April 26, 2017 at 8:00 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
GLAA anniversary event highlights ‘changing of guard’
GLAA Anniversary Awards, gay news, Washington Blade

New GLAA officers from left, Pamgrace Gachenge, Guillaume Bagal, Nicholas Cicchinelli, Bobbi Strang, John Becker, and Gary Collins. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, City Council Chair Phil Mendelson and fellow Council members Jack Evans and Vincent Gray were among the nearly 100 people who turned out on April 20 for the 46th anniversary celebration of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

Also attending was Franklin Garcia, the city’s elected shadow U.S. representative who, among other things, lobbies for D.C. statehood.

The event, held at Policy Restaurant on 14th Street, N.W., recognized GLAA, among other things, for its status as the nation’s oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil rights organization.

But many of those familiar with the non-partisan, all volunteer group, including Bowser and the council members, noted that the anniversary celebration highlighted a new generation of activists elected last December as GLAA’s 2017 officers. Some are calling the new officers a generational changing of the guard for the organization.

Longtime GLAA member Richard Rosendall, who served as president for the past four years following an earlier stint as president from 1997-1999, told the gathering he was proud and honored to turn over the office of president to Guillaume Bagal. Bagal, 31, holds a master’s degree in health administration and policy and works as a health policy analyst at D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health.

Bagal has said that as a member of the team of six new GLAA officers along with Treasurer Gary Collins, the only incumbent officer to retain his post from last year, he plans to continue the group’s longstanding projects. Among them are lobbying and monitoring city government agencies on LGBT-related public policy issues and rating local candidates running for public office on LGBT issues.

In keeping with its tradition of recognizing and honoring LGBT advocates and allies for their contributions to the cause of LGBT equality, GLAA during its anniversary event presented its annual Distinguished Service Award to four longtime advocates and supporters:

* José Gutiérrez, LGBT and Latino rights advocate and founder of the D.C.-based Latino GLBT History Project;

* Rev. Cedric A. Harmon, an openly gay minister, longtime LGBT and African American civil rights advocate and official with Many Voices, a black church movement for gay and transgender justice.

* Mara Keisling, founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

* Rev. Barry W. Lynn, an attorney, United Church of Christ minister and longtime LGBT rights ally who has served since 1992 as executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In an effort to strengthen GLAA’s leadership and boost its membership Bagal said the group last year created three new officer positions — Vice President for Membership, Vice President for Strategy and Vice President for Marketing. The existing positions of Vice President for Political Affairs and Vice President for Administration will remain in place, he said.

“While GLAA has remained successful in its advocacy over the years, I believe that the sustainability of the Alliance depends on two things — building a leadership structure that balances common duties with specific skill sets, and modernizing our image and communication as to not only retain old members but attract new ones as well,” he told the Washington Blade.

The other newly elected officers in addition to Bagal include:

* John Becker, 32, LGBT advocate, writer and blogger — Vice President for Political Affairs.

* Nicholas Cicchinelli, 24, a recent international relations and Russian studies graduate at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., who works on international development and human rights issues — Vice President for Administration.

* Pamgrace Gachenge, 27, home healthcare services specialist and founder of a group that promotes sexual health for young women of color — Vice President for Membership.

* Bobbi Strang, 46, trans rights advocate, board member of the D.C. Office of Police Complaints and Metropolitan Community Church of Washington — Vice President for Strategy.

* Christopher Taylor, 29, professional web designer — Vice President for Marketing.

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at the GLAA Awards. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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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