The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBT Pride events, announced on Wednesday that it has elected a new president, selected five new board members, and named a new crop of longtime volunteers to serve in high-level unpaid leadership positions.
Among the changes was the election of Capital Pride board member Ashley Smith, a longtime community activist, as the organization’s new board president. He succeeds Bernie Delia, who has served as board president for the past six years.
In a statement released by Capital Pride on Wednesday, Delia noted that he informed the board one year ago that he planned to step down as president at the end of 2017 but would continue to serve as a member of the board.
“I extend my thanks and gratitude to my fellow Board members, our numerous Pride Partners and sponsors, our extremely dedicated volunteers, and the inexhaustible staff, whose combined efforts make possible the safe and successful Celebration of Pride in the Nation’s Capital as well as all of our year-round programming,” Delia said in the statement.
“As the incoming Board President, I have a great deal of optimism that we’ll continue expanding the mission of the Capital Pride Alliance to meet the changing needs of the entire spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community,” Smith said in the same statement.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to make the annual Pride Celebration and Pride 365 events even more exceptional, compelling, and inclusive,” he said. “I look forward to hearing from and meeting the members of our diverse community, and I invite everyone from the national capital region to participate as volunteers with Capital Pride.”
The announcement of the leadership changes at Capital Pride Alliance comes a little over seven months after an LGBT group called No Justice No Pride blocked the path of the Capital Pride Parade in June as part of a controversial and widely reported protest. Leaders of the group said it carried out the protest because Capital Pride’s leaders declined to agree to its demands presented to Capital Pride months earlier that Capital Pride drop at least two corporate sponsors it said were “invested in the marginalization of trans and queer people of color.”
The group also wanted Capital Pride to ban D.C. police from participating in the Pride Parade and other Pride activities on grounds that the Metropolitan Police Department has engaged in improper use of force against D.C.’s black residents, including transgender women of color.
During a Capital Pride board meeting last spring, when No Justice No Pride members voiced their concerns, other community representatives, including some transgender activists, defended police involvement in Pride events.
In its own statement released on Wednesday, No Justice No Pride said Capital Pride’s leadership changes were a positive sign that concerns raised by the dissident group might be addressed this year.
“We are encouraged to see Capital Pride taking steps to make its board more representative of the communities it serves,” said Emmelia Talarico, chair of No Justice No Pride’s Steering Committee, in the statement. “But make no mistake,” she added.
“These changes would not have come about without direct pressure applied by our No Justice No Pride and our supporters,” she said.
She added, “In our interaction with Capital Pride’s new leadership, we have experienced a level of openness and communication that did not exist with their previous leadership. This is a step forward.”
Smith, Capital Pride’s new president, told the Blade on Wednesday the group’s board and staff would expand their longstanding efforts to embrace diversity by reaching out to all constituencies within the LGBT community.
Concerning the issue of corporate sponsors, Smith said the board would be reviewing and possibly revising Capital Pride’s “processes” for selecting corporate sponsors.
“This is something that we have taken a very strong action item that the board is totally committed to and we’re looking at and revising,” he said. “And we’re continuing to work together with our partners on our best next steps to be developed.”
On the issue of D.C. police involvement in Pride activities, Smith said the first priority has and would continue to be public safety for participants in Capital Pride events. Delia, the outgoing president, has said that in the aftermath of the mass killing of LGBT patrons at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., by what some authorities called a terrorist attack by a lone gunman, some police presence at large LGBT events like Pride is needed.
“So we just really have to work to come up with opportunities and solutions and ways we can all work together,” Smith said.
The six new board members named to Capital Pride’s current 24-member board are Jose Gutierrez, Holly Goldmann, Michele Irimia-Bernabe, Ryan Velandria McCarthy, Casey Oakes, Ross Perkins, Natalie Thompson, Cedric Wilson, and Taylor Wallace.
Existing board members named to new leadership positions on the board include Vince Micone, Vice President of Operations and Treasurer; Robert York, Vice President of External Relations; and Rachel Gleischman, Vice President of Records Management.
Those named to volunteer leadership positions include Chelsea Bland, Chair, Volunteer Program; Bianca Humady Rey, Chair, Capital Trans Pride; Tiffany Lyn Royster, Chair, Capital Pride Parade; and Jami Vallesteros, Chair, Capital Pride Festival.