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60,000 expected for annual D.C. Black Pride this weekend

Celebration includes educational workshops, social events, more

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

The 33rd annual D.C. Black Pride festival and celebration is scheduled to take place May 23-27 during Memorial Day weekend with at least 60,000 people from the D.C. metro area and across the country and some from abroad expected to attend.

Like in recent years, most of the events are scheduled to take place at the Westin Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel at 999 9th St., N.W.

Although the official DC Black Pride Opening Reception is scheduled to take place Friday, May 24, at the Westin Hotel with live entertainment, an online schedule of events shows that earlier events, including a Mr. & Miss DC Black Pride Pageant and the 8th annual DC Black Pride Unity Ball, were scheduled to take place Thursday, May 23 at the Westin.

Also similar to recent past years, a Rainbow Row: Organization & Vendor Expo will open at the hotel at 5 p.m. on May 25 and remain open most of the time throughout the weekend events. The Rainbow Row includes booths and tables set up by local and national LGBTQ organizations and LGBTQ-supportive allied organizations and businesses.

According to the official schedule, the Opening Reception will include performances by Paris Sashay, Keith Angels, Bang Garcon, Black Assets, Marcy Smiles, and Sherri Amoure and will be hosted by the “DMV’s own Anthony Oake” and the “legendary DJ Sedrick will be spinning all night.”

The schedule shows that 11 individual workshop sessions will take place at the hotel throughout the day on Saturday, May 25. Among the workshop titles are Drag Chronicles: From Artform to Activism; Self-Care and Self-Compassion; Sexpectations: Navigating Sexual & Romantic Compatibility While Dating; Advocating for Black LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care; Queering Theology: Black Pride in the Pews; What is the L?! All Things Lesbian; and Primary Sources: Elders Sharing Our Histories.

Two official outdoor events include Pride by the River Super Sunday scheduled for Sunday, May 26, from 12-8 p.m. at D.C.’s Anacostia Park at 1500 Anacostia Dr., S.E. presented by the local group Project Brings; and the annual Pride In The Park set for Monday, May 27, at D.C.’s Fort Dupont Park, 1500 Anacostia Dr., S.E., presented by the local community services group Us Helping Us.

Some of the other numerous events, aside from several evening parties at popular D.C. nightclubs, include a Wellness Pavilion, a Poetry Slam, a Writer’s Forum, and a Faith Service.

A statement released by the D.C.-based Center for Black Equity, which organizes the D.C. Black Pride events, notes that the first D.C. Black Pride was held May 25, 1991, and organized by local Black gay activists Welmore Cook, Theodore Kirkland and Ernest Hopkins, became the “catalyst for what is now regarded as the Black Pride Movement.”

It notes that, among other things, the first D.C. Black Pride event and Black Pride events in subsequent years raised funds for HIV/AIDS organizations that provided services to the African-American community in D.C. and the surrounding area.

The statement adds, “Since its birth, more than 50 other Black Pride celebrations now take place throughout the world, many using DC Black Pride as its model.”

And like in past years, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued an official mayoral proclamation declaring May 20-27, 2024, DC Black Pride Week.

The full schedule for DC Black Pride 2024 events can be accessed at dcblackpride.org/schedule.htm.

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District of Columbia

Cherry Fund files lawsuit  against Republiq Hall

LGBTQ nonprofit says breach of contract led to $137,000 in lost revenue

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Cherry Fund claims Republiq Hall canceled a contract for one of its popular events. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Cherry Fund, the D.C.-based nonprofit organization that has raised money for HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ organizations for the past 27 years, filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on May 31 charging Republiq Hall, a large entertainment venue in Northeast D.C, with abruptly and improperly cancelling Cherry Fund’s reservation to rent the hall for an April 6 event expected to draw 2,000 paid guests.

The event was to be one of several circuit dance parties that Cherry Fund produces as part of its annual Cherry weekend in April, which has raised several million dollars for LGBTQ related organizations since the Cherry weekend  events began in 1996.  

The lawsuit, which charges Republiq Hall with breach of contract, says the contract signed by the two parties in January called for Cherry Fund to pay Republiq Hall an initial deposit of $3,500 on Jan. 10, 2024, to be applied to a nonrefundable rental fee totaling $7,000 for the one-time use of the space on April 6.

Republiq Hall is located in a large former warehouse building at 2122 24th Place, N.E., near the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. 

According to the lawsuit, under the contract, Cherry Fund “was responsible for promoting the event, booking talent, and managing ticket sales,” with Cherry Fund to “retain all door fee revenues and a percentage of the net bar sales.”

The lawsuit states, “On February 28, after Plaintiff had already begun promoting the event and booking talent, the Defendant unilaterally and without just cause demanded an additional $9,000 from the Plaintiff. When the Plaintiff refused to pay the additional amount, the Defendant cancelled the reservation.”

 As a result of Republiq Hall’s action, the lawsuit states, Cherry Fund was “forced to book an alternative venue with significantly less capacity, resulting in substantial financial losses.” 

It says as a direct result of the alleged breach of contract, Cherry Fund “suffered financial damages in the amount of $130,000 in lost door fees and $7,000 in a lost percentage of the net bar sales that were estimated to be collected on the date of the event.”

A spokesperson for Republiq Hall did not respond to a phone message from the Washington Blade requesting a comment and a response to the lawsuit’s allegations.

Court records show that Superior Court Judge Juliet J. McKenna, who is presiding over the case, scheduled an initial hearing for the case on Sept. 6. McKenna issued an order providing guidance for how a civil litigation case should proceed that includes a requirement that Republiq Hall must file a response to the lawsuit within 21 days of being officially served a copy of the lawsuit complaint.

Sean Morris, the Cherry Fund president, issued a statement expressing disappointment over the developments leading to the lawsuit.

“Our organization, powered by volunteer efforts, relies on our annual event to fundraise for local non-profits,” he said. “This abrupt and unforeseen demand, and subsequent cancellation, has severely affected our ability to support vital community programs focused on HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ+ advocacy,” Morris says in his statement.

The lawsuit concludes by stating, “The Plaintiff, the Cherry Fund, respectfully requests the following relief: Direct compensatory damages for the lost benefits it was entitled to under the terms of the contract; Restitution for the benefits retained by the Defendant in unjust enrichment; Reasonable attorney fees and costs of this action; and Any other relief this court deems just and proper.”

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s beloved Duplex Diner closes its doors

Owners looking to open new location in Rehoboth Beach

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Duplex Diner owners Mark Hunker and Jeff McCracken. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Owners of D.C.’s Duplex Diner announced Tuesday that they closed the business immediately after the landlord terminated a sub-lease last month. They also announced that they are searching for a new location in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to open a “Duplex 2.0.”

A note posted to the door reads as follows: “On May 31st JAM Holdings, owners of Duplex Diner since 2014, were notified by our landlord that he was terminating our sub-lease effective July 31, 2024. We have come to an agreement to sell our assets to our general manager who will be creating a new concept in this location, but unfortunately, we must close effective immediately.

“This decision is not made lightly. We know how much The Duplex Diner has meant to so many people who worked here, played here, had our rosé-all-day here, laughed here, cried here, over-imbibed here, celebrated here, found love here, and trusted us enough to leave credit cards on file here. Like us, we hope you have memories that last a lifetime. We leave this community with love and gratitude and will miss this beloved neighborhood institution more than we can describe. Thank you all for making The Duplex Diner a stop on your journey! Stay tuned though! JAM Holdings is searching for a location in Rehoboth Beach to open Duplex 2.0 and continue its legacy.”

The Diner’s general manager, Kelly Laczko, posted a message on social media indicating that she plans to reopen under a new name in the same space. She wrote, “While the Duplex Diner owners may have closed the original spot abruptly, we will be opening your next hang in this location. We remember your order, know where you sit and when you left your credit card. … More to come.”

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District of Columbia

Pride weekend brings parade, festival, fireworks amid perfect weather

‘I just love to celebrate being queer!’

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D.C.’s annual Pride weekend arrived with uncharacteristically perfect weather. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Pride weekend in D.C. means rainbow floats filling a crowded 14th Street, bubbles floating above rooftops, Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” blasting from speakers, and groups of enthusiastic locals and tourists eagerly gripping the barricades ready for the parade.  

With shouts of “Happy Pride” from the top of a double-decker bus wrapped in the 2025 World Pride logo and cheers from the audience lining the street, the long-awaited Capital Pride Parade had begun. 

It seemed that all of D.C. was out in rainbow outfits on Saturday to celebrate the strides of the LGBTQ community. The parade procession, which lasted nearly six hours, featured floats from a wide array of participants. These included organizations that support the LGBTQ community, local and international businesses, local sports teams, political candidates and their supporters, including second gentleman Doug Emhoff, various embassies, and many more. Unlike previous years when D.C.’s infamous heat and humidity have strained participants and spectators alike, the weekend’s weather featured clear blue skies and comfortably moderate temperatures. 

Martie Fulp-Eickstaedt traveled from Richmond to soak in all the queer love and community. “I am celebrating with my friends, my dear pals that I adore,” she said. “It’s really just about celebrating with the community. I love seeing other people’s outfits and seeing the joy on people’s faces. People coming together to celebrate love.”

Fulp-Eickstaedt continued, explaining that the joy she experiences is hard to match. “I just love seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces. And the dancing. I love the dancing. This one loves to dance,” she said while pointing to her friend sitting next to her on the curb. “Seeing her dance is one of the best things.”

There was no shortage of dancing this weekend. From the opening RIOT! dance party, 17th Street block party, Flashback Tea Dance, Pride festival and concert, countless private bars and parties hosting events, you could dance your feet off in the name of Pride with no problem.

Other parade visitors, like 73-year-old former Navy sailor Eric Kearsley, who traveled to D.C. from Philadelphia with his partner, have more emotional connections to Capital Pride. 

“I’m here today because I wouldn’t miss a Washington, D.C. Pride Parade and Festival,” Kearsley said. “It’s the first parade I went to after coming out in 2005.” He told the Blade that he has made the trek every year since then to watch the parade.  

“Every time it’s an emotional thing for me,” he added. “The first time I saw the military services — the Honor Guard coming through, it just blew my mind. And I always run into friends. It’s just a wonderful experience and it makes me feel full of pride.” 

Mx., Miss and Mr. Capital Pride ride in the 2024 Capital Pride Parade on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite the familiar sights of flying beads and confetti in the parade, this year’s route was different. In years past the parade would go through the historic “gayborhood” of Dupont Circle. This year, parade organizers chose to travel down 14th Street until it met with Pennsylvania Avenue, ending at Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street, N.W. This new route was supposed to be a test run for next year’s massive 2025 World Pride, which D.C. is hosting.

Mary Nichols, a 29-year-old from Tysons Corner, felt filled with pride and was enthusiastic for D.C. to host World Pride. “I’m very excited for DC World Pride,” she said. “I feel like it’s gonna be like the gay Olympics!” 

She continued, explaining why Pride celebrations make her so happy. “I love Pride. I loved it when I was an ‘ally,’” Nichols said while laughing. “I just love the dancing, the music, the celebration. I love seeing people’s outfits. But mostly I love hanging out with my friends. And I just love to celebrate being queer!”

In addition to the parade, a newer D.C. Pride tradition returned: Pride on the Pier and Fireworks display, sponsored by the Washington Blade, and hosted at the Wharf. This year’s event attracted thousands who came to watch drag kings and queens, dance to DJs, and, of course, to watch the fireworks.

In addition to the parade and pier events on Saturday, the Capital Pride Festival and Concert was held on Sunday toward the end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The festival included more than 300 exhibitors providing LGBTQ-centered advocacy, selling Pride-related merchandise, food and drinks, and educating the public on issues of importance for the LGBTQ community.

Once the sun began to lower in the sky, the concert started at the stage end of the festival walk. Performers including Exposé, RuPaul’s Drag Race star Sapphira Cristál, Grand Marshal KeKe Palmer, Billy Porter, and headliner Ava Max all danced, sang, and celebrated the LGBTQ community with the Capital as a perfect backdrop. 

Sapphira Cristál performs at the 2024 Capital Pride Festival. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite the jubilant energy of the weekend, many people celebrating also pointed out that there was still work to be done in gaining equal rights for all in the LGBTQ community. 

Scotty Moore, 22, who lives in the Logan Circle neighborhood of D.C., brought up the struggle for transgender people in the U.S.

When asked what the biggest threat to the LGBTQ community was he answered without skipping a beat. “A lot of the anti-trans legislation,” Moore said. “I think that we are having a massive roll back on a lot of the progress that we had in the past 10 years. We’re having generations that are raised with a lot of reactionary media that is not very pro-gay. I think that’s a major threat to us, not only now but also in the future.”

Moore continued, explaining this was the exact reason why the LGBTQ community must continue celebrating Pride. 

“I think it is important to celebrate Pride because Pride is not something that is in the past,” he said. “Pride is something that we have now. And we need to stay consistent and make sure that the community knows that we’re here.”

Japer Bowles, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, said he was “excited and proud” to be part of the D.C. government’s parade contingent, which was led by the mayor and included between 200 and 250 LGBTQ community members and D.C. government employees.

“We had a record involvement, including an LGBTQI drum corps and we had the D.C. Mobile Go-Go Museum,” he said, referring to the large bus with a stage on its roof on which D.C.’s popular Go-Go Experience Band performed to loud cheers as the bus traveled in the parade. Go-Go Museum founder Ron Moten said the bus’s appearance in the parade was sponsored by the Go-Go Museum and Check It Enterprises, the D.C. LGBTQ youth operated retail store and advocacy group.

“We had two, not one, firetrucks and we had D.C. Health, and they had a float,” Bowles said, referring to the Department of Health. “And then our Department of Aging and Community Living, our seniors and older adults, we had a trolley for them as well,” said Bowles. As if all that were not enough, he said LGBTQ students from Howard University and organizers of Howard’s LGBTQIA+ Center joined the mayor’s parade contingent.

Vincent Slatt, who serves as chair of the D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s Rainbow Caucus, said members of the LGBTQ caucus and its straight allies and supporters  marched in the Pride parade this year “for the first time ever.”  Added Slatt, “It was great for us to walk through and be with those fellow commissioners to raise our profile across the city and to get more people involved in local democracy.”

2024 Capital Pride Festival. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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