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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

Reenactment of first gay rights picket at White House set for April 17

Event marks 59th anniversary of historic push for gay rights in nation’s capital

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Lilli Vincenz was among the original 1965 White House picketers. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project announced it will hold a reenactment on Wednesday, April 17, of the historic first protest for gay rights in the form of a picket line in front of the White House that took place on that same day in 1965.

In a statement released last week, Rainbow History Project says the reenactment will mark the 59th anniversary of an event that is credited with bringing attention for the first time to the federal government’s longstanding discrimination against a minority group referred to then as homosexuals or gays and lesbians.

The statement notes that the 1965 event was organized by the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the first politically active LGBT organization in the nation’s capital founded by local gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny.

“The picket took place on the White House sidewalk, Lafayette Park, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., on April 17, 1965,”  the statement says. “For exactly one hour, from 4:20 p.m. to 5:20 p.m., members of the Mattachine Society of Washington walked in a circle, non-stop, in silence, carrying posters of their demands,” the statement continues.

“The White House picket is the origin story for public demonstrations for gay rights in the U.S., and the origin story for Pride Marches and the annual LGBTQ Pride celebrations which occur across the globe,” according to the statement.

It says those picketing in the April 1965 event, which included Kameny and longtime local D.C.-area lesbian activist Lilli Vincenz, both of whom held doctorate degrees, called on the government to adopt the Mattachine Society of Washington’s four major demands: an end to the exclusion of homosexuals from federal government employment; an end to the ban on gays and lesbians from serving in the U.S. military; an end to the “blanket denial” of security clearances for gay people; and an end to the “government refusal to meet with the LGBTQ community.’

Among those who chose not to respond to the request for a meeting was President Lyndon B. Johnson, who occupied the White House at the time of the 1965 picketing.

Vincent Slatt, the Rainbow History Project’s director of archiving and one of the lead organizers of the April 17 reenactment event, said the event is aimed, among other things, at drawing attention to how far the LGBTQ community has come since 1965. He said the event is not in any way a protest of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who Slatt called staunch supporters of the LGBTQ community.

“We are just reenacting this historical event and pointing out how far we’ve come,” Slatt told the Washington Blade. “If you think about what it means in 1965 when these people were protesting and LBJ would not even respond to them. And now, we are at a place where Vice President Harris speaks on a stage at Capital Pride.”

The Rainbow History Project statement notes that the reenactment event will also be held in honor of Kameny, who died in 2011, and Vincenz, who passed away in 2023, both of whom participated in a similar reenactment event in 2008.

Among those who will be participating in this week’s reenactment on April 17 will be longtime local LGBTQ rights activist Paul Kuntzler, who is the only known surviving person who was among the White House picketers at the April 1965 event. Kuntzler will be carrying a replica of his own picket sign he held at the 1965 event, the statement says.

It says Rainbow History Project volunteers will also carry replicas of the original protest signs and hand out literature explaining the picket to passersby and tourists.

Similar to the 1965 event, the reenactment picketing at the White House will begin on April 17 at about 4:15 p.m., according to Slatt of the Rainbow History Project.

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District of Columbia

Four LGBTQ candidates running for delegate to Democratic National Convention from D.C.

Thirty-two candidates competing for 13 elected delegate positions in April 20 party caucus

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From left, candidates include John Fanning, Jimmie Williams, Monika Nemeth and David Meadows. (Photos courtesy of the D.C. Democratic Party)

Four LGBTQ Democratic Party activists are running for election as delegates from D.C. to the Democratic National Convention at an April 20 local Democratic Party caucus election in which all D.C. voters who are registered as Democrats will be eligible to vote.

The four LGBTQ candidates are among 32 candidates competing for just 13 elected delegate positions. D.C. will have a total of 51 delegates to the Democratic Convention, but the other 38 include elected officials and party leaders who are considered “automatic” or appointed delegates. The convention will be held in Chicago Aug. 19-23,

Under the delegate selection process put in place by the D.C. Democratic Party, six of the thirteen elected delegate positions will be elected by voters in a section of the city designated as District 1, which includes Wards 1,2, 6, and 8. The other seven elected delegates will be chosen by voters in District 2, which includes Wards 3, 4, 5, and 7.

The LGBTQ candidates include longtime gay Democratic activists David Meadows of Ward 6 and John Fanning of Ward 2 who are running in District 1. Transgender rights advocate and Democratic Party activist Monika Nemeth of Ward 3 and gay Democratic activist Jimmie Williams of Ward 7 are running in District  2.

All four of the LGBTQ candidates have been active members of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, one of D.C.’s largest LGBTQ political organizations. Nemeth and Meadows are past presidents of the organization. Williams has served as chair of the Ward 7 Democratic Committee and is a current member of the committee. Fanning has served as an elected member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee from Ward 2 and served as a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

A total of 12 candidates are running in each of the two districts. Under party rules the highest six vote getters in District 1 and the highest 7 vote getters in District 2 will be declared the winners.

The Saturday, April 20 caucus election for the delegate candidates will take place at the Walter E. Washington D.C. Convention Center. An announcement by party officials says two voting sessions will take place, one from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the other from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Aside from the elected delegates, two prominent D.C. LGBTQ Democratic leaders will be appointed as delegates to the 2024 Democratic National Convention in their role as members of the Democratic National Committee from D.C.

They are Claire Lucas, a highly acclaimed Democratic Party and LGBTQ rights advocate and party fundraiser; and Earl Fowlkes, one of the lead organizers of D.C.’s annual Black LGBTQ Pride celebration and former president of Capital Stonewall Democrats.

Lucas and Fowlkes and the four LGBTQ candidates running in the April 20 caucus election are committed to backing President Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee for re-election.

Statements from each of the candidates running for delegate in the April 20 caucus election, including the four LGBTQ candidates, can be accessed here: Candidates for Delegate | DC Democratic Party

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District of Columbia

HIPS D.C. launches ‘Harm Reduction’ vending machine program

LGBTQ supportive group says program aimed at ‘saving lives’ in response to overdose crisis

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HIPS official Alexandra Bradley, at right, provides information about the HIPS Harm Reduction Vending Machine at Whitman-Walker's Max Robinson Center as University of Maryland Professor Andrea Lopez, who is conducting a study of the vending machine program, stands beside a red syringe disposal bin that accompanies the vending machines. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

HIPS D.C., the LGBTQ supportive organization that provides support and services for drug users and sex workers, officially launched on April 5 a ‘Harm Reduction Vending Machine Pilot Program’ that it says will help save lives by providing free of charge harm reduction supplies for drug users in locations where there is a “higher than average” rate of overdose cases.

The announcement of the project was held outside the Whitman-Walker Health Max Robinson Center building at 1201 Sycamore Dr., S.E., next to where one of the first three HIPS vending machines is located.

Alexandra Bradley, HIPS’ Outreach and Community Engagement Manager, told a small gathering at the announcement event that among the supplies provided free of charge through the vending machines are naloxone, the life-saving nasal spray medication used to treat an opioid drug overdose; fentanyl test kits, syringes, and syringe wound care kits; drug snort kits, condoms, and other items, including  water bottles and snack food such as crackers and granola bars.

Bradley and other officials with HIPS and Whitman-Walker Health said they believe most people, when informed of the rationale behind the vending machines and other programs supporting drug users, will understand that the programs are not encouraging drug use.

“People will use drugs,” Bradley said. “We want them to use them safely,” she added, with the hope that they will seek support to get off drugs. “We can’t help anybody if they are dead. We want to keep people safe,” Bradley said.

A statement released by HIPS says the vending machine pilot program is being funded by a grant from the D.C. Department of Health. It says anyone can access the machines free of charge by contacting HIPS through a phone number posted on the machines – 202-779-0486 – to obtain a four-digit participant code “that they will then punch in to use the machines.” It says that as of April 5, 150 individuals had already registered and enrolled in the program.

Bradley pointed out that registration is not required to obtain naloxone supplies, which can be obtained through a code number posted on the machines. She said each of the three machines are also accompanied by a metal disposal receptacle for safely placing used syringes.

“These machines have been placed in areas where there are higher concentrations of overdose deaths and/or underserved areas with high levels of need for access to services and supplies,” the HIPS statement says.

In addition to the HIPS vending machine at the site of Whitman-Walker’s Max Robinson Center, the second HIPS vending machine is located at The Michelle Obama Southeast Center of Bread for the City at 1700 Marion Barry Avenue, S.E., and the third one is located at Bread for the City’s Shaw neighborhood facility at 1525 7th Street, N.W.

The announcement of the vending machine harm reduction project comes at a time when many in the D.C. LGBTQ community have mourned the loss of beloved local LGBTQ members from a drug overdose, including accidental drug overdoses caused by contamination of their preferred drug such as cocaine with fentanyl.

Also speaking at the announcement event was Andrea Lopez, an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Anthropology, which she said is partnering with HIPS to conduct a  study of the vending machine pilot program and its impact as a public health project and the public health benefits of vending machines as an “intervention” in support of those in need.

Others who spoke at the event and provided details of the vending machine project were Cyndee Clay, the HIPS Executive Director; Starr O’Leary, the HIPS Community Outreach Coordinator;  and Jona Tanguay, an official with Whitman-Walker Health.

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