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LGBTQ activists join D.C. marches for voting rights, statehood

Gay congressman calls on Biden to push for end to filibuster



Thousands turned out on Aug. 28 for two separate marches and several rallies in support of voting rights and D.C. statehood. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ activists were among the thousands who turned out in the nation’s capital on Aug. 28 for two separate marches and several rallies in support of voting rights and D.C. statehood.

Organizers of the two marches and rallies, which took place at the Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall among other places, timed the events to coincide with the 58th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington organized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“D.C.’s LGBTQIA activists and leaders were seen everywhere Saturday during the March for Voting Rights, handing out statehood signs, canvassing march participants to sign a Statehood petition, and marching to the Mall,” said lesbian activist Barbara Helmick, who serves as a program director for the D.C. statehood advocacy group D.C. Vote.

“D.C. for Democracy’s Kesh Ludduwahetty, D.C. Vote’s volunteer Dennis Jaffe, Capital Stonewall Democrats’ Jatarious Frazier are just a few of the queer activists who organized turnout and worked to make sure that the fight for the freedom includes the 700,000 D.C. residents,” Helmick said.

Helmick was referring to efforts by organizers of the Aug. 28 events to urge Congress to pass a D.C. statehood bill that the House of Representative passed earlier this year, but that is stalled in the Senate.

LGBTQ activists have joined D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who spoke at two of the march rallies on Aug. 28, and D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who point out that D.C.’s 700,000 plus residents do not have voting representatives in the U.S. Congress unlike residents of the 50 states.

Also stalled in the Senate are two voting rights bills passed by the House this year that supporters say are aimed at countering as many as 30 laws approved by Republican-controlled legislatures in at least a dozen states that restrict voting by making it harder for minorities to turn out to the polls.

One of the bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Amendment Act, is named after the late civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). 

“After almost 60 years after John Lewis almost died on the Edmund Pettis Bridge for voting rights, we’re here one more time fighting for voting rights” said Randi Weingarten, the out lesbian president of the American Federation of Teachers, in remarks on the National Mall at the rally for the March On For Washington and Voting Rights.

Weingarten was referring to the Sunday protest march in 1965 that Lewis organized in Alabama for voting rights in which he and other marchers were beaten by Alabama State Troopers as he led the march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in an incident that became known as Bloody Sunday.

At the same Aug. 28 rally on the National Mall this past Saturday, U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who this year became the nation’s first openly gay African-American member of Congress, gave an impassioned speech calling on his fellow Democrats, including President Joe Biden, to push for an end to the Senate filibuster, which Jones said will otherwise be used to kill the voting rights bills.

“We have reached what may well be our last chance to rescue this nation from racist minority rule,” Jones told those attending the rally. “This nation and this world can ill afford to allow white supremacists, misogynists, homophobes and those who deny the effectiveness of vaccines and don’t even want to certify presidential elections to take back control of the United States government,” he said to loud cheers.

“Now there are some who suggest that we do nothing—that we accept the status quo that has led us to this moment of crisis,” Jones continued. “But those of us here today understand that in the Senate and the White House we must act. Yes—the White House,” he said.

“Catch that? The White House, because during the civil rights movement, we had a president of the United States who didn’t just throw up their hands and say, ‘Alright, that’s the Senate’s responsibility to pass voting rights legislation.’”

Jones added, “We need the White House to get involved to end this Jim Crow filibuster…And I’m here to tell you that’s why we’re here today – to demand that President Biden calls on the Senate to abolish the filibuster and pass the For the People [voting rights] Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.”

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) speaks at the March On for Voting Rights. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Following is a transcript of most of Rep. Jones’ speech at the March On For Washington and Voting Rights rally on Aug. 28:

“We have reached what may well be our last chance to rescue this nation from racist minority rule. This nation and this world can ill afford to allow white supremacists, misogynists, homophobes and those who deny the effectiveness of vaccines and don’t even want to certify presidential elections to take back control of the United States government.

“Now there are some who suggest that we do nothing: that we accept the status quo that has led us to this moment of crisis. But those of us here today understand that in the Senate and the White House, we must act. Yes: The White House . . . Catch that? The White House, because during the civil rights movement, we had a President of the United States who didn’t just throw up their hands and say, ‘Alright, that’s the Senate’s responsibility to pass voting rights legislation.’

“We need the White House to get involved to end this Jim Crow filibuster. [Applause]

“If we fail to act in this moment, we are on a path by which democracy dies in darkness.” 

“Allow me to paint a picture of that dark future for you, if you will.

“Thanks to partisan Gerrymandering, first the party of Donald Trump will take back control of the House next year, even as Democrats continue to win more votes nationwide.

[Member of the audience yells “Hell no!”]

“Hell no, indeed. Let us make sure that doesn’t happen.

“The party of Donald Trump will also take back the United States Senate with voter suppression in states like Georgia. We gotta make sure that Raphael Warnock comes back to the United States Senate. [Applause]

“The party of Donald Trump under the status quo will win back the presidency in the year 2024 whether because of voter suppression, the anti-democratic Electoral College or because red states have had success in overturning the results of free and fair elections.

“The Supreme Court, which is already under radical right-wing control, will do nothing to stop any of this. The GOP’s two stolen seats will ensure that happens.

“We will all feel the consequences of far-right minority rule. Power will continue to concentrate in the hands of a few. Corporations will continue to deny science and pillage our planet as we will hurtle full speed towards final catastrophe.

“Wealth inequality will widen while the tax bills of the super-rich continue to shrink. They will spend billions to send themselves into space while people on earth starve.

“The cost of housing, healthcare, education will grow even further out of reach for everyday Americans. Civil rights and civil liberties will continue to erode, and our government will have learned nothing from the murder of George Floyd last year.

[Audience: “Shame! Shame!]

“Shame, indeed. Shame . . . shame.

“The next pandemic under the status quo of voter suppression, where people who believe in science are denied the opportunity to serve in government, will rage uncontrolled: causing massive, preventable suffering. And our government, the federal government, captured by powerful special interests and insulated from the will of the American people: the will of all of you, will remain indifferent to that suffering.

“My friends, that road is dark. I don’t want to go down that road. I know that none of you want to go down that road. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way, does it? We are not powerless to stop it. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve a long-held promise of a permanent, multi-racial democracy. A democracy where your vote, and everyone’s vote, matters because we’ve ended the scourge of partisan gerrymandering. Where you never have to worry about whether yourself or your friends and family are registered to vote because they are registered automatically. Where you don’t need to justify exercising your right to vote by mail. Amen?

“Where teachers and bartenders who aspire to run for office can mount competitive campaigns even if they don’t come from money or from a political family. Where candidates for office make their cases to, We the People where they deserve our support rather than being anointed by billionaires and corporations. Where elections are won by uplifting voters rather than suppressing their votes.

“That is a democracy where the American people are in charge, not a select powerful few. Where every voice and every vote matters. It is a promise that is every bit as worth fighting for as it was when heroes like Dr. King, Byard Rustin, Marsha P. Johnson and John Lewis and so many others fought for our right to vote and for dignity. And in several instances took to these steps in the year 1963. And it is an opportunity that we have never been closer to grasping.

“The senate, as you know, could bring about this vision tomorrow, couldn’t it? But a small handful of senators are standing in our way. These senators cling to the dangerous delusion that ten Republican senators of good conscience are somehow going to join in the fight for democracy when we couldn’t even get a Republican to vote for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act a few days ago.

“Even as we fall further into crisis, these senators have found comfort in a White House that has failed to call for an end to the Jim Crow filibuster. So, I’m here to tell you that power concedes nothing without a demand. And I’m here to tell you that’s why we’re here today: to demand that President Biden calls on the Senate to abolish the filibuster and pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

“We know the future that we want for ourselves, for our families, for our country. And we aren’t going to wait until that future is won.

“Thank you so much.”


District of Columbia

Inaugural Uptown Pride to take place June 10

Festival to feature drag storytime, makers’ market, DJs



Logo created by Anthony Dihle (Courtesy of Justin Noble)

A new Pride festival is coming to D.C. 

The inaugural Uptown Pride will be hosted in Sixteenth Street Heights on June 10 with Pride celebrations for Washingtonians of all ages.

The festival, hosted at the intersection of 14th Street, Colorado Avenue and Kennedy Street, NW, will feature a drag storytime, a makers’ market, DJs and more. There will also be a raffle for various prizes, with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention services for LGBTQ teens.

The festival will be from 2-7 p.m. and is partnering with local businesses like Moreland’s Tavern, Captain Cookie and Lighthouse Yoga Center for activities and refreshments.

Justin Noble, one of the organizers of the festival, said that the inspiration for the event came out of wanting a Pride experience tailored to the residents of the Sixteenth Street Heights, Petworth and Brightwood neighborhoods.

“It can be a hassle to get to downtown,” Noble said. “There needs to be something in our community that supports LGBTQ+ people and the culture and all of that because we’re everywhere, right? We are everywhere.”

Organizer Max Davis said that the inclusion of children’s events like a drag storytime was purposeful, and helps make the event more accessible to LGBTQ families and youth. 

“Kids I feel are the most important in as far as just showing them, just visibly showing them that you can live out and you can be queer,” Davis said. “There is no more dangerous time than now to be queer, questioning youth … So who better to welcome into the fold than kids who might be questioning their sexuality.”

Davis said that a big part of wanting to bring Pride celebrations uptown was to have a physical representation of support for the LGBTQ community.

“I felt like because there wasn’t anything going on in Sixteenth Street Heights — the clientele that we were serving up at Moreland’s absolutely is supportive, and I never felt that it wasn’t a supportive environment — but if you don’t have something to actively support that I feel that your support is just words,” Davis said. “If our community had someplace to attend even for one day to just be like, ‘Hey, I stand with you,’ … that is something that every community should have available to them to actively support the LGBTQ community.”

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2023 honorees, grand marshals

Assistant Secretary of Health Levine among picks



Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine and acclaimed longtime D.C. LGBTQ and transgender rights advocate Earline Budd are among nine prominent LGBTQ community leaders named on Wednesday by the Capital Pride Alliance as its 2023 Capital Pride honorees.

Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes D.C.’s annual Capital Pride parade, festival, and related events, announced in a May 24 statement that it will present the honoree awards to each of the recipients at a ceremony scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2, at the Penn Social event and catering hall at 801 E St., N.W.

“The recipients are nominated each year by members of the community,” the Capital Pride statement says. “They represent individuals who and organizations that have advanced the causes of LGBTQ+ rights,” it says.

The statement says Levine was selected for the Capital Pride Paving the Way Award, which “acknowledges an individual or organization that has provided exemplary contributions, support, and/or advocacy that has positively impacted the LGBTQ+ community, and whose leadership has inspired continued progress.”

Levine, who was appointed by President Biden in 2021 as Assistant Secretary of Health, is a longtime pediatrician who also serves as an admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She became the first openly transgender person to hold the admiralty position.

Capital Pride named Earline Budd as recipient of the Capital Pride Super Hero Award, which “recognizes additional significant and important contributions to the LGBTQ+ community in the national capital region.”

The statement announcing the honorees says Levine and Budd will also serve as grand marshals for the June 10 Capital Pride Parade. It says each of the other honorees will serve as parade marshals.

The announcement says the following four people have been named as recipients of the Capital Pride Hero Award:

• Shi-Queeta Lee, the D.C.-based nationally acclaimed drag performer
• Benjamin Rosenbaum, longtime congressional staffer, LGBTQ rights advocate, and LGBTQ Jewish community advocate
• Nancy Canas, president of D.C. Latinx History Project and advocate for the LGBTQ Latinx community
• Abdur-Rahim Briggs, longtime leader of the D.C.-based Project Briggs, which provides philanthropic support for LGBTQ causes.

The following two organizations were named as recipients of the Capital Pride Breaking Barriers Community Impact Award, which recognizes individuals or organizations that have “demonstrated a significant impact to the LGBTQ+ community at either the local or national level and who helped eliminate barriers for social, personal, or professional growth of the LGBTQ+ community:

• Drag Story Hour DMV
• National LGBTQ Task Force

The Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services, which acknowledges “exemplary contributions to the Capital Pride Alliance, its programs, initiatives, or other Pride sponsored activities,” is being given to Brandon Bayton, Jr., a longtime Capital Pride volunteer, consultant, and organ transplant advocate, and LGBTQ rights advocate.

“We are fortunate to have such a vibrant honoree selection process, with so many outstanding individuals who were nominated,” said Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Alliance Board of Directors. “We are very pleased to celebrate these individuals at the 2023 Capital Pride Honors,” Smith said in the CPA statement.

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District of Columbia

Blade names recipients of two summer fellowships

Kravis, Lev-Tov join LGBTQ news team



Isabelle Kravis and Joel Lev-Tov are the Blade Foundation’s 2023 summer fellows.

The Blade Foundation this week announced the recipients of its 2023 summer fellowship program. 

Isabelle Kravis (she/they) is a senior at American University studying journalism and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She will focus on covering LGBTQ issues in the local D.C. area for 12 weeks starting this week. The fellowship is made possible by a generous donation from the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K event.

“I’ve been reading the Blade since I first moved to D.C. for my freshman year and I’m so excited to be able to contribute to such a historic paper,” Kravis said. “I love covering the LGBTQ community because of the diversity of experiences that each queer person has and the joy that queer people bring to everything they do. I’m incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to be able to cover both the city and community that I love.”

Joel Lev-Tov (they/them) is a senior at the University of Maryland College Park studying journalism. Lev-Tov also serves as president of the Association of LGBTQ Journalists at College Park. Lev-Tov is the sixth recipient of the Steve Elkins Memorial Journalism Fellowship, which honors the co-founder of CAMP Rehoboth. The fellow covers issues of interest to the LGBTQ community in Delaware, also for 12 weeks. The fellowship is funded by donations from the Rehoboth Beach community.

“I’m extremely excited to start reporting about my community for my community,” Lev-Tov said. “The Blade is offering me a special opportunity that I’m very grateful for. I can’t wait to start reporting!”

Kevin Naff, editor of the Blade, welcomed Kravis and Lev-Tov to work this week.

“We’re all excited to work with Isabelle and Joel this summer,” Naff said. “There’s never been more news to cover and they will add an important, fresh perspective to our work. Thank you to our donors and to the Front Runners for making this program possible.”

For more information on the fellowship program or to donate, visit

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