Connect with us

District of Columbia

Pride weekend brings parade, festival, fireworks amid perfect weather

‘I just love to celebrate being queer!’

Published

on

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)
Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 64

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

Published

on

Capital Pride, No Justice, No Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Bernie Delia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 64.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as “an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.”

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

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

Measure also changes Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Accused drug dealer charged with fentanyl distribution leading to deaths of two D.C. gay men

June 13 indictment links previously arrested suspect to deaths

Published

on

(Bigstock photo)

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. has announced that federal prosecutors on June 13 obtained an indictment against one of two D.C. brothers previously charged with multiple counts of illegal drug distribution that now charges him with “distributing cocaine and fentanyl” on Dec. 26, 2023, that resulted in the deaths of D.C. gay men Brandon Roman and Robert “Robbie” Barletta.

In a June 13 press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Jevaughn ‘Ledo’ Mark, 32, is charged in a new “secondary superseding indictment” linked to the Roman and Barletta deaths. It says he and his brother, Angelo Mark, 30, “previously were charged on April 9 in a 17-count superseding indictment for participating in a conspiracy that distributed large amounts of fentanyl and cocaine in the metropolitan area.”

The press release says Jevaughn Mark is currently being held without bond on charges that include eight counts of unlawful distribution of fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin and distributing 40 grams or more of fentanyl between Jan. 10, 2024, and March 13, 2024. According to the press release, the charges were based on six illegal drug purchases from Jevaughn Mark by undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and undercover D.C. police officers.

Court records show that Angelo Mark was charged in a criminal complaint on March 22 with multiple counts of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and is also being held without bond.

D.C. police and Fire and Emergency Medical Services reports show that Roman, 38, a prominent D.C. attorney and LGBTQ rights advocate, and Barletta, 28, a historic preservation expert and home renovation business owner, were found unconscious when police and emergency medical personnel responded to a 911 call and arrived at Barletta’s home on Dec. 27. The reports show that Roman was declared deceased at the scene and Barletta was taken to Washington Hospital Center where he died on Dec. 29.

A police spokesperson told the Washington  Blade in February that police were investigating the Roman and Barletta deaths, but investigators had to wait for the D.C. Medical Examiner’s official determination of the cause and manner of death before the investigation could fully proceed.

Both men were patrons at D.C. gay bars and their passing prompted many in the LGBTQ community to call for stepped up prevention services related to drug overdose cases, even though the cause and manner of death for the two men was not officially determined until early April.

In April, the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner disclosed that the cause of death for both men was an accidental consumption of several drugs that created a fatal “toxic” effect. The Medical Examiner’s office said Barletta’s death was linked to the consumption of at least four different drugs and Roman’s death was caused by the “combined toxic effect” of six drugs. The Medical Examiner’s office disclosed that cocaine and fentanyl were among the drugs found in the bodies of both men. And for both men, the manner of death was listed as “Accident/Intoxication.”

When the cause and manner of death were disclosed by the Medical Examiner, D.C. police spokesperson Tom Lynch said the police investigation into the deaths remained open but said, “There are no updates on the investigation that we are ready to release to the public.”

But the Medical Examiner’s findings prompted Johnny Bailey, the community outreach coordinator for HIPS D.C., an LGBTQ supportive organization that provides services and support for those who use recreational drugs, to say he strongly believed that Barletta and Roman did not intentionally consume some of the drugs found in their system.

“I’m going to say I do believe this was a poisoning,” Bailey told the Blade. “I think it is unfair to call some things an overdose because an overdose is when you do too much of a drug and you die from that drug,” he said. “This is like if you have a few glasses of wine every night and someone puts arsenic in your wine, no one would be like, ‘oh, they drank themselves to death.’ They were poisoned. And that’s what I think is happening here,” he said in referring to Barletta and Roman.

In announcing the new charges against Jevaughn Mark that link him to Barletta and Roman’s deaths, the U.S. Attorney’s press release discloses that he supplied fentanyl in the drugs he sold unknowingly to the undercover DEA and D.C. police officers when one of the officers, posing as a drug buyer, did not ask for fentanyl.

“In each instance, the DEA/MPD agents requested to buy ‘Special K’ or Ketamine from Jevaughn Mark,” the press release says. “In every instance, Jevaughn Mark supplied a mixture of fentanyl and other substances, including heroin, but not ketamine,” it says.

The release says that after the earlier indictment against Jevaughn Mark was issued, law enforcement agents conducted a search of his Southeast D.C. home and “recovered two firearms, cocaine, fentanyl, about $38,000 in cash, body armor vests, and drug trafficking paraphernalia.” It says on that same day authorities executed another search for a second residence linked to Jevaughn Mark, where they located a bedroom used by his brother Angelo Mark.

“From Angelo Mark’s bedroom, law enforcement recovered seven firearms, 900 rounds of ammunition, dozens of pills, cocaine, fentanyl, drug trafficking paraphernalia, and about $50,000 in cash,” the press release says, adding, “Based on the evidence, both brothers were indicted in the first superseding indictment.” 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular