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Reflecting on Capital Pride

Here’s how our celebrations evolved during ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s and ’10s



(Washington Blade archive photos)

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was Capital Pride. Here’s some context for each decade of our local celebration. 

The street party ‘70s

Gay Pride Day in 1975 was a block party. (Washington Blade archive photo by anonymous)

Deacon Maccubbin, owner of gay bookstore Lambda Rising (which closed in 2010), started what has become Capital Pride in 1975 with a one-day community block party on 20th St., N.W. where his store was at the time. About 2,000 attended the gathering, held on Father’s Day with a dozen booths and vendors set up. Several candidates for D.C. City Council attended as well. 

In its heyday, Lambda Rising was a de facto gay community center of sorts and frequently hosted author readings/book signings and other LGBT events. Within a few years, the event was attracting about 10,000 and had spread out to three blocks.

It was a heady time for the movement. Inspired by the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City, commemoration events were burgeoning around the country and Washington had a thriving gay and lesbian scene of its own (the LGBT moniker didn’t come into wide use until much later). Several local groups were well established by this time — The Academy of Washington (founded 1961), Washington Blade (founded 1969), the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (then known as the GAA, founded 1971), Metropolitan Community Church of Washington (founded 1970) and others. 

Early D.C. Pride events had a family-type appeal and were — as they are today — a place for various arms of the community, from drag outfits to activist groups to leather lovers and beyond, to let their gay hair down for the day. Then-Mayor Marion Barry, elected the previous November, attended his first Gay Pride Day in 1979 and continued throughout his years in office and beyond. 

Ups and downs of the ‘80s

Gay Pride Day in 1982 held at Francis Junior High School. (Washington Blade archive photo by Leigh Mosley)

The P Street Festival Committee was formed in 1980 to take over Gay Pride Day, as the festival was known, and the annual event was held at Francis Junior High School at 24th and N streets, N.W. By the following year, the event had been dubbed Gay and Lesbian Pride Day and the first parade was held beginning on 16th St. N.W. and Meridian Hill Park and ending at Dupont Circle. 

The event grew exponentially in those years from about 11,000 in 1981 to 20,000 by 1983, though it ebbed and flowed with fewer than 10,000 attending in 1986 and 1987. 

Washington, like San Francisco and New York, was hit particularly hard by HIV and AIDS and the urgency and frustration of the time was well represented at the gatherings, which had expanded to a week-long event by 1984 with about 28,000 at the street festival and parade combined. The first Pride Heroes were named in 1984. 

Turning tide of the 1990s

The Lesbian & Gay Freedom Festival in 1995. (Washington Blade archive photo by Clint Steib)

The P Street Festival disbanded in 1990 and Pride continued with a new entity, Pride of Washington. The event was also moved to the week before Father’s Day so as not to impede on the family holiday.

By 1991, the street festival had expanded to about 200 booths and for the first time, active duty and retired American military personnel marched in the parade. Rain affected attendance several years in a row and the festival flirted with bankruptcy.

In 1995, One in Ten, a D.C. organization that hosted an annual film festival, took over and moved the festival to Freedom Plaza while the parade route started at Francis Junior High School and ended at the plaza. Attendance picked up going from about 25,000 in 1994 to more than 100,000 by 1996.

In 1997, Whitman-Walker Clinic, as it was then known, joined One in Ten as a co-sponsor and the event was renamed Capital Pride. Corporate sponsorships rose dramatically going from $80,000 to nearly $250,000 the following year. 

A new millennium, a new day

PFLAG marches in the Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade in 2001. (Washington Blade archive photo by Kara Fox)

In 2000, Whitman-Walker became the sole sponsor and the festival moved again, this time to Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. between 4th and 7th streets, N.W. and the festival’s main stage was repositioned so that the U.S. Capitol building was visible in the background. 

By 2002, parade contingents reached 200 and in 2004, about 100,000 attended the various Pride events. Financial problems, however, continued to plague the event with the city agreeing in 2005 to waive thousands in street closing and police overtime fees while the Human Rights Campaign, agreed to an emergency donation of $30,000. 

Attendance, however, remained strong with about 200,000 attending in 2006 making it the fourth-largest Pride event in the U.S. Several events such as dance parties, a youth prom, a transgender event, leather pride and more were now under the overall Capital Pride umbrella. 

By 2007, several other local non-profits joined Whitman-Walker to form the Capital Pride Planning Committee. In March 2008, Whitman-Walker awarded the production rights to the newly formed Capital Pride Alliance, a group of volunteers and organizations formed by members of the Capital Pride Planning Committee. By 2009, the Alliance was the sole producer of the event. 

The tipping point ‘10s

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs at the 2010 Capital Pride Festival. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The event reached its 35th anniversary in 2010 and continued to expand its offerings with about 60 events held over a 10-day period and a record high of 250,000 attending the street festival. About 100,000 watched the 2013 parade.

A color guard officially sanctioned by the U.S. Armed Forces joined the 2014 parade, an unprecedented event. The eight-member guard represented each branch of the U.S. armed forces. 

2014 photography, gay news, Washington Blade
The Joint Armed Forces Color Guard for the first time marched at the head of the Capital Pride Parade on June 7, 2014. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Numbers remained strong for the 2014 parade with about 100,000 again at the parade and about 250,000 estimated in total for the various week-long events. Rita Ora, Karmin, Bonnie McKee, Betty Who and DJ Cassidy performed. The theme was “#BuildOurBrightFuture.” Former Minnesota Vikings player Chris Kluwe, an ally, was grand marshal. 

The Blade reported more than 150,000 attended the 40th anniversary parade in 2015. A shirtless Wilson Cruz was grand marshal. The Boy Scouts marched for the first time. About 250,000 attended the festival the following day. Musical headliners at the festival grew in stature as Hot 99.5 became the presenter. Carly Rae Jepsen, Wilson Phillips, Amber, En Vogue and Katy Tiz performed amidst ominous skies. The theme was “Flashback.” 

Capital Pride Parade, gay news, Washington Blade
Out actor Wilson Cruz serves as one of the grand marshals of the 2015 Capital Pride Parade on June 14, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In 2016, headliners were Melanie Martinez, Alex Newell (of “Glee”), Meghan Trainor and Charlie Puth. The theme was “Make Magic Happen!” Gay actor Leslie Jordan (“Will & Grace”) was grand marshal. In 2017, the theme was “Unapologetically Proud.” Headliners were The Pointer Sisters, Tinashe and Miley Cyrus. Marriage case plaintiff Edith Windsor was grand marshal. 

Edie Windsor, Capital Pride parade, gay news, Washington Blade
Edie Windsor serves as Grand Marshal of the Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In 2018: Alessia Cara, Troye Sivan and MAX headlined. The theme was “Elements of Us.” Activist Judy Shepard (mother of hate crime victim Matthew) was grand marshal. In 2019: Shea Diamond, Todrick Hall, Zara Larsson, Marshmellow, Calum Scott and Nina West (of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) headlined. Earline Budd, Brandon Wolf, Matt Easton and the cast of “Pose” were grand marshals. The theme was “shhhOUT: Past, Present & Proud” to honor the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. 

Capital Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Troye Sivan was a headliner in the 2018 Pride Concert. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Several Pride events in recent years have been upended. A group of protesters from a local entity called No Justice No Pride blocked the parade route in 2017 forcing it to be re-routed and delayed. They objected to the lack of trans women of color in leadership positions within Capital Pride, lax vetting of corporate Pride sponsors and the presence of uniformed police officers at the parade. 

No Justice No Pride blockades the Capital Pride Parade in 2017. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The sound of what people thought were gunshots in Dupont Circle during the 2019 parade brought the proceedings to a halt. It turned out to be a false alarm — no shots were fired. Dozens of participants didn’t get to be in the parade. 

And this year the coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to concede, in an unprecedented move, that there was no responsible way to have the parade and festival. Some events were held virtually. 

Editor’s note: Information taken from various sources such as previous Washington Blade articles, previous Capital Pride pride guide books, Capital Pride’s own history and more. 

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Baltimore DJ on using music as a bridge to combat discrimination

Deezy brings high-energy show to the Admiral on Jan. 28



DJ Deezy has hosted multiple events in D.C. and Baltimore. (Photo by Carlos Polk from We Dream Photography and Studios)

A Baltimore DJ will conclude a month of performances in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. clubs this Friday, Jan. 28, according to the artist’s management. DJ Deezy is set to perform at the Admiral in D.C. at 9 p.m. 

Since the year began, Deezy has hosted electric events at clubs such as Hawthorne DC, DuPont and the Baltimore Eagle Bar & Nightclub. 

The Washington Blade sat down with the DJ to discuss the course of her career. 

The beginning of DJ Deezy’s infatuation with music dates back to her childhood spent between her mother’s house in Baltimore City and her father’s house in the suburbs. 

In Baltimore, Deezy was exposed to the local rap and raw hip-hop scene that inspired her to embark on a rap career in high school. 

Concurrently, she was entrenched in Motown and classic rock by virtue of her singer, songwriter, and guitarist father Ron Daughton’s involvement in a classic rock band. He is a member of “The Dalton Gang” and was inducted into the Maryland Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2015.

“Before I embarked on my DJ journey, my father let me record ‘a little 16’ on his tape recorder,” said Deezy. “Eventually, he bought me a wireless microphone that I carried around with me to performances.”

Between her experience as a rapper and watching her father maneuver the classic rock music scene, Deezy acquired varying tastes in music that have influenced how she curates her sets today. 

She “specializes in open format vibes with spins from multiple genres including hip-hop, rap, circuit, and top 40s hits,” according to a summer 2021 press release from her management.

Deezy is also a proud member of the LGBTQ community — she identifies as a lesbian — and this also informs her approach to her work.

“I’m easily able to transition and rock the crowd because I can relate to many different backgrounds,” said Deezy. “I can DJ in places that are predominantly white, Black, or gay [and still do my job effortlessly].”

Centering community

Deezy values representation. Not only because she exists in a field dominated by men, but also because DJs who inhabit other identities aside from being men are less common in the industry. 

The scarcity of Black and lesbian DJs has prompted her to use her career as evidence that people who are different can attract audiences and succeed.

“I want to put us out there especially for Baltimore,” said Deezy. “I know that there’s Black lesbians out there doing the same thing as me, but why aren’t we getting [recognized]?”

In 2018, Deezy rented out a “Lez” lot at the Baltimore Pride block party where she set up a tent and played a set for the crowds tailgating around her. While entertaining them, she distributed her business cards — an act she believes yielded her the contact who eventually got her booked for a residency at the Baltimore Eagle.

While this was a step forward in her career, Deezy acknowledges that it wasn’t without challenges. She likened entering the Baltimore Eagle — traditionally a leather bar frequented predominantly by men —to navigating foreign territory. 

“When I first got there, I got funny looks,” she said. “There’s a lot of these guys who are like, ‘Why are you bringing a lesbian DJ to a gay bar?’”

But Deezy powered through her performance, lifted the crowd from its seats and “rocked the house [so that] no one will ever ask any questions again.” 

She admits that she’s an acquired taste but believes in her ability to play music infectious enough to draw anyone to the dance floor.  

“Feel how you want to feel about a Black lesbian DJ being in the gay bar,” said Deezy. “But music is a bridge that [will] connect us all, and you’ll forget about your original discrimination when you [experience] me.”

While Deezy has mostly performed in the DMV, she has also made appearances in Arizona where she hosted a family event and also in clubs in Atlanta and New York City. 

Her work has also attracted international attention and she was the cover star of  French publication Gmaro Magazine’s October 2021 issue

Looking to the future, Deezy’s goal is to be a tour DJ and play her sets around the world.

“I had a dream that Tamar Braxton approached me backstage at one of her concerts and asked me to be her tour DJ,” she said. “So, I’m manifesting this for myself.” 

In the meantime, Deezy will continue to liven up audiences in bars and clubs around the country while playing sets for musicians like Crystal Waters and RuPaul’s Drag Race celebrity drag queens like Alyssa Edwards, Plastique Tiara, La La Ri, Joey Jay and Eureka O’Hara — all of whom she has entertained alongside in the past. 

Outside the club, Deezy’s music can be heard in Shoe City where she created an eight-hour music mix split evenly between deep house and hip-hop and R&B. 

DJ Deezy (Photo by Carlos Polk from We Dream Photography and Studios)
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Rodriquez scores historic win at otherwise irrelevant Golden Globes

Award represents a major milestone for trans visibility



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



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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