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Round-the-clock partying and programming for D.C. Black Pride

Annual Memorial Day weekend event jam packed with seminars, parties, entertainers and more

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Black Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Last year’s D.C. Black Pride event drew thousands from all over the Eastern seaboard. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s note: This is a partial list of many events scheduled throughout the weekend. A full version of programming and parties is under “schedule” at  dcblackpride.org.

LADIES’ EVENTS: 

UNLEASHED:

Sweet Temptation All White Party at L8 Lounge

Friday, May 24

10 p.m.-4 a.m.

727 15th St., N.W.

$15 advance; $20 at door

Music by DJ MIM and DJ Sammii Blendz

CANDYLAND 6: Sexiest D.C. Black Pride Day Party at Stadium Club

Saturday, May 25

3-10 p.m.

2127 Queens Chapel Rd., N.E.

$12 in advance: $15 at door

Music by DJs J Stackz, Deluxx, Jai Syncere, Sammii Blendz and DJ MIM

UNLEASHED: D.C. 2K19

Chocolate City

D.C. Black Pride official Mega Ladies Party

Saturday, May 25

Howard Theatre

620 T St., N.W.

11 p.m.-4 a.m.

DJs Jai Syncere and Kid Swag

General admission: $20

VIP $30

VIP table $150

UNLEASHED: The Finale Black Pride Rooftop Party

Pride Closeout Rooftop Day Party

Sunday, May 26

3-9 p.m.

Big Chief

2002 Fenwick St., N.E.

$10 entry

VIP passes available for all events at various pricing levels

Full details at unleasheddc.com

Women in the Life 25th anniversary 

Resilience Reunion

Friday, May 24 

8 p.m.-midnight

Pop-Up Archive Gallery & open mic featuring live concert from BOOMSCAT

Saturday, May 25

9 p.m.

Women in the Life 25th anniversary Resilience Reunion Dance Party

Both events at D.C. Black Pride Hotel

Renaissance Hotel

999 9th St., N.W.

Renaissance Ballroom/lower level

Details at dcblackpride.org

MEN’S PARTIES

Daryl Wilson Promotions Presents

Happy Hour/Meet & Greet

Friday, May 24

3-9 p.m.

Renaissance Hotel

999 9th St., N.W.

Tease: the official All Male Super Party

Friday, May 24

10 p.m.-4 a.m.

Hosted by Gavin Houston (aka Jeffrey Harrington)

Special guest: Monet X Change

Ziegfeld’s/Secrets

1824 Half St., S.W.

D.C. Pride Infamous Day Party

Saturday, May 25

2-9 p.m.

The Park

920 14th St., N.W.

Pride Homecoming

Saturday Night Main Event

Saturday, May 25

10 p.m.-4 a.m.

Miss Shalae (Beyonce impersonator)

City Girls

EchoStage

2135 Queens Chapel Rd., N.E.

Wet and Wild Pool Party

Sunday, May 26

1-8 p.m.

shuttle available from host hotel

The Culture Super Party

Sunday, May 26

9 p.m.-4 a.m.

The Park 

920 14th St., N.W.

Rock the Block

Monday, May 27

indoor/outdoor festival & show

Elevate Super Club

15 K St., N.E.

Naked

All male nude dancers and variety stage show

Monday, May 27

Ziegfelds/Secrets

1824 Half St., S.W.

9 p.m.-2 a.m.

Prices and full details at darylwilsondc.com

Omega Party D.C. events

Opening reception and main pass distribution at host hotel

Friday, May 24

The Fifthy Shades of Noir Warmup at Hard Rock Cafe

Friday, May 24

999 E St., N.W.

8-11 p.m.

3,000 Men Supreme Fantasy Workout

Friday, May 24

With Big Freedia

Karma Super Club 

2221 Adams Pl. N.E.

10 p.m.-4 a.m.

Mega D.C. Black Pride Appreciation Cookout Party

Saturday, May 25

Aqua

1818 New York Ave., N.E.

4-9 p.m.

6K Men Indoor/Outdoor Supreme Fantasy Midnight Festival

Saturday, May 25

Keri Hilson

D.C. Eagle

3701 Benning Rd., N.E.

Six DJs, 20 dancers and thousands of men

10 p.m.-5 a.m.

Pride Manhunt Day Party

Sunday, May 26

Eden on the Rooftop

1716 I St., N.W.

5-9 p.m.

3k Men International Traffic Light Hookup Party

Sunday, May 26

Ultrabar

911 F St., N.W.

Performance by Lightskinkeisha

10 p.m.-4 a.m.

The Apocalypse Meatloaf Chapter XI

Monday, May 27

Stadium Club

2127 Queens Chapel Rd., N.E.

9 p.m.-2:30 a.m.

Weekend passes available. 

For tickets and full details, visit omegapartydc.com

D.C. Black Pride programming

Other weekend highlights (all events at host hotel unless noted otherwise):

Saturday, May 25

Rainbow Row organization and vendor expo — 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Health screenings — 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Workshop: “Building the Tribe” — 10 a.m.-noon

Workshop: “Resume Writing & Interviewing” — 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Workshop: “Black, LGBTQ and Christian” — 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Workshop: “Ask the Doc: Understanding Health and Wellness” — noon-2 p.m.

ONYX University — noon-5 p.m.

Workshop: “Intro to Government Consulting” — 1-3 p.m.

Workshop: “Trans and Gender Non-conforming Town Hall” — 1-3 p.m.

Literary Cafe: “Remembering Audrey Lorde” — 2-4 p.m.

Workshop: “I Am Impact” storytelling — 2-4 p.m.

Workshop: “Substance Abuse, HIV and Suicide Among Black Queer Communities” — 2-4 p.m.

Workshop: “Trans and Non-binary Youth Town Hall” — 3-4:30 p.m.

7th annual PWAP Party With a Purpose — 3:30-7:30 p.m.

Tranquility Lounge — 3:30-8 p.m.

D.C. Black Pride Mary Bowman Poetry Slam — 6-9 p.m.

Sunday, May 26

Pride Praise Party — 9 a.m.-noon

Pride in Harmony Sunday Funday Brunch and Open Mic

Exhale Bar & Lounge

1006 Florida Ave., N.E.

Sounds of Pride Concert — 1:30-5 p.m.

“One Night Stands” by African-American Collective Theater — 4 and 8 p.m.

First Congregational United Church of Christ

945  G St., N.W

Monday, May 27

Pride in the Park — 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Fort Dupont Park

Minnesota Ave., S.E.

One of D.C. Black Pride’s longest-serving and most diligent volunteers doesn’t live in the region. 

C. Hawkins, a black, gay Boston resident, went to D.C. Black Pride for the first time in 2002 on a whim with friends just after graduating from college. He started volunteering immediately.

“Part of it’s being from the South, we’re always willing to help out,” he says. “There was a call for volunteers and part of it was we didn’t want to pay to get into something, but if we volunteered we got in for free. When you’re in your 20s, that’s your motive. I can’t remember exactly. This was when it was at the old Washington Convention Center and it used to cost to get into some of the events but we wanted to save our money to go out, not to attend something in the daytime, so it just kind of went on from there.”

Hawkins, 41, kept helping out and attending over the years — he’s only missed twice since ’02 — because there was nothing like it when he lived in Chapel Hill, N.C., or when he moved to Boston for work four years ago. 

“They would say they have Black Pride up here but I would say we don’t,” he says. “It’s just grouped in with the general pride, it’s very small and more lesbian-oriented. We just don’t have as many black gay people up here in Boston, so coming to D.C. gives me another outlet to interact.”

Kenya Hutton, D.C. Black Pride’s program director, and, like Hawkins, a volunteer, says this year’s programming “seems to have taken on a mind of its own.” Events are held at various venues but much of the programming takes place at the host hotel, the Renaissance (999 9th St., N.W.). Full schedule and details at  HYPERLINK “http://dcblackpride.org/” \t “_blank” dcblackpride.org. 

Black Pride programs for the 29th annual event have been happening all week, although the official dates are Friday, May 24 through Monday, May 27. This year’s theme is “Our TRUTHS in HARMONY: D.C. Black Pride 2019” and as in years past, it’s a solid week of programming — open mics, seminars on health, faith and other topics, a poetry slam and more — with nearly round-the-clock partying opportunities for both men and women. 

In recent years, the promoters and Black Pride volunteers have settled into a more symbiotic relationship. On one hand, there’s a lot of money to be made by charging people to attend parties and see big-name acts like Kerri Hilson, Big Freeda and City Girls, but the more serious offerings, exhibits, workshops and even worship services give the whole thing gravitas. The Black Pride website says “something for everyone — D.C.B.P. is packed with all types of activities,” and it’s true.

“A lot of this comes from the community telling us what they would like to see,” Hutton, who’s ben with the organization nine years, says. “It’s a good feeling to know this is something we’re doing by and for the community.”

Highlights Hutton singles out for this year include:

• a different approach to tonight’s opening reception. Black Pride planners reached out to a diverse group of regional organizations — everything from Team Rayceen, Pretty Boi Drag, May Is? All About Trans and dozens more — to co-present the event. It’s at 7 p.m. tonight and is sold out. Hutton says the rationale for the new approach was to show what the black LGBT people can accomplish by working together. It also ties into the harmony theme of this year’s motto. 

• An “Ask the Doc” workshop on Saturday afternoon with health care professionals for men, women and trans attendees who can ask anything they want. Questions can also be posed anonymously or texted from those watching via a live webstream.

• Career-oriented workshops such as “Resume Writing & Interviewing” and “Intro to Government Consulting,” also on Saturday at the host hotel.

• a trans and gender-nonconforming youth town hall for ages 29 and younger Saturday at 1 p.m.

• the D.C. Black Pride Mary Bowman Poetry Slam on Saturday evening where 13 poets will compete for top prizes. The event was named for the event’s former organizer, a lesbian who died unexpectedly last week. 

Other events were held earlier in the week.

On Thursday, a Unity Ball was held with competition and prizes. 

The annual Awards Reception was held Tuesday at The Park at 14th. One of this year’s honorees is profiled in Queery on page 36.

Black Pride volunteers (there are six) work pretty much year round on the event. The event has rebounded, Hutton says, after “a dip about four-five years ago.”

“It’s refreshing to see it once again rise to the status as one of the most organized Black Pride events around,” he says.

Attendance estimates for the past couple years have been about 30,000. Hutton expects it to be higher this year. Folks from as far away as South America, U.K. and even Mozambique have e-mailed organizers of their plans to attend. 

It’s impossible to know for sure, but Hawkins says about 65 percent of attendees are non-D.C.-area residents. 

Hutton says doing the work each year is a labor of love.

“We have people who have been helping with this for 20 years,” he says. “We just don’t get the kind of sponsorship levels that would allow us to get paid. We do it because we want to and because our heart is in it. We really want to showcase and provide for the community.”

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Tagg turns 10

D.C. magazine thriving post-pandemic with focus on queer women

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‘Tagg is a form of resistance,’ says editor Eboné Bell. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a 10-year-old YouTube video, owner and editor of Tagg magazine, Eboné Bell, — clad in a white cotton T-shirt, gray vest and matching gray fedora — smiled with all her pearly whites as a correspondent for the magazine interviewed her outside now-closed Cobalt, a gay club in downtown D.C. that hosted the magazine’s official launch in the fall of 2012. 

“I want to make sure that people know that this is a community publication,” Bell said in the video. “It’s about the women in this community and we wanted to make sure that they knew that ‘This is your magazine.’”

As one of just two queer womxn’s magazines in the country, Tagg has established itself as one of the nation’s leading and forthright LGBTQ publications that focuses on lesbian and queer culture, news, and events. The magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month.

Among the many beats Tagg covers, it has recently produced work on wide-ranging political issues such as the introduction of the LGBTQ+ History Education Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Supreme Court’s assault on reproductive rights through a reversal of its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling; and also attracted the attention of international queer celebrities, including Emmy-nominated actress Dominique Jackson through fundraisers.

“Tagg is a form of resistance,” Bell said in a Zoom interview with the Washington Blade. “I always say the best form of activism is visibility and we’re out there authentically us.”

Although the magazine was created to focus on lifestyle, pressing political issues that affect LGBTQ individuals pushed it to dive deeper into political coverage in efforts to bring visibility to LGBTQ issues that specifically affect queer femme individuals. 

“We know the majority of our readers are queer women,’ said Bell. “[So] we always ask ourselves, ‘How does this affect our community?’ We are intentional and deliberate about it.”

Rebecca Damante, a contributing writer to the magazine echoed Bell’s sentiments. 

“The movement can sometimes err toward gay white men and it’s good that we get to represent other groups,” said Damante. “I feel really lucky that a magazine like Tagg exists because it’s given me the chance to polish my writing skills and talk about queer representation in media and politics.”

Tagg’s coverage has attracted younger readers who visit the magazine’s website in search of community and belonging. Most readers range between the ages of 25 and 30, Bell said. 

“[The magazine] honestly just took on a life of its own,” said Bell. “It’s like they came to us [and] it makes perfect sense.”

Prior to the magazine becoming subscription-based and completely online, it was a free publication that readers could pick up in coffee shops and distribution boxes around D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. 

Battling the pandemic 

Eboné Bell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, newsrooms across the world were forced to function virtually. Additionally, economic strife forced many publications to downsize staffs and — in some cases — cancel entire beats as ad revenue decreased, forcing them to find alternative ways to self-sustain financially. Tagg was no exception. 

“We didn’t fly unscathed,” said Bell. “[The pandemic] took a huge emotional toll on me because I thought we were going to close. I thought we were going to fail.”

However, the magazine was able to stand firm after a fundraiser titled “Save Tagg Magazine” yielded about $30,000 in donations from the community. 

The fundraiser involved a storefront on Tagg’s website where donations of LGBTQ merchandise were sold, including a book donated by soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe. 

There was also a virtual “Queerantine Con” — an event that was the brainchild of Dana Piccoli, editor of News Is Out— where prominent LGBTQ celebrities such as Rosie O’Donnell, Lea DeLaria and Kate Burrell, gave appearances to help raise money that eventually sustained the publication. 

“There was a time where I was ready to be like ‘I have to be OK that [Tagg] might not happen anymore,” said Bell. “But because of love and support, I’m here.” 

While the outpouring of love from community members who donated to the magazine helped keep the magazine alive, it was also a stark reminder that smaller publications, led by women of color, have access to fewer resources than mainstream outlets. 

“It’s statistically known that Black women-owned businesses get significantly less support, venture capital investments, things like that,” said Bell. “I saw similar outlets such as Tagg with white people making $100,000 a month.”

Bell added that Tagg had to work “10 times harder” to survive, and although the magazine didn’t cut back on the people who worked for it, it ended free access to the magazine in the DMV especially as the places that housed the magazine were no longer in business. The publication also moved to a subscription-based model that allowed it to ameliorate printing costs. 

Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, Tagg remains steadfast in its service to the LGBTQ community. The magazine hired an assistant editor in 2021 and has maintained a team of graphic designers, photographers, writers and an ad sales team who work to ensure fresh content is delivered to readers on a regular basis. 

For Bell, Tagg mirrors an important life experience — the moment she discovered Ladders, a lesbian magazine published throughout the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. 

“To that young person coming up, I want you to see all the things that happened before them, all the people that came before them, all the stories that were being told” she said.

Eboné Bell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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Daisy Edgar-Jones knows why ‘the Crawdads sing’

Actress on process, perfecting a southern accent, and her queer following

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Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya Clark. (Photo courtesy Sony/Columbia)

Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor whose career is blossoming like her namesake. In recent years, she seems to be everywhere. LGBTQ viewers may recognize Edgar-Jones from her role as Delia Rawson in the recently canceled queer HBO series “Gentleman Jack.” She also played memorable parts in a pair of popular Hulu series, “Normal People” and “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Earlier this year, Edgar-Jones was seen as Noa in the black comedy/horror flick “Fresh” alongside Sebastian Stan. 

With her new movie, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony/Columbia), she officially becomes a lead actress. Based on Delia Owens’ popular book club title of the same name, the movie spans a considerable period of time, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Blade.

BLADE: Daisy, had you read Delia Owens’s novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” before signing on to play Kya?

DAISY EDGAR-JONES: I read it during my audition process, as I was auditioning for the part. So, the two went hand in hand.

BLADE: What was it about the character of Kya that appealed to you as an actress?

EDGAR-JONES: There was so much about her that appealed to me. I think the fact that she is a very complicated woman. She’s a mixture of things. She’s gentle and she’s curious. She’s strong and she’s resilient. She felt like a real person. I love real character studies and it felt like a character I haven’t had a chance to delve into. It felt different from anyone I’ve played before. Her resilience was one that I really admired. So, I really wanted to spend some time with her.

BLADE: While Kya is in jail, accused of killing the character Chase, she is visited by a cat in her cell. Are you a cat person or do you prefer dogs?

EDGAR-JONES: I like both! I think I like the fact that dogs unconditionally love you. While a cat’s love can feel a bit conditional. I do think both are very cute. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be dogs.

BLADE: I’m a dog person, so I’m glad you said that.

EDGAR-JONES: [Laughs]

BLADE: Kya lives on the marsh and spends a lot of time on and in the water. Are you a swimmer or do you prefer to be on dry land?

EDGAR-JONES: I like swimming, I do. I grew up swimming a lot. If I’m ever on holidays, I like it to be by the sea or by a nice pool.

BLADE: Kya is also a gifted artist, and it is the thing that brings her great joy. Do you draw or paint?

EDGAR-JONES: I always doodle. I’m an avid doodler. I do love to draw and paint. I loved it at school. I wouldn’t say I was anywhere near as skilled as Kya. But I do love drawing if I get the chance to do it.

BLADE: Kya was born and raised in North Carolina. What can you tell me about your process when it comes to doing a southern accent or an American accent in general?

EDGAR-JONES: It’s obviously quite different from mine. I’ve been lucky that I’ve spent a lot of time working on various accents for different parts for a few years now, so I feel like I’m developed an ear for, I guess, the difference in tone and vowel sounds [laughs]. When it came to this, it was really important to get it right, of course. Kya has a very lyrical, gentle voice, which I think that North Carolina kind of sound really helped me to access. I worked with a brilliant accent coach who helped me out and I just listened and listened.

BLADE: While I was watching “Where the Crawdads Sing” I thought about how Kya could easily be a character from the LGBTQ community because she is considered an outsider, is shunned and ridiculed, and experiences physical and emotional harm. Do you also see the parallels?

EDGAR-JONES: I certainly do. I think that aspect of being an outsider is there, and this film does a really good job of showing how important it is to be kind to everyone. I think this film celebrates the goodness you can give to each other if you choose to be kind. Yes, I definitely see the parallels.

BLADE: Do you have an awareness of an LGBTQ following for your acting career?

EDGAR-JONES: I tend to stay off social media and am honestly not really aware of who follows me, but I do really hope the projects I’ve worked on resonate with everyone.

BLADE: Are there any upcoming acting projects that you’d like to mention?

EDGAR-JONES: None that I can talk of quite yet. But there are a few things that are coming up next year, so I’m really excited.

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CAMP Rehoboth’s president talks pandemic, planning, and the future

Wesley Combs marks six months in new role

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Wesley Combs took over as president of CAMP Rehoboth six months ago and is now focused on searching for a new permanent executive director. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

June marks half a year since Wesley Combs stepped into his role as president of CAMP Rehoboth. In a conversation with the Blade, Combs recounted his first six months in the position — a time he said was characterized by transition and learning.

Since 1991, CAMP Rehoboth has worked to develop programming “inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities” in the Rehoboth Beach, Del. area, according to the nonprofit’s website. As president, Combs oversees the organization’s board of directors and executive director, helping determine areas of focus and ensure programming meets community needs.

For Combs, his more than three decades of involvement with CAMP Rehoboth have shaped the course of his life. In the summer of 1989 — just before the organization’s creation — he met his now-husband, who was then living in a beach house with Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald, CAMP Rehoboth’s founders.

Since then, he has served as a financial supporter of the organization, noting that it has been crucial to fostering understanding that works against an “undercurrent of anti-LGBTQ sentiment” in Rehoboth Beach’s history that has, at times, propagated violence against LGBTQ community members.

In 2019, after Elkins passed away, Combs was called upon by CAMP Rehoboth’s Board of Directors to serve on a search committee for the organization’s next executive director. Later that year, he was invited to become a board member and, this past November, was elected president.

Combs noted that CAMP Rehoboth is also still recovering from the pandemic, and is working to restart programming paused in the switch to remote operations. In his first six months, he has sought to ensure that people feel “comfortable” visiting and engaging with CAMP Rehoboth again, and wants to ensure all community members can access its programming, including those from rural parts of Delaware and those without a means of getting downtown.

Still, Combs’s first six months were not without unexpected turns: On May 31, David Mariner stepped down from his role as CAMP Rehoboth executive director, necessitating a search for his replacement. Combs noted that he would help facilitate the search for an interim director to serve for the remainder of the year and ensure that there is “a stable transition of power.” CAMP Rehoboth last week announced it has named Lisa Evans to the interim director role.

Chris Beagle, whose term as president of CAMP Rehoboth preceded Combs’s own, noted that the experience of participating in a search committee with the organization will “better enable him to lead the process this time.”

Before completing his term, Beagle helped prepare Combs for the new role, noting that the “combination of his professional background, his executive leadership (and) his passion for the organization” make Combs a strong president. Regarding the results of the election, “I was extremely confident, and I remain extremely confident,” Beagle said.

Bob Witeck, a pioneer in LGBTQ marketing and communications, has known Combs for nearly four decades. The two founded a public relations firm together in 1993 and went on to work together for 20 years, with clients ranging from major businesses like Ford Motor Company to celebrities including Chaz Bono and Christopher Reeve. According to Witeck, Combs’s work in the firm is a testament to his commitment to LGBTQ advocacy.

“Our firm was the first founded primarily to work on issues specific to LGBTQ identities, because we wanted to counsel corporations about their marketing and media strategies and working in the LGBTQ market,” he explained. By helping develop communications strategies inclusive of those with LGBTQ identities, Combs established a background of LGBTQ advocacy that truly “made a mark,” Witeck said.

Witeck emphasized that, in his new position, Combs brings both business experience and a renewed focus on historically underrepresented in LGBTQ advocacy — including people with disabilities, trans people and people of color.

Looking to the rest of the year, CAMP Rehoboth hopes to host a larger-scale event during Labor Day weekend. In addition, the organization will revisit its strategic plan — first developed in 2019 but delayed due to the pandemic — and ensure it still meets the needs of the local community, Combs said. He added that he intends to reexamine the plan and other programming to ensure inclusivity for trans community members.

“CAMP Rehoboth continues to be a vital resource in the community,” he said. “The focus for the next two years is to make sure we’re doing and delivering services that meet the needs of everyone in our community.”

Wesley Combs, gay news, Washington Blade
Wesley Combs (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)
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