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District of Columbia

D.C. LGBTQ Budget Coalition urges city to boost funding for queer programs

Most requests not included in mayor’s proposed 2024 budget



Local advocates are calling on Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council to include about a dozen specific programs in the city’s fiscal year 2024 budget.

The D.C. LGBTQ Budget Coalition, which consists of at least 10 prominent local LGBTQ organizations and another nine LGBTQ supportive allied groups, is calling on Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council to include about a dozen specific programs in the city’s fiscal year 2024 budget that add up to about $13.5 million in funding.

According to information provided to the Washington Blade by one of the coalition officials, which the official said was subject to change, the mayor’s proposed budget does not include the requested funding for at least 10 of the coalition’s 12 specific requests coming to a total of about $13 million.

Coalition coordinator Heidi Ellis said that among the coalition’s proposals not included in the mayor’s budget is a request for $10.5 million to fund two harm reduction and services centers to address the opioid and fentanyl drug overdose crisis impacting communities, including the LGBTQ community, across the city.

The mayor’s budget calls for $9.5 million to fund a single “stabilization & sobering center” to address the overdose crisis. But Ellis said the coalition does not consider that proposal an acceptable alternative to the coalition’s proposal for two harm reduction centers.

With the mayor’s $9.5 million “stabilization and sobering center” proposal not included as part of the coalition’s budget requests, that means the coalition believes the mayor’s budget only includes about $500,000 out of the coalition’s $13.5 million overall request.

Ellis said that in addition to not including much of the funding the coalition is asking for, the mayor’s budget includes some cuts in funding for LGBTQ-related programs that were included in the existing 2023 budget and previous year budgets. Among the cuts, Ellis said, are for a workforce program that assists transgender and gender nonconforming residents in finding gainful employment and for programs assisting LGBTQ people experiencing intimate partner violence.

One of the the coalition’s proposals that Bowser’s proposed budget does include is a request to continue to allocate at least $500,000 in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs for LGBTQ community development grants.  

 “We share detailed budget requests that provide crucial services to the LGBTQ+ community of Washington, D.C.,” the coalition states in a nine-page letter sent to the mayor and each of the 13 members of the D.C. Council in February that outlines its specific funding proposals.

“We are a mission-driven group working to advocate for dedicated funding to support LGBTQ+ residents with a focus on trans people of color and low-income residents,” the letter says. “The Coalition has worked tirelessly for several months with the Mayor’s office, the Council, various D.C. agencies, and most importantly, the community to identify these needs,” according to the letter.

“Our recommendations reflect that work in addition to our extensive research around these issues and the broader District landscape,” it says. “We ask that the Mayor and the Council adopt our recommendations as they specifically address some of the chronic and immediate issues facing the District.”

At the time she submitted her proposed $19.7 billion F.Y. 2024 budget to the Council last month, the mayor said the city faces a projected drop in revenue of more than $390 million due, among other things, to reduced tax revenue from commercial real estate along with the end of pandemic-era federal aid to D.C. and other cities.

The projected reduction in revenue will force her and the Council to make difficult decisions on funding reductions, including at least $373 million in proposed reductions in her budget, the mayor said. Among the reductions is the proposed elimination of 749 vacant D.C. government positions.

In response to a request by the Blade for comment on the coalition’s claim that the mayor’s budget does not include most of the requests by the LGBTQ Budget Coalition, Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, provided a written statement.  

“We appreciate the community and advocacy groups identifying areas of improvement and putting forward their requests,” Bowles told the Blade in his statement. “We are proud to continue all formerly funded LGBTQIA+ programs, albeit at new levels, and our agencies are dedicated to continuing to work with our many LGBTQIA+ community-based organizations and our innovative programs to add resilience and capacity in the long term,” he said.

His statement did not specifically address the coalition’s claims that most of their requests were not included in the mayor’s budget other than to say, “our budget is still feeling the impacts of the pandemic,” a reference to Mayor Bowser’s assertion that the city faces a revenue shortfall and budget cuts would be needed in the fiscal year 2024 budget.

Bowles added that the Office of LGBTQ Affairs “will be providing more training funding for LGBTQIA+ cultural competency,” as requested by the coalition. He said the mayor’s office would also be sending the D.C. Council a letter identifying “corrections and amendments” to the proposed budget, but those changes will not bring about “significant adjustments to agencies budgets related to the [coalition’s] request at this time.”

Before his appointment by Bowser to become director of the LGBTQ Affairs Office, Bowles served as coordinator of the LGBTQ Budget Coalition after playing a role in creating the coalition as an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.

Among the LGBTQ and LGBTQ supportive organizations that are members of the D.C. LGBTQ Budget Coalition are Capital Pride Alliance, the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, Capital Stonewall Democrats, the Wanda Alston Foundation, the LGBTQ youth advocacy group SMYAL, the sex worker advocacy group HIPS, the Washington AIDS Partnership, Us Helping Us, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), the ANC Rainbow Caucus, Damien Ministries, and the Latin American Youth Center.

In its nine-page letter to the mayor and the Council, the coalition included these funding requests for the 2024 budget:

• An LGBTQ+ reentry ‘Housing for All’ Pilot Program at the city’s Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants for citizens returning from incarceration — $750,000.

• Additional housing vouchers for LGBTQ+ residents for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to help support those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness — $500,000.

• Harm Reduction Services & Centers — $10.5 million. To address the “alarming” and growing number of fentanyl and opioid related drug overdose deaths in the city, this calls for funding two Harm Reduction Centers on each side of the Anacostia River that will be open 24 hours each day to “aid in eliminating the stigma around substance usage, to avoid the burden on our criminal justice system, and to, most importantly, save lives.”

• Employment & Workforce Development Programs for the Department of Human Services — $500,000. A request for an “enhancement for the Transgender & Gender-nonconforming workforce program to ensure a long-term approach to closing the employment and wage gap for T/TNC residents in the District.”

• Employment Coordinator/Employment Case Management Advocate for the Office of LGBTQ Affairs — $75,000. This position would “help LGBTQ+ residents navigate these workforce programs by serving as point of contact for community members seeking employment and those trying to access the aforementioned workforce programs.”

• Health Initiatives — no specific funding request. A call for the city’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STI, and TB Administration (HAHSTA) to take steps to reverse a trend brought about by COVID in which the number of people seeking HIV testing across the city fell by 20 percent. The city should also address “the disparity of testing in marginalized communities, specifically Black and brown women, TGNC, etc.” communities.

• Safety & Inclusive Emergency Services — $860,000. Out of this total, $60,000 for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to improve and expand its cultural competency training for D.C. police and D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department first responders; a total of $600,000 for the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants to expand its services and outreach to the LGBTQ+ community for intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and hate crimes; and $200,000 to establish a Violence Prevention and Response Team (VPART) coordinator at the Office of LGBTQ Affairs to focus on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.

• Improving Language Access & Immigration Services — $250,000 for the Department of Human Services and $100,000 for Office of LGBTQ Affairs. An increase in migrants sent to D.C. from other states, including LGBTQ+ immigrants, has created a need for more language interpretation services for those who are Limited English Proficient (LEP) or Non-English Proficient (NEP)

• Supporting the Newly Established DC LGBTQ+ Community Center — $200,000. The mayor’s office has already awarded a $1 million grant to help pay for the renovation of the section of a new building the LGBT Center will be moving into later this year. Those funds have been “exhausted,” the coalition says, for the building renovation. “The DC Center and Capital Pride Alliance, in partnership with the Coalition, are requesting $200,000 in recurring dollars to support the operating costs associated with the Center.”

In a separate letter to the D.C. Council, GLAA expressed concern that the mayor’s proposed budget calls for eliminating at least six staff positions at the D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR). The OHR, among other things, enforces the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination against LGBTQ people.

The GLAA letter, signed by GLAA President Tyrone Hanley, calls for the budget to fund one additional OHR staff person to support the enforcement of a city law protecting tenants from unfair evictions, another new OHR staff person to address OHR’s “outdated case management system,” and one or more additional staff to help enforce the D.C. Domestic Workers Act, which supports the rights of domestic workers.

Several D.C. Council committees that oversee various D.C. government agencies were scheduled to make final recommendations to the full Council this week in a process known as a “markup” for the budget. The Council is expected to vote on its final version of the D.C. budget in May.

Full details of the coalition’s budget requests and the names of the organizations that make up the coalition can be viewed at the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition website.


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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