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Family, friends celebrate birthday of slain gay man

Mickens-Murrey found stabbed to death on May 30



Matthew Mickens-Murrey, gay news, Washington Blade

Matthew Mickens-Murrey would have turned 27 on Nov. 9.

Nine members of the family, including the mother and sister, of a 26-year-old gay man who was found stabbed to death in his Hyattsville, Md., apartment on May 30 traveled from Pennsylvania to D.C. on Nov. 9 to celebrate what would have been Matthew Mickens-Murrey’s 27th birthday.

Mickens-Murrey’s family members joined more than a dozen of his friends and supporters in the upstairs lounge of Nellie’s Sports Bar at a gathering organized by Impulse D.C., an entertainment and advocacy group that provides HIV and education related services for black gay men.

With at least three local TV news camera crews looking on, the family members and friends, led by Impulse D.C. President Devin Barrington-Ward, called on Prince George’s County police to step up the investigation into the unsolved murder. Petitions were circulated calling on police and local political leaders to “put more effort into ensuring Justice for Matt.”

Barrington-Ward said in a statement that the event was aimed at celebrating the life of the well-liked guy they knew as Matt, raising awareness, and “re-engaging the public in the cold case murder” of Mickens-Murrey.

“Matt, who publicly identified as a Black gay man, frequented Nellie’s Sports Bar, an LGBTQ establishment, and one of the last places he was seen alive,” the statement says.

It says Impulse D.C. and Mickens-Murrey’s friends and family members were also calling on D.C. police to more aggressively investigate the unsolved murders of two other black gay men in D.C.

A model and rapper named Demencio Lewis, 23, was shot to death in a hail of gunfire on March 13, 2014, on a street in Southeast D.C., according to police. A little over a year later, D.C. police found Stephon Marquis Perkins, 21, lying unconscious on a street in Southeast D.C. suffering from a gunshot wound to the head on June 25, 2015. Police said he was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Neither Prince George’s County police nor D.C. police responded to a request by the Washington Blade last week for an update on the status of the investigations into the three murders.

Melody Murrey, Mickens-Murrey’s mother, told the Blade at the gathering at Nellie’s last week that a P.G. County police investigator said her son was stabbed multiple times. She said the investigator also said there were no signs of a forced entry into the apartment, leading police to believe Mickens-Murrey knew his attacker and invited him into the apartment.

“They said they found DNA but they were still waiting for it to be tested by the FBI,” Melody Murrey said. “We just don’t know why it’s taking so long.”

Melody Murrey and her daughter Naja Murrey said Mickens-Murrey was out to his family and was loved “for who he was.”

“What message does it send to the community when they constantly see other black LGBTQ people being murdered over a short span of time and those victims, their families, friends, and community never receive justice?” said Barrington-Ward. “This is about accountability as well as public safety for black LGBTQ people,” he said. “Black Lives Matter and that includes Black LGBTQ people too.”


Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach theater announces new managing director

Clear Space hires Joe Gfaller after national search



Joe Gfaller starts his new role in November.

Rehoboth Beach’s Clear Space Theatre Company announced Tuesday that its board of directors has unanimously selected Joe Gfaller to join the company as managing director after a national search. 

Gfaller, who currently serves as managing director for Metro Theater Company in St. Louis, will join Artistic Director David Button as co-leader at CSTC, which marks its 20th anniversary in 2024.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity to help Clear Space Theatre Company grow its civic and philanthropic footprint as it begins a third decade of serving the community in coastal Delaware,” Gfaller said.

“Rehoboth is a special place to all who call it home, both year-round and seasonally. It is an extraordinary honor to work with such a creative and dynamic team as the CSTC staff and board to help the company grow to represent and reflect the fullness of this community.”

At Metro Theater Company, which is St. Louis’s primary professional theater for youth and families, Gfaller guided campaigns that helped grow the company’s revenues by 40% over four years, according to a release from Clear Space.

“Joe brings a wide range of theater experiences to the position and is sure to make an immediate impact on the company,” said Clear Space Board chair Laura Lee Mason. “His impressive track record and visionary leadership will undoubtedly elevate Clear Space to new heights. Joe shares our dedication to providing the community with outstanding education and theatrical experiences, and we look forward to collaborating with him to achieve those artistic aspirations.”

CSTC Artistic Director David Button added, “I look forward to Clear Space Theatre Company’s growth alongside Joe Gfaller. Not only will Clear Space benefit from his talent, but so will the community and state arts industry as a whole.”

Gfaller will begin full time in Rehoboth Beach in mid-November. During an October visit for the opening of “Young Frankenstein” at CSTC on Oct. 13, there will be opportunities for the public to meet him during the CAMP Rehoboth Street Festival on Oct. 15. He will be joined by his husband Kraig and their two dogs, Sprout and Emmit.

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District of Columbia

29 local LGBTQ supportive groups awarded gov’t grants

Bowser says recipients ‘tirelessly advance D.C. values’



Mayor Muriel Bowser has awarded community grants to 29 D.C. organizations that provide direct services to the LGBTQ community. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Mayor Muriel Bowser has awarded community grants to 29 D.C. organizations that provide direct services to the LGBTQ community, according to a Sept. 22 announcement by the mayor’s office. Nine of the 29 groups identify as LGBTQ specific organizations.

Information released in the announcement says the 29 LGBTQ supportive organizations receiving the grants for Fiscal Year 2024 are among a total of 137 D.C.-based community organizations that will receive a total of more than $2.2 million in funding through these grants.

“With these awards, recipient organizations will continue to offer programs that provide direct resources to communities across Washington, D.C., in areas including health and human services, education, public safety, civic engagement, the arts, and more,” a statement released by the mayor’s office says.  

The statement announcing the grants says the 29 organizations receiving the grants to provide LGBTQ-related services were selected by the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

Japer Bowles, the longtime LGBTQ rights advocate who serves as director of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office, said the grants awarded to the nine LGBTQ specific groups and the remaining 20 LGBTQ supportive groups are earmarked for LGBTQ specific programs or projects dedicated to LGBTQ people.

A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Human Services, which oversees the community grants program, said the office was in the process of preparing a list of the dollar amount for each of the 137 grant recipients, which the office hopes to release soon.

Abby Fenton, an official with Whitman-Walker Health, which is one of the 29 grant recipients, said its grant was $20,000 for continued work on addressing the Monkeypox outbreak impacting LGBTQ people.  

The nine LGBTQ specific groups named as grant recipients include:

• Capital Pride Alliance

• Equality Chamber Foundation

• Equality Chamber of Commerce

• Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL)

• The DC Center for the LGBT Community

• Us Helping Us-People Into Living, Inc.

• Whitman-Walker Health

• Baltimore Safe Haven doing business as DC Safe Haven

• Washington Blade Foundation

The 20 LGBTQ supportive groups named as grant recipients include:

• Asylum Works

• Black Leaves Project dance company

• Casa for Children of DC

• Foster and Adoptive Parent Advocacy [FAPAC]

• Greater Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

• Harm Reduction at Westminster DC

• Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, DC

• Joseph’s House

• Latin American Youth Center

• MOSAIC Theater Company

• Project Briggs

• Sasha Bruce Youthwork

• Seabury Resources for Aging

• The Dance Institute of Washington

• The Giveland Foundation

• The Nicholson Project

• Totally Family Coalition

• Unity Health Care

• Washington Improvisational Theater

• Young Playwrights Theater, Inc.

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New campaign challenges Va. guidelines for transgender, nonbinary students

Students4Trans planning rallies, walkouts across the state



Students and Pride Liberation Project supporters hold signs supporting transgender rights at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Va., during a Fairfax County School Board meeting in 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of Virginia students have launched a campaign that challenges the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

The Pride Liberation Project on Sept. 20 announced the formation of Students4Trans.

Students4Trans held a rally outside the Virginia Department of Education in Richmond on Sept. 22. Another rally will take place during the Virginia Beach School Board meeting on Tuesday.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. The regulations, among other things, require parents to be informed of a student’s name and pronoun change, with the exception of “imminent risk of suicide related to parental abuse or neglect.” 

Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement the guidelines. 

The Spotsylvania County School Board announced last month that students are required to use the bathroom that aligs with their assigned sex, and parents could choose the names and pronouns their children use at school. Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

Students4Trans has organized a student walkout on Friday to protest the Spotsylvania County School Board’s new policies.

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this story.

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