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D.C. trans women remembered at vigil

Nona Conner, Gisselle Hartzog died earlier this month

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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.

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Delaware

Delaware governor vetoes legalization of marijuana possession

Carney cites impact on youth, public health, law enforcement

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Delaware trans student policy, gay news, washington blade
Delaware Gov. John Carney vetoed a bill that would have legalized the possession of marijuana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Delaware Gov. John Carney on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have legalized the possession of marijuana in the First State. House Bill 371, which passed the House on May 5 and the Senate May 12, would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and remove criminal and civil penalties associated with the non-remunerative transfer of marijuana for individuals ages 21 or older.

“I do not believe that promoting or expanding the use of recreational marijuana is in the best interests of the state of Delaware, especially our young people,” Carney said in his veto statement Tuesday. “Questions about the long-term health and economic impacts of recreational marijuana use, as well as serious law enforcement concerns, remain unresolved.”

Current state laws deem the possession of one ounce of marijuana or less a civil offense resulting in a financial penalty. Still, the possession of more than one ounce of marijuana remains a misdemeanor — a designation that would remain unchanged with the passage of the bill.

In the statement, Carney acknowledged that marijuana can help individuals with certain health conditions, and said that possession and private consumption of the substance should not lead to imprisonment. But he also noted that these beliefs are already reflected in state legislation, following his passage of marijuana decriminalization in 2019.

“I have been clear about my position since before I took office, and I have articulated my concerns many times,” he added.

The Delaware Center for Justice called upon the General Assembly to override the veto in a Tuesday press release, emphasizing that legalizing marijuana is of particular importance to low-income communities and communities of color across the state. 

These communities “experience police harassment and arrest for marijuana at disproportionate rates than those of white affluent communities, despite usage rates being almost the same,” DCJ Director of Policy Kailyn Richards noted in the press release. She added that DCJ believes state legislators should further “pass a companion bill that sets up a safe and legal marketplace.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware also emphasized that the General Assembly should override the veto.

Carney’s veto of the bill “is an affront to the lawmakers, advocates, and residents of Delaware who have shown consistent and overwhelming support for this measure,” Mike Bichner, ACLU of Delaware executive director, said in a statement Tuesday. “The criminalization of cannabis has been a tool of the failed, racist War on Drugs, which has caused irrevocable harm to our Black communities.”

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Rehoboth Beach

Vandals target 2 Rehoboth Beach LGBTQ-owned businesses

Staff discovers graffiti on walls, doors

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Vandals targeted the Purple Parrot in Rehoboth Beach on Monday. (Photo courtesy Purple Parrot)

Freddie’s Beach Bar and the Purple Parrot — two LGBTQ+ bars and restaurants in Rehoboth Beach — discovered that their establishments had been vandalized on Monday, according to a series of posts to the Purple Parrot’s Facebook page made by Hugh Fuller, the restaurant’s owner.

The vandal, whose identity remains unknown, painted on the walls and carved graffiti into the mirrors of the Purple Parrot’s bathroom, and painted graffiti on the front door of Freddie’s Beach Bar, the posts recounted. The establishments have since filed police reports with the Rehoboth Police Department.

Tony Rivenbark, a manager at Freddie’s, said that a staff member first noticed the vandalism around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, and that it was dry to the touch, leading restaurant management to believe it was painted early in the day. Upon discovering the graffiti, restaurant staff reported it to local police and were told that other nearby locations had similarly been vandalized, he said.

Between its Rehoboth and Arlington, Va. locations, Rivenbark has worked at the establishment for almost two decades, and added that this was the first instance of vandalism at the Rehoboth venue, which has been open for less than one year. He noted that Freddie’s management is currently reviewing security footage for further information, and is likely to soon install additional security cameras.

At the establishment’s Arlington, Va., location, “we’ve had some minor spray painting done, we’ve had some rocks thrown at windows,” he recounted. “Mostly I have attributed it to drunken antics, not so much hate. Hopefully that’s the case here as well.”

Rivenbark added that Freddie’s staff remains positive despite the circumstances. “It doesn’t seem like a huge issue. It’s something we’ll probably just paint over tomorrow,” Rivenbark said. “I’d much rather it be some kid that’s got a new little airbrush … than it being somebody that’s targeting LGBT businesses.”

The Rehoboth Beach Police Department declined to comment or to confirm details of the reports filed.

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District of Columbia

Pride Run returns after two-year hiatus

1,500 participants to join 10th annual event on June 10

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The Pride Run 5K is back after COVID hiatus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

After a two-year pandemic hiatus that saw the Pride Run go mostly virtual, the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K is elated to once again welcome nearly 1,500 runners, walkers, volunteers, and spectators back to the Historic Congressional Cemetery for their Tenth Anniversary Race on Friday, June 10.

As an official Capital Pride Partner Event, the Pride Run 5K kicks off Capital Pride weekend with a bang. Well perhaps more of a “On your mark, get set, GO!” 

Join us as we run, walk, skip, shantay, and sashay on a course that starts near the cemetery’s “Gay Corner” where many LGBTQ rights activists, such as Leonard Matlovich, are interred. The race then winds along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to finish where you started.  

Gates open at 5 p.m. for packet pickup with the race beginning at 7 p.m. The post-race party includes beer and hard seltzer provided by DC Brau along with a DJ playing music until 9 p.m. Be sure to check out the return of the DCFR dance troupe performing to a hyped-up crowd. 

Race proceeds benefit the following local LGBTQ and youth-supporting organizations via the Pride Run Foundation: Ainsley’s Angels (National Capital Region), Casa Ruby, Team DC Student-Athlete Scholarship, SMYAL, The Wanda Alston Foundation, The Blade Foundation, and Teens Run DC. You can help support these amazing charities by registering for the race or donate directly at DCPrideRun.com.

A special thanks to the presenting sponsors, Capital One Café, Choice Hotels, KNEAD Hospitality + Design, Shake Shack, and Wegmans Food Market to the premier sponsors DC Brau, Pacers Running, and Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, and our elite sponsors, AHF Healthcare Centers, Avalon Bay Communities, Casey Trees, Endorphin Fitness, and Starbucks, and of course our special partner the Historic Congressional Cemetery. Last, but not least, a big thank you to all individual donors who contribute via the race website directly to our incredible charity partners. Together, we proudly celebrate who we are in a festive, safe, and inclusive event.

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