A contingent of about two-dozen LGBT activists was greeted with cheers and chants of “equality” from crowds lining both sides of the street on Monday as the activists marched in D.C.’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk and Parade.
“I’m just overwhelmed by the welcome we received from people standing on the sidelines, with many of them saying they support us,” said Earl Fowlkes, who heads the LGBT advocacy groups Center for Black Equity and Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.
Fowlkes and Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, were among the organizers of the LGBT contingent. Both said they will redouble their efforts next year to increase the size of the LGBT contingent.
Large signs held by the LGBT participants with the words “LGBT Equality” and other LGBT-related slogans made it clear to fellow parade participants and spectators that they were representatives of the LGBT community.
“We started all the way from the beginning and all the way through we got nothing but love and great applause and people shouting that they’re queer, that their lesbians,” Nipper said at the end of the parade.
“We’ve got to come back,” she said. “And we’ve got to get it out so that so many more LGBT people come out here. They really, really would love to see the love that we received today.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who watched the parade from a reviewing stand, waved to the LGBT contingent as it walked past her as did other city officials who joined Bowser on the reviewing stand.
The parade included marching bands and dozens of contingents of community organizations and local businesses, including a float from the Washington Nationals baseball team.
Contingents backing at least five candidates running in an April special election for the Ward 8 D.C. Council seat also marched in the parade.
The Peace Walk, which preceded the parade, began at the 2500 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, and traveled south along MLK Avenue to the site of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where it was joined by the parade contingents. The combined Peace Walk and Parade then continued south along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue for about two miles to its end point at Leckie Elementary School.
“I didn’t see anyone who was in any way negative toward us,” said Amada Fitzsimmons, the Stein Club’s vice president for administration. “Everyone was very, very happy and positive and excited to see us,” she said.
“Our community is in all eight wards now,” said Fowlkes. “So we can’t just say our people are living west of the river. There are people who are LGBTQ east of the river and they need to be supported and have some visible support from us.”