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Local book festival features Chasten Buttigieg, Blade editor

Seventh annual Books in Bloom slated for Saturday in Columbia



Chasten Buttigieg will appear Saturday at Books in Bloom in Columbia, Md. (Screen capture via ABC/YouTube)

A YouTube video shows Nikki Giovanni leaning on the armrest of a brown leather chair with her layered purple-beaded necklaces reaching past her waist and closer to her knees. Her perfectly manicured afro tilted backwards as she gazes into the eyes of James Baldwin, seated opposite her, as they had a conversation about the state of affairs between Black women and men on a 1971 episode of “Soul!,” a variety show about African-American music, dance, and literature.

“Jimmy, I’m really curious, why did you move to Europe?” she began their segment. 

Giovanni, who has been honored with many awards, including the NAACP Image Award, will co-headline this year’s Books in Bloom Festival on Saturday, May 13 at Color Burst Park in Columbia, Md. She will join a host of other authors on the main stage, including co-host and LGBTQ rights activist Chasten Buttigieg, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, and Blade Editor Kevin Naff. Buttigieg is author of the new book, “I Have Something to Tell You.”

The festival, a collaboration between the Downtown Columbia Partnership and the Howard Hughes Corporation, began in 2017 to facilitate cutting edge discussions about diversity and inclusion in Columbia, Md. Authors, chefs, activists, and poets, among many others, have since gathered in the town to participate in programming about race, feminism, equality, and culture, according to the festival’s website. 

“Each year we highlight books that can highlight timely conversations that are happening nationally,” said Casey Jones, festival organizer and marketing director for the Howard Hughes Corporation. “One of those speakers is Eric Klinenberg, [and this] is very timely in downtown Columbia as the county executive just announced plans for a beautiful new central library that will be designed by Thomas Heatherwick.” 

Klinenberg’s session will center on his book “Palaces for the People,” which focuses on libraries as community anchors. He will also participate in a panel that includes Stuart Wood, a senior designer at Heatherwick Studio. 

Though Books in Bloom may follow the template of spearheading relevant discussions each year, this year’s edition is unique because the festival has engaged its local partners “more authentically.” The festival’s theme is “Building Community Through Empathy and Understanding One Another.”

“In prior years, we’ve [asked] our local partners to help market [the festival],” said Phillip Dodge, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Partnership. “Whereas this year from the get-go we sat down and asked what value Books in Bloom can bring to them, and what can we offer them that could raise their profile in the community and help them do their jobs better.”

An example is Howard County Public School System Pride, which will participate in some of the programming and also launch its “Rainbow Vision 2023 Literary Magazine.” Students who contributed to the publication will also read their works, including poems and personal essays, in front of an audience. 

“Incorporating our partners makes sure that conversations exist beyond the event,” said Jones. “Libraries aren’t just houses for books, they’re opportunities to hear different perspectives.”

In line with uplifting the LGBTQ community in programming, Kevin Naff, editor and co-owner of the Washington Blade, will be in conversation with film critic and culture writer Manuel Betancourt, discussing his new book, “How We Won the War for LGBTQ Equality — And How Our Enemies Could Take It All Away.”

“I grew up in Columbia, so it’s quite a thrill to be asked back years later as a published author,” said Naff. “I can’t wait to talk about the important and grave issues facing the LGBTQ community in a city with such a long, progressive tradition.”

This progressive tradition dates back as far as the 1970s when Baldwin answered Giovanni’s question on “Soul!”

“I was trying to become a writer and couldn’t find in my surroundings in my country, a certain stamina, a certain corroboration that I needed,” said Baldwin “As far as I knew when I was young, as far as my father knew, there’d never been anything called a Black writer.” 


District of Columbia

Inaugural Uptown Pride to take place June 10

Festival to feature drag storytime, makers’ market, DJs



Logo created by Anthony Dihle (Courtesy of Justin Noble)

A new Pride festival is coming to D.C. 

The inaugural Uptown Pride will be hosted in Sixteenth Street Heights on June 10 with Pride celebrations for Washingtonians of all ages.

The festival, hosted at the intersection of 14th Street, Colorado Avenue and Kennedy Street, NW, will feature a drag storytime, a makers’ market, DJs and more. There will also be a raffle for various prizes, with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention services for LGBTQ teens.

The festival will be from 2-7 p.m. and is partnering with local businesses like Moreland’s Tavern, Captain Cookie and Lighthouse Yoga Center for activities and refreshments.

Justin Noble, one of the organizers of the festival, said that the inspiration for the event came out of wanting a Pride experience tailored to the residents of the Sixteenth Street Heights, Petworth and Brightwood neighborhoods.

“It can be a hassle to get to downtown,” Noble said. “There needs to be something in our community that supports LGBTQ+ people and the culture and all of that because we’re everywhere, right? We are everywhere.”

Organizer Max Davis said that the inclusion of children’s events like a drag storytime was purposeful, and helps make the event more accessible to LGBTQ families and youth. 

“Kids I feel are the most important in as far as just showing them, just visibly showing them that you can live out and you can be queer,” Davis said. “There is no more dangerous time than now to be queer, questioning youth … So who better to welcome into the fold than kids who might be questioning their sexuality.”

Davis said that a big part of wanting to bring Pride celebrations uptown was to have a physical representation of support for the LGBTQ community.

“I felt like because there wasn’t anything going on in Sixteenth Street Heights — the clientele that we were serving up at Moreland’s absolutely is supportive, and I never felt that it wasn’t a supportive environment — but if you don’t have something to actively support that I feel that your support is just words,” Davis said. “If our community had someplace to attend even for one day to just be like, ‘Hey, I stand with you,’ … that is something that every community should have available to them to actively support the LGBTQ community.”

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2023 honorees, grand marshals

Assistant Secretary of Health Levine among picks



Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine and acclaimed longtime D.C. LGBTQ and transgender rights advocate Earline Budd are among nine prominent LGBTQ community leaders named on Wednesday by the Capital Pride Alliance as its 2023 Capital Pride honorees.

Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes D.C.’s annual Capital Pride parade, festival, and related events, announced in a May 24 statement that it will present the honoree awards to each of the recipients at a ceremony scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2, at the Penn Social event and catering hall at 801 E St., N.W.

“The recipients are nominated each year by members of the community,” the Capital Pride statement says. “They represent individuals who and organizations that have advanced the causes of LGBTQ+ rights,” it says.

The statement says Levine was selected for the Capital Pride Paving the Way Award, which “acknowledges an individual or organization that has provided exemplary contributions, support, and/or advocacy that has positively impacted the LGBTQ+ community, and whose leadership has inspired continued progress.”

Levine, who was appointed by President Biden in 2021 as Assistant Secretary of Health, is a longtime pediatrician who also serves as an admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She became the first openly transgender person to hold the admiralty position.

Capital Pride named Earline Budd as recipient of the Capital Pride Super Hero Award, which “recognizes additional significant and important contributions to the LGBTQ+ community in the national capital region.”

The statement announcing the honorees says Levine and Budd will also serve as grand marshals for the June 10 Capital Pride Parade. It says each of the other honorees will serve as parade marshals.

The announcement says the following four people have been named as recipients of the Capital Pride Hero Award:

• Shi-Queeta Lee, the D.C.-based nationally acclaimed drag performer
• Benjamin Rosenbaum, longtime congressional staffer, LGBTQ rights advocate, and LGBTQ Jewish community advocate
• Nancy Canas, president of D.C. Latinx History Project and advocate for the LGBTQ Latinx community
• Abdur-Rahim Briggs, longtime leader of the D.C.-based Project Briggs, which provides philanthropic support for LGBTQ causes.

The following two organizations were named as recipients of the Capital Pride Breaking Barriers Community Impact Award, which recognizes individuals or organizations that have “demonstrated a significant impact to the LGBTQ+ community at either the local or national level and who helped eliminate barriers for social, personal, or professional growth of the LGBTQ+ community:

• Drag Story Hour DMV
• National LGBTQ Task Force

The Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services, which acknowledges “exemplary contributions to the Capital Pride Alliance, its programs, initiatives, or other Pride sponsored activities,” is being given to Brandon Bayton, Jr., a longtime Capital Pride volunteer, consultant, and organ transplant advocate, and LGBTQ rights advocate.

“We are fortunate to have such a vibrant honoree selection process, with so many outstanding individuals who were nominated,” said Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Alliance Board of Directors. “We are very pleased to celebrate these individuals at the 2023 Capital Pride Honors,” Smith said in the CPA statement.

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District of Columbia

Blade names recipients of two summer fellowships

Kravis, Lev-Tov join LGBTQ news team



Isabelle Kravis and Joel Lev-Tov are the Blade Foundation’s 2023 summer fellows.

The Blade Foundation this week announced the recipients of its 2023 summer fellowship program. 

Isabelle Kravis (she/they) is a senior at American University studying journalism and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She will focus on covering LGBTQ issues in the local D.C. area for 12 weeks starting this week. The fellowship is made possible by a generous donation from the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K event.

“I’ve been reading the Blade since I first moved to D.C. for my freshman year and I’m so excited to be able to contribute to such a historic paper,” Kravis said. “I love covering the LGBTQ community because of the diversity of experiences that each queer person has and the joy that queer people bring to everything they do. I’m incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to be able to cover both the city and community that I love.”

Joel Lev-Tov (they/them) is a senior at the University of Maryland College Park studying journalism. Lev-Tov also serves as president of the Association of LGBTQ Journalists at College Park. Lev-Tov is the sixth recipient of the Steve Elkins Memorial Journalism Fellowship, which honors the co-founder of CAMP Rehoboth. The fellow covers issues of interest to the LGBTQ community in Delaware, also for 12 weeks. The fellowship is funded by donations from the Rehoboth Beach community.

“I’m extremely excited to start reporting about my community for my community,” Lev-Tov said. “The Blade is offering me a special opportunity that I’m very grateful for. I can’t wait to start reporting!”

Kevin Naff, editor of the Blade, welcomed Kravis and Lev-Tov to work this week.

“We’re all excited to work with Isabelle and Joel this summer,” Naff said. “There’s never been more news to cover and they will add an important, fresh perspective to our work. Thank you to our donors and to the Front Runners for making this program possible.”

For more information on the fellowship program or to donate, visit

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