January 16, 2015 at 1:11 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
LGBT contingent to march in MLK parade
Martin Luther King, gay news, Washington Blade

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk and Parade is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 19 in Anacostia. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Members of at least one local and three national LGBT organizations will be marching as an official contingent in D.C.’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk and Parade scheduled for Monday, Jan. 19 in Anacostia.

Officials with the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Black Justice Coalition, the Center for Black Equity, and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club are calling on members of the D.C. LGBT community to join the contingent as it marches along a one-mile stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

Earl Fowlkes, the Center for Black Equity’s executive director and president of the Stein Club, said a large LGBT turnout for the event would highlight the LGBT community’s strong support for the famed civil rights leader’s vision of equality for everyone.

Fowlkes said a sizable LGBT contingent would also provide a presence for LGBT people in a part of the city where they live in significant numbers but haven’t been as visible as LGBT people in other parts of the city.

Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer newspaper and co-chair of the planning committee for the annual King Day Peace Walk and Parade, said the walk and parade begin separately and merge to become a single parade.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk is scheduled to kick off at 11:30 a.m. in front of the offices of the United Black Fund at 2500 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue on Monday, Jan. 19. Barnes said some participants in the walk would begin to assemble at that location around 9:30 a.m. to listen to speeches at a pre-walk rally.

The assembly site is less than two blocks from the Anacostia Metro Station.

Meanwhile, Barnes said participants in the Martin Luther King Day Parade were scheduled to assemble on the grounds of the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital East Campus between 10 a.m. and noon. The St. Elizabeth campus is located at 2700 Martin Luther King Avenue.

She said parade contingents would include floats and cars as well as people walking. Marching bands were also expected to be part of the parade.

According to Barnes, the parade was scheduled to begin 12 p.m. when participants in the Peace Walk reach the site of the St. Elizabeth’s campus.

“The parade will fall in behind the Peace Walk and everyone will proceed along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue,” she said. She said the Peace Walk and parade were scheduled to end when they reach the site of Leckie Elementary School at 4201 Martin Luther King Ave., with the total distance of the walk and parade said to be a little over one mile.

D.C. gay activist Jerry Clark, chair of the D.C. Statehood Coalition and one of the organizers of the Peace Walk, said the walk traditionally has been aimed at reflecting on King’s civil rights work and projects he helped organize.

This year’s Peace Walk comes at a time when the recently released movie “Selma” has drawn attention to the famous and tumultuous civil rights marches in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., organized by King and his civil rights era colleagues, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

“It’s an opportunity for people to walk together in a sense of community and to reflect on the significance of Martin Luther King and the current issues we deal with,” Clark said.

Organizers of D.C.’s King parade have said that event started as a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and accomplishments and is one of dozens of King Day parades held throughout the country on the day designated as a national holiday in honor of King.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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