Every June for the last 30 years, the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area has celebrated pride with energy and enthusiasm. Whether it was a few hundred people dancing in the dust at the P Street Beach when pride first started, or hundreds of thousands strolling through the Pennsylvania Avenue street fair, pride celebrations have a rich and colorful history in our city.
For the last decade, Whitman-Walker Clinic has presented Capital Pride. The Clinic took on management of Pride at a time when it was a troubled operation. Eventually, and with the help of skilled staff (including Robert York, who recently resigned as Capital Pride director) and many dedicated volunteers, the Clinic was able to turn pride into a remarkable 10 days of cultural, sporting and social events.
On July 1, the Washington Blade published a front-page story proclaiming that Whitman-Walker’s financial difficulties prompted The Center to propose ”a takeover” of pride. The Center has never made such a suggestion about a takeover. The Clinic looks forward to continuing its role in Capital Pride in 2006 — but recent events related to the Clinic have certainly proven that the Clinic needs its friends and allies more than ever before and we hope that the community will continue to support Capital Pride in 2006.
Now that we have placed those facts squarely on the record, we’d like the GLBT community to know that we as the leaders of The Center and Whitman-Walker Clinic recently sat down to start talking about how we might better collaborate around Capital Pride. We both agreed that pride, in its generic sense, belongs to the entire community. And we agreed that GLBT pride is intrinsic to the mission and history of both our organizations.
How we will work together on Capital Pride remains to be worked out, but the opportunities will no doubt be abundant. We were happy to learn at our recent meeting that we both subscribe to the principles of cooperation and open communication. We look forward to sharing many ideas.
In a couple of months, the management and board of Whitman-Walker Clinic will begin planning for 2006. At that time, they will have an opportunity to rethink how the Clinic has organized, presented and paid for Capital Pride. This is an auspicious moment to consider making changes since the Clinic will soon be hiring new staff to manage both Capital Pride and AIDS Walk Washington, two of the Clinic’s signature annual events.
The GLBT movement has much to be proud of and we have achieved many successes throughout the years. We’ve also had more than our share of rivalries, turf wars and internecine competitions — all of which detract from our ability to reach our goal of equality and the ability to live honest, open and fulfilling lives. The Clinic and The Center have no interest in engaging in petty conflicts, and we never did. We regret that an offer of help was misinterpreted by some as a stratagem.
We are eager to continue our discussions in the coming months, and we look forward to reporting back to the community as our plans develop. In the meantime, we’d also like to encourage members of the community to share their ideas about Capital Pride. Presenting Capital Pride is an enormous job and a big responsibility. Together, and with our volunteers and friends, we are confident we can make Capital Pride ’06 spectacular.
Robert Geidner-Antoniotti is the interim executive director of Whitman-Walker Clinic. Michael Sessa is president of The Center–Home for GLBT in Metro D.C.
Editor’s Note: Isosceles Publishing and Jansi Media, both companies associated with Metro Weekly, have published the Official Capital Pride Guide in partnership with Whitman-Walker Clinic and Capital Pride for the past seven years.