April 20, 2017 at 9:01 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
‘Diverse’ co-chairs named for LGBT march on Washington
Jose Plaza, gay news, Washington Blade

José Plaza of the Latino GLBT History Project is among the list of co-chairs for the Equality March. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Organizers of a planned LGBT march on Washington scheduled for June 11, which has been named The Equality March for Unity and Pride, released on Wednesday the names of 12 of 13 co-chairs of the event but provided few additional details such as how it will be financed or the route of the march.

“The Equality March for Unity and Pride is less than two months away and we are thrilled to host this historic march in our nation’s capital,” a statement released by organizers says.

“Permits are being worked on, sponsors are being engaged, the website is forthcoming, and just this week we selected 12 of 13 National Co-Chairs!” the statement says. “This national group of diverse leaders in the LGBTQIA+ liberation movements will help shape the mission and vision of the march by elevating voices of those most underserved,” it says.

The statement adds that the diversity represented by the co-chairs would ensure “that in these trying times our communities can come together, march in solidarity, and demand equity, representation, protection of our most vulnerable, and safeguarding the many triumphs our communities have gained in the previous years while working towards championing many more.”

Among those named as co-chairs are Anika Simpson, Ph.D, founding coordinator of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Morgan State University, one of the nation’s historic black colleges; Ashley Smith, an official with the Capital Pride Alliance and a Human Rights Campaign Foundation board member; Catalina Velasquez, a widely recognized LGBT immigrant rights advocate and Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications for D.C.’s Casa Ruby community services center; and Jose L. Plaza, president of the D.C.-based Latino GLBT History Project.

Also named as one of the co-chairs is David Bruinooge, the New York City LGBT rights advocate who initiated the June 11 march through a Facebook posting in January that quickly drew thousands of messages of support for the idea of an LGBT march on the nation’s capital similar to the women’s march held the day following President Trump’s Inauguration.

The announcement on Wednesday of the names of the co-chairs and assurances that more details of the march would be disclosed soon came at a time when messages have surfaced on social media expressing concern that so few details of the event had been disclosed less than two months before the march was to take place.

Some Facebook postings have asked whether the march would actually happen and whether people who have made airline reservations to come to Washington should cancel them. Others expressed concern that as of this week no money had been raised to help pay for an event of this scale.

“There’s still plenty of time,” said D.C. gay activist Peter Rosenstein, who has been serving as a volunteer on a march planning committee prior to the selection of the co-chairs. “It’s all being worked out. The permits are in the works and the route will be decided on in a few weeks,” he said.

An application for a permit for the march submitted on March 10 to the National Park Service of the National Capital Region by Bruinooge, which the Park Service released to the Washington Blade, calls for two possible routes for the march.

One calls for participants to assemble on the National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets, N.W. and for participants to disperse at that same location but doesn’t say whether or where the march would travel.

The second proposed route states, “Dupont Circle/assembly at 17th Street (March across Penn. Ave. in front of White House. Disperse on 15th St., N.W.).”

Bruinooge told the Blade the march route is still under discussion among organizers and that he would be consulting with National Park Service officials and D.C. police to determine which areas of the National Mall and other locations will be available and best suited for the planned march.

The march is set to take place on the same day as D.C.’s annual Capital Pride Festival, which takes place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. between 3rd Street, near the U.S. Capitol, and 7th St. The June 11 march would also take place one day after D.C.’s annual Capital Pride Parade, which usually travels from the Dupont Circle area past the 17th Street, N.W. commercial area to 14th and R St., N.W.

Ryan Bos, executive director of the Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes the Capital Pride events, said the group is cooperating with organizers of the Equality March for Unity and Pride but would not serve as the fiscal agent for the march.

Bos said no one associated with the march has approached Capital Pride Alliance about using the large stage near the Capitol that Capital Pride sets up each year to be used for political speeches associated with the march. March organizers, meanwhile, have not disclosed whether they plan to set up their own stage and sound system for speeches associated with the march.

“We have been discussing how to best represent and acknowledge these unique times and the desire for members of our community to voice their feelings,” Bos told the Blade in an email message. “We want to assist in getting individuals connected to organizations and activities that would allow them to take action,” he said. “In addition, we are discussing how best to represent this narrative on the Concert Stage as well.”

In recent years, Capital Pride has shunned political speeches at the annual festival and has used two separate stages largely for musical entertainment, including performances by nationally known singers.

In the statement released on Wednesday, march organizers point out that the Washington march will be accompanied by numerous “solidarity” marches and events throughout the country and internationally.

“Together we will continue to propel beyond a march but a movement for years to come, resisting and fighting for our communities’ rights, dignity and safety,” the statement says. “So please join us in D.C. or at solidarity events around the world. We welcome all!”

“And stay tuned for more information and details in the days/weeks ahead,” it continues. “We thank all of our supporters for their patience as we put this movement together and look forward to another historic event in Washington, D.C.”

The June 11 march would become the sixth national march on Washington for LGBT equality since the first national “gay” march was held in 1979. Subsequent LGBT marches on Washington took place in 1987, 1993, 2000, and 2009.

Following is the list of national march co-chairs as released in the April 19 statement:

1. Anika Simpson, Ph.D., Founder, Beyond Policy LLC | Founding Coordinator, Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Morgan State University | Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy | Co-Chair, MSU’s Presidential LGBTQA Advisory Council | Co-Chair, National Black Justice Coalition’s HBCU LGBTQA-Equality Initiative Advisory Council | Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

2. Ashley Smith, The Capital Pride Alliance | Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Board Member | Pronouns: He, Him, His

3. Catalina Velasquez, Consult Catalina President | Casa Ruby Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications | Washington DC Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs Commissioner | Our Revolution Board Vice Chair | GetEqual Board Co-Chair | Megaphone Strategies Board Member | Inclusv Board Member | Trans United Fund Board Member | United We DREAM’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP) Advisory Council | Pronouns: She, Her, Hers, Trans Goddess.

4. David Bruinooge, Founder: The Equality March for Unity & Pride | Pronouns: He, Him, His

5. Elle Hearns, Executive Director of The Marsha P Johnson Institute | Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

6. José L. Plaza, President, Latino GLBT History Project | Chair, DC Latino Pride | Executive Board Member, DC New Leaders Council | Pronouns: He, Him, His

7. Lydia X. Z. Brown, Chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council | At-large board member of the Autism Women’s Network | Pronouns: They, Them, Theirs

8. Lynnette McFadzen, President, BiNet USA | Producer, The BiCast | Core Organizer | The Bi Brigade | Pronouns: They/Them She/Hers

9. Nicole Murray Ramirez, International Court System, U.S.A., Canada and Mexico | Harvey Milk Foundation | Pronouns: He, Him, His

10. Sean Coleman, Executive Director, Destination Tomorrow | Board Member, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) | Pronouns: He, Him, His

11. Sue Doster, Co-President, InterPride | CTO, amfAR | Strategic Planning Director, NYCPride | Pronouns: She, Her, Hers

12. Thomas Tonatiuh Lopez The International Indigenous Youth Council | Standing Rock Activist | Two-Spirit & Indigenous Activist | Pronouns: He, Him, His

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

  • Nicole Ramirez has made a living off Harvey Milk’s name. He is among those who believe Harvey’s name should be on everything. There were many unsung hero’s who never are recognized for their contributions to the gay rights movement.

  • Back in 2009, I had friends calling me to see if I could host them for the March. This time around no one has called and a couple of them told me they were unaware of it. Maybe the event publicity isn’t focused on gay people and more so on all of the other letters?

  • Whatever happened to the days when people were appointed to a board or committee because of what they could actually do?

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