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Honoring home of D.C.’s Furies

‘There are 2,500 National Historic Landmarks and only two are LGBT’

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Furies, gay news, Washington Blade
Furies, gay news, Washington Blade

The house at 219 11th St., S.E., was home to the lesbian feminist separatist group called the Furies Collective in the early 1970s. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board is considering a proposal to designate a row house on Capitol Hill as an historic landmark because it served as the residence and headquarters of a lesbian feminist separatist group called the Furies Collective in the early 1970s.

LGBT history advocate Mark Meinke filed a 63-page nominating application calling for historic landmark status for the two-story brick house at 219 11th St., S.E. last fall, starting a process that Meinke hopes will lead to its eventual designation as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.

Meinke filed the application on behalf of the Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization he co-founded one year ago to help secure recognition and preservation of LGBT historic sites throughout the country.

“The house at 219 11th Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. became the operational center of the lesbian feminist separatist collective, The Furies, between late 1971 and the autumn of 1973 which created and led the debate over lesbians’ place in society,” Meinke wrote in his nomination application.

Meinke notes in the nomination document that the 12 women in the Furies Collective founded and published a tabloid size newspaper called The Furies “which over a period of two years raised and discussed major questions of women’s identity, women’s relationships with other women, with men, and with society at large.”

The document adds, “Over the course of the collective’s and the newspaper’s lives, the twelve women explored and sought to resolve a multitude of issues and examined their personal experiences in the lines of their newspaper.”

Through those activities, Meinke wrote, the Furies “set the issues and the agenda of lesbian and feminist discussion for many years to come.”

Meinke said he was relieved that the quest to secure the Furies house as a historic site cleared its first hurdle when the owners of the house since 2004, Robert Pohl and his wife Antonia Herzog, immediately gave their consent to D.C. historic landmark status for their home.

Pohl has said he was pleased to discover the house’s association with the Furies when he conducted his own research on the house shortly after purchasing it. He told WAMU Radio in an interview last year that he has already hung photos on his walls of Furies members working in the house back in the early ‘70s and he looks forward to placing a plaque on the house indicating it has historic landmark status.

Under the city’s rules for obtaining such a designation, the process can be delayed and additional obstacles could emerge if the property owner doesn’t give consent to the application.

Just last week the nomination received another boost when Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, which has jurisdiction over the section of Capitol Hill where the house is located, voted unanimously to approve the nomination.

According to Meinke, the nomination cleared another hurdle earlier this month when the staff of D.C.’s Historic Preservation Office approved the nomination, enabling it to advance to city’s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). The HPRB has scheduled a public hearing on the nomination for Jan. 28.

“It would be nice if anybody wants to come to the hearing to support the nomination,” Meinke said. “We’ve had letters of support from around the country. I think we’ve got 16 or maybe 17 now,” he said, including one from the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Among the Furies members that Meinke interviewed in preparation for his nominating application was Rita Mae Brown, the lesbian activist and author of the nationally acclaimed 1973 novel “Rubyfruit Jungle,” which touched on lesbian feminist issues.

Other members of the Furies collective were D.C.-area lesbian activists and feminists Charlotte Bunch, Joan Biren, Ginny Berson, Sharon Deevey and Coletta Reid. Nearly all of the Furies members became involved in other lesbian feminist activities in other parts of the country after the group disbanded in 1973, Meinke writes in the nomination document.

The document notes that the house at 219 11th St., S.E., took on additional historic significance after the Furies moved out in 1973. Later that same year lesbian feminists Judy Winsett and Leslie Reeves rented the house and used its large basement space – which the Furies used to produce their tabloid newspaper – as a jewelry-making studio for a small jewelry retail business the two operated, Meinke writes.

A short time later, according to Meinke’s research, Winsett and Reeves founded Lammas Women’s Shop, which soon evolved into a nationally known feminist and lesbian bookstore and a de facto lesbian community center at various locations in D.C. until it closed its doors in 2001. The two women registered Lammas’ corporate headquarters as 219 11th St., S.E.

If approved by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board and later by the National Park Service, the Furies House would become the second LGBT-related house in the District to receive D.C. landmark status and inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The Furies Collective, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Meinke filed an application calling for historic landmark status for the headquarters of a lesbian feminist separatist group called the Furies Collective. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The home of the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny at 5020 Cathedral Ave., N.W., received D.C. Historic Landmark status in 2009 and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places by the National Park Service in October 2011, less than a week before Kameny died.

However, Meinke said a local real estate broker who purchased Kameny’s house in 2012 from Kameny’s heir, Timothy Clark, has declined to give consent for an application Meinke filed to elevate the status of the house as a National Historic Landmark.

Such a status gives the National Park Service authority to take steps to prevent property owners from significantly altering or tearing down houses designated as a National Historic Landmark, and federal officials usually defer to the wishes of property owners who object to such a designation.

Andrew D. O’Neill of O’Neill Realty Advisors, LLC, who owns the Kameny house, disputed Meinke’s assessment in an email but said he didn’t have time to elaborate due to a busy work schedule. He offered to talk to the Blade at a later date to explain his position. He didn’t respond to a request by the Blade for comment in 2012 at the time he bought the Kameny house.

Although O’Neill can block future designation of his house as a National Historic Landmark he cannot reverse the designation of the house as a D.C. Landmark or its inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places, which occurred before he bought the house.

“The Kameny house is an excellent candidate for National Historic Landmark status,” Meinke said. “He has every right to refuse,” Meinke said in discussing O’Neill’s position on the matter. “Our hope is he might change his mind or at some point sell the house to someone who will give consent.”

Although O’Neill faces potential restrictions from making significant changes to the house based on its D.C. historic designation, he also is eligible for certain benefits, such as government funds for maintaining and improving the structure of the house.

“There are 2,500 National Historic Landmarks and only two are LGBT,” said Meinke.

One is the Stonewall bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, which is famous for being the site of the 1969 Stonewall riots. The other is the Henry Gerber House in Chicago, which is named for the German born founder in the 1920s of the Chicago based Society for Human Rights, the first known American organization that advocated for gay rights.

5020 Cathedral Ave., N.W.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The home of the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny at 5020 Cathedral Ave., N.W. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness

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Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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