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The Capital Pride Alliance and The DC Center for the LGBT Community have announced a special collaboration to provide “reimagined” programming for Pride season, after the annual Parade and Festival were canceled due to COVID-19.
This year’s Capital Pride theme is #StillWe, a powerful statement about the resilience, struggles, celebrations, and pride of the LGBTQ community. That resilience is being tested amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when people are being asked to socially distance and refrain from participating in large-scale gatherings.
“When we first developed #StillWe, we never imagined just how important that message would become,” Ryan Bos, the executive director of Capital Pride Alliance, said in a statement. “Together with The DC Center and our partner Pride organizations, we are taking this opportunity to reimagine how we work together to better support and advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Among the “reimagined” programming being offered by Capital Pride Alliance and The DC Center will be monthly virtual town halls, with the inaugural webinar taking place on June 1, featuring leaders from LGBTQ organizations discussing how the community will recover and move forward once the pandemic subsides.
Also on Monday, June 1, Capital Pride will air a #StillWe Pride video montage that will include greetings from local community organizations, businesses, sponsors, leaders, and influencers. The video will also encourage viewers to find ways to demonstrate their pride ahead of Capital Pride’s first-ever Pridemobile Rainbow Blast on Saturday, June 13.
The Pridemobile Rainbow Blast will involve a mobile unit that drives through various neighborhoods in all eight wards, taking video and photos of the ways various segments of the community celebrate Pride. Bos told Metro Weekly that organizers will work with local ANC commissioners to arrange a time for the Pridemobile to pass by. Notably, Bos said Capital Pride Alliance is open to having the Pridemobile make the rounds over multiple days if that becomes necessary to ensure increased participation.
On Sunday, June 14, Capital Pride Alliance and The DC Center will launch the first episode of an original web series titled “Pride in the City.” That episode’s theme will be #StillWe Entertain” and will serve as a platform for local and regional artists to showcase their work or talents.
“We hope to be able to record performances in various venues throughout the city, which will then be edited to create the first episode for Pride Month,” Bos said.
On Saturday, June 27, the National Capital Region will participate in Global Pride 2020, the only worldwide virtual Pride event. Organizers are also planning a Pride Summit with organizers from DC Black Pride, Latinx Pride, Capital Trans Pride, Leather Pride, Silver Pride, Youth Pride and API Pride. The date and details of that summit have yet to be finalized.
“Pride is certainly one of our favorite times of year in Washington, DC — an opportunity to uplift our LGBTQ community and celebrate our city’s progress as a leader in LGBTQ rights,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement. “Thank you to everyone who is helping us save lives by celebrating Pride at home. While events will certainly look different this year, our pride remains as strong as ever.”
Organizers have also begun planning additional programming this fall, including events that emphasize civic engagement, specifically voter registration and voting in the upcoming November elections.
Moving forward, The DC Center and Capital Pride Alliance will offer remote and online services, including virtual support and social group meetings, and will compile a community calendar of upcoming events — many of which will be retooled to accommodate social distancing — and a directory of resources, such as LGBTQ-affirming businesses, organizations, and service providers in the greater D.C. area.
“The DC Center Board looks forward to collaborating with the Capital Pride Alliance to serve the LGBTQ+ community during this difficult time,” Rehana Mohammed, Chair of the DC Center, said in a statement. “The DC Center and CPA are both dedicated to offering creative ways to help the community thrive, connect and engage with each other. Our partnership will enable us to maximize our impact and expand the ways we can serve the community.”
“Although we won’t be able to celebrate Pride in the traditional way, and for now we aren’t able to welcome people physically in The DC Center, we look forward to new and innovate ways to come together as a community to support, resist, love, and persist,” added Ashley Smith, the Board President for Capital Pride Alliance. “Knowing that our community is often more adversely affected by events such as this pandemic, I look forward to what CPA and The DC Center may be able to accomplish through our new collaboration.”
In a follow-up interview, Mohammed noted that dates for some events are fluid and will be based on the latest guidance from health experts and government authorities.
“We’re all obviously closely following Mayor Bowser’s updates, in terms of what the restrictions for socially gathering will be, so it’s a little challenging right now to commit to what exactly the events will look like, because it really depends on what the city looks like,” Mohammed said. “But we wanted to put out this information right now to give the community some security in knowing that Pride is not canceled.”
Some of The DC Center’s other upcoming non-Pride-related events will also be reimagined, such as the Reel Affirmations International LGBTQ+ Film Festival and the ongoing monthly film series. Those films will be made accessible to the public online.
Events that may have to be moved online include the annual OutWrite LGBTQ literary festival, which holds various writing workshops and talks with queer authors each August; The DC Center’s monthly OutWrite Book Club, which discusses LGBTQ-themed books by queer writers; “Taking a Stand: LGBTQ+ Voices Against Violence,” a performance showcase of LGBTQ talent intended to protest the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ violence; and the “SPEAK OUT” series for transmasculine survivors of abuse or domestic violence. Specific dates for those events will be announced at a future time.
“We don’t want to just put all of these great community-building programs on hold indefinitely,” Mohammed said. “That’s the main message here: We’re looking at every tool, every strategy available to us to hopefully not put these things off, and continue them virtually if they can be.”
Typically, each August, Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets hosts the 17th Street Festival, featuring the work of various artisans and tables touting the work of local community organizations. But the rapid reopening of the city following the COVID-19 pandemic left organizers with little time to organize the large-scale event, so the annual festival was canceled.
Fortunately, a replacement event, just in time for Pride Month, has sprung up this weekend. Thanks to the coordination between Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B, the Capital Pride Alliance, the 17th Street Merchants, and Historic Dupont Main Streets, D.C. residents will now get to enjoy the 17th Street Pride Sidewalk Block Party on Saturday, June 26, from 12-5 p.m. at 17th Street NW, between R and P Streets.
Sheila Alexander-Reid, a longtime community advocate and activist, has officially stepped down as director of the D.C. Mayor's Office of LGBTQ Affairs to take a position with Los Angeles-based consultancy start-up BiasSync.
"We do an online assessment for companies to assess bias in the workplace, using proprietary software to anonymously identify unconscious bias in your company, whether it's by department, by location, or whatever," Alexander-Reid says of her new position with BiasSync. "It's really sort of groundbreaking. I focused a lot on the LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections while the D.C. government. So I think this is sort of like taking it to the next level. I'll focus on LGBTQ bias, as well as racial bias and gender bias."
On Saturday, June, 12, thousands of residents and visitors packed the streets of Washington, D.C. to celebrate Capital Pride, which for many marked the first time they had been in a public setting with a large amount of people since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Although plans for Pride-themed celebrations had been put in place for months ahead of the weekend, many had assumed that pandemic restrictions would lead to most of the events being virtual or socially distanced. But last month, after the D.C. Department of Health announced that vaccinated people could gather in closer quarters without masking, the city began relaxing some of its restrictions on social distancing, accelerating the reopening of the city's bars and restaurants and reaching full capacity on June 11.
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