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Shop local! Fun, affordable gifts from D.C. vendors

Places to shop without breaking the bank

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If you missed out on Black Friday shopping because you were still recovering from eating mounds of turkey and pumpkin pie — or you were too busy catching up with work to purchase something on Cyber Monday — don’t stress! Below is a quick list of gift ideas from local stores where you can purchase something sentimental for your loved ones. 

If your “giftee” has a sweet tooth, consider JOYCO chocolate-covered dried fruits or some Sipan apricot jam — made from fruits, vegetables and petals — sold at Yerevan DC, an Armenian store located at 2204 18th St., N.W. 

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” according to the old adage. However, jewelry is any gay’s best friend. Robert Laurence Jewelers is located at 1202 G St., N.W. and has a huge selection of jewelry including unset sterling silver bracelets going for $77. 

A piece from Robert Laurence Jewelers.

Miss Pixie’s DC has a 7-inch Orrefors Precious vase going for $110. Head over to 1626 14th St., N.W. to snag this unique, in-demand gift. 

For only $1, you can purchase tickets to “Colors: R&B Only,” a journey of R&B music throughout history at The Fillmore on Friday, Dec. 31. Tickets are available at washingtondc.rnbonly.com

Nubian Hueman has a “GAMBA gender-free” denim jacket for $110. This brand, located at 1231 Good Hope Rd., S.E., is a Black, female, and queer-owned brand amplifying a narrative of inclusion and equality within Black culture. It creates “exclusive collections and one-of-a-kind pieces for those looking to turn heads and make a statement.”

The Nubian Hueman denim jacket

Lee’s Flower and Card Shop, located at 1026 U St., N.W., has a $55 chicken noodle soup gourmet gift set. This gift set is a comforting gourmet selection of artisan chicken noodle soup mix, along with hummus, crackers, bread sticks, mixed olives, Himalayan salt & grinder, and cookies. This gift set also includes an oversized soup bowl, bamboo spoon, and serving tray.

To add extra flavor to any kitchen, the spice bag with lemon pepper hot sauce from The Spice Suite, located at 6902 4th St. NW, make for a perfect stocking stuffer. For $45, you get herbes de Provence and peri peri spices, and lemon pepper hot sauce. 

Frères Branchiaux Candle Co. — located in White Plains, Md. — offers a variety of scented experiences including hand-made candles, bath salts, room sprays and diffusers. For $25, you can get one of their holiday collection candles that range in scents from vanilla spice to whiskey sweet.

Take a walk at Black Pepper Paperie Co., located at 1353 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., to find unique craft pieces. For about $45, you can buy wallpapers designed by artists Hadiya Williams that are inspired by The Great Migration.

For the beer lover on your list, Red Bear Brewing has The Krampus Shuffle – Abbey Style Quad that has dark ale has notes of raisins, toffee, plum, vanilla, cinnamon, and clove. You can order a 16oz four pack for $18.75 and pick it up in-person at 209 M St., N.E.

Most popular oven mitt collection from Naked Decor. From People We Admire collection. They can take the heat! Choose from Madam Vice President, RBG, Dr. Fauci and more. Handmade with Love. $15 each at nakeddecor.com or visit their pop-up store at booth# 27 at Downtown Holiday Market. (Now until Dec. 23).

Oven mitts that can take the heat at Naked Décor.
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Out & About

LGBTQ+ Theater Festival returns for Black Pride

African American Collective Theater hosts ‘What That Mouth Do . . .’

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Washington’s African American Collective Theater (ACT) will host “What That Mouth Do…,” the latest installment of a program that has become an annual spring tradition in Washington, D.C., starting on Sunday, May 26 at 4:30 p.m. at Undercroft Theater. 

Guests will get to witness more than 25 talented, local “ACT’ers” – some familiar faces, some new – present Readers Theater-type performances of short LGBTQ+ themed plays. Audiences can choose either show or attend one, break for dinner, then rejoin for the other.

Additional information and tickets are available at a-act.org.

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Calendar

Calendar: May 24-30

LGBTQ events in the days to come

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Friday, May 24

Center Aging Monthly Luncheon with Yoga will be at 12:00p.m. at the Reeves Center at the D.C. LGBTQ Community Center. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults! Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of choice. For more information, email [email protected]

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Happy Hour” at 7:00p.m. at DIK Bar. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including Allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Trans Support Group will be at 7:00p.m. on Zoom. This group is intended to provide emotionally and physically safe space for trans* people and those who may be questioning their gender identity/expression to join together in community and learn from one another. For more details, email [email protected]

Women in their Twenties and Thirties will be at 8:00p.m. on Zoom. This is a social discussion group for queer women in the Washington, D.C. area. For more details, join WiTT’s closed Facebook group.

Saturday, May 25

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Brunch” at 11:00.am. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including Allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

Black Trans Pride Forever will be at 2:00p.m. at the Westin Washington. This will be  an afternoon filled with celebration, empowerment, and community. This event is a safe space for all Black Trans individuals to unite, share their stories, and support one another. From workshops to performances, there will be something for everyone to enjoy. For more details, visit Eventbrite

Sunday, May 26

Go Gay DC will host “LGBTQ+ Dinner” at 6:00p.m. at Federico Ristorante Italino. This fun weekly event brings the DMV area LGBTQ+ community, including Allies, together for delicious food and conversation. Attendance is free and more details are available on Eventbrite.

AfroCode DC will be at 4:00p.m. at Decades DC. This event will be an experience of non-stop music, dancing, and good vibes and a crossover of genres and a fusion of cultures. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

Monday, May 27

Center Aging: Monday Coffee & Conversation will be at 10:00a.m. on Zoom. This is a social hour for older LGBTQ+ adults. Guests are encouraged to bring a beverage of their choice. For more details, email [email protected]

“TRANSEND: Transgender & Nonbinary Support Group” will be at 4:00p.m. at the Pride Center of Maryland. This event will be a safe space to discuss hot topics, education and incentives while enjoying food. This event is free and more details are available on Eventbrite

Tuesday, May 28

Pride on the Patio Events will host “LGBTQ Social Mixer” at 5:30p.m. at Showroom. Dress is casual, fancy, or comfortable. Guests are encouraged to bring their most authentic self to chat, laugh, and get a little crazy. Admission is free and more details are on Eventbrite.

Queer Book Club will be at 6:30p.m. on Zoom. This month’s read is “Immaculate Misconception: A Story of Biology and Belonging” by Gwen Bas. For more details, email [email protected]

Wednesday, May 29

Job Club will be at 6:00p.m. on Zoom. This is a weekly job support program to help job entrants and seekers, including the long-term unemployed, improve self-confidence, motivation, resilience and productivity for effective job searches and networking — allowing participants to move away from being merely “applicants” toward being “candidates.” For more information, email [email protected] or visit www.thedccenter.org/careers.

Genderqueer DC will be at 7:00p.m. on Zoom. This support group is for people who identify outside of the gender binary, whether you’re bigender, agender, genderfluid, or just know that you’re not 100% cis. For more details, www.genderqueerdc.org or Facebook!

Thursday, May 30

The DC Center’s Fresh Produce Program will be held all day at the DC Center for the LGBT Community. To be more fair with who is receiving boxes, the program is moving to a lottery system. People will be informed on Wednesday at 5:00 pm if they are picked to receive a produce box. No proof of residency or income is required. For more information, email [email protected] or call 202-682-2245. 

Virtual Yoga with Charles M. will be at 7:00p.m. on Zoom. This is a free weekly class focusing on yoga, breathwork, and meditation. For more details, visit the DC Center for the LGBT Community’s website.

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Television

‘The Voice’ crowns first LGBTQ winner

Asher HaVon is from Selma, Ala.

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Asher HaVon (‘The Voice’ screenshot)

So, the LGBTQ pundits and culture watchers were … wrong. Or at the very least, anticipating “history” way before its time. After frustration over “American Idol”’s inability to crown an LGBTQ winner, they held high hopes for a new competing star-making vehicle, “The Voice.”

In 2011, the Advocate burst with excitement saying “There’s no need to wait on NBC’s new vocal competition, The Voice. The show boasts four gay contestants — two men and two women — heading into the battle round, where they will be coached by the likes of Blake Shelton, Cee Lo, Christina Aguilera, and Adam Levine. And while a couple of them might be eliminated in the next few weeks (in the battle round, teams of eight are whittled down to four when teammates face each other in a sing-off), chances that there will be a lesbian or gay singer competing to become the first ‘Voice’ are strong.”

Well. Not so strong. All of the LGBTQ contenders were eliminated. As were others over the years that even included a young trans man singing with his father as one of the show’s few duet contestants. “American Idol” did end up crowning an LGBTQ winner in its 18th season.

That was then … and this is now. After 25 seasons, “The Voice” has crowned Asher HaVon its winner. It is no wonder, as Asher’s vocal tone is hypnotic, rich, and blows through your auditory senses. Listening to him hit certain notes in his vocal runs can bring you to a flood of emotional tears. At least, it did for me.

It did for coach Reba McIntire as well. 

The significance of Asher HaVon’s win goes beyond just a queer identity. It is adorned with a depth of representation and visibility. When Asher stepped on stage, he brought culture, diversity, history, and identity. 

Like many incredible vocalists, he comes from a church foundation. Reba McEntire was a wise coach choice, relating to a broad reach of American sensibilities. She is one of the rare entertainers who is beloved by fans across the broad political spectrum. She is traditional, but an ally. 

In a bit of irony, there is a segment of his hometown that still are keeping his LGBTQ status in the closet. The Selma Times-Journal brags about his “historic win,” but when they write about it, they are referring to the fact that he is the first winner from Alabama. They do not mention his LGBTQ identity at all.

Not sure how they could miss it. Asher presents in full-beat makeup with gorgeous nails to diva quality eye makeup and lashes. His costuming was never anything less than fabulous. His song choices placed him in a pantheon of LGBTQ-worshipped goddesses that included Adele, Beyonce, Whiney Houston, Patti LaBelle, Toni Braxton, Tina Turner, and Donna Summer. He was not only courageous to take on their groundbreaking hits, but did so with the talent to impress with his own versions of them.

As Asher stands on stage, he also represents a proud black man living in the spirit of America’s civil rights movement. He truly does represent Selma, Ala., and its fight for equality significance is part of his DNA and his history. In 2015, when President Barack Obama visited the city, Asher sang for him in front of a crowd of 200,000 at the famed Selma Bridge crossing.

While the significance of that event is not lost on him, Asher calls it one that he “will never forget”, he tells the Montgomery Advertiser that “The Voice” “is different because it is the Asher HaVon that most people never got a chance to see. I am free. I am walking in the authenticity of who I am, while sharing my gift. That means so much more to me than any other experience than I’ve ever had in life.”

While Asher carried his legacy, the history he represented, and his authenticity into every performance he gave over the show’s run, it was his pure talent that put him on top.  It was so impressive that it even broke through the show’s premise of four celebrity coaches battling it out for a win. Under that guise, each of the coaches pleads with America to vote for their protégés.

Asher had most of them pleading for him instead. He initially received three “chair turns” at the outset where Chance the Rapper, Dan and Shay, and Reba were the celebrities campaigning for him to pick them. John Legend was the hold-out. Asher, ever the diva connoisseur, had already picked Reba in his mind and would have picked her no matter what anyone else had said.

Legend, later in the season, shared that he received a phone call from his dad who declared not only that he was rooting for Asher, but that Asher was “THE” voice of the season. Both Legend and Chance declared Asher to be “the best vocalist on the show” several times in their feedback statements.

While Asher’s win and authenticity should bring a source of joy to LGBTQ fans, it also is a big boost for his coach and main champion, Reba McEntire. While the show has put a full-throttle on Reba as the “queen of country” and showered her with adoration, she has had some difficulty in wowing many of the auditioning singers onto her team. Asher represents a significant win for her, as well as her being also the coach for first runner-up Josh Sanders, when she starts the next season against Gwen Stefani, Michael Bubble, and Snoop Dogg. The latter two are newcomers and Stefani boasts only one previous win years ago, but a loss in her one previous match-up against McEntire.

For the future Voice contestants, Reba has some serious creds to play. 

For the rest of us, in the LGBTQ community, in the dance clubs, and in the hearts of ones needing a new diva to love, Asher has arrived.

Asher HaVon and Coach Reba perform Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald’s ‘On My Own’ during ‘The Voice’ finale.

******************************************************************************************

Rob Watson is the host of the popular Hollywood-based radio/podcast show RATED LGBT RADIO.

He is an established LGBTQ columnist and blogger having written for many top online publications including The Los Angeles Blade, The Washington Blade, Parents Magazine, the Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, Gay Star News, the New Civil Rights Movement, and more.

He served as Executive Editor for The Good Man Project, has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in Business Week and Forbes Magazine.

He is CEO of Watson Writes, a marketing communications agency, and can be reached at [email protected] 

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