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D.C. Black Pride celebration set for May 26-29

Wide range of indoor, outdoor events over Memorial Day Weekend

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A scene from last year’s D.C. Black Pride. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As many as 60,000 people from outside the D.C. area along with a large number of local participants were expected to attend D.C.’s LGBTQ Black Pride celebration and related events scheduled for May 26-29.

Like past years, most of the official D.C. Black Pride events will be held indoors at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel, according to Kenya Hutton, one of Black Pride’s lead organizers.

Hutton serves as deputy director of the Center for Black Equity, the D.C.-based national group that has organized D.C. Black Pride for the past decade or longer along with the group’s founder and CEO Earl Fowlkes.

“D.C. Black Pride is open to all, to everybody, regardless of race, age, gender, or sexual orientation,” Hutton told the Washington Blade. “Everyone is welcome.”

The official D.C. Black Pride schedule posted online includes as many as 38 events over Memorial Day Weekend, with a few unofficial events hosted by organizations in partnership with Black Pride taking place on Thursday, May 25.

The outdoor events, which are sponsored by partner venues, include Pride By the River Super Sunday at Anacostia Park on May 29 from 12-8 p.m., and Pride In The Park, at Fort Dupont Park on Monday, May 29, from 12-7 p.m.

Among the official events are nine “enrichment workshops” led by experts in a wide range of topics of interest to the black LGBTQ community as well as the LGBTQ community as a whole. Sutton said the workshops would take place on Saturday, May 27, at the Renaissance Washington D.C. Downtown, which serves as the Black Pride headquarters hotel.

Among them are an ONYX University workshop to explore “all things kink and BDSM,” a workshop called “Resources for LGBTQIA+ Veterans,” another called “Trans Town Hall,” and a “Faith In Blackness” panel discussion covering the topics of spirituality and theology.

Hutton said the workshops are free of charge and anyone is welcome to attend, although organizers would like those who are not registered in advance for Black Pride events to register at the welcome desk at the hotel where most Black Pride events will be held.

Also, like in recent past years, D.C. Black Pride is hosting what the schedule describes as its Rainbow Row of organization and vendor exhibitors. According to Hutton, the number of exhibitors hosting tables and booths at the host hotel will be greater than in previous years.  

Also new this year, Hutton said, will be the presence of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters at all the workshops as well as some of the other events, including the official Opening Reception scheduled for Friday from 6-9 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel.

“Join us for the D.C. Black Pride Opening Reception Talent Showcase celebrating LGBTQ+ people of color and their artistic talents,” a write-up on the official schedule says. “Enjoy an evening of comedy, music and performances from talented members of our community,” it says. “This is a fantastic opportunity to connect with other LGBTQ+ people of color, celebrate diversity and support local artists.”

Hutton said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was scheduled to appear at the opening event to welcome those attending the 2023 D.C. Black Pride. Earlier this month, Bowser issued an official mayoral proclamation declaring May 22-29, 2023, as D.C. Black Pride Week.

As many as 60,000 people from outside the D.C. metro area were expected to attend this year’s D.C. Black Pride events based on pre-registration records, Hutton told the Blade. He said many have booked rooms at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel, and were expected to occupy most if not all of the hotel’s rooms during the weekend events associated with Black Pride. 

This year’s D.C. Black Pride will mark the 32nd anniversary of the first D.C. Black Gay and Lesbian Pride event held May 25, 1991, on the grounds of Howard University’s Banneker Field. 

That event was organized by veteran Black gay activists Welmore Cook, Theodore Kirkland and Ernest Hopkins, who modeled the event after a Memorial Day Weekend celebration and fundraiser for HIV/AIDS organizations providing services to the Black gay community held at the D.C. Black gay bar called The Clubhouse, which operated from 1975 to 1990. 

The current D.C. Black Pride website says Cook, Kirkland, and Hopkins one year later, in 1991, organized the first D.C. Black Pride to continue the tradition started by the Clubhouse, which was known as the Children’s Hour celebration. The write-up says D.C. Black Pride expanded dramatically over the next decade and drew African-American and people of color participants from across the country and even from abroad.

“DC Black Pride was the catalyst for what is now regarded as the Black Pride movement,” the write-up says. “Since its birth, more than 50 other Black Pride celebrations now take place throughout the world, many using DC Black Pride as its model.”

One of the workshops at this year’s D.C. Black Pride called “An Homage to The Clubhouse” will celebrate the role that the iconic gay bar played in developing the “rich history and culture” that led to the founding of Black Pride celebrations in D.C. and worldwide, the Black Pride website write-up says. The workshop was scheduled to take place Saturday, May 21, from 3-6 p.m. at the Renaissance Washington hotel.

A full schedule of the weekend’s D.C. Black Pride events can be accessed at dcblackpride.org.

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District of Columbia

Nonprofit D.C. groups invited to apply for anti-LGBTQ violence grants

$700,000 available for FY 2025 ‘VPART’ program

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LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs held a conference on July 18 to inform interested officials with local nonprofit community-based organizations that provide services to the LGBTQ community how best to apply for city grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 as part of the city’s Violence Prevention and Response Team program, known as VPART.

Information released by the program states that its mission is to “address, reduce, and prevent crime within and against the LGBT community” by “creating a strong partnership between the community and the government which enables us to focus on coordinating a community response to violence.” 

Addressing hate-bias crimes targeting the LGBTQ community are among the program’s high priority objectives, information released by the program says.

Presentations on how best to apply for the VPART grants and what the requirements are for obtaining them were given by LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and the office’s grants administrator, George Garcia. The two said the deadline for submitting grant applications for the program is Aug. 5. Organizations whose applications are approved will receive the grant funds they are approved for on Oct. 30, which is the start of fiscal year 2025.

Garcia said a total of $700,000 has been allocated to fund the VPART grants, the number of which will depend on how many applications are received.  

Garcia said that among the key components of the VPART program are Victim Response Services, Case Management, Legal Services, Trauma Informed Mental Health Services, and Cultural Humility Training that he said are aimed, among other things,  to support LGBTQ victims of violent crime.

One of the organizations that has received VPART grants in past years, and that is expected to apply again this year is the D.C. LGBTQ Community Center.

 “Along with offering trauma-informed therapy and casework, the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center directly supports LGBTQ+ survivors with our mental health services, shelter assistance, and other resources victims of violence may need,” the LGBTQ Center says in a statement. “If you are LGBTQ+ and are a victim of violence, or know someone who is, you can refer them to the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center and we will make sure they are supported and connected to the resources they need,” the statement says.

The conference was held at the Reeves Center municipal building where the LGBTQ Affairs office and other city agencies as well as the LGBTQ Community Center are located at 2000 14th St., N.W. About a dozen people attended the conference in person and another 14 attended virtually through Zoom, according to Bowles.

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District of Columbia

Trans woman announces candidacy for ANC race in Columbia Heights

D.C. government official to challenge gay incumbent

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Vida Rangel (Photo by Praddy Banerjee/@praddyban)

Vida Rangel, a transgender woman who currently serves as Director of Operations in the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments, has announced her candidacy for an Advisory Neighborhood Commission seat in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood

In a statement released on July 11, Rangel said she is running for the ANC single member district seat of 1A10, which is currently held by first-term incumbent Billy Easley, who identifies as a gay man.

“I’m running a groundbreaking campaign as the first trans person of color who would be elected in the District of Columbia,” Rangel said in the statement. “Representation matters.”

Rangel’s statement says in her current city government job she is the ‘highest-ranking openly transgender official in D.C. government history.” If elected to the ANC, she said she would focus, among other things, on language access for Spanish speaking residents, affordable housing, and reliable and accessible public transportation.

“As an autistic, queer, nonbinary, transgender Latina woman, Rangel’s commitment to public service and community is shaped by her lived experience,” her campaign statement says. “Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast, Vida was raised by working parents and grandparents, along with her six siblings. She saw firsthand how social services and support could counterbalance devastating situations like a medical emergency, an unexpected bill, or even a misfiled form,” the statement says.

“My experiences ignited a fire, propelling me to fight for the rights of all communities, whether it be nondiscrimination protections, housing justice, access to education, worker’s rights, or voting rights,” she says in the statement.

Rengel could not immediately be reached for comment on whether she disagrees with any of the positions or actions taken by incumbent commissioner Easley.

Billy Easley (Photo courtesy of Easley)

In his successful campaign for the ANC 1A10 seat in the city’s 2022 election Easley stated in an online statement  “Together, we can make our streets safer and our community stronger. This neighborhood is where my husband and I met, it is where we fell in love, and it’s where we’ve lived for the last ten years.”

Easley told the Washington Blade in a July 19 phone interview that he has been endorsed in his re-election campaign by Ward 1 D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau, which Easley said was a recognition of his accomplishments during his first term in office.

“In the last election I knocked on every door, and I’m going to do that again because it’s really important to me to connect with the voters and make sure that they’re being represented and to be an advocate for them,” he said. “Vida is a great person,” he added. “I have nothing bad to say about her,” he said.

“But I have a record of accomplishment and I’m going to be running on that,” he told the Blade. “And I’m going to be running on making sure that our residents’ voices are heard. So, I’m ready to go.”

He said his accomplishments in his first term in office include contacting each of the residents in his district who the city’s water department said may have lead pipes and  informing them how to get the pipes replaced through a free D.C. program; his appointment by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to her Juvenile Justice Advisory Group; organizing a Public Safety Summit with D.C. police and other city officials to address the issue of crime; and “successfully advocating” for more city funding for increased trash pick-up services in the neighborhood.

Easley points out that besides him, at least three other members of the 10-member ANC 1A10 identify as gay men.

Vincent Slatt, who serves as chair of the D.C. ANC Rainbow Caucus, said he believes between three and four-dozen ANC commissioners citywide are members of the LGBTQ community. 

“This is probably not the first time that two LGBTQ people have run against each other for an ANC seat,” Slatt told the Blade in a statement. “However, to have two out LGBTQ candidates of color in one race certainly seems like a milestone,” he said. “Recently, we have had two out trans ANCs. To have a third out trans candidate is a sign of how much further along our city is than other places in the country,” Slatt said. “Not fully enough, but on the path forward.”

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District of Columbia

New D.C. walking tour highlights LGBTQ history

Zach Patalingjug launched company in June in time for Pride Month

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Zach Patalingjug leads his Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour on July 13, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

Want to learn more about the city’s LGBTQ history while seeing some of the sights? Beyond the Landmarks’ Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour could be just the choice.

Zach Patalingjug launched the company in June, and offers walks that highlights some of Washington’s LGBTQ history.

The LGBTQ-specific tour starts with him emailing each person on the route with a meet-up location and some advice for the tour itself. His business last month saw a lot of tourists participate in his tour — in part because of Pride Month, and Patalinjug is hoping to keep the momentum. 

Patalingjug, who is from California, has traveled to more than half of the country’s states and has traveled abroad numerous times to sightsee and absorb cultures. He told the Washington Blade he became inspired to create his company after reading James Kirchick’s “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.”

Patalingjug spent a year researching his tour. He utilized the D.C. Central Library, where its fourth floor is dedicated entirely to the city’s history.

“I wanted to create a company that really explores the hidden gems, the lesser known history of Washington, D.C., to get the experiences that are truly authentic, and to tell stories that you don’t hear on most sightseeing tours,” he told the Washington Blade. 

The tours are between two to three hours long, depending on the group’s speed.

They officially start at 9:30 a.m., but Patalingjug recommends participants arrive 10 minutes earlier.

Each group meets in Farragut Square, directly outside of the Farragut West Metro station. The tour begins there and proceeds to Lafayette Square, where Patalingjug discusses the White House, the Hay-Adams Hotel, the former Lambda Rising bookstore, the Human Rights Campaign, the now-closed Chicken Hut near the White House, and myriad other locations. 

The tour ends in Dupont Circle.

Human Rights Campaign headquarters (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Patalingjug’s tour is more than a walk — each one is themed with topics that include “service, persecution, and liberation.

“Countless folks within the LGBTQ community have served and continue to serve the federal government,” he told the Blade.

He noted many of the people the tour highlights worked for the federal government before they lost their careers because they were outed or caught with a same-sex partner during the so-called “Lavender Scare.”

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry shortly before he stepped down in 2017 formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired under the directive that then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued in 1953. President Joe Biden last year issued a formal proclamation on the policy’s 70th anniversary.

“For so many members of the LGBTQI+ community, hate, discrimination, and isolation throughout our country’s history have denied them the full promise of America,” Biden said. “The ‘Lavender Scare’ epitomized — and institutionalized — this injustice.”

Patalingjug’s tour highlights Frank Kameny, founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, the city’s first politically active LGBTQ rights group that organized one of the country’s first gay rights protest that took place in front of the White House in 1965.

The protest highlighted the federal government’s discrimination against gays and lesbians. Kameny in 1957 lost his job as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay.

Frank Kameny Way in Dupont Circle is part of Zach Patalingjug’s Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

The tour also highlights Margaret “Midge” Costanza, an advisor to former President Jimmy Carter who invited members of the National Gay Task Force, which is now known as the National LGBTQ Task Force, to the White House in 1977.

“I’m just incredibly excited to be able to tell the authentic stories of people who lived through this period of history,” said Patalingjug.

Log onto Beyond the Landmarks’ website for more information.

Michael K. Lavers and Lou Chibbaro, Jr., contributed to this story.

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