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Local book festival features Chasten Buttigieg, Blade editor

Seventh annual Books in Bloom slated for Saturday in Columbia

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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.” 

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District of Columbia

D.C. Council budget bill includes $8.5 million in LGBTQ provisions

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

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The D.C. Council approved Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal calling for $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for a $21 billion fiscal year 2025 budget for the District of Columbia that includes more than $8.5 million in funding for LGBTQ-related programs, including $5.25 million in support of the June 2025 World Pride celebration that D.C. will be hosting.

Also included in the budget is $1.7 million in funds for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, which includes an increase of $132,000 over the office’s funding for the current fiscal year, and a one-time funding of $1 million for the completion of the renovation of the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community’s new building in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition earlier this year asked both the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to approve $1.5 million for the D.C. Center’s building renovation and an additional $300,000 in “recurring” funding for the LGBTQ Center in subsequent years “to support ongoing operational costs and programmatic initiatives.” In its final budget measure, the Council approved $1 million for the renovation work and did not approve the proposed $600,000 in annual operational funding for the center.

The mayor’s budget proposal, which called for the $5.25 million in funding for World Pride 2025, did not include funding for the D.C. LGBTQ Center or for several other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition.

At the request of D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member, the Council approved at least two other funding requests by the LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition in addition to the funding for the LGBTQ Center. One is $595,000 for 20 additional dedicated housing vouchers for LGBTQ residents who face housing insecurity or homelessness. The LGBTQ housing vouchers are administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

The other funding allocation pushed by Parker is $250,000 in funds to support a Black LGBTQ+ History Commission and Black LGBTQIA+ history program that Parker proposed that will also be administered by the LGBTQ Affairs office.

Also at Parker’s request, the Council included in its budget bill a proposal by Parker to change the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to become a “stand-alone entity” outside the Executive Office of the Mayor. Parker told the Washington Blade this change would “allow for greater transparency and accountability that reflects its evolution over the years.”

He said the change would also give the person serving as the office’s director, who is currently LGBTQ rights advocate Japer Bowles, “greater flexibility to advocate for the interest of LGBTQ residents” and give the Council greater oversight of the office. Parker noted that other community constituent offices under the mayor’s office, including the Office of Latino Affairs and the Office of Veterans Affairs, are stand-alone offices.

The budget bill includes another LGBTQ funding provision introduced by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) that allocates $100,000 in grants to support LGBTQ supportive businesses in Ward 6 that would be awarded and administered by the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Allen spokesperson Eric Salmi said Allen had in mind two potential businesses on 8th Street, S.E. in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill as potential applicants for the grants.

One is the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are, which had to close temporarily earlier this year due to structural problems in the building it rents. The other potential applicant, Salmi said, is Little District Books, D.C.’s only LGBTQ bookstore that’s located on 8th Street across the street from the U.S. Marine Barracks.

“It’s kind of recognizing Barrack’s Row has a long history of creating spaces that are intended for and safe for the LGBTQ community and wanting to continue that history,” Salmi said  “So, that was his kind of intent behind the language in that funding.”

The mayor’s budget proposal also called for continuing an annual funding of $600,000 to provide workforce development services for transgender and gender non-conforming city residents experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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Baltimore

Police say they didn’t spray a chemical agent at Baltimore Pride. Why don’t those who attended believe it?

Attendees allege city failed to adequately respond to emergency

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A parade participant is photographed clutching on to a rainbow flag at Baltimore’s Pride Parade held on June 15, 2024. (Photo by Ronica Edwards/Baltimore Banner)

BY BRENNA SMITH and JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | A chemical agent that disrupted Pride Parade festivities last weekend continues to cause confusion and raise suspicion among many in the Baltimore LGBTQIA+ community, who question the police account of what happened.

The Baltimore Police Department said Tuesday that they had determined the released substance was Mace, but did not say how they came to that conclusion. A BPD spokesperson said that the chemical was released after two groups of people got into an altercation. Three people were treated and released from a nearby hospital because of injuries from the spray.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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