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Do we still need D.C. Black Pride?

Activists weigh in on relevance of annual events in Trump era

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Black Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
DC Black Pride Day, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Black Gay Pride Day, May 28, 1994. (Washington Blade photo by Doug Hinckle)

In 1991, I was a 30-year-old Air Force captain and closeted. I had worked hard to earn my degree and commission and loved the Air Force.

But “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” was the law and I was always looking over my shoulder. Living two lives was physically and spiritually exhausting. I did go to the numerous bars that existed in D.C. at the time — they were fun, exciting and even dangerous. Gay bashing and HIV/AIDS were real hazards to living your life

I remember walking onto Banneker Field for the first DC Black Pride on Saturday, May 25, 1991 alone. It was the first time I was out in public, outside of the gay bar havens, with a group of black gay people, who looked like me and were dealing with the same issues I was dealing with. It was uplifting, refreshing and empowering. I bumped into a colleague from my office in the Pentagon who was in the Navy. We were not out to each other before. We laughed out loud, hugged and have been great friends ever since.

Now, 26 years later, LGBTQ people serve openly in the armed services. We have marriage equality at the federal level; and D.C. has some of the most LGBTQ positive laws in the world.  Do we still need Black Pride? I posed this question to several LGBTQ leaders and activists. Here’s what they had to say:

Sheila Alexander-Reid, director, Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, Washington, D.C. “Yes — People want to celebrate themselves with their own community and still do not see a lot of their community at Capital Pride.”  She followed up by applauding Capital Pride’s efforts to make its board more diverse by including Ashley Smith and SaVanna Wanzer who are both African American. “If the leadership is not diverse, then outreach is not diverse, then attendance is not diverse.”

Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs, Sheila Alexander-Reid, gay news, Washington Blade

Sheila Alexander-Reid
(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Dr. Anika Simpson, co-chair, Equality March for Unity and Pride. “Yes — we need safe places for Black LGBTQ people to come together to refresh and recreate; to come together in joy, solidarity and protest. The Equality March [set for June 11 in D.C.] intentionally has a majority of person of color leadership team, which has shifted the focus of the march. The mission centers very explicitly on those LGBTQ people who have been silent and neglected.  There are 12 co-chairs:  nine are black, Latino or Native American; the remaining three are white. Four are transgender or gender non-conforming.” Simpson added that this organization “shows the possibilities of where queer movements should go in the future.”

Ryan Bos, executive director, Capital Pride. “Yes, DC Black Pride offers that safe space for black LGBTQ people to learn and celebrate. Capital Pride is and will continue to help sponsor DC Black Pride.” Ryan stated that, “Capital Pride has a good relationship with DC Black Pride and that he’d continue to look for ways to foster partnerships.”

Peter Rosenstein, LGBTQ activist, planning committee member, Equality March for Unity and Pride. “Yes, DC Black Pride is still needed as a safe place for black LGBTQ people to come together and celebrate. It’s important that all voices are heard. On June 11, everyone needs to come together for the Equality March and resist — be unified to support and protect full civil rights for everyone – leaving no one behind.”

Abdur-Rahim Briggs, president and CEO, Project Briggs. “Yes, we still need Black Prides because of racism in the gay community. I do not see Capital Pride reaching into the black community.” Briggs does participate in Capital Pride. He has judged floats in the past and loves to march in the Pride Parade. He commented, “I would like to see more whites participate in Black Pride to build more bridges.” He’d also like to see more corporate funding to support Black Pride but he is wary of corporate control.

Ernest Hopkins, co-founder of D.C. Black Pride, legislative director, San Francisco AIDS Foundation: Yes — “Answer the question with a question, What is DC Black Pride to you? It still raises money to combat HIV/AIDS. It still provides a safe space, builds community and annual events that focus on black LGBTQ issues. The question answers itself — Yes!”  Hopkins added, “There is one misconception that I must clear up. DC Black Pride was never a response or an alternative to Capital Pride. The original, Black and Lesbian Gay Pride Day, was established as a tool to sensitize the black gay community to the problems we were having with HIV/AIDS. Our friends were getting sick and needed money for rent, food and burial expenses.”    

Chuck Hicks, community organizer, LGBTQ leader and historian. “Yes — Absolutely.  The first Black Pride was held in D.C. as a fundraiser to help people struggling with HIV/AIDS.   Welmore Cook took a leave of absence from Best Friends of DC Inc. to form the first black gay HIV/AIDS organization in DC to combat the disease. The Black Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Inc. eventually became DC Black Pride. Memorial Day weekend was chosen in homage to The Children’s Hour celebrations held at D.C.’s Club House. Black Prides became an expression of our lifestyle and culture that has spread worldwide. This wonderful result was completely unplanned. Black Prides also give black LGBTQ artists and entrepreneurs an opportunity to prosper.”

David Bruinooge, founder, Equality March for Unity and Pride. “Yes, people should celebrate anyway they want. So yes. Communities can come together in many different ways.  The various Prides celebrate their unique identities. Communities should come together to celebrate their uniqueness and see themselves.”  Asked what motivated his interest in the Equality March, he said, “It is even better when we can all come together and celebrate together.  The Equality March centers the margins to highlight those that have been forgotten and neglected. More people must be educated to support [LGBTQ] people who live in the margins.  We need to mobilize our community and allies and rally behind the voiceless and poor. It is time that those issues are centered. We need to stand together as one.”

Earl Fowlkes, executive director, Center for Black Equity. “Yes, Black Prides are annual events driven by attendance.  If they were not relevant, no one would come. Our Prides provide an opportunity to celebrate being black and LGBTQ — a duality that has to be addressed and acknowledged. Black Prides have workshops, poetry slams, plays and visual arts. Black Prides are also social. Social media doesn’t replace socializing face-to-face. The big parties are important too as we lose black bars and clubs.”

The Center for Black Equity supports 32 member Black Prides that include major cities across the U.S., DC Black Pride and London. “I’m encouraging the other Black Prides to come to support the Equality March. All hands on deck.” Fowlkes is an Equality March honorary co-chair and he also feels that the march is important and must not fail due to lack of local support.

Earl Fowlkes (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Khadijah Tribble, Ground Game, organizer, Equality March for Unity and Pride. “Yes, we need safe spaces and we need to be visible.  We need DC Black Pride as long as we have people who are challenged about coming out and need resources. DC Black Pride has social as well as political consciousness and focus. Local D.C. politicians find some way to connect to DC Black Pride.”  Tribble said she would like to see DC Black Pride workshops put more focus on “building, and rebuilding organizations, to create pipelines for new leaders, activists and entrepreneurs.” She would also like to see, “a method to pass national-level issues identified by Black Pride organizations to the DNC and Congressional Black Caucus for resolution.

Khadijah Tribble, gay news, Washington Blade

Khadijah Tribble (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Devin Barrington Ward, president, Impulse Group DC. “Yes, we need Black Prides now more than ever. As DC and the country change, it is more important than ever to have spaces created by and for black people to contribute to Chocolate City. DC is changing and gentrification is a fact not just a discussion. It’s harder for black folks to have black spaces, which is so important.”  Asked if DC Black Pride was missing anything for younger people, he said, “As the president of Impulse group DC, I have the luxury and responsibility to create the things that are missing.”  Ward recognizes his privilege as a cis-gender black queer man. “Trans people will think differently. Our spaces will always be inclusive of trans and gender nonconforming folks.” Impulse Group’s mission is to educate gay, bisexual and queer men about HIV.

singles, gay news, Washington Blade

Whitman-Walker Health has announced Devin Barrington Ward will become its new communications director. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Dr. Ron Simmons, executive director emeritus, Us Helping Us. “Yes, the initial purpose of DC Black Pride was to raise money for HIV/AIDS organizations. Black gay men and lesbians need to be affirmed and see themselves as part of empowerment. You don’t see yourself at white pride. The events they have may not be what you need. It is like the difference between going to a white club and a black club.”  Asked about the Equality March, he replied, “I think people must participate in the national march. We must be seen as part of the national community. As a young person, going to the gay march showed me I was not alone. Everyone should actually march and go to the rally.”

Ron Simmons, Us Helping Us, gay news, Washington Blade

Ron Simmons (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jamil Fletcher, publisher, SWERV Magazine. “Yes, we still need to celebrate Black LGBTQ Pride. We actually need it now more than ever given the state of the world today. At the root, Black Prides are about building community. A community that is empowered, healthy, financially strong, educated, and vibrant. Those of us living at this unique intersection of being black and queer know too well the challenges within our community. Pride affords us an opportunity to come together in a way that embraces all of our identities without condition.”

It was a unanimous, resounding “yes,” we still need DC Black Pride for the health and vitality of black LGBTQ communities. As the White House submits its budget to Congress this week, it’s clear that health and social services programs are being reduced to levels that threaten LGBTQ communities, particularly those already living in the margins. Moreover, several states are pushing anti-LGBTQ legislation, bringing a renewed sense of urgency to both Black Pride and the upcoming Equality March for Unity and Pride

Marvin Bowser is a lifestyle blogger and Blade contributor. Follow him on Instagram @FirstBroDC.

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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility

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Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, on right, and Billy Porter in 'Pose.' (Photo courtesy of FX)

HOLLYWOOD – Despite its continuing status as something of a pariah organization in Hollywood, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has managed to cling to relevance in the wake of last night’s behind-closed-doors presentation of its 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards by sole virtue of having bestowed the prize for “Best Leading Actress in a Television Series – Drama” on Michaela Jaé Rodriguez for her work in the final season of “Pose” – making her the first transgender performer to win a Golden Globe.

The ceremony took place as a private, no-press-or-audience event in which winners were revealed via a series of tweets from the Golden Globes Twitter account. No celebrities were present (not even the nominees or winners), although actress Jamie Lee Curtis participated by appearing in a video in which she pronounced her continuing loyalty to the HFPA – without mention of the  longstanding issues around diversity and ethical practices, revealed early in 2021 by a bombshell Los Angeles Times report, that have led to an nearly industry-wide boycott of the organization and its awards as well as the cancellation of the annual Golden Globes broadcast by NBC for the foreseeable future.

While the Golden Globes may have lost their luster for the time being, the award for Rodriquez represents a major milestone for trans visibility and inclusion in the traditionally transphobic entertainment industry, and for her part, the actress responded to news of her win with characteristic grace and good will.

Posting on her Instagram account, the 31-year old actress said: 

“OMG OMGGG!!!! @goldenglobes Wow! You talking about sickening birthday present! Thank you!

“This is the door that is going to Open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible. They will see that a young Black Latina girl from Newark New Jersey who had a dream, to change the minds others would WITH LOVE. LOVE WINS.

“To my young LGBTQAI babies WE ARE HERE the door is now open now reach the stars!!!!!”

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As You Are Bar and the importance of queer gathering spaces

New bar/restaurant poised to open in 2022

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As You Are Bar had a pop-up venue at Capital Pride's "Colorful Fest" block party in October. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than just a watering hole: As You Are Bar is set to be the city’s newest queer gathering place where patrons can spill tea over late-morning cappuccinos as easily as they can over late-night vodka-sodas.

Co-owners and founders Jo McDaniel and Rachel Pike built on their extensive experience in the hospitality industry – including stints at several gay bars – to sign a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row, replacing what was previously District Soul Food and Banana Café. In a prime corner spot, they are seeking to bring together the disparate colors of the LGBTQ rainbow – but first must navigate the approval process (more on that later).

The duo decided on this Southeast neighborhood locale to increase accessibility for “the marginalized parts of our community,” they say, “bringing out the intersectionality inherent in the queer space.”

Northwest D.C., they explain, not only already has many gay bar options, but is also more difficult to get to for those who don’t live within walking distance. The Barracks Row location is right by a Metro stop, “reducing pay walls.” Plus, there, “we are able to find a neighborhood to bring in a queer presence that doesn’t exist today.”

McDaniel points out that the area has a deep queer bar history. Western bar Remington’s was once located in the area, and it’s a mere block from the former Phase 1, the longest-running lesbian bar, which was open from 1971-2015.

McDaniel and Pike hope that As You Are Bar will be an inclusive space that “welcomes anyone of any walk of life that will support, love, and celebrate the mission of queer culture. We want people of all ages, gender, sexual identity, as well as drinkers and non-drinkers, to have space.”

McDaniel (she/her) began her career at Apex in 2005 and was most recently the opening manager of ALOHO. Pike (she/they) was behind the bar and worked as security at ALOHO, where the two met.

Since leaving ALOHO earlier this year, they have pursued the As You Are Bar project, first by hosting virtual events during the pandemic, and now in this brick-and-mortar space. They expressed concern that receiving the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) liquor license approval and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, approval will be a long and expensive process.

They have already received notice that some neighbors intend to protest As You Are Bar’s application for the “tavern” liquor license that ABRA grants to serve alcohol and allow for live entertainment (e.g. drag shows). They applied for the license on Nov. 12, and have no anticipated opening date, estimating at least six months. If ABRA and the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board give final approval, the local ANC 6B and nearby residents can no longer protest the license until the license comes up for renewal.

Until approval is given, they continue physical buildout (including soundproofing) and planning their offerings. If the license is approved, ABRA and the ABC Board can take action against As You Are Bar, like any bar, at any time if they violate the terms of the license or create a neighborhood disturbance that violates city laws such as the local noise ordinance.  In the kitchen, the duo snagged Chef Nina Love to develop the menu. Love will oversee café-style fare; look out for breakfast sandwiches making an appearance all the way until close. They will also have baked goods during the day.

McDaniel and Pike themselves will craft the bar menu. Importantly, they note, the coffee bar will also serve until close. There will be a full bar as well as a list of zero-proof cocktails. As with their sourcing, they hope to work with queer-, minority-, and women-owned businesses for everything not made in-house.

Flexible conceptually, they seek to grow with their customer base, allowing patrons to create the culture that they seek.

Their goal is to move the queer space away from a focus on alcohol consumption. From book clubs, to letter-writing, to shared workspaces, to dance parties, they seek an all-day, morning-to-night rhythm of youth, families, and adults to find a niche. “We want to shift the narrative of a furtive, secretive, dark gay space and hold it up to the light,” they say. “It’s a little like The Planet from the original L Word show,” they joke.

Pike notes that they plan on working closely with SMYAL, for example, to promote programming for youth. Weekend potential activities include lunch-and-learn sessions on Saturdays and festive Sunday brunches.

The café space, to be located on the first floor, will have coffeehouse-style sofas as well as workstations. A slim patio on 8th Street will hold about six tables.

Even as other queer bars have closed, they reinforce that the need is still present. “Yes, we can visit a café or bar, but we always need to have a place where we are 100 percent certain that we are safe, and that our security is paramount. Even as queer acceptance continues to grow, a dedicated queer space will always be necessary,” they say.

To get there, they continue to rally support of friends, neighbors, and leaders in ANC6B district; the ANC6B officials butted heads with District Soul Food, the previous restaurant in the space, over late-night noise and other complaints. McDaniel and Pike hope that once nearby residents and businesses understand the important contribution that As You Are Bar can make to the neighborhood, they will extend their support and allow the bar to open.

AYA, gay news, Washington Blade
Rachel Pike and Jo McDaniel signed a lease for their new concept in Barracks Row. (Photo courtesy Pike and McDaniel)
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Need a list-minute gift idea?

Books, non-profit donations make thoughtful choices

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‘Yes, Daddy’ by Jonathan Parks-Ramage is the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older man.

You knew this was coming.

You knew that you were going to have to finish your holiday shopping soon but it snuck up on you, didn’t it? And even if you’re close to being done, there are always those three or five people who are impossible to buy for, right? Remember this, though: books are easy to wrap and easy to give, and they last a while, too. So why not head to the bookstore with your Christmas List and look for these gifts.

And if you still have people to shop for, why not make a donation to a local non-profit in their name? A list of D.C.-area suggestions follows.

BOOKS: NONFICTION

If there’s about to be a new addition to your family, wrapping up “Queer Stepfamilies: The path to Social and Legal Recognition” by Katie L. Acosta would be a good thing. In this book, the author followed forty LGBTQ families to understand the joys, pitfalls, and legalities of forming a new union together. It can’t replace a lawyer, but it’s a good overview.

For the parent who wants to ensure that their child grows up with a lack of bias, “Raising LGBTQ Allies” by Chris Tompkins is a great book to give. It’s filled with methods to stop bullying in its tracks, to be proactive in having That Conversation, and how to be sure that the next generation you’re responsible for becomes responsible in turn. Wrap it up with “The Healing Otherness Handbook” by Stacee L. Reicherzer, Ph.D., a book that helps readers to deal with bullying by finding confidence and empowerment.

If there’s someone on your gift list who’s determined to get “fit” in the coming year, then give “The Secret to Superhuman Strength” by Alison Bechdel this holiday. Told in graphic-novel format (comics, basically), it’s the story of searching for self-improvement and finding it in a surprising place.

So why not give a little nostalgia this year by wrapping up “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head” by Martin Padgett? It’s the tale of disco, drag, and drugs in the 1970s (of course!) in Atlanta, with appearances by activists, politics, and people who were there at that fabulous time. Wrap it up with “After Francesco” by Brian Malloy, a novel set a little later – in the mid-1980s in New York City and Minneapolis at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

The LGBTQ activist on your gift list will want to read “The Case for Gay Reparations” by Omar G. Encarnacion. It’s a book about acknowledgment, obligation on the part of cis citizens, and fixing the pain that homophobia and violence has caused. Wrap it up with “Trans Medicine: The Emergence and Practice of Treating Gender” by Stef M. Shuster, a look at trans history that may also make your giftee growl.

FICTION

Young readers who have recently transitioned will enjoy reading “Both Sides Now” by Peyton Thomas. It’s a novel about a high school boy with gigantic dreams and the means to accomplish them all. Can he overcome the barriers that life gives him? It’s debatable… Pair it with “Can’t Take That Away” by Steven Salvatore, a book about two nonbinary students and the troubles they face as they fall in love.

The thriller fan on your list will be overjoyed to unwrap “Yes, Daddy” by Jonathan Parks-Ramage. It’s the story of a young man with dying dreams of fame and fortune, who schemes to meet an older, more accomplished man with the hopes of sparking his failing career. But the older man isn’t who the younger thinks he is, and that’s not good. Wrap it up with “Lies with Man” by Michael Nava, a book about a lawyer who agrees to be counsel for a group of activists. Good so far, right? Until one of them is accused of being involved in a deadly bombing.

For the fan of Southern fiction, you can’t go wrong when you wrap up “The Tender Grave” by Sheri Reynolds. It’s the tale of two sisters, one homophobic, the other lesbian, and how they learn to forgive and re-connect.

NON-PROFIT GIVING

Like nonprofit organizations throughout the country, D.C.-area LGBTQ supportive nonprofit groups have told the Blade they continue to rebuild amid the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted their fundraising efforts while increasing expenses, at least in part by prompting more people to come to them for help.

This holiday season, if you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, consider making a donation to one of our local LGBTQ non-profit organizations in someone else’s name. This list is by no means exhaustive, but a good place to start your research.

Contributions to the LGBTQ supportive nonprofit organizations can be made via the websites of these local organizations:

• Blade Foundation, which funds local scholarships and fellowships for queer student journalists, bladefoundation.org

• DC Center, our local community center that operates a wide range of programming,  thedccenter.org/donate

Food & Friends, which delivers meals to homebound patients, foodandfriends.org

HIPS, which advances the health rights and dignity of those impacted by sex work and drugs, hips.org

• SMYAL, which advocates for queer youth, smyal.org

Wanda Alston Foundation, which offers shelter and support for LGBTQ youth, wandaalstonfoundation.org

• Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s longtime LGBTQ-inclusive health care provider, whitmanwalkerimpact.org

Casa Ruby, which provides shelter and services to youth in need, casaruby.org

• Us Helping Us, which helps improve the health of communities of color and works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, ushelpingus.org/donate

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