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Baltimore could get its first openly gay Council member

Kelly Cross enters race from 12th District

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Kelly Cross, gay news, Washington Blade
Kelly Cross, gay news, Washington Blade

Kelly Cross is hoping to become Baltimore’s first openly gay Council member. (Photo courtesy of Cross)

In 2007, Fred Mason III announced his candidacy for Baltimore’s 11th Council District. Had he succeeded in the Democratic primary and won the general election, he would have been the first openly gay person to be elected to the Council. Jason Curtis, another gay man, made a similar bid in 2011 for the 12th District but also came up short.

On Jan. 29, a day before his 37th birthday, Kelly Cross, who is also gay, filed to enter the Democratic primary in the 12th. In a district that for years has been represented by Carl Stokes, Cross will have plenty of company as no fewer than six other Democrats are currently vying for the seat in the primary as well as one Republican and one Green Party candidate. Stokes is leaving his Council seat to run for mayor.

Cross was raised in a working-class family in West Virginia. He earned admission to Princeton University and followed his undergraduate education with a law degree from the University of Virginia. After living in Washington, D.C., and Europe, Cross and his husband, Mateusz Rozanski, decided in 2010 to make Baltimore their home.

Baltimore’s 12th Council District is a jagged swath of territory that runs north and south through the city. It touches such diverse neighborhoods as Waverly, Cold Spring-Homestead-Montebello, Old Goucher, Station North, Broadway East, Barclay, Oliver, Charles Village, South Clifton Park and Jonestown.

In announcing his bid, Cross notes that “the 12th District is home to some of the most important cultural, institutional and infrastructure assets in the United States.” Included in this district are Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School, Maryland Institute College of Art, the historic neighborhoods of Oldtown and Mount Vernon, and “the CSX and Amtrak lines that provide the transportation backbone of the Northeast.”

“I’m running for this seat because I love Baltimore,” Cross told the Blade. “It pains me to see that with all the amazing assets we have — some of the most beautiful architecture in America, world-class institutions and museums, prime location and a diverse economy — the city still struggles.”

Cross and Rozanski reside in the Old Goucher neighborhood. He has been active in local politics as a board member of the Charles Village Civic Association and currently as president of the Old Goucher Community Association.

“As a community association president for the last several years, I’ve seen that our city government is not forward-looking and proactive,” said Cross. “City government has been incredibly reactive, seeking short-term fixes without advancing Baltimore as a whole. I’m running because I want to be one of several new voices on City Council who will alter that dynamic.”

During the campaign, Cross will present how transit and education can be improved, how to create jobs, and restore the dignity of Baltimore, which he refers to as “one of America’s first, and greatest, cities.” He intends to discuss how these goals can be achieved without making bad decisions between higher taxes and fewer services.

However, he distinguishes himself from the other candidates not so much by issues but more in experience and vision.

“From my work in the private sector — both domestically and abroad — to my work as a community activist, I understand that Baltimore must do a better job of opening itself back up; of inviting resources and residents back to the city,” Cross said. “I recognize that we have to deal with issues like grinding poverty, poor education systems, violence in our streets. But we need to do so in a holistic way, in a way that makes Baltimore a magnet for talent and investment again.”

Cross also believes that City Hall needs to work diligently to make Baltimore a more open and accepting place for its LGBT residents. “We need to recruit and encourage more small LGBT businesses, and reestablish centers of LGBT life throughout the city,” he said.

“My neighborhood, Old Goucher, has one of the highest concentrations of transgender women of color in the country, and I’ve seen firsthand many of the struggles these women endure. The city can do more to be inclusive and supportive of the incredible LGBT diversity Baltimore has.

“Finally, we definitely need City Hall to take Baltimore’s HIV crisis seriously. While Leana Wen and the Health Department have made great strides, I have not seen the City Council openly acknowledge the havoc HIV is wreaking on the city.”

But can Cross make history and succeed in this election as an openly gay man where others before him have not?

“I believe times and attitudes have shifted from previous election cycles,” he said. “It’s worth noting that gay candidates who have run for City Council in the past have done fairly well in their districts. But I think that in the age of marriage equality and more general acceptance of gay lives, a broader constituency of people is ready to accept an openly gay candidate.”

We’ll find out on primary day, April 26.

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Maryland

Bomb threat shuts down Takoma Park holiday drag show

MotorKat evacuated when Tara Hoot was performing

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Tara Hoot was performing at MotorKat in Takoma Park, Md., on Dec. 9, 2023, when a bomb threat forced the business' evacuation. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Police cordoned off a popular strip in Takoma Park on Saturday after a bomb threat shut down businesses, including a holiday performance by drag artist Tara Hoot.

MotorKat General Manager Mike Rothman told the Washington Blade that Takoma Park police notified them of a bomb threat to their business around noon.

Tara Hoot was delivering a holiday brunch performance at the MotorKat when the evacuation order came in.

Rothman said they were notified “five minutes into her final performance.” Tara Hoot herself told the audience to leave for their safety.

Police proceeded to tape off the area and evacuated all businesses between Eastern and South Carroll Avenues, including TakomaBevCo, which is co-owned by MotorKat Wine Director Seth Cook.

Cook told the Blade that police brought in “bomb-sniffing dogs” to clear the area before allowing businesses to reopen around 2 p.m.

“The timing is unfortunate as this is one of the busiest weekends before the holidays,” Cook said.

Rothman was also disappointed by the lost revenue due to what ultimately was a false threat, but he was firm that the Takoma Park LGBTQ community is resilient and would continue to thrive despite this setback.

“Takoma Park is a pretty proud and resilient community,” he said. “I don’t expect people to lay down and be scared by this.”

MotorKat and TakomaBevCo reopened for business around 3 p.m.

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Comings & Goings

Jimmy Alexander joins WTOP News as a feature reporter

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Jimmy Alexander (Photo courtesy of Jimmy Alexander)

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 Jimmy Alexander who has been hired at WTOP News as a feature reporter. Over the last four years Alexander has been covering stories as varied as the Jan. 6 insurrection to the 17th Street High Heel Race. He has been working as a co-host on the Jack Diamond Morning show on Cumulus Media, Manning Media. On his acceptance of the new position Alexander said, “I’m thrilled that at WTOP News, I will be able to focus on events and people that bring hope to your heart and a smile to your face.”

Alexander is a versatile multimedia broadcaster with more than two decades of experience covering both major news events in Washington D.C., and important human-interest stories outside the Beltway. He is an engaging interviewer with a track record of having compelling conversations with the biggest names in government and show business, from presidents to Paul McCartney. Prior to this he worked as a freelance feature reporter with WDCW50-DC News Now. He is also with Writer-20, Twenty Country Countdown, United Stations Radio Networks. There he developed a concept for a countdown show featuring country music’s weekly top songs on-air and online and prepared weekly scripts for a three-hour show. 

Alexander conducted the only Jan. 6, 2021 interview with “The QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley. Since 2016, he has served by request of the D.C. mayor as official host of the 17th Street High Heel Race, the city’s second largest LGBTQ event of the year. He is featured in the documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” and is a frequent guest on CNN’s Morning Show “New Day.” He covered White House visits by Queen Elizabeth, the Pope, and the yearly Easter Egg Roll. He also won $10,000 on the game show “Pyramid.” 

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Maryland

LGBTQ University of Maryland students prepare to celebrate Hanukkah

Eight-day festival to begin Thursday night

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A number of Hanukkah events for LGBTQ students will take place at the University of Maryland this week.

Queer Jewish students and allies are welcome to attend Crazy Cozy Chill Chanukah Celebration on Sunday at the University of Maryland Hillel. Hamsa, home to queer Jewish life on campus, hosted a study break with hot drinks, snacks and games and a chance to welcome Hanukkah early. 

The first night of Hanukkah is Thursday.

Chabad UMD is hosting a menorah lighting on Thursday in front of McKeldin Library and plans to mention the war between Israel and Hamas, according to Rabbi Eli Backman of Chabad UMD. The event is going to be a focus on the positivity and the message of the Hanukkah story.  

“We’ve been around for thousands of years and all those who’ve tried to make sure that we didn’t live to see the next generation (is) no longer here,” Backman said. “That message will really resonate at home for the holiday.”

The story of the Maccabees is one of the few stories where Jewish people fought, Backman said. In Jewish history, people don’t see a military response in many of the other holiday moments. 

“It should give us a boost of energy,” Backman said. “A boost of strength (and) a boost of hope.”

Part of the Hanukkah story’s message is that Jewish people were in a position that they needed to form a military to secure their borders, Backman said. And they succeeded. 

For some, celebrating Hanukkah depends on the people they’re around, Florence Miller, a sophomore English and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies who is Hamsa’s president, said.

Miller is agnostic and does not find themself to be a religious person, but the thing that has kept their Jewish faith is the people about whom they care are Jewish and the sense of community that comes from being Jewish.

“I just wanted to do a Hanukkah event,” Miller said. “It’s been a good refresher with how the semester has been.”

Miller last year attended a Hanukkah party and played a game of dreidel, a spinning top with four sides marked with a Hebrew letter. The people who were in attendance wanted to bet something, but the only thing they could find were pinto beans. 

“When I took them out of my pocket one got stuck in there,” Miller said. “I still have that bean.”

For some Jewish students it’s important to go to Hanukkah events like Hamsa’s celebration to be around like-minded Jewish people, Yarden Shestopal, a sophomore American Studies major, said. 

“Which is why I like Hamsa,” Shestopal said. “Since we’re all queer people or allies we kind of share that mentality of acceptance.”

Being part of the Jewish community at the University of Maryland has opened Shestopal up to how diverse the LGBTQ and Jewish communities are. Shestopal this year, however, debated whether or not to put his menorah up on the windowsill of his apartment because of the rise in anti-Semitism due to the war in Israel.  

“I’m pretty sure I am going to put the menorah in my window,” Shestopal said. “The only way to combat anti-Semitism is to stay visible.” 

Several University of Maryland students lived in Israel before or during their time at the university. 

Elisheva Greene, a junior animal science major, went to seminary, a school for women to learn about Torah, during the pandemic. Greene said celebrating Hanukkah while a war is happening is going to be a similar feeling. 

“I’m able to do what I can from over here by supporting my family and friends,” Greene said. “The biggest thing I can be doing is living my life as a Jewish person and showing that I express my Judaism and I’m not afraid.”

Greene recalled they could not go more than 1,000 feet from home for two months and Hanukkah took place during that time. While it was difficult, Greene said people still put their menorahs on their windowsill.  

“Knowing the resilience the Israelis have and the fact people like to show their Jewishness (is not) gonna stop me,” Greene said. “Like there’s a war going on but you’re gonna be a Jew and you’re gonna flaunt that.”

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