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District of Columbia

Proposed budget cut by DC Council called harmful to LGBTQ Pride events

Mayor’s office opposes elimination of Festival Fund



Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride Alliance, said elimination of the Festival Fund program could result in Capital Pride having to pay between $550,000 and $750,000 to hold the city’s Pride celebration. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Council Committee on Business and Economic Development voted on April 27 to approve a series of budget recommendations to the full Council that calls for cutting $1.5 million from a city program that has helped to support the city’s Capital Pride parade and festival.

The program in question, known as the Festival Fund or Special Event Relief Fund, has for many years exempted community-based organizations like the Capital Pride Alliance, from having to pay the costs of street closings and police and other public safety support services for such events.

The proposed cut for this program, if approved by the full D.C. Council, would be part of the city’s fiscal year 2024 budget.

Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride Alliance, said elimination of the Festival Fund program could result in Capital Pride having to pay between $550,000 and $750,000 to hold the city’s popular Capital Pride Parade, Festival, Block Party, and other Pride events in 2024, when the elimination of the Festival Fund would take effect.

“This Fund is essential to supporting events that celebrate the culture of the District of Columbia and its communities, including events like the Capital Pride Celebration – particularly ahead of ensuring a successful World Pride in 2025,” according to a statement Capital Pride released to the Washington Blade.

“Elimination of the Fund may require that we look carefully at each event that we produce to determine where cuts to the budget may be needed,” the statement says. “It is important to note that events such as the Capital Pride Celebration generate significant revenue for the D.C. government,” the statement says.

In mentioning World Pride 2025, the statement was referring to the decision by leaders of the international LGBTQ event known as World Pride, to select D.C. and the Capital Pride Alliance to host the 2025 World Pride in June of that year. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from foreign countries as well as from the host country usually attend Word Pride events.

It couldn’t immediately be determined how the elimination of the city’s Festival Fund would impact the D.C. 2025 World Pride, but the Capital Pride statement suggests the elimination of the fund could dramatically increase the costs for putting it on.

A May 9 press release issued by the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser expresses opposition to the Council committee’s proposed $1.5 million cut in the Festival Fund budget and the committee’s proposed cuts of $3 million each for two other programs that the release says have supported community-based businesses.

One of them is called the Great Streets and Small Business Fund and the other is known as the Food Access Fund, which supports restaurants in Wards 7 and 8, according to the mayor’s press release.

“Last week, the Council proposed cuts to these three programs, including the elimination of the Festival Fund,” the press release says.

These and multiple other budget-related proposals by the Committee on Business and Economic Development are outlined in detail in a 96-page draft report released on April 27. The report says the committee voted 4-0 to approve the report and its proposals, with one member of the committee — Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) — being absent when the vote was taken.

Those voting yes included Council member Kenyan McDuffie (I-At Large), who chairs the committee, and Council members Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), and Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7).

D.C. gay activist John Fanning, who serves as Bonds’s director of constituent services, said Bonds opposes the proposed $1.5 million cut in the Festival Fund budget and plans to urge her fellow Council members to remove the proposed cut from the Council’s final budget proposal.
Fanning said Bonds was absent for the committee vote because she was attending a budget markup hearing at the same time for the Council’s Committee on Executive Administration and Labor for which Bonds is the chairperson.

According to Fanning, Bonds is aware of the importance of the Festival Fund’s support for events like Capital Pride and other events, including the Cherry Blossom Festival, the H Street Festival, the Fiesta DC Hispanic event, and an event called Porchfest.

“Council member Bonds also had concerns that any cancellations of festivals and events would impact the connectivity of people, after several years of isolation during the pandemic,” Fanning said.

Spokespersons for McDuffie and fellow committee members Allen, Pinto, and Gray didn’t immediately respond to a request by the Blade for comment on why they supported the proposed $1.5 million cut in the Festival Fund.

“The Capital Pride Alliance has reached out to the [Council] Chair and all members of the City Council to encourage them to object to this budget cut,” the Capital Pride statement to the Blade says.

The Council’s Committee of the Whole, which consists of all 13 Council members, and that is chaired by Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), was expected to consider, and possibly vote on, all Council committee budget proposals on May 16.

Later in the day on Thursday, May 11, after the Blade posted this story, Councilmember McDuffie responded to Blade’s earlier request for comment on why he and his fellow committee members voted to cut the $1.5 million Festival Fund.

“As a former civil rights attorney and current champion for equity and inclusion on the Council, I support the Pride Parade and appreciate its mission to fight for equality and honor the history of the LGBTQ+ community,” McDuffie told the Blade in a short statement.

But McDuffie said members of the Committee on Business and Economic Development made the difficult decision to make “deep cuts to several programs” to offset what he said was Mayor Bowser’s decision to defund in her proposed budget the Child Wealth Building Act or Baby Bonds program.

That program, McDuffie points out, is designed to “help close the racial wealth gap in our city by investing in children born into poverty” and providing financial support upon their turning 18 years of age to help pay, among other things, for education and purchasing a home.

“I am working with the Council Chairman to identify any available funds to support the Festival Fund,” McDuffie said.

In a separate response to a Blade inquiry, a spokesperson for Council Chair Mendelson said Mendelson is aware of the committee’s decision to cut the Festival Fund and he is looking for a way to restore that funding in his budget proposal. The spokesperson, Lindsey Walton, said Mendelson plans to release his budget proposal on Monday, May 15.


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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