Each year, the Pride Planning Committee selects a number of individuals to honor as “Capital Pride Heroes.” These eight honorees have made extraordinary efforts to bring full equality to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities. They will be recognized in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 10.
A longtime Latino and LGBT civil rights activist, Mario Acosta-Velez was the first openly gay Latino to serve on the D.C. Commission on Human Rights. He has also served as the executive director of the Latino Civil Rights Center, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, and as part of the mayor’s Executive LGBT Advisory Council, which created the strategic plan for the Office of LGBT Affairs. He is a member of the chief of police’s Citizen Advocacy Council, board member of the American Civil Liberties Union-National Capital Area and a member of the NAACP’s police and criminal justice task force. In 2005, he received a fellowship from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund to participate as an openly gay commissioner in the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at Harvard University. He is currently involved with the Latino LGBT History Project.
As a co-founder and president of Burgundy Crescent Volunteers, Jonathan Blumenthal has been instrumental in energizing the LGBT volunteer community. He has brought hundreds of volunteers and organizations together to the betterment of both and the community as a whole. Since its founding, Burgundy Crescent has provided more than 39,000 volunteer hours to organizations throughout the D.C. metropolitan area. Blumenthal spends countless hours each week coordinating activities — in addition to his full-time job as a medical researcher. Through his efforts, BCV, which has 2,600 members, has provided volunteers to the community, all at no cost to the organizations that benefit from them.
Eva Freund has been a leader in the LGBT movement since arriving in Washington in the early 1960s. She played a leadership role in the adoption of D.C.’s landmark human rights law, Title 34, which banned discrimination against LGBT citizens. Her testimony before the City Council helped to strengthen the bill’s protections for the LGBT community. She was an active member of the Mattachine Society of Washington and participated in gay rights protests at the White House and the Pentagon in the 1960s. Freund initiated the DC-NOW Task Force on Sexuality before co-founding the Capitol Hill chapter of the National Organization for Women. She lives with her partner in Vienna, Va., where she is active in Equality Fairfax.
Currently serving an unprecedented third term as president of the Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance (AGLA), Kris McLaughlin has immersed herself in the local community. After arriving in Arlington, Va., she became a board member of AGLA and then communications director before being elected president. She is a founding member of the Commonwealth Coalition, a statewide group of activists who are fighting the state constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage. She is also a member of Whitman-Walker Clinic of Northern Virginia’s community action board and is involved with the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry.
Outed at 13 in his middle school near Jefferson, Va., Tully Satre immediately became an activist. At the age of 16, he founded Equality Fauquier/Culpeper, working for equal rights in two Virginia counties that have been traditionally hostile to LGBT rights. He also founded Community Education Equality Virginia to expand support for gay-straight alliances in schools. He has been interviewed by The Washington Blade, The New York Times and The Advocate, whose website now features his blog. Tully and his parents have received death threats, but he keeps working.
Sterling Washington has established himself as a leader of D.C.’s African-American LGBT community. As a student at Howard University, he co-founded and served as president of the Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay Organization of Students at Howard. In 2004, he helped resurrect the D.C. Coalition, the premier advocacy group of African-American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women. He is currently a development assistant at Us Helping Us and serves as a board member for D.C. Black Pride. He is also the vice president of the D.C. Coalition of Black LGBT men and women. Before attending Howard, Washington served as a presidential appointee in the Clinton White House from 1997-1999.
As the executive director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), Bruce Weiss has worked hard to rebuild the organization over the last three years. He has turned SMYAL’s financial situation around and increased the visibility of the organization in the LGBT community and the city as a whole. He was instrumental in organizing a recent community forum called ”Confronting the Crisis,” which addressed critical issues that face LGBT youth and, especially, LGBT youth of color, including unsafe schools, HIV and substance use risk, community violence and the need for after school and late night programming for these youth. Earlier in his career, he worked for eight years at the D.C. Care Consortium. Weiss began as a program director out of graduate school and later became the executive director.
The former director of Capital Pride, Robert York built the annual festival into a showcase event for Whitman-Walker Clinic and the LGBT community. Under York’s six years of leadership, Capital Pride added new events, including a town hall meeting, developed a community-based organizing committee, and ended the event’s long string of losing money. He is involved with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, is an active member of the Human Rights Campaign and is a former member of both the chorus’ board and HRC’s board of governors. He has also represented the gay community’s interests on advisory boards for the mayor’s office and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. York’s leadership was recognized by the D.C. City Council with a proclamation of ”Robert York Day” on Feb. 20, 2006.