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D.C. trans women remembered at vigil

Nona Conner, Gisselle Hartzog died earlier this month



About 100 people turned out on May 21 for a vigil honoring the lives of Nona Conner and Gisselle Hartzog. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Close to 100 people turned out at River Terrace Park in Northeast Washington for a May 21 vigil to honor the lives of Nona Moselle Conner, 37, and Gisselle Hartzog, 30, two D.C. transgender women who died suddenly and unexpectedly on May 13 and May 18.

Friends and LGBTQ activists who participated in the vigil called on the community to honor the two women by speaking out and taking action to address the struggles that they and many other transgender women of color have endured due to prejudice and discrimination.

People who knew the two women, including Conner’s father, who spoke at the vigil, have said the cause of death for both women had yet to be determined, but there is no evidence of foul play such as physical violence.

Several of the speakers, who did not give their names or used only a first name, described Conner and Hartzog as caring, supportive, and loyal friends who lifted their spirits. They called the two women’s unexpected passing a tragic loss for themselves and for the community.

Transgender advocates Earline Budd, who works for the sex worker advocacy organization HIPS, and Adriana Chichi Carter, an official with the transgender and sex worker advocacy organization No Justice No Pride, were among the lead organizers of the vigil. Both called on the community to rally in support of the rights and wellbeing of transgender people like Conner and Hartzog.

“We need awareness. We need to start speaking,” Carter told the gathering. “We need to stop with the hatred or judging or competing,” she said. “And we need to uplift each other and guide each other and hold each other.”

Added Carter, “And each of you who know me know I give back and I’m here to speak for my community, our community, for all of us regardless of whether you’re trans, gay, straight. It does not matter. We are human…and when we lose somebody we love, we hurt.”

Conner was involved with No Justice No Pride along with other community-based organizations providing support for the trans community, including the organization Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), where she worked as a program manager, according to a tribute to Conner on the CASS website.
Budd said the lives of Conner and Hartzog could have been saved.

“We’re here recognizing the lives of two angels, Nona Conner and Gisselle Hartzog, gone too soon,” Budd said. “We as a community tonight, I’m praying, especially those who are senior and trans, we must do more. We have to do more. We can’t stay silent anymore,” she said.

Terrance Wilson, Conner’s father, drew loud applause from the crowd when he told of how he overcame his own struggle to accept his daughter for who she was and has become an advocate for the trans community.

“First of all, I want to say thank you for your love, patience, donations, and kind words – the love means so much to me and my family,” Wilson told the crowd. “I want to say it’s my prayer that fathers all over the world don’t travel the same road that I traveled, that it took me a while for my heart to soften and for me to open up and really accept my child in this world,” he said.

“I believe that had I done something and opened up sooner, life would have been so much better,” he continued. “But I thank God for it because she did come to my heart,” he said, adding, “I love her, and I hurt every day. And I pray that all of you find love and everything you deserve.”

Wilson concluded by telling the gathering, “I committed myself and I told Miss Budd that I’m going to stand for you all. I’m going to be part of the community. I’ll be out speaking.”

Among the others who spoke at the vigil was Prince George’s County Council member Calvin S. Hawkins, who pledged to push for legislation to support the trans community both in P.G. County and nearby jurisdictions, including D.C.

“As a legislator I want you to understand, today we mourn,” he said. “But there comes a moment when action has to take the place of our mourning. Legislators must know how you feel,” he said, adding that he will work with the community to push for “legislation that makes those who believe it’s OK” to engage in violence or discrimination against the trans community to know they will be held accountable.

Also speaking at the vigil was Ruby Corado, founder and executive director of the D.C. LGBTQ community services center Casa Ruby. Corado has said both Conner and Hartzog had been clients at Casa Ruby. Corado told the Washington Blade last week that she spent time with Hartzog the day before Hartzog passed away, when Hartzog expressed optimism that she was about to be enrolled in a D.C. government housing program for the homeless.

D.C. authorities found Hartzog deceased at the site of a tent in a homeless encampment under a bridge near the intersection of 1st and L Streets, N.E.

Corado told the vigil the D.C. government has failed to take adequate action to provide needed programs to address the issue of housing and jobs for transgender people, especially transgender people of color.

Others involved in organizing the May 21 vigil were Corado of Casa Ruby, Shakita Chapman of HIPS, and JeKendria Trahan of CASS.



Virginia Beach high school students stage walkouts to support transgender rights

City’s school board approved policy to out trans students to parents



Transgender flags (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)

Students at five Virginia Beach high schools on Friday staged walkouts in support of transgender rights.

The walkout is in response to the Virginia Beach School Board potentially approving policy 5-31, which the Pride Liberation Project says will require schools to out trans students to their parents.

Students have been organizing walkouts across the state since Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year announced new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students.

“Students like me aren’t going to be able to talk to our teachers if we’re constantly worried about our school officials calling home to forcibly out us,” AJ, a trans Kellam High School Student, told the Pride Liberation Project.

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District of Columbia

Pepco, Exelon announce $2.7 million in funding for four minority-owned businesses

‘It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table’



Pepco and Exelon held a press conference Friday to announce four recipients of $2.7 million in investments. (Photo courtesy Exelon)

Pepco and Exelon announced a $2.7 million investment in four minority-owned businesses on Friday.

“Today’s been a long time coming,” said Pepco Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs Valencia McClure.

Pepco’s parent company, Exelon, launched the Racial Equity Capital Fund (RECF) in 2022 to expand capital access to diverse businesses. This latest $2.7 million investment is just a portion of RECF’s $36 million in funding.

At the announcement, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser spoke about the other ways Pepco and Exelon have “put their money where their mouth is” through their partnership with the D.C. Infrastructure Academy. She reported that all 22 of the residents that graduated from the program last week have a job offer from Pepco.

“We know that is not just a job, but a career,” she said to the crowd’s applause. “We know that working together, we can invest in D.C. residents, provide opportunity, and ensure that our D.C. businesses are a part of D.C.’s growing prosperity.”

The four minority businesses that received funding were Gemini Energy Solutions, Public Sector Solutions Group, CJR Development Partners, and Escalate.

“It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table,” said fund recipient Nicole Cober, CJR Development’s Principle Managing Partner.

Gemini Energy Solutions, which is Black owned, received $1 million, the most of the four companies. Its mission is to equitably scale energy efficiency to marginalized communities. For the founder and CEO Anthony Kinslow II, this investment means that he is able to get paid and advance the work of his organization.

“We are now able to accelerate the work in our software and technology development,” he said. “What we were going to do in two years, we are now going to do in six months.”

For Escalate, a workforce development platform focused on frontline worker retention, the funding means that it will be able to double the pay for frontline workers.

Public Sector Solutions Group CEO Darryl Wiggins emphasized that this investment was not just ‘charity’ work, but mission-driven work.

“The principle and the intent is greater than the money we receive,” he said. Public Sector Solutions is Black owned.

Public Sector Solutions Group received a $600,000 debt investment; CJR Development, a minority and woman-owned small business, received a $600,000 debt investment; and Escalate, a majority Black and woman-owned company, received a $500,000 equity investment.

Exelon launched the RECF in partnership with RockCreek, one of the world’s largest diverse-owned global investment firms, in 2022. The RECF expands capital access to diverse businesses so they can create more jobs, grow their companies and reinvest in their neighborhoods and communities, according to a statement from Exelon.

New RECF applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested businesses may apply online or contact RockCreek at [email protected] for more information.

(Photo courtesy Exelon)
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Comings & Goings

Armstrong recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award



Lynden C. Armstrong

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Lynden C. Armstrong on his Lifetime Achievement award from the Congressional Management Foundation in recognition of his exemplary public service in Congress. 

Upon receiving the award Armstrong said, “This recognition is not just a personal achievement, but a testament to the unwavering dedication and hard work of colleagues and mentors who have been with me on this journey. I’ve dedicated my entire career to public service within the Senate, where recognition isn’t the primary motivation for our work, making this recognition even more humbling.” He is currently Deputy Assistant Senate Sergeant at Arms and Chief Information Officer.  

Armstrong started his career with Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), where he rose to Deputy Chief of Staff in his more than 13-year stint. In 2004, during his tenure with Domenici, amid a debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment, Armstrong became a co-founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Allies Senate Staff (GLASS) Caucus. In 2014, he moved to the Sergeant at Arms CIO organization, where he established a new department within the CIO that was crafted to engage Senate offices in comprehending and harnessing technologies provided by the SAA. 

Lynden has previously served as Chief Clerk on the U.S. Senate, Committee on Rules and Administration, and with the U.S. Senate, Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, as Deputy Inaugural Coordinator, 2012–2013.  In that role among other responsibilities, he served as civilian liaison to the National Special Security Event Executive Steering Committee and subcommittees, including the Capitol, USCP, Crowd Management, Public Relations, Transportation, and credentialing, and as liaison to the Joint Task Force – National Capital Region. 

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