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Nellie’s hires Ruby Corado as community engagement director

Embroiled in controversy, D.C. gay bar apologizes to woman dragged down stairs

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Ruby Corado in front of Nellie's Sports Bar. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

In a development likely to surprise LGBTQ activists, Nellie’s Sports Bar announced in a statement released on Friday that it has hired longtime D.C. transgender rights advocate Ruby Corado to serve as a manager at the bar in a newly created position of Director of Community Engagement.

In the same statement, posted on the Nellie’s website by owner Doug Schantz, Nellie’s issued a formal apology to Keisha Young, a 22-year-old Black woman who was dragged down a flight of stairs at the bar by a security guard during a June 13 incident that was captured on video and went viral on social media.

The incident, which started during a fight between Nellie’s customers and security guards, has triggered a month-long series of protests against the bar by LGBTQ and racial justice activists.

Corado is the founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, the D.C.-based LGBTQ community services center that offers bilingual programs for the LGBTQ Latino/Latina community and has a special outreach to the transgender community.

“To be clear, we are very sorry that this horrible incident occurred, and we are sorry for what happened to Ms. Young, and we apologize to her for how she was treated,” the Nellie’s statement says.

The statement reiterated an announcement in an earlier statement that Nellie’s released shortly after the June 13 Pride weekend incident that it had terminated its arrangement with a private security company for which the guard who pulled Young by her hair down the stairs had been employed.

The latest statement released on Friday says Corado will “assist in ensuring that all of Nellie’s staff receive ongoing diversity and sensitivity and inclusion training – with a focus on the concerns of LGBTQ+ people of color.”

Corado, who showed up at Nellie’s on Friday night, found herself in the midst of yet another protest outside the bar and the subject of criticism by some of the protesters who told her she should be joining them in the street rather than working for Nellie’s.

“What I feel today is that after my conversations with the owner, that he is willing to listen to the community, to act to make this space a place where everybody feels welcome,” Corado told the Washington Blade while standing on the sidewalk outside Nellie’s 9th Street entrance.

 “And that’s why he brought me on board,” Corado said in referring to Nellie’s owner Schantz. “And that’s why I came on board, because I do feel that, once again, I can talk to the community, engage them and listen,” said Corado. “And he did say that he is acting on the concerns of the community.”

Schantz has not responded to repeated requests by the Blade for comment.

The Friday, July 16, statement issued by Nellie’s notes that in addition to firing the security company at the time of the incident with Young, Nellie’s temporarily closed “to allow for a thorough review of the incident.”

The statement does not mention that Nellie’s reopening on Tuesday of this week, after being closed for over a month, was greeted by about 50 protesters, some of whom formed a human chain across the bar’s entrance door, blocking people from entering the bar. The action prompted the bar to close earlier in the evening than its normal closing time.

When Nellie’s reopened again on Friday, protesters returned to stage another demonstration on the sidewalk outside the bar and in the streets at the bustling intersection of 9th and U Streets, N.W., where Nellie’s is located.

D.C. police, who were monitoring the protest, immediately closed off vehicle access to the streets surrounding Nellie’s while about 40 or 50 protesters called for Nellie’s to agree to a series of demands that they have issued.

Among the demands is that Nellie’s participate in a “public community listening session” in which members of the community, including former Nellie’s customers, would present details about what protesters have said are alleged racially biased practices by Nellie’s staff against Black customers.

Corado told the Blade she agreed to Nellie’s invitation to serve as its community engagement director in her role as head of a private consulting firm focusing on diversity related issues that she started five years ago that’s separate from her job as Casa Ruby’s executive director. She said she will remain in her position as Casa Ruby executive director.

She said that among other things, she will make recommendations to Schantz on how best to address community concerns raised by the protesters and others in the community.

Nellie’s statement on Friday comes at a time when Nellie’s is under investigation by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General following a report two weeks ago by the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) that it violated the terms of its liquor license under D.C. law in its handling of the fight that broke out at the time Young was pulled down the stairs by the security guard.

The ABRA report says the fight occurred after a Nellie’s staff member and one or more security guards ordered customers believed to have brought in their own bottle of liquor, which is not allowed by Nellie’s, to leave the bar. Young has said she was mistakenly identified as one of the customers who brought in their own liquor bottle.

 Among those leading Friday’s protest outside Nellie’s were Makia Green, co-conductor of the community activist group Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, and Bethelehem Yirga, co-founder of the racial justice advocacy group Palm Collective. Both said they respect Corado for her many years of advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community but were disappointed that she was working for Nellie’s.

“She should be in solidarity with the people in the streets because Ruby Corado used to be one of those people,” Green told the Blade. “And she should have been in solidarity with us.”

When Nellie’s reopened on Friday, protesters returned to stage another demonstration on the sidewalk outside the bar and in the streets at the bustling intersection of 9th and U Streets, N.W. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Minutes later, Green attempted to intervene when a verbal confrontation broke out between a man believed to be a Nellie’s customer and several of the protesters. The man, who is Black, shouted repeatedly, “You are boycotting the wrong fucking bar.” About a half dozen protesters shouted back, demanding that he leave the area.

“Nellie’s staff is racially, ethnically and gender-identity diverse,” the Nellie’s statement released on Friday says. “It always has and always will,” it says. “As we reopen to serve the community and ensure continued employment of our team of 50 employees – all of us at Nellie’s renew our mission to be an inclusive, welcoming and safe space for women, for all people of color, for the entire LGBTQ+ community and for all our neighbors and friends.”

The statement concludes, “We also recognize that being an inclusive business is an ongoing process, and we pledge to continue to investigate ways to do better. We promise to see you, to listen to you, to embrace you and to welcome you each night.”

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District of Columbia

D.C. officials vow to fight any GOP effort to ban abortion in nation’s capital

Without statehood, District vulnerable to congressional interference

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D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton vowed to fight to protect abortion access in the city. (Blade file photo by Drew Brown)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and six members of the D.C. Council said they were united in fighting an attempt by Congress to ban abortions in the nation’s capital following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

At a press conference on the day the Supreme Court handed down its controversial decision, the D.C. officials pointed out that unlike any of the states, D.C. is vulnerable to the authority Congress has over the city under its limited Home Rule Charter, including the authority by Congress to pass a law to ban abortions in the city.

The press conference was held at the headquarters in Northeast D.C. of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., whose leaders said they would continue to provide abortion services in the District at the present time.

At this time, “Nothing has changed in Washington, D.C.,” Bowser said at the press conference. “Abortion remains legal, and women and girls we know, however, are worried,” the mayor said. “We are worried because we know we are vulnerable as a jurisdiction because of our lack of statehood.”

Norton told news media representatives and others attending the press conference that she expects at least some congressional Republicans to introduce legislation to ban abortions in D.C. now that the Supreme Court has given them the authority to do that.

“We are subservient still to the House and Senate,” she said. “I’m calling on the Congress to immediately codify the right to an abortion in federal law,” Norton said. “That is the very least the District needs to save this city from what will surely be an attempt by Republicans in Congress to move first on the District of Columbia to make sure that abortions are not available for women in our city.”

Norton added, “We always have more work cut out for us than other jurisdictions. But I assure you I am up to the task. There is a lot to fight for here, and I’m ready for that fight.”

Norton and Bowser also pointed out that Congress over a decade ago added a permanent provision to D.C.’s annual budget that prohibits the city from using any of its funds to pay for abortions either directly or through the funding of private organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion related services.

With the prospect that Republicans might regain control of the House or Senate or both in the November congressional elections, D.C. officials said they were especially concerned about an attempt to ban or greatly restrict abortions in the city.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson said he was hopeful that such an attempt would be blocked by a Democratic-led filibuster in the Senate as well as by a presidential veto if President Biden or another Democrat continues to occupy the White House.

Bowser, Mendelson, and D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) also pointed out that the legal reasoning used by the justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, especially the rationale given by Justice Clarence Thomas, could be used in future cases to overturn previous court rulings establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage and the right to intimate sexual acts between same-sex couples.

“We are about to enter into decades of darkness with this court that we have,” Cheh said at the press conference. “And don’t be fooled. We’re told, OK, it’s just abortion,” she said. “Don’t you believe it. The very reasoning of the case – and I spend a lot of time teaching constitutional law – means that many other liberties will be in jeopardy.”

LGBTQ rights advocates have pointed to the concurring opinion handed down by Justice Thomas on the day the court overturned Roe v. Wade that specifically calls on the high court to “reconsider” the 2003 ruling of Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned state laws banning sodomy between consenting adults, both gay and straight. Thomas’s concurring opinion also called for reconsidering the high court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Others speaking at the June 24 press conference included Laura Meyers, president of Planned Parenthood of the D.C. area, and D.C. Council members Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), Christina Henderson (I-At-Large), and Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2). 

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Virginia

Va. delegate comes out as bisexual

Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler spoke at Hampton Roads Pride

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(Public domain photo)

Virginia state Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach) came out as bisexual on June 25 during an appearance at Hampton Roads Pride in Norfolk.

“I’m bisexual,” the Virginia Beach Democrat told Pride attendees. “I just never felt like I could say that out loud.”

Convirs-Fowler has represented Virginia’s 21st House District since 2018.

State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County) is gay and state Del. Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) is a lesbian. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S.

“For those who don’t know, Del. @FowlerforVA and I are both part of the Class of 2017 #RedToBlue legislators who flipped seats that Nov. 7,” tweeted Roem on Monday. “We’ve both earned re-election twice since then and I couldn’t be more proudof her declaration of Pride =).”

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Virginia

Equality Loudoun hosts its first Pride celebration

‘Our plans for next year are going to be bigger, bolder’

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A scene from Loudoun Pride on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A year after a controversial brawl between parents and administration officials regarding the implementation of trans-friendly policies in public schools in Loudoun County, Va., a local LGBTQ organization hosted its inaugural Pride festival in solidarity with the area’s LGBTQ community.

“Pride means a chance to show this county that the loud voices who have been standing against LGBTQ equality do not represent the voices of [everyone] in the [county],” said Cris Candiace Tuck, president of Equality Loudoun. “[A lot of us] here believe in equality.”

Equality Loudoun hosted its Pride celebration on June 26 at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, Va. 

When planning for Pride month festivities, the organization designed the events to reflect the diverse interests and identities of Loudoun County’s queer population. There was a wide collection of vendors selling Pride merchandise, advocacy non-profit organizations and musical acts featured on the main stage. 

There was also a “Loudoun Pride Drag Stage” event where the “hottest of Loudoun Royalty” showcased their musical talents. 

“We want everyone to … recharge emotional batteries that have been drained,” said Tuck.

Planning Equality Loudoun’s Pride festival did not come without its fair share of surprises. Initially, the organization had planned for a smaller event. However, when more individuals began showing interest, the organization was forced to switch to a bigger venue to allow more vendors to attend.

“We had many vendors call in and we had to turn a [number] away,” said Tuck.

The organization planned its festivities in 90 days, two weeks during which it raised $45,000 — three times as much as it had originally expected.

Equality Loudoun has its sights set on getting LGBTQ community members and allies connected to the resources the organization offers through education and health advocacy.

“Pride [will always be] a celebration of our heritage,” said Tuck. “It’s a moment to recognize what we have gained and lost.”

Tuck said that ideas for next year are already underway.

“Our plans for next year are going to be bigger, bolder and brighter,” he said.

Click HERE to see more photos from the event.

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