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District of Columbia

Organizers expect nearly half a million people for D.C. Pride

March for Our Lives rally coincides with resumption of in-person parade, festival

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D.C.’s only Pride fireworks show takes place Saturday, June 11 at 9 p.m. at the Wharf. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Organizers of D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade and Festival, the two largest events of the city’s annual Pride celebration in June, say they are expecting a record turnout for the two events, which will resume this year after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic.

The parade, which is scheduled for Saturday, June 11, and the festival, scheduled for Sunday, June 12, have attracted hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators in past years, many of whom travel to D.C. from up and down the mid-Atlantic region as well as other parts of the country.

Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s Pride events, announced earlier this year that it had changed the parade route so that it will begin where it had ended in past years but will retain mostly the same route. The group says the parade was scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. at 14th and T streets, N.W., and travel south on 14th Street to Rhode Island Avenue, where it will turn right and travel to Massachusetts Avenue.

From there it will turn onto the section of 17th Street where LGBTQ-friendly restaurants, bars, and other businesses are located. An all-day Capital Pride Block Party will be held that same day on a two-block section of 17th Street next to the section of 17th Street where the parade will travel.

After traveling just two blocks on 17th Street the parade will turn left on P Street and travel to Dupont Circle, where it will proceed  halfway around the circle and continue on P Street, where it will end at 22nd and P streets.

Like past years, organizers expect thousands of people to line the streets along the parade route observing the dozens of parade contingents, which will include floats from organizations and LGBTQ supportive businesses as well as individual LGBTQ people and their supporters marching in the parade.

Ryan Bos, the Capital Pride executive director, said among those organizing parade contingents this year will be candidates running for public office in the city’s June 21 primary election, including D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and her lead primary opponent, D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large).

“Be prepared to experience one of the largest Pride Parades to ever take place in the United States Capital,” a statement released by Capital Pride says. “In 2022, a modified route will honor our history and acknowledge the evolution of the LGBTQ+ neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., while respecting the origins and importance of taking to the streets in our fight for equality,” the statement says.

Bos said Capital Pride organizers have also learned that LGBTQ people and their allies expected to come to D.C. on June 11 for the March for Our Lives protest against gun violence, which is scheduled to take place on the grounds of the Washington Monument from 12-2 p.m., were planning to join or turn out as observers of the Capital Pride parade.

March for Our Lives is an organization founded by student survivors of the 2018 high school shooting incident in Parkland, Fla., that took the lives of 14 students and three staff members. Hundreds of thousands participated in the group’s first protest in D.C. later that year. As of early this week, organizers stated on the group’s website that the event would be limited to the Washington Monument rally.  

Also scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 11 from 2-9 p.m. is the 3rd Annual Pride on the Pier event at the Wharf, the city’s bustling Southwest waterfront entertainment district. The event, organized by the Washington Blade in partnership with LURe DC and The Wharf, will include entertainment, DJs, dancing and the Pride on the Pier Fireworks Show at 9 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public, with VIP tickets available for purchase. Local DJs Eletrox, Jai Syncere and Sean Morris will perform throughout the event, with the entertainment and dancing taking place on the District Pier. Alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase for those 21 and older. Further details, including information about the VIP area and tickets can be viewed at PrideOnThePierDC.com.

On Sunday, June 12, the day following the parade and Pride On The Pier, the Capital Pride Festival and Concert will return to a four-block section of Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop for the first time since 2019. Capital Pride officials say they expect one of the largest turnouts ever for the festival as it returns after the two-year break due to COVID restrictions.

On its website providing details of the festival and concert, which is held at the site of the festival, Capital Pride predicts “nearly a half million people” were expected to attend the festival, which begins at noon and lasts until 10 p.m. It will take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. between 3rd Street and 7th Street as well as on sections 4th Street and 6th Street and Constitution Avenue that intersect with Pennsylvania Avenue. 

“Join the LGBTQ+ community on America’s Mainstreet, historic Pennsylvania Avenue, for the return of the Capital Pride Festival,” the group says on its website. “Enjoy a full day of entertainment on three stages, food, drink, and advocacy with over 300 exhibitors,” a statement on the website says. “The Festival is the largest annual event in the national capital region and continues to be free to the public,” it says.

According to the statement, more than 300 exhibitors that will be located in covered booths along both sides of the street will include service organizations, social groups, businesses, amateur sports leagues, faith-based groups, educational institutions, government agencies, artists, consultants, potential employers and “much more.”

The concert part of the festival will take place on three stages and continue until 10 p.m., information on the Capital Pride website says. The headline entertainers, scheduled to perform on the main Capital Stage, will include the nationally acclaimed U.S. dance-rock band called DNCE consisting of its lead singer Joe Jonas, drummer Jack Lawless, and guitarist JinJoo Lee.

“Joining DNCE will be this year’s winner of Rupaul’s Drag Race, Willow Pill, and season 13 winner, Symone,” a statement on the Capital Pride website says. The statement says other entertainers performing on the other two stages will include some of the “best local and regional LGBTQ+ talent.”

After the exhibitor booths shut down at 7 p.m. and when the concert ends at 8 p.m. a Sunset Dance Party with music played by DJs will take place in front of the main stage between 8-10 p.m., Capital Pride organizers have announced.

In addition to the parade and festival along with the Pride on the Pier events, many additional Pride events were scheduled that began Friday, June 3, with the Capital Pride Honors party at the Penn Social nightclub in downtown D.C. OUTspoken: A Night of Queer Expression took place Monday night, June 6, at the Busboys and Poets restaurant in the city’s Brookland neighborhood.

A Pride related Drag Underground show sponsored jointly by the Blade and the Dupont Underground, the entertainment space located in the former trolly station underneath Dupont Circle, was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 10. Also sponsored by the Blade and Dupont Underground at that space is an exhibition consisting of works of 35 local artists called “The Gender Within: The Art of Identity,” which is open and free to the public each weekend in June. 

The Capital Pride Official Opening Party was scheduled for Friday, June 10, at 9 p.m. at Echostage nightclub; a Trans Pride Pool Party was scheduled for Saturday, June 11 at 7 p.m. at the VIDA Penthouse Pool & Lounge on U Street, N.W.; and Capital Pride’s Official Saturday Party was set to take place from 9 p.m.-3:30 a.m. at the City Winery. 

Further details of these and other events set to take place over the Pride weekend can be accessed at capitalpride.org and prideonthepierdc.com.

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District of Columbia

Gay couple assaulted on D.C. street by attackers shouting ‘monkeypox faggots’

Police list Aug. 7 incident in Shaw as suspected hate crime

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Two young men appearing in their late teens shouted the words “monkeypox faggots” at a gay male couple walking along 7th Street, N.W. in the city’s Shaw neighborhood on Sunday, Aug. 7, before punching the two men in the face and head in an incident that D.C. police have called a suspected hate crime.

The gay men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one of the two receiving stitches for a deep cut on his upper lip, according to one of the victims who spoke to the Washington Blade.

The victim, an Alexandria resident who asked that he and his partner, a D.C. resident, not be identified by name, said the attackers were part of a group of four or five young men appearing to be between 17 and 19 years old and two young women accompanying them. He said the group crossed paths with the gay couple around 5:40 p.m. in front of a store on the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W., as the couple was walking to a nearby bus stop on Rhode Island Avenue.

The victim who spoke to the Blade said a nearby witness called D.C. police, who arrived within a few minutes as the two attackers and the other young men with them fled the scene. He said although an ambulance arrived on the scene, one of the police officers drove the couple to nearby Howard University Hospital, where they spent about six hours in the emergency room.

The couple had spent part of that 90+ degree day at the city’s Banneker Pool and later stopped at the Kiki gay bar on U Street, N.W. before taking what the victim who spoke to the Blade said was a leisurely walk from Kiki via 7th Street on their way to the bus stop, where they planned to take the bus to his boyfriend’s Northeast D.C. house.

As the couple walked south on 7th Street about a block from their destination on Rhode Island Avenue they crossed paths with the group of teenagers in front of a store that a D.C. police report says was at 1731 7th St., N.W.

“They were about 17 to 19 years old,” the victim who spoke to the Blade said. “And one of them started saying stuff like, hey, look at these monkeypox faggots and some not so nice stuff like that,” he said.

“We turned around to walk away and one of them came up behind me and got my attention and then sucker punched me and then hit me again and then hit my boyfriend in the face,” the victim said. “And another person hit him in the face as well,” he said. “And then someone across the street called the cops. And then the cops came, and they scattered off.”

To the couple’s surprise, the two young women remained on the scene and apologized for the actions by the guys they were with.

“So, I said something like thanks for the apology, but this is the kind of people you hang out with,” the victim recounted. “And one of them said their dad was gay, and they kind of walked away before the cops got there,” he said. “It was nice of them to apologize I guess for the other people.”

The D.C. police report lists the incident as having two offenses, a simple assault against the two men and a misdemeanor destruction of property related to the destruction of a pair of sunglasses worn by one of the two men that were damaged in the assault against him.

The report also lists the incident as a suspected “Sexual orientation – Anti-Gay” hate crime.

As in all incidents of violent crime, D.C. police call on members of the public to contact the police with information about an incident like this to call police at 202-727-9099 or text a tip to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411.

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District of Columbia

Lesbian activist assaulted with barstool at D.C. lounge

Police say victim’s claim of anti-gay hate crime under investigation

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Ward 8 community leader Aiyi’nah Ford says she was attacked in a local bar. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. police say they are actively investigating an Aug. 3 incident in which lesbian activist and Ward 8 community leader Aiyi’nah Ford says she was hit three times in the head with the metal legs of a barstool swung by a man yelling anti-gay names at her.

A police report says the incident took place at the Player’s Lounge, a restaurant and bar at 2737 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E., in the city’s Congress Heights neighborhood shortly before and after midnight on Aug. 3 and 4.   

Ford, who witnesses say was covered in blood when she stepped outside the restaurant after other patrons intervened, was taken by ambulance to George Washington University Hospital for treatment of a head and scalp injury that required multiple stitches. 

Ford and an employee at Player’s Lounge said the man who allegedly committed the assault is a regular customer at the restaurant but is known to people only by his nickname of Black. A police spokesperson said that as of Monday no arrest had been made in the case but that it remains under “active investigation” by a detective with the department’s Seventh District in Southeast.

A police report obtained by the Blade lists the incident as an assault with a dangerous weapon, but it does not classify the incident as a hate crime.

“There is no indication at this time that this incident was motivated by hate/bias,” said D.C. police spokesperson Alaina Gertz in response to a question by the Blade about the police report. “Should further interviews with the complainant reveal information that suggests that this should be a hate crime, the report can be amended with the new information,” Gertz said.

“Anyone who has knowledge of this incident should take no action but call police at 202-727-9099 or text your tip to the Department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411,” Gertz said in an email message. “The Metropolitan Police Department currently offers a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for a violent crime committed in the District of Columbia,” she said.

Ford told the Blade she believes she made it clear to the police officers who spoke with her at the scene of the incident that the man who assaulted her called her anti-gay names, including “dyke bitch.” In a video of herself talking about the incident that she posted on Facebook Ford refers to the assault against her as a “gay-bashing.”

The police report says officers arrived on the scene while Ford was being treated by paramedics with the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

“Victim 1 stated that she was talking to a friend of hers at the location when another person who frequents the location interjected himself and began to curse at Victim 1,” the police reports states. “The verbal altercation escalated, and Victim 1 stated Suspect 1 began to assault her with a bar stool,” the police report continues. “Other patrons at the bar broke up the altercation and Suspect 1 fled,” according to the report.

It adds, “Witness 1 corroborated Victim 1’s story and stated that Suspect 1 frequents the area but doesn’t know his name, only his nickname.”

Ford told the Blade the incident began while she and three or four Player’s Lounge customers were engaged in a conversation about local community issues, including the city’s violence interruption program. Ford said that, among other things, she expressed her strongly held opinion that the violence interruption program was not working and was a “joke.”

It was around that time, she said, that the man who assaulted her approached the group and interjected himself into the conversation and indicated that he was interested in possibly becoming one of the violence interrupter program volunteers or participants. Ford said the man, who appeared to be over six feet tall, began referring to women as “bitches” and hurled other curse words.

“So, we’re all going like, what?” Ford said of her and the others’ reaction to the man’s comments. At that point, most of those she was speaking with left the restaurant because it was close to its 11 p.m. closing time.

“And I’m like, who are you talking to?” Ford said she recalls asking the man. According to Ford, he responded by repeatedly reciting the words “dyke bitch” in a hostile way.

“At that point I immediately knew he was talking to me because I’m the only openly lesbian person in that space that frequents there regularly and who was in that room,” Ford told the Blade.

She said she questioned the man’s motives, including whether he could become a violence interrupter, and the two began to argue back and forth until, according to Ford, he walked up to her and stood almost shoulder to shoulder next to her.

“He continues to call me all kinds of homophobic slurs,” Ford said. “He calls me all kinds of bitches and continues to encourage the bar staff to get me to shut up before he shoots me and whatever else he will do to bring my death,” Ford said.

“Before I know it, he has picked up this barstool and hit me in the head,” said Ford. “He takes a second barstool and proceeds to hit me again,” she said, adding that he hit her a third time in the head with one of the barstools, each time with the metal legs of the stool.

Ford said she has learned that the man who assaulted her has told people she spit on him, which he considered to be an assault by her against him. Ford called that allegation a lie, saying she absolutely did not spit on the man.

When the Blade contacted Player’s Lounge for comment, a man who answered the phone arranged for Teresa “Auntie” Smith, one of the longtime employees who was present at the time of the incident, to speak with the Blade. Smith said while she was getting ready to close the restaurant she saw and heard what sounded like a heated argument between Ford and the man known as Black, but she said she was busy doing something in another part of the room and did not see the assault take place.

But she said both Ford and Black, whom she has known for a long time from their role as regular customers, were each saying “very mean things” that she had not heard either of them say before. Among other things, she said she heard Ford say to Black that he engaged in “oral sex with other men.”

When asked about Smith’s claim that she raised the issue of oral sex with Black, Ford said, “Yes, after he called me a dyke bitch I most certainly did.” Ford added, “It sounds like she’s saying that I deserved to be hit with a barstool. Nothing a woman says to a man that is yelling and encroaching on her personal space justifies hitting her in the head three times with a weapon,” Ford said.

“We at Players had a very sad incident on Wednesday night,” the restaurant said in an Aug. 5 post on its Facebook page about the assault case. “We are mostly family here and we look out for each other. We are so sorry for what happened and hope she will be ok,” the message says. “We are still trying to sort out the details of what happened, but we know that no one here would support gay bashing or any type of violence.”

Phil Pannell, a longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights and Ward 8 community activist, said he has organized LGBTQ community events at Player’s Lounge, saying it has the reputation of being an LGBTQ-friendly establishment for many years. He told the Blade that he was surprised upon learning of the assault against Ford because he was unaware of that type of incident ever having occurred at Player’s Lounge.

Ford, among other things, serves as executive director of the Future Foundation, a Ward 8-based community organization that provides services to local teenagers and their families. The organization’s website says one of its programs, called LGBTQ+ You, has provided a “safe space” drop-in facility for LGBTQ youth living in the city’s east of the Anacostia River neighborhoods.

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District of Columbia

SMYAL announces new executive director

Erin Whelan to start Sept. 1

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Erin Whelan (Photo courtesy of SMYAL)

SMYAL on Thursday announced Erin Whelan will become the organization’s new executive director on Sept. 1.

SMYAL’s mission is to support and empower LGBTQ youth ages 6-24.

A press release that announces Whelan’s appointment notes the organization over the last five years has grown “exponentially.” Its services include affirming programs, housing support, leadership training and mental health services, designed to help LGBTQ youth develop advocacy skills and an educated, welcoming community.   

Whelan most recently served as the director of housing and homeless services at LifeWorks, an Austin, Texas,-based nonprofit that provides youth with housing and services. She has worked in nonprofit management for almost 20 years, and SMYAL’s press release highlighted her commitment to antiracism, equity and the LGBTQ community. 

“Erin Whelan is a compassionate and strong leader who I am confident is the right person to lead SMYAL,” board chair Rob Cogorno said. “I could not be more proud of the tremendous growth in services for our LGBTQ youth and of the SMYAL staff’s hard work that made that growth possible. Erin’s extensive experience in service to youth in need and her passion for that work will help guide SMYAL in continuing its excellent work in this challenging time for LGBTQ youth in our region and across the country.” 

Whelan in the press release shared her enthusiasm for stepping into leadership with this driving purpose. 

“I am beyond excited and honored to join SMYAL as the new executive director. My work has been committed to understanding and seeing the world through the lens of the most marginalized youth and young adults and being a fierce advocate for LGBTQ youth,” Whelan said. “I believe all LGBTQ youth deserve an opportunity to build a life they love and a chance to feel celebrated and affirmed for exactly who they are and strive to be. From the moment I stepped into the SMYAL community, it felt like exactly where I wanted to be. SMYAL creates a community for queer and trans youth where they can feel radically accepted and safe to step into their true selves.” 

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