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Most LGBTQ Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners not seeking re-election

No candidates running in 56 districts, reflecting waning interest in posts

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After serving seven terms as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, John Fanning is not seeking re-election. (Photo courtesy of Fanning)

Only ten of D.C.’s 34 known LGBTQ Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners are running for reelection in the city’s Nov. 8 general election, according to the most up to date list of ANC candidates released by the D.C. Board of Elections.

Some of the 24 LGBTQ incumbent ANC members who are not running for reelection have said they decided to step down after having served multiple two-year terms in an unpaid elective office that they say involves a considerable amount of time as well as political strife that can be stressful.

Congress created the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions as part of the city’s home rule local government in the early 1970s. There are a total of 40 ANCs located throughout the city with each having between two and ten single member districts representing the city’s diverse neighborhoods. Currently, there are a total of 345 single member districts citywide.

Under the city’s Home Rule Charter, the ANCs are charged with making recommendations to city officials on a wide range of neighborhood issues, including the approval of liquor licenses for bars and restaurants, for which city officials are required to give “great weight” but the government officials are not required to adopt the recommendations.

Thirty-three of the current 34 openly LGBTQ ANC members were among a total of 47 known LGBTQ ANC candidates that ran in the city’s 2020 general election.

One of the current LGBTQ ANC members, Dupont Circle community activist Randy Downs, won in a special election to fill a vacancy earlier this year for the Dupont Circle ANC Single Member District 2B07. Downs, who served as an ANC member in previous years, is among the 24 LGBTQ ANC incumbents who are not running for reelection in November.

Other LGBTQ members who have decided not to seek reelection include longtime Dupont Circle ANC member Mike Silverstein, who is completing his tenth two-year term, and Logan Circle ANC member John Fanning, who’s completing his seventh term in office.

“I have served seven terms, and I just felt like it was time to allow another resident of my single member district an opportunity to serve,” Fanning told the Washington Blade. “And I am happy that I accomplished the things that I did in my seven terms,” he said.

Silverstein attributes what he called “COVID fatigue” as one reason some of the LGBTQ as well as non-LGBTQ ANC incumbents are not running for another term in office. He said another factor prompting at least some incumbents not to run again is greater demands on ANC commissioners and less support from city officials.

Among other things, he said, some community members who disagree with the recommendations made and positions taken by ANCs have filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests seeking hundreds of email messages exchanged among ANC members, forcing ANC members to expend many hours of work tracking down those messages as well as other documents.

“People don’t want to be hassled, they don’t want to be subjected to the same crap that people who are making $140,000 a year go through when they’re not being paid anything,” Silverstein said. “We’ve had to beg people to run,” he said in referring to him and other Dupont Circle ANC incumbents who were trying to find qualified people to replace them.

The D.C. Board of Elections list of ANC candidates shows that there are no candidates running in 56 single member districts across the city, the highest number of districts in which no ANC candidate is running since the ANC’s were created. Observers familiar with the ANCs note that the candidate list also shows there are a record number of single member districts in which only one candidate is running, which the observers say indicates an apparent lack of public interest or support for the city’s ANCs.

Silverstein and Fanning said they know of several non-incumbent LGBTQ ANC candidates running in the November election, but they don’t have a complete list of all known LGBTQ ANC candidates citywide.

At the time of the 2020 D.C. general election, the then newly created LGBTQ ANC Rainbow Caucus compiled a list of the known LGBTQ ANC candidates. But Silverstein and Fanning said the Rainbow Caucus has been inactive this year, in part, due to its former chairpersons becoming involved in other activities.

One of the founding chairs of the caucus was local transgender activist and Ward 3 ANC member Monika Nemeth, who is not seeking reelection this year. Also serving as one of the founding chairs was gay Ward 1 ANC member Japer Bowles, who resigned from his ANC seat earlier this year after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed him as director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

Nemeth and Bowles couldn’t immediately be reached this week to determine whether they have arranged for others to replace them as leaders of the ANC Rainbow Caucus and whether the caucus will compile a list of LGBTQ ANC candidates running in the November election.

Among the other incumbent LGBTQ ANC members who are not running for reelection include longtime Southwest waterfront commissioner Andy Litsky of ANC 6D04; Dupont Circle ANC 2B09 member Kyle Mulhall, an attorney and longtime LGBTQ rights advocate; and Logan Circle ANC member John Guggenmos, the co-owner of the Logan Circle area gay bars Number 9 and Trade.

Also, among the LGBTQ incumbents not running this year are Logan Circle ANC members Rehana Mohammed and Alexandra Bailey.   

Following is a list of the ten incumbent LGBTQ ANC members who are running for reelection in November, their ANC single member districts, and the neighborhoods they represent:

Kent Boese, 1E01 (Park View)

Michael Wray, 1E03 (Park View)

Larry Handerhan, 1B01 (Ledroit Park)  

Michael Shankle, 2C01 (Penn Quarter-Chinatown)

Evan Yeats, 4B04 (Takoma)

Ra Amin, 5B04 (Brookland)

Salvador Sauceda-Guzman, 5D05 (Trinidad)

Robb Dooling, 6A06 (Capitol Hill East)

Ronald Collins, 6D02 (Near Southwest)

Anthony Lorenzo Green, 7C04 (Deanwood)

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District of Columbia

Community rallies behind As You Are bar’s fundraising appeal 

D.C. LGBTQ café and bar raised more than $170k to prevent closure

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As You Are bar in March 2022 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Less than a week after the D.C. LGBTQ café and bar As You Are located in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill issued a GoFundMe appeal on Feb. 5 seeking emergency financial support to prevent it from closing, the popular business reached its goal of $150,000 to get out of debt.

And as of Sunday night, the fundraising appeal had pulled in $171,471 from more than 3,000 individual donations, according to As You Are’s GoFundMe site.

In comments posted on the GoFundMe site, many of the donors said they were motivated to contribute to As You Are because they view it as a special, safe space that offers a welcoming, accepting place for them and their LGBTQ friends or family members.

In their GoFundMe message, As You Are co-owners Jo McDaniel and Rachel “Coach” Pike describe how they view their business as offering community center type programming beyond just a bar and café.

“AYA is a café, bar and dance floor that hosts diverse programming nearly every night of the week, including social sport leagues, Queer youth socials, weekly karaoke, book clubs, open mics, Queer author events, dance parties and much more,” the two said in their message.

“We have faced some particularly tall and costly hurdles that have set us back significantly since the beginning,” the two said in their GoFundMe message. “As we are tapping every resource we can imagine with creativity and open minds we need urgent assistance,” they said. 

“Rach and Jo are truly loved, and AYA is so important to so many people and everyone knew that,” said gay D.C. civic activist Mike Silverstein, who is one of the GoFundMe donors. “The response was absolutely amazing,” Silverstein said. “From every part of our community. People put everything aside, worked together and focused on saving a space that means so much.”

As You Are opened for business in March 2022. McDaniel and Pike have said the financial problems were caused, in part, by a delay in their planned opening due to complications associated with getting their required occupancy permit from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The two said negotiations with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which demanded certain soundproofing structures be installed for the interior walls of their building, also added to the delay and increased costs.

Like other bars and restaurants across the city, McDaniel and Pike said their rent became a financial burden during a slow period for business last summer. They told the Washington Blade their landlord declined a request to renegotiate the lease to make an allowance based on sales. The two told the Washington Post that their rent is $27,000 per month, which they had to begin paying before they were able to open for business, and they spent $40,000 on soundproofing the walls, all of which contributed to a debt of about $150,000.

McDaniel and Pike, who spoke to the Blade at the time they launched their GoFundMe appeal, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the success of their fundraising and their future plans for As You Are. They told the Post now that they are no longer in debt, they plan to take up several offers of financial advice and they’re looking into possibly buying a property rather than renting. They said they also plan to apply for D.C. government business grants now that they have caught up on back tax payments.

Among those who posted comments on the As You Are GoFundMe site after making a contribution was Megan Mowery, who wrote, “AYA gives us a place to feel community, it is so rare to find a queer space where I can have fun and feel safe.” Mowrey added, “The programming AYA puts on absolutely has something for everyone. I love you AYA!!!”

Helena Chaves, another donor, stated in a GoFundMe post, “As You Are has been a monumental addition to the LGBTQIA+ community in Washington, D.C. They hold so many events and fundraisers, provide beautiful accommodations for us disabled folk, and have protocols in place to diminish harassment in the space.” 

Among the larger donors shown on the As You Are GoFundMe site is the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride festival and parade, which donated $2,500. 

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District of Columbia

No Pride in Genocide marches from Dupont Circle to HRC

Marchers ‘demand an end to the genocide and occupation of Palestine’

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Activists march in a No Pride in Genocide march from Dupont Circle to the Human Rights Campaign on Feb. 14, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Upwards of 200 people on Wednesday marched from Dupont Circle to the Human Rights Campaign and called upon it and other LGBTQ rights groups to “demand an end to the genocide and occupation of Palestine.”

No Pride in Genocide, which describes itself in a press release as a “recently launched coalition of queer and trans Palestinians, Arab and SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) people, Jews and allies,” organized the march. A press release that No Pride in Genocide released included a list of demands for HRC and other advocacy organizations, LGBTQ elected officials and celebrities.

  • Publicly denounce the use of pink washing to justify the occupation and genocide of Palestinians
  • Immediately boycott, divest and sanction the systems and entities that enable the genocide, including severing ties with weapon manufacturers and donors profiteering off genocide
  • Call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, to lift the siege and for all food, clean water, supplies and medical support be allowed into Gaza 
  • Publicly denounce the increased surveillance the Israeli Occupation Forces use against Palestinian queers
  • Call for the release of all political prisoners being held by the Israeli occupation
  • Use their platforms to call for an end to all imperialism and occupation, from the river to the sea, from Turtle Island to Palestine 

March participants who gathered in Dupont Circle before the march chanted slogans that include “Israel lies using queer lives. We say no to genocide” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Many of them held signs that, among other things, read “HRC = harmful racist complicit” and “Full ceasefire in Gaza now!”

(washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

A person who No Pride in Genocide described as “a Palestinian organizer who wishes to remain anonymous” spoke in Dupont Circle before the march. She read a message from a “queer Palestinian” in the Gaza Strip who said a man he had kissed died in an Israeli airstrike two days later. 

“I am here as a queer Palestinian, while Israel uses my life and all of our lives to justify the murder of more than 30,000 Palestinians over the past five months,” said the organizer. “We will not let them continue to use our name for this genocide.”

Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, 2023.

The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 10,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says nearly 30,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.

The International Court of Justice last month heard legal arguments in South Africa’s case that accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has strongly denied the accusations.

“Israel continues to use queer and trans lives as a justification of their genocidal campaigns,” said the No Pride in Genocide organizer who spoke before the march. “After spending hundreds of millions of dollars in ads to paint itself as a safe place for queer people in the Middle East, it uses that same narrative to justify and legitimize its eradication of queer and trans Palestinians.” 

“When you hear Zionists argue and say why don’t you go to Palestine, you’ll be murdered there. You know what? I would be murdered there because of the 1,008 bombs dropped a day by Israel and the U.S. on Gaza,” she added. “All of this is happening while the institutions that claim to represent queer and trans people and claim to defend our rights have remained completely silent while a genocide is being carried out in our name. We refuse to let that happen.”

(washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

The National LGBTQ Task Force last month called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

An HRC spokesperson on Thursday did not specifically respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment about the No Pride in Genocide protest and their demands. The spokesperson did, however, highlight HRC President Kelley Robinson’s statements about Oct. 7.

“The loss of life unfolding in the Middle East is heartbreaking and the human rights violations are appalling,” said Robinson in a series of posts to her X account on Oct. 9, 2023. “Hamas killed hundreds of Israeli civilians over the weekend in a terrorist attack. And now countless more Palestinian and Israeli people are dying as the violence escalates while Jewish, Arab and Muslim people in the U.S. and around the world fear backlash and hate-motivated crimes. LGBTQ+ people are everywhere and violence against civilians, anywhere, is wrong. Our thoughts are with the people in the Middle East living through this horror.” 

Robinson in a statement that HRC released on Oct. 13, 2023, reiterated her previous thoughts and added “the toll on both Israeli and Palestinian civilians lives rises daily.” 

“Many in the United States who are Jewish and Muslim recognize that hate-motivated bias and violence will rise here,” she said. “Antisemitism is wrong. Islamophobia is wrong. Full stop.”

Robinson in a message sent to HRC supporters on Nov. 10, 2023, said “each day of this conflict brings a new weight of grief, shock and disbelief at the unrelenting toll of war. In times like these, it’s important to note there are no easy answers or quick solutions.

  •          No statement will ever be enough in times of war, but what’s not hard, nor complex, is knowing right from wrong.
  •          The Hamas terrorist attack was wrong.
  •          The killing of 11,000 Palestinians and counting is wrong.
  •          The bombing of hospitals and the killing of children is wrong.
  •          The denial of safe food, water, telecommunications and safe passage is wrong.
  •          The antisemitism and Islamophobia escalating in the United States is wrong.”

Robinson has also publicly condemned attacks on Palestinians and Muslims in the U.S. that have taken place since Oct. 7. These include Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Muslim boy who was stabbed to death in Plainfield Township, Ill., on Oct. 14, 2023.

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District of Columbia

Meet Tagg magazine’s new editor and owner

Sondra Rose Marie takes over from founder Eboné Bell

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Sondra Rose Marie

Sondra Rose Marie was chatting with friends after attending Portland’s LGBTQ Film Festival when her friend suggested that she take some of her ideas from the table to the media.

Since then, she has written for Tagg magazine and in December was named editor in chief and new owner. 

Marie has a background in creative writing, so she had to learn the fundamentals of journalism as she went along. 

“‘Ask to record, ask pronouns, ask names,’ that was all stuff that I was learning as I was going,” she said.

Founder and former editor Eboné Bell was a big help teaching her everything she needed to know about the profession, Marie said. 

After two years as a freelance writer, she moved up to senior content writer and spent nearly five years in that role before she became editor in chief of Tagg.

“I noticed right away with Tagg that they were speaking to everyone in the community, and so I really wanted to be a part of that,” said Marie.

When Bell approached Marie about the position, she said she was shocked and didn’t see it coming.

“I thought about it for a while and I decided it was an awesome opportunity,” she said. “I love Tagg, I know I am willing to work hard for Tagg, and I know it’s got a lot of potential.”

Late last year, Tagg stopped printing its magazine and went fully digital. Marie said that in her new position, she hopes Tagg can continue to spread its wings and reach more rural audiences. 

“Just because it isn’t as out and loud as New York, LA, or Atlanta, doesn’t mean that people don’t want it or have a need for it,” she said. “If anything it makes connections online even more important.”

As Marie looks to the future, she said she wants to continue to build on Bell’s legacy — one that includes everyone in the queer community. 

“As a Black lesbian woman, I know how hard it is when you’re shouting and no one’s willing to listen,” she said. “Tagg’s the place where women, non-binary and trans folks can go to be heard, that’s really the point.”

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