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DC Front Runners Pride 5K returns with focus on philanthropy

Annual race raises funds to help local LGBTQ organizations

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A scene from last year’s Pride Run 5K. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

One of D.C.’s most popular Pride season traditions is back, as the DC Front Runners Pride 5K prepares to kick off on Friday, June 9 at 7 p.m. at Congressional Cemetery (1801 E St., S.E.). Registration ends June 9 at 12 p.m.

“Our race starts and ends at the area colloquially known as ‘gay corner.’ It’s where Leonard Matlovich, an American Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal is buried,” Joshua Yankovic, race director for DC Front Runners Pride 5K, said in an email.

The epitaph on Matlovich’s tombstone reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” For Yankovic, it is a reminder of how far the LGBTQ community has come in its fight for equal rights despite the anti-trans and homophobic rhetoric percolating across the U.S. 

“We realize we have a lot more fight to go for true acceptance in the land of the ‘free,’ which is why Pride month and this race are so important,” he added. “It gives us a chance to be in a safe space and have a fabulous time doing it.”

Yankovic, who became race director in 2022, has close ties to the race not only as an avid runner with close friends who are all a part of D.C.’s LGBTQ running community, but also as a firm believer in supporting local LGBTQ organizations focused on youths in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. 

Each year, DC Front Runners Pride 5K raises and donates tens of thousands of dollars to local charities from both the race and donations to its website. In the last six years it donated just shy of $200,000. In 2022, donations exceeded $50,000.

“These organizations always need money and the money has to come in so we can continue the fight,” Yankovic said on a Zoom call. 

For Ivan Cheung, the organization’s finance director, the “monetary value comes with spiritual support.” Cheung is a lifelong runner who moved to D.C. in 1999. To find community with other gay men in the area, he joined DC Front Runners where he said he felt included. 

He began participating in the event, eventually became a volunteer and his increased involvement in organizing the yearly run led him to his position overseeing the organization’s finances. 

Because DC Front Runners is a 501(c)(3) organization, Cheung ensures that it meets its tax commitments, helps select organizations each year to receive donations, and also helps fundraise for the organization as well. 

“It’s my turn to give back,” he said on a Zoom call. “It’s my personal journey and philosophy for why I want to contribute to this organization.”

This year’s event will feature, in addition to the run, free custard from fast food chain Shake Shack, free seltzers provided by local brewery DC Brau, and there will also be a finish line party with performances from drag queens. 

All in all, it’ll be a celebration of the LGBTQ community’s resilience.

“We hope to continue that upward trajectory and support these amazing institutions that not only protect at-risk youth, provide scholarships for teen athletes, celebrate inclusion and empowerment, and even provide a voice, in the case of the Blade Foundation, to the future journalists of America to keep telling our story and reporting on the injustices we see today,” said Yankovic in his email. 

Beneficiaries of this year’s race include SMYAL, the Wanda Alston Foundation, Team DC, Teens Run DC, the Blade Foundation, Pride 365, and Ainsley’s Angels of America. Sponsors include Capital One Café, Choice Hotels, Knead Hospitality & Design, Wegmans, and Shake Shack.

“Thank you to all the organizers of the Pride Run 5K,” said Washington Blade Publisher Lynne Brown. “Our robust journalism fellowship program wouldn’t exist without the important contributions that come from this race.”

In addition to the race, there’s a virtual 5K where runners can submit their times online. Visit runsignup.com/Race/DC/Washington/DCFRPrideRun for details. Packet pickup for runners begins June 4; visit the website for locations. 

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Photos

PHOTOS: Baltimore Pride Parade

Thousands attend annual LGBTQ march and block party

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A scene from the 2024 Baltimore Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party was held on Charles Street in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, June 15. 

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Sports

Washington Mystics to hold annual Pride game

Team to play Dallas Wings on Saturday

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Mystics will be having their upcoming Pride game on Saturday against the Dallas Wings.

The Mystics Pride game is one of the team’s theme nights they host every year, with Pride night being a recurring event. The team faced off against the Phoenix Mercury last June. Brittney Griner, who Russia released from a penal colony in December 2022 after a court convicted her of importing illegal drugs after customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage, attended the game. 

Unlike the NBA, where there are currently no openly LGBTQ players, there are multiple WNBA players who are out. Mystics players Emily Englster, Brittney Sykes, and Stefanie Dolson are all queer.

The Mystics on June 1 acknowledged Pride Month in a post to its X account.

“Celebrating Pride this month and every month,” reads the message.

The game is on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Entertainment and Sports Arena (1100 Oak Drive, S.E.). Fans can purchase special Pride tickets that come with exclusive Mystics Pride-themed jerseys. 

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Theater

Queers win big at 77th annual Tony Awards

‘Merrily We Roll Along’ among winners

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(Photo courtesy of the Tony Awards' Facebook page)

It was a banner night for queer theater artists at the 77th annual Tony Awards, honoring the best in Broadway theater at the Lincoln Center in New York on Sunday. Some of the biggest honors of the night went to the revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along” and the dance-musical based on Sufjan Stephens’ album “Illinoise.

“Merrily We Roll Along,” which follows three friends as their lives change over the course of 20 years, told in reverse chronological order, picked up the awards for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Orchestrations. 

Out actor Jonathan Groff picked up his first Tony Award for his leading role as Franklin Shepard in the show, while his costar Daniel Radcliffe earned his first Tony Award for featured performance as Charley Kringas. 

Groff gave a heartfelt and teary acceptance speech about how he used to watch the Tony Awards as a child in Lancaster County, Pa.

“Thank you for letting me dress up like Mary Poppins when I was three,” he said to his parents in the audience. “Even if they didn’t understand me, my family knew the life-saving power of fanning the flame of a young person’s passions without judgment.”

Groff also thanked the everyone in the production of “Spring Awakening,” where he made his Broadway debut in 2006, for inspiring him to come out at the age of 23.

“To actually be able to be a part of making theatre in this city, and just as much to be able to watch the work of this incredible community has been the greatest pleasure of my life,” he said. 

This was Groff’s third Tony nomination, having been previously nominated for his leading role in “Spring Awakening” and for his featured performance as King George III in “Hamilton.” 

Radcliffe, who is best known for starring in the “Harry Potter” series of movies, has long been an ally of the LGBTQ community, and has recently been known to spar with “Harry Potter” creator JK Rowling over her extreme opposition to trans rights on social media and in interviews. It was Radcliffe’s first Tony nomination and win.

Lesbian icon Sarah Paulson won her first Tony Award for her starring role in the play “Appropriate,” about a family coming to terms with the legacy of their slave-owning ancestors as they attempt to sell their late father’s estate. It was her first nomination and win.

In her acceptance speech, she thanked her partner Holland Taylor “for loving me.” Along with Paulson’s Emmy win for “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” she is halfway to EGOT status.

The Sufjan Stephens dance-musical “Illinoise,” based on his album of the same name, took home the award for Best Choreography for choreographer Justin Peck. It was his second win.

During the ceremony, the cast of “Illinoise” performed “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us!”, a moving dance number about a queer romance.

A big winner of the night was the adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel “The Outsiders,” which dominated the musical categories, earning Best Director, Sound Design, Lighting Design, and Best Musical, which earned LGBTQ ally Angelina Jolie her first Tony Award.

Also a big winner was “Stereophonic,” which dominated the play categories, winning the awards for Best Play, Featured Actor, Director, Sound Design, and Scenic Design.

“Suffs,” a musical about the fight for women’s suffrage in the U.S., which acknowledges the lesbian relationship that suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt had in song called “If We Were Married,” took home awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, both for creator Shaina Taub. 

Had “Suffs” also won for Best Musical, producers Hilary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai would have won their first Tony Awards. 

Other winners include Maleah Joi Moon for her lead role and Kecia Lewis for her featured role in the Alicia Keys musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” Jeremy Strong for his lead role in An Enemy of the People, and Kara Young for her featured role in “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.”

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