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District of Columbia

Independent at-large D.C. Council candidates endorse LGBTQ rights at forum

Race considered only contest on ballot with uncertain outcome



Capital Stonewall Democrats President Jatarious Frazier. (Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Four of the five independent candidates running in the Nov. 8 election for two at-large D.C. Council seats expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights at a virtual candidates forum Monday night, Oct. 17, sponsored by the Capital Stonewall Democrats.

The D.C. LGBTQ Democratic group limited the forum to the five independent candidates running against a Democrat, Republican, and a Statehood Green Party candidate for two at-large seats, one of which must go to a non-majority party candidate under D.C.’s election law.

The four independents who participated were incumbent D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), attorney Karim D. Marshall, businessman Fred Hill, and former corporate manager and small business advocate Graham McLaughlin. The fifth independent running, incumbent D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (I-Ward 5), was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, according to Capital Stonewall Democrats President Jatarious Frazier.

Frazier noted that the Stonewall Dems group has endorsed the other at-large incumbent Council member, Anita Bonds, a Democrat. He said the group decided against endorsing a second at-large candidate on grounds that the other candidate would be running against the group’s Democratic endorsee.

But Frazier said Capital Stonewall Democrats decided to organize the forum to help its members and other LGBTQ voters decide whom to support for the second at-large Council seat that cannot go to a Democrat. 

Both Bonds and McDuffie have longstanding records of support on LGBTQ related issues. With all the at-large candidates having expressed support on LGBTQ issues, local activists have said LGBTQ voters will likely select the two candidates they vote for based on non-LGBTQ issues.

The remaining two of the eight at-large Council candidates on the ballot are Republican Giuseppe Niosi, who marched in D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade in June, and Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman, who has expressed support for LGBTQ rights.

The two co-moderators of the forum, Rebecca Bauer, a member of the board of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, and Larry Miller, WUSA 9 TV anchor and morning show host, asked the candidates questions on a wide range of both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ issues.

Longtime D.C. political observers point out that with the city’s overwhelmingly Democratic electorate, the Democratic candidate running for mayor – incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser – and incumbent Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), along with the Democrats running for Council seats in Wards 1, 3, 5, and 6 are all considered odds-on favorites to win. Among them is gay Ward 5 Democratic candidate Zachary Parker, who is considered the strong front-runner in the Ward 5 race.

It’s just the at-large race, where only one Democrat is allowed to run, in which the outcome is uncertain, observers have said.

Among the independent candidates appearing at the Capital Stonewall Dems forum on Monday, which was broadcast over Zoom and which Frazier said will be available for viewing online, McLaughlin was the only one who claimed to have worked directly with LGBTQ organizations and LGBTQ people in his role as an advocate for homeless youth.

“In a nation where 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, and that number is pretty high into one’s 20s as well, I opened my home to a member of that community who was homeless,” McLaughlin told the forum. “I have partnered and walked with individuals who are of color and who are in the LGBTQ community to be able to help launch businesses,” he said, adding that he has collaborated with the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention services for LGBTQ young people.

Silverman, Marshall, and Hill each told of their own efforts to improve the services that city agencies provide for LGBTQ youth and seniors.

Following is a Washington Blade transcript of the opening remarks of each of the four who participated in the Capital Stonewall Democrats forum.

Fred E. Hill (Independent)

Thank you so much for the invitation to share with you this evening. My name is Fred Hill. I’m Number 3 on the ballot. And I’m an independent running in this race for at-large. Many know that I’m a 25-year successful business owner here in the city and a veteran and a father and a grandfather.

More importantly, for my standing for the last 25 years is my desire to change this government. We have watched how the government right now is running almost as a failing enterprise and it does not consider the concerns and the management of money and the trust of the residents here in the District of Columbia. I seek to change that. I bring the courage, the understanding and knowledge of what is needed on this Council right now.

We have watched where public safety, housing, and education all have been the same concerns in the last four years repeating itself again. So, I should tell everyone that those who were on the Council in its entirety did not do what the people needed and it’s time to make a change for that. Again, my name is Fred Hill. I’m Number 3 on the ballot and I’m asking for one of your two votes. Thank you.

Karim D. Marshall (Independent)

Good afternoon. And thank you to the Stonewall Dems for hosting this event for independents. It is a pleasure to be here before the only political organization in the city that’s named after a righteous riot. My name is Karim D. Marshall. I’m running to be the next at-large Council member and I’m asking for one of your two votes. I’m Number 2 on the ballot. I’m a third generation Washingtonian, a proud product of the District of Columbia public school system, a graduate of Dartmouth College and an American law school.

But most importantly, I’m a father and a husband. I’m currently general counsel for a nonprofit foundation and a professor of environmental justice. But before that, I had more than a decade of experience for the District of Columbia government, writing laws, implementing programs, and advancing equity. I know what this government does well, what it does poorly, and I know how to make broken systems work to serve the residents of our city.

I wish we could stay together in person and talk about the issues that will be covered today in the detail they deserve. But I will do my best to put as much information into each answer as possible. I’m looking forward to hearing about what your community needs to be successful and what could be improved in protection and service programs, what our nonprofits can be doing more effectively to serve you, and what the government can be doing to meet the needs before they become a crisis.

Again, my name is Karim Marshall. I’m number two on the ballot and I’m asking for one of your two votes.

Graham McLaughlin (Independent)

Hello, and I echo Karim in saying thank you to the Stonewall Dems for hosting this and letting us have important discussions on some of these critical issues for the city. You have two votes, as you know. And it really comes down to who do you think has the head and the heart to deliver the results that this city needs, and the LGBTQ community needs. From a heart perspective in a nation where 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, and that number is pretty high into one’s 20s as well. I opened my home to a member of that community who was homeless.

When we’re in a country, unfortunately, that still, if you are an LGBTQ person of color, you have lower wages, harder opportunities to become employed, etcetera. I have partnered and walked with individuals who are of color and who are in the LGBTQ community to be able to help launch businesses. From a head level, I lead a help equity program focused on critical issues that we’re going to talk about today. I’ve partnered with the Trevor Project to ensure that LGBTQ youth of color who desire the same access to mental health service as their white peers but have significantly less access to it, would be able to receive those same services and would have the outreach necessarily by culturally competent support professionals to do so.

Having shared that 18 percent of transgender individuals who are turned away from care would not do so at a health level. I’ve been doing this work significantly. I’d love the opportunity to be able to do it in government.

D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (Independent)

Good evening, Rebecca and Jatarious and Larry and everyone watching. My name is Elissa Silverman. And for the last eight years I have been serving you as an at-large Council member. I’m the incumbent. I’m an independent. And I am as well asking you for one of your two votes. I’m asking you to return me back to the Council for another four years.

I’ve worked my heart out these last eight years in trying to make life better for working families, including LGBTQ working families in this city. I think a lot of people know me for paid family leave and the benefits that brings to LGBTQ families. Beyond that, as the Labor chair I’ve had a real focus on making sure people have access to good living wage jobs. And I’ve also been able to survive these past two years in COVID.

I have a big focus on oversight, which is clear, as Colby King said, being kind of a solitary voice in trying to highlight the issues with the D.C. Housing Authority. I think we can spend your tax dollars better so our city can be more equitable and just. And I ask for one of your votes to do that.

The Capital Stonewall Democrats’ independent candidate forum can be viewed in its entirety here.


District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’



Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out in 2016. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship to support their costs in community college as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

The foundation is expanding all of its programs. In the next academic year, Point will offer 574 scholarships and grants to students around the country. This includes scholars in its BIPOC scholarship, the newest and largest program at Point.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

Last year, Point also launched a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Pride celebrations include parade, festival, fireworks, and more

More than 100 events for all ages planned for June



The Blade’s Pride on the Pier returns June 10 with the region’s only Pride fireworks display at 9 p.m.

More than 100 different events for all ages and interests will take place in D.C. for Pride month.

The Capital Pride Alliance will officially kick off Pride month on Thursday with a show from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Sasha Velour, the 17th Official D.C. Latinx Pride Party and more at Bunker (2001 14th St., N.W.)

Capital Pride on Friday will hold Capital Pride Honors at Penn Social (801 E St., N.W.). Capital Pride every Pride month honors individuals and organizations that have made a lasting impact on D.C.’s LGBTQ community. Among the honorees this year is the National LGBTQ Task Force, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The Washington Nationals will host the 17th annual Pride Night Out on June 6. With the purchase of a Pride ticket, attendees will receive a Pride T-shirt and $5 from their ticket will go to support Team DC, which helps to support the LGBTQ community in sports.

D.C.’s largest Pride event, the Capital Pride Parade, will take place on June 10. The parade will follow a 1.5-mile route, which will step off on 14th Street at T Street, N.W., and finish on P Street at 21st Street N.W. A map of the expected parade route can be found on the Capital Pride website

During the parade, the Capital Block Party will take place at the intersection of Q and 17th Streets. The party will feature local vendors, food trucks and a 21+ beverage garden. The party will also have a designated viewing area for families with children to watch the parade, along with other children’s activities. 

The Wharf will be home to the fourth annual Pride on the Pier during the parade, hosted by the Washington Blade, LURe DC and the Wharf. The event, held from 2-9 p.m., will feature a fireworks show at 9 p.m., a DJ, drag performances, and more. VIP tickets are available in two shifts, offering catered food, open bar, and more. The fireworks display is sponsored by the Leonard-Litz LGBTQ Foundation. For more information and to buy VIP tickets, visit General admission to the festivities on the pier is free.

The parade will be followed by the Capital Pride Festival on June 11. Taking place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., the festival will feature more than 300 booths with local vendors, businesses and organizations. From 12-8 p.m., the Capital Pride Concert will host acts such as Broadway actress Idina Menzel and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Monét X Change.

From June 5-Aug. 11, ARTECHOUSE will be exhibiting its newest exhibit “PIXELBLOOM: Timeless Butterflies.” Visitors can use the promo code “PRIDE20” to get 20 percent off their ticket during Pride month.

Throughout the summer, Capital Pride will also host a variety of online events. In partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Capital Pride will host Youth in Action: Wearing Our PRIDE, which will feature young indigenous activists working toward social justice. Capital Pride will also host Zoom affinity support groups and social hours.

Further details and a full calendar of events can be found on the Capital Pride website.

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