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Brother Help Thyself awards $75,000 in grants

34 area LGBT groups benefit



Brother Help Thyself, Baltimore City government, minimum wage, Catherine Pugh, gay news, Washington Blade

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh attended the BHT awards ceremony on Jan. 20. (Photo by Maryland GovPics; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The LGBT charitable group Brother Help Thyself on Jan. 20 presented grants totaling $75,000 to 34 non-profit organizations serving the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore region.

BHT presented the grant awards in a ceremony held at the Baltimore Eagle, a gay bar in Baltimore, in which Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Maryland Department of Health official Jeffrey Hitt attended.

“The story isn’t that BHT gave out $75,000 today,” said BHT’s grant reception chairman. “The story here is that in the era we find ourselves in today, where our freedoms and rights, and healthcare choices are being threatened, these 34 non-profits, without our help, are out there each day and every day fighting to preserve and defend those rights and freedoms in support of our community,” he said.

“We are proud to play a small role in that work,” he added.

In addition to awarding the grants, BHT issued four annual community service awards: The Anthony J. Bachrach Award for Outstanding Service to an individual to Baltimore activist Rik Newton-Treadway; the Billy Collison Award “to an underdog and grantee” to the D.C. Latino GLBT History Project; the George Dodson Business Award to a business supportive of the LGBT community to the Baltimore Eagle; and the Founders Award to a non-profit to the D.C. Wanda Alston Foundation.

BHT released the following list of the 34 organizations that received grants at the Jan. 20 ceremony:

AIDS Action Baltimore, $4,140

Athletes United for Social Justice of D.C. ‘The Grassroots Project,’ $1,130

Black, Gifted & Whole, Inc. of D.C., $5,830

Breaking Ground of D.C., $2,930

Capitol Hill Arts Workshop of D.C., $830

Casa Ruby, Inc. of D.C., $4,390

D.C.’s Different Drummers, $1,130

D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, $2,360

Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church of Baltimore, $150

Heart to Hand, Inc. of Prince George’s County, $3,410

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., $560

FreeState Justice of Maryland, $920

Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore, $770

Health Options & Positive Energy Foundation (HOPE DC), $3,790

HIPS D.C., $3,580

HopeSpring, Inc. of Baltimore, $3,350

D.C. Latino GLBT History Project, $2,200

LULAC Council 11125 of D.C., $1,000

Mary’s House or Older Adults, Inc. of D.C., $8,280

Metro D.C. PFLAG, $850

Mid-Atlantic Deaf & Interpreter Fund of Baltimore, $1,670

Mosiac Theater Company of D.C., $350

New Ways Ministry, Inc. of D.C., $1,980

PFLAG Columbia-Howard County, Md., $1,020

PFLAG Westminster, Md., $1,020

Rainbow History Project Foundation of D.C., $790

Rainbow Theater Project of D.C., $540

SMYAL of D.C., $1,690

St. Margaret’s Church Vestry – ‘Charlie’s Place’ of D.C., $3,030

Transgender Education Association of Greater Washington, $1,460

UUC of Rockville Rainbow Youth Alliance, $4,740

Wanda Alston Foundation of D.C., $2,470

Washington Renegades Rugby Football Club, $560



LGBTQ seniors celebrated at Silver Pride

Community gathers for games, resource fair and tea dance



Rayceen Pendarvis serves as the emcee for Silver Pride on June 20. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“Joy in Justice” was the theme for this year’s Silver Pride celebration of seniors in the LGBTQ community. The event was hosted by Rayceen Pendarvis at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery (702 8th St., N.W.) on Thursday, June 20, and included a number of games, booths from vendors, and a tea dance. Sponsors included AARP of the District of Columbia; East River Family Strengthening Collaborative, Inc.; Anybill; Team Rayceen Productions and the Capital Pride Alliance. Music was provided by DJ Alex Love.

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Camp Free2Be helping trans youth find community

‘A space where it’s completely safe to be their authentic selves’



(Courtesy Camp Free2Be)

In 2019, Elizabeth Erion wished that her trans daughter had an opportunity to create community with other trans kids in the area.

“I knew there were a few sleep-away camps for gender-expansive youth, but they were too far away, and financially out of reach for our family,” Erion said. 

So she worked with another parent of a trans teen and formed Camp Free2Be. It started as a weeklong camp with eight campers and six junior counselors. This year, the camp will serve more than 60 campers. 

Erion said that queer students may have limited opportunities to meet students who are like them, which makes the work Camp Free2Be does so important. With the recent spike in anti-LGBTQ legislation around the country, a recent survey revealed that nearly half of trans youth feel unsafe in school.

“Camps like ours offer trans and nonbinary youth a space where it’s completely safe to be their authentic selves; to wear clothes they might not normally feel able to wear; to try out a new name or pronouns; to meet other kids who know exactly what it’s like to be gender diverse.”

To continue to build queer youth community, the camp is led by junior counselors from 15-18, who are also trans or non-binary. Applications are still being accepted with a June 23 deadline. Counselors who participate in both weeks of the camp will receive a $150 stipend for their participation. 

“[Junior counselors] serve as role models for our younger campers, while also making friends and developing leadership skills.”

This day camp is located in Arlington, in walking distance from the Metro. Campers will engage in STEM, arts and crafts, outdoor games, theater, and more at the camp. Once a day, the entire camp gathers for a lesson on LGBTQ history. 

“These are lessons our youth probably won’t be given in school, and they are important in showing them that they are part of a larger community with a rich history.”

For Erion, the most rewarding parts of the camp are the unscheduled and spontaneous conversations she overhears from campers. 

“While doing arts and crafts or playing board games, they will casually talk about issues unique to growing up trans or nonbinary. They are learning from each other and finding out that they have shared experiences.” she said. 

One of the best parts of the camp is that it will cost parents nothing. Camp Free2Be is in partnership with SMYAL to make the camp free for campers and junior counselors. 

This year, camp will run through two back-to-back weeks, July 15-19 and July 22-26. Registration closes June 23 and can be found at If you have already planned your summer, be on the lookout in January 2025 for summer 2025 registration.

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Suspect in 1996 murder of lesbian couple in Shenandoah National Park identified

Convicted serial rapist died in prison in 2018



Laura 'Lollie' Winans and Julianne 'Julie' Williams (Photo courtesy of the FBI)

The FBI has identified a then-48-year-old man from Ohio who it describes as a convicted serial rapist as the person it believes committed the May 1996 murder of a lesbian couple at their campsite in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

In a statement released on June 20, the FBI says newly analyzed DNA evidence and an extensive review of other evidence surrounding the 28-year-old murder case has enabled it to identify Walter Leo Jackson, Sr., as the prime suspect in the murders of Laura “Lollie” Winans, 26, and Julianne “Julie” Williams, 24. 

The FBI statement says the two women’s bodies were found on June 1, 1996, after an extensive search by rangers with the National Park Service after family members reported them missing. 

“In 2021, a new FBI Richmond investigative team was assigned to conduct a methodic review of the case,” the statement says. “FBI special agents, intelligence analysts, and other FBI Richmond employees reassessed hundreds of leads and interviews,” according to the statement. “They spent countless hours to identify and prioritize evidence from the crime scene to retest and submit the items to an accredited private lab.”

It says the lab successfully extracted DNA from several items of evidence and, with help from Virginia State Police, and through the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System a positive DNA match to Jackson was obtained. 

“Those results confirmed we had the right man and finally could tell the victim’s families we know who is responsible for this heinous crime,” Stanley M. Meador, the FBI Richmond special agent in charge, said in the statement. 

“After 28 years, we are now able to say who committed the brutal murders of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams in Shenandoah National Park,” U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said in the statement. “I want to again extend my condolences to the Winans and Williams families and hope today’s announcement provides some small measure of solace,” he said. 

The FBI statement says Jackson, who died in prison in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in March 2018, had a lengthy criminal record that included kidnapping, rapes, and assaults. It says Jackson worked as a residential painter and “was an avid hiker and was known to visit Shenandoah National Park.”

Walter Leo Jackson, Sr. (Photo courtesy of the FBI)

The FBI has stated in past statements regarding the two women’s murders that it did not have evidence to classify the murders as a hate crime in which Jackson targeted the women because of their sexual orientation. 

Media reports at the time of the murders identified Williams as a native of Minnesota who moved to Vermont, where she helped form a group supportive of LGBTQ people with a Presbyterian church ministry. Winans was a wilderness guide in Michigan and met Williams through an outdoor program in Minnesota called “Woodswomen,” media reports said. 

A report in the Advocate published before the FBI’s identification of Jackson as the man responsible for the women’s murders, said the two women had been dating for about two years before their murders. It reported they had planned to move in together that summer to a home in Huntington, Vt., and that Williams had recently accepted a new job as a geologist at a location near Lake Champlain in Vermont. 

“The FBI will continue to work with law enforcement partners to determine if Jackson is responsible for other unsolved crimes,” the FBI’s June 20 statement says. “Anyone with information on Jackson should call 1-800-CALL FBI or submit it online at,” the statement concludes.

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