-file MPD officers and their seemingly “rogue” police chiefs.

    The buck stops with your pal, the mayor, Rick. Moreover, everyone knows it. At Council, Phil Mendelson (another GLAA ‘perfect 10’) is first on that legislative totem pole.

    Here’s the kind of thing that matters in the lives of real people– both LGBT and straight. That is real, rising crime stats on Gray’s/ Mendelson’s (and EOM’s subordinate, Chief Lanier’s) watch.…

    – Robberies by gun are up 18% in DC.
    – Sexual assaults are up by 50% in DC.
    – Anti-gay hate crimes are up 50% too.
    – DC’s homicide rate has DOUBLED since last year.
    — DC (excluding its bordering cities/suburbs) ranks 24th in cities by population.
    But DC ranks as the *5th MOST DANGEROUS city* in America.

    The DC Polcie Union/FOP –AND– the Blade’s report is correct as well. GLLU’s core unit has been all but demolished by Gray, Mendelson and Gray’s chiefs.

    Rick, you imply that GLAA has ‘continued to press and be vigilant’ regarding our institutionally biased police management. But that just does NOT comport with the facts.

    Just this week, Phil Mendelson– as if a Council Chairman can only act on direction from LGBT activists– reportedly claimed GLAA and other activists never proposed legislative action.

    Seemingly, that would be among GLAA’s missions. It’s GLAA who has the needed legal eagles to do that, after all.

    So excuse just plain LGBT folks like me from asking…

    — Has GLAA even insisted Council compel MPD bring hate crimes perpetrators to justice?

    — Has GLAA bothered to insist on honesty and transparency from MPD on hate crimes cases, including, but not limited to case closure and arrest stats?

    — Has GLAA bothered SPECIFICALLY, e.g., to compel MPD to set up an interactive public look-up database of anti-LGBT hate crimes cases providing up-to-date basic case closure information (open or closed, no.of arrests, trial date, etc.) ?

    — Has GLAA bothered to propose legislation to compel MPD maintain a robust GLLU core unit with its own Sergeant (or was Mendelson mistaken about that one?)?

    Rick, we’re talking about real LGBT people, aren’t we? Here and NOW– in DC, just this past year. It’s not coming from GLAA’s glory days– nor politicians’ ancient histories of past LGBT issues support.

    We’re talking real aggravated assaults.. beatings, stabbings, shootings, kicked-in teeth, cracked ribs, shattered jaws. Real blood. Real trauma. Real lives lost sometimes, too. For the survivors there can be months of rehab. Reconstructive surgery. REAL FEAR for some LGBT households, every damn day, that their hate crime assault will happen again– to them, or their loved ones, or their friends, or their neighbors.

    It is real “boorish” and violent crime stuff, Rick.

    So, just ‘priority-wise’ how do you think GLAA’s best political pals of today– and all their ancient histories of support for past “GLAA” issues compare with all that LGBT hate crimes blood running in the streets?

  4. Richard Rosendall

    April 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Brian, decide to be civil and respectful and I will talk to you. Our coalition (and kindly stop making this all about GLAA) responded (as you know) with 14 pages of specifics. How does “we are not done” come across as passive acceptance to you? You know how to reach me. I am not going to do it further here nor accept an interrogatory tone. If you need to have the last word, go ahead.

  5. brian

    April 2, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    Umm, Rick… multiple questions, I suppose by definition, carry with them an ‘interrogatory tone’. What’s unusual about that? The questions are reasonable and I’m guessing other LGBTs besides myself would like to see your answers– or at least some discussion of the problems and/or solutions suggested therein.

    By all means, feel free to share the gist of the questions, however you wish to modify them, with GLAA’s coalition partners. Council and mayoral candidate might wish to address similar questions as to MPD handling of hate crimes cases as well.

    As to civility, I’ll just ask you to review your own post of this morning (2 Apr). I have no personal quarrel with you.

  6. Rick Mangus

    April 3, 2014 at 4:57 am

    I only have three words to say, Sharon Pratt Kelly!

  7. Jeri Hughes

    April 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

    It is a sad state of affairs when innuendo can alter an election. Vincent Gray has been, and is, an exemplary Mayor. His leadership and vision for the District will be sorely missed in the years to come. Let us pray that those who succeed him can match his passion and determination to bring social justice and prosperity to the District.

  8. brian

    April 3, 2014 at 10:48 am

    “…decide to be civil and respectful and I will talk to you.” –Rick
    ****************************************************************************
    What you really mean is, “don’t question GLAA or GLAA’s decisions.” And then you’ll deign to talk to me?

    Gee whiz! Thanks, Rick!

    Rick, I can understand your reluctance to address Gray’s institutional anti-LGBT police/ MPD management bias and anti-LGBT hate crimes coverups at MPD.

    Given that, and considering your very open and robust public endorsement of Gray’s re-election, however, GLAA’s “perfect 10” rating of Gray looks suspicious.

    Likewise, Phil Mendelson’s failure to protect GLLU’s core unit– both as former Chair of Council’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, and now, as Council Chairman, is a noticeable stain on Mendelson “pro-LGBT” record, as well.

    Indeed, in both of Mendelson’s Council positions, he had authority and wide discretion to persistently shine a light upon institutional anti-LGBT police/ MPD management bias and anti-LGBT hate crimes coverups at MPD. More importantly, Mendelson had the power and influence to affect positive change and solutions, through legislation, to end the bias and coverups against LGBT victims by MPD.

    Mendelson failed to persistently and effectively do that. So no way does Mendelson merit a “perfect 10” rating from GLAA either.

    IMHO, the leadership of a “scrupulously non-partisan” LGBT civil rights advocacy group with a venerable history, should have never put itself so publicly in such an obvious conflict of interest with the city’s two highest elected leaders.

    That situation invites some pretty obvious questions, for example…

    — What LGBT public safety issues were stalled, put-off or buried by GLAA so as not to embarrass its high-ranking political “friends”?

    Moreover, the fact that GLAA is now hitched to voter rejection of a now, voter-adjudged crooked and dishonest mayor does not serve any of our LGBT causes well.

    I didn’t expect much from our crooked mayor. But I did expect better of Phil Mendelson.

    In the recent Blade article regarding DC Police Union’s highlighting of Mendelson’s poor crime/ public safety record, Mendelson did not offer a whit of personal compassion for the LGBT victims of hate crimes violence.

    Nor did Mendelson offer a kind word for MPD’s Police Union/FOP– which among its many missions, has always supported a robust GLLU core unit and defends the employment rights of its MPD LGBT officers.

    That speaks volumes to LGBTs and cops alike.

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Howard County activists and allies hit back at censorship, hate

More than 100 people attended ‘We ARE the People’ rally

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(Photo by Bob Ford)

A diverse crowd of 100 to 200 folks gathered at the Columbia Lakefront on Saturday to attend a rally to push back against censorship in the county’s public schools as well as homophobia and transphobia emanating from a group of conservative parents.

The rally called “We ARE the People” was organized in response to the comments and actions by members of a Maryland-based conservative group “We the People 2” that among other things are anti-masks, anti-vaccinations and are opposed to teaching racial history in the schools. They also oppose two books that are in Howard County Public Schools library shelves: “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy.”

Speakers at a We the People 2 rally last month at an Elkridge warehouse condemned the books, which contain LGBTQ characters, as sexually explicit. The group later filed police reports against the Board of Education alleging the books constitute pornography with “graphic sexual content and materials being used and disseminated in public schools,” according to the group’s press release.  A flier announcing this action used the loaded terminology, “We must not allow our children to be abused and victimized.”

Among the speakers at the Elkridge rally was Republican Gordana Schifanelli who is running for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Daniel Cox. Another speaker, George Johnson, a teacher from Baltimore City, was heard on a video of the event saying, “We’re doing God’s work because Marxism, homosexuality and transgenderism is the devil.”

In response, the pro-LGBTQ rally in Columbia announced the following:

We are taking a stance against hate in the community as we raise our voices in support of equity in our schools. Attacks on teachers and school staff have prompted us to stand united and drown out the noise.

In addition, We ARE the People states:

We stand for LGBTQ+ students and educational professionals

Teaching accurate history to our students

Supporting equitable practices in our schools

Providing students with relevant LGBTQ+ media through their school libraries

The two-hour rally, which was attended by several county council members, featured speakers representing a wide swath of community, educational, religious and political organizations. They included: Community Allies of Rainbow Youth (CARY), Black Lives Activists of Columbia (BLAC), Absolutely Dragulous, Howard County Schools, PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County, IndivisibleHoCoMd, Columbia Democratic Club, Howard Progressive Project, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC), HoCo Pride, Progressive Democrats of Howard County, and the Columbia United Christian Church.

Many of the speakers denounced the censorship of materials that are needed by many LGBTQ students. Genderqueer and non-binary students, they point out, are most vulnerable and need affirming literature to help with their development and self-acceptance. The speakers also decried hate speech, which has surfaced again, as well as the opposition to teaching history as it relates to race.

Others argued that the community must not sit back and take it from extremist groups.

“You are all defenders,” said Cynthia Fikes, president of the Columbia Democratic Club, in a fiery speech. “But to succeed a strong defense also needs a strong offense.”

The two books in question were recently the center of controversy in the Fairfax County (Va.) school system. The books were removed in September from the shelves of the high schools pending a comprehensive review following opposition from a parent at a school board meeting. It should be noted that both books were previous winners of the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which each year recognize “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”  

The board established two committees consisting of parents, staff and students to assess the content of the books and make recommendations to the assistant superintendent of instructional services who would make the final determination.

One committee found that “Lawn Boy” includes themes that “are affirming for students” with marginalized identities. “There is no pedophilia in the book,” the committee added. The other committee found that “Gender Queer” depicts “difficulties non-binary and asexual individuals may face.” The committee concluded that “the book neither depicts nor describes pedophilia.” The books were restored to the shelves.

“As this backlash against LGTBQ+ literature demonstrates, we must be ready to stand up and defend the progress we have made,” said Jennifer Mallo, member of the Howard County Board of Education, expressing her own point of view. “We must ensure our elected officials understand and share our values and will fight for our marginalized students.”

The enthusiastic crowd was clearly pleased with the event.

“Today’s rally was meant to inspire our community to take action,” said Chris Hefty, who was the lead organizer of the rally and the emcee. “Action that protects our youth. Action that protects our educators and admins. This action comes in the form of advocacy, communication with elected officials so they know your voice, and through well informed voting to ensure those who represent us are those we know will support us. We shared a message of love, acceptance, and warmth.”

Hefty adds, “The unity we facilitated through this rally was a sight to behold. As the lead organizer I couldn’t have been more pleased! In the future we will be sure to better meet the needs of all our community members. We thank all those in our community for their support and feedback and look forward to accomplishing great things together moving forward.”

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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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

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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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