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Spirited discussion at Pride town hall

town hall, Baltimore Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

A majority of those surveyed were unhappy with this year’s Baltimore Pride celebration. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There was some heat and a bit of a storm on the night of July 23 but we’re not referring to the weather outside the Waxter Center, the new home of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB).  It was billed as a town hall meeting to provide feedback regarding the Pride celebration of June 14-15, but the meeting morphed into a sometimes heated discussion of the broader issues regarding the GLCCB’s past and current lack of accountability and relevancy.

In an open letter to the LGBT community, the Center’s interim executive director Kelly Neel wrote, noting the urgency, that the community is disengaging with the Center and vice versa,  “I am here to ask for your help in bringing it back. It will take time, patience, and a lot of community elbow grease, but I’m confident that we can learn from our past mistakes and revive the bond between Baltimore’s LGBTQ community and its community center.”

Neel sent out email invitations to the Center’s mailing list and through social media inviting people to the town hall and to complete an online feedback survey. About 60 people showed up to listen to the Pride coordinators and GLCCB board members and to voice their concerns. The survey extends to Aug. 15.

Neel said there was insufficient time to adequately plan for Pride 2014 given the Center’s move to a new building and the departure of the previous executive director, Matt Thorn.

“We got started late in the game,” explained Neel. Dates had to shift, and a new “footprint” to the Mt. Royal area required permits and added security. The decision to move the events was made before Neel assumed her duties.

Expenses for Pride 2104 exceeded $114,000 while revenue was close to $178,000 resulting in a $64,000 profit, which is a modest total as Pride is the main fundraising activity for the Center.

Based on the survey results, the GLCCB is considering a return to Druid Hill Park for the Sunday celebration, which would add a family-friendly element to the event. It will also try to deal with concerns about the beer garden and the drag stage, among other tweaks suggested via the survey. Of the 61 responses received at the time of the meeting, 58 percent were either unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with Pride this year.

The meeting was opened up to comments from the audience. Initially, some issues with Pride were brought up, such as why there was no open drinking permitted.

Then comments came about a range of topics, including the Center’s outreach to minorities, a perceived lack of transparency, the sale in 2013 of its long-held building, the need for face-to-face communication with the community rather than electronic dispatches, renewed charges of racism and classism in board selections, that transgender people are not made to feel welcome, the Center’s failure to respond to invitations to faith-based events, and a lack of a specified mission or purpose.

Mike McCarthy, board president since 2012, and others stated that the board has never intended to exclude anyone. Since the meeting, a board application was made available at GLCCB.org.

Neel and the board members thanked the audience and promised to take this feedback seriously. “We heard what needs to be heard—not just Pride but the Center,” Neel said following the meeting. “Changes are needed. It starts here.”

28
Jul
2014

Students to attend LGBT Leadership Summit

Zach Wahls, Democratic National Convention, Washington Blade, gay news

Zach Wahls will speak at the B’More Proud LGBTQIA Leadership Summit. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

At least 200 undergraduate and graduate students from Baltimore area colleges and universities are expected to attend the 2014 B’More Proud LGBTQIA Leadership Summit on March 30. The daylong event, whose theme this year is “Breaking Boundaries: The Intersections of Our Identities,” will take place at Levering Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins University.

At the conference there will be several breakout sessions, a resources fair whereby organizations, companies and agencies offer information and answer questions, and entertainment at the end of the summit. Comedian Julie Goldman will perform.

The planners are developing the topics and leaders for the upcoming summit. Author, performer and trans-bi activist Julia Serano will be a keynote speaker as well another activist, Zach Wahls. Three years ago, Wahls gave moving testimony to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee to support his two moms when that legislature was considering a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

There is no charge to participants and meals will be provided. To register as a participant, to host a breakout session, to volunteer or take part in the resources fair, visit bmoreproud.org.

24
Feb
2014

Thorn resigns as GLCCB director

Kelly Neel, The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland, GLCCB, gay news, Washington Blade

Kelly Neel was named the GLCCB’s interim executive director. (Photo courtesy of the GLCCB)

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) announced on April 25 several leadership changes, including the resignation of GLCCB Executive Director Matt Thorn and the appointments of Stephanie Baker and Daniel Moore to the GLCCB board of directors.

The GLCCB board accepted Thorn’s resignation as executive director, effective April 30. Thorn has served in his role since March 2013.

“It has been a tremendous honor for me to serve as executive director over the past year,” Thorn said. “I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to work alongside a dedicated, passionate group of staff members and volunteers, and I offer my best wishes for the Center’s continued success.”

Thorn cited personal family matters for his departure from the organization.

The GLCCB board, under President Mike McCarthy, has appointed Kelly Neel as the organization’s interim executive director. Neel previously served as the organization’s deputy executive director and program coordinator and will serve as the primary point of contact for the community center’s day-to-day operations, financial management and program administration.

“I am excited to step into the position of interim director and am looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities ahead,” Neel told the Blade.

29
Apr
2014

Baltimore LGBT Wedding Expo set

wedding expo, wedding rings, gay news, Washington Blade

Couples, singles, advocates and allies are all invited to connect and celebrate equal marriage rights.

The third annual “Same Love, Same Rights” LGBT Wedding Expo will take place on Jan. 26 from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Grand Historic Venue, 225 North Charles St., in Baltimore.

The Expo will include dozens of LGBT-friendly wedding professionals. There will also be ceremony planning tips, free samples, raffles, keynote speakers and music

Couples, singles, advocates and allies are all invited, to connect and celebrate equal marriage rights. The event is free but a $5 donation is requested. For more information, visit samelovesamerights.com.

07
Jan
2014

From the Farmer to you

From the Farmer, gay news, Washington Blade

From the Farmer’s weekly farmers-market-on-wheels provides the convenience of top-quality seasonal vegetable and fruit selections conveyed from farm field to front door typically within 48 hours of harvesting. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

When From the Farmer co-founders Nick Phelps and Jason Lundberg rolled out their unique Washington area enterprise three years ago, business began on a modest scale. It was a fitting launch for a farm-to-consumer purveyor linking small regional food producers with urban and suburban dwellers by providing affordable home delivery of fresh produce.

Their veritable weekly farmers-market-on-wheels provides the convenience of diverse top-quality seasonal vegetable and fruit selections conveyed from farm field to front door typically within 48 hours of harvesting, as well as handcrafted bakery breads and specialties such as organic honey.

Service is offered without time-length contract commitments and is easy to turn on-and-off digitally with as little as one-day notice when necessitated by personal plans or travel. From the Farmer has become the premier service of its kind for a broad delivery area spanning D.C., Baltimore, Howard County and most of Montgomery County in Maryland, and a wide expanse of Northern Virginia locales.

Custom-made, high-quality insulated picnic-basket-style frame-and-fabric collapsible containers branded with the company logo are delivered to apartments, homes and workplaces on a designated weekday, recycling the previous container. These farm-to-kitchen packages arrive between midnight and 7 a.m., preceded by an email reminder listing six-to-10 stocked food items for menu planning.

“Transport traffic is easier” in the pre-dawn hours, explains company vice-president Phelps, allowing “more deliveries per hour. Temperatures are coolest at that time in the warm weather months and no one is waiting around for a delivery – it’s there to pick up when you wake up.”

A customization option allows specifying “none, normal or more” of each weekly item in “half, single or double bushels.” Company website “FromTheFarmerDC.com” illustrates sample volume bounties of beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, zucchini, arugula, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, cantaloupe and cucumbers.

The entrepreneurial duo, in their late-20s and friends since Colorado college days, share backgrounds in business and a passion for food – both contributing to the company’s growing stature and success. Lundberg, company president, handles financial accounting and back-end operations. Phelps concentrates on sales coordination, and customer experience and service management.

Following a two-year “beta phase” start-up, the company grew rapidly in the past year while simultaneously generating extraordinary customer satisfaction. In-house delivery fulfillment and direct interaction have been essential to maintaining patron loyalty.

“Handling all aspects of service with care and attention has been very important,” notes Phelps. Staffing has grown four-fold to meet market demand in recent months, with 21 employees and plans for adding 10 or more by the end of the year.

Five staff members currently work in downtown D.C. while others receive and sort foodstuffs, prepare packages and dispatch deliveries from a suburban warehouse. The entire staff will soon be joined at a larger Beltsville, Md., combined warehouse and office facility. In addition to allowing more efficient operations and growth potential, the new space will provide an on-site test kitchen to develop recipe suggestions in advance of each week’s harvest.

“It’s really important to be able to see and touch the food every day as it comes in from partner farms,” stresses Phelps. “The only thing I enjoy more is visiting and talking with local farmers.”

Nowadays “a few thousand customers” enjoy the fruits of their labors and that of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania farmers. “The hardest thing for local farms of 200 acres or less is how to get their products out and sold,” says Phelps. “Our goal is making good, local food more accessible and supporting the regional farm economy.”

More than that, Phelps emphasizes, the entire From the Farmer team strives to create “real long-term sustainable change” in the quality of food on home plates.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

31
Jul
2014

DNC to form Lesbian Leadership Council

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC, Democratic National Committee, Lesbian Leadership Council, gay news, Washington Blade

‘We’re going to make sure we have a vehicle here at the DNC for lesbian leadership,’ said DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz told members of the DNC’s LGBT Caucus at a March 1 meeting in Washington that the DNC is in the process of creating a Lesbian Leadership Council to boost the leadership role of lesbians in the party.

Wasserman Schultz was among a number of high-profile Democratic Party officials that addressed the LGBT Caucus meeting on the final day of the DNC’s annual winter meetings at the Capital Hilton Hotel.

“No offense to gay men in the room, but just like in the straight community, where women sometimes have been left behind and men have vaulted ahead on the leadership track, my message was it’s time for lesbians to step up,” she said in referring to a speech she gave to a lesbian gathering last month.

“And we’re going to make sure we have a vehicle here at the DNC for lesbian leadership…so we can have lesbians catch up and get them the tools they need and make sure they can be a strong part of our leadership team,” she said.

Wasserman Schultz said more details about the Lesbian Leadership Council would be announced later.

The DNC created an LGBT Leadership Council in 2000 as a party entity charged mostly with raising money for Democratic candidates.

She told LGBT Caucus members at the March 1 meeting that she is proud of the role the Democratic Party has played in pushing for advances in LGBT rights during the years of the Obama administration, including advances in marriage equality

“And we have a lot more to do,” she said. “We need to pass a transgender-inclusive ENDA. That’s absolutely critical. We need to make sure that marriage equality” continues to move forward.

Others speaking at the LGBT Caucus meeting were Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Speaker of the California Assembly John Perez, who’s gay; and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley, who’s also gay.

At the request of LGBT Caucus Chair Earl Fowlkes of D.C., the caucus voted unanimously to approve a resolution in support of D.C. statehood.

One issue that wasn’t discussed at the caucus meeting was the status of the position of director of the DNC’s LGBT Outreach Desk. The position became vacant when D.C. gay Democratic activist Jeff Marootian, who held the post since 2011, resigned recently to become White House liaison at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

DNC spokesperson Miryam Lipper said on Monday that she would inquire about the status of the vacant position with DNC officials this week and provide an update on the matter later in the week.

Fowlkes couldn’t immediately be reached to determine whether DNC officials have discussed the matter with him.

“We’re all kind of pushing that we want this now,” said LGBT Caucus member Barbra Casbar Siperstein of New Jersey. “But we want to make sure that we have truly qualified people because they will be filling big shoes. We were very happy with Jeff Marootian,” she said.

Siperstein said with the 2014 midterm congressional elections approaching, having an LGBT outreach desk at the DNC is important, especially following the shutdown just over a year ago of the National Stonewall Democrats, which closed due to financial difficulties.

Buckley told the Blade that he and other LGBT Caucus members were taking steps to re-launch National Stonewall Democrats but it was unclear when that might happen.

04
Mar
2014

HRC to honor Baltimore

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore, Human Rights Campaign, gay news, Washington Blade

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will accept the ‘Top Municipality for LGBT Equality Award’ on behalf of Baltimore. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Human Rights Campaign will honor Baltimore for its perfect 100-point score on the 2013 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) at a special reception. The event will take place on May 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Birroteca, 1520 Clipper Rd. in Baltimore.

The 2013 Municipal Equality Index is the second edition of the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law. Since the first issue of the report came out in 2012, Baltimore has increased its score by more than 12 points. Twenty-five cities in 2013 earned a perfect 100-point score with Baltimore among them, compared to only 11 in 2012.

In recognition of this achievement, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will accept the “Top Municipality for LGBT Equality Award” on behalf of the city of Baltimore and make remarks on the city’s inclusivity. Visit hrc.org to register.

06
May
2014

Frederick Center to honor LGBT ally

Lois Jarman, gay news, Washington Blade

Lois Jarman (Photo courtesy Jarman)

The Frederick Center is honoring Lois Jarman with Frederick’s 2013 LGBTQ Ally of the Year Award on Jan. 12. She will receive this award “because of her tireless efforts over the last decade on behalf of the LGBTQ community of central Maryland,” according Brian Walker, chair of the Frederick Center board.

Jarman founded the Central Maryland chapter of PFLAG in 2006, where she continues to be the chapter president. She has also been co-producer of the “A Little Song, A Little Dance” annual World AIDS Day benefit in Frederick for a dozen years, raising tens of thousands of dollars to benefit Positive Influence (a past Frederick-based HIV support organization), Baltimore Pediatric AIDS Fund, AIDS Response Effort out of Winchester (which now covers central Maryland), and various LGBT organizations.

Jarman has also been a resource for hundreds of LGBTQ students by being a visible ally in the local high school system and other educational institutions.

“This annual award allows us to recognize the efforts of a single person,” said Walker. “But this ceremony allows many community allies to gather to celebrate the work they have done collectively over time, and to hear first-hand how much it matters to the LGBTQ community.”

The event will take place between 3-6 p.m. at the home of Peter Brehm and John Michael Day, 318 West College Terrace in Frederick. A suggested donation of $15 for individuals and $25 for couples would benefit the Frederick Center. Beverages and light refreshments will be served.

For more information, visit thefrederickcenter.org.

07
Jan
2014

GLCCB invites public to next board meeting

Baltimore, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade, GLCCB board

(Photo public domain)

The next GLCCB board of directors meeting will take place Monday, Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Waxter Center (1000 Cathedral St. in Baltimore). Community members are welcome to attend the public portion of each general meeting.

“We’re particularly excited to introduce public participation in our monthly board meetings,” said board president Mike McCarthy. “We invite community members that would like to attend to sign up for a meeting and present comments and concerns directly to the board, or simply learn more about the decisions made and the process we follow.”

Due to space and time limitations, the board requests those interested in attending to contact GLCCB Board Secretary Gilles Stromberg (secretary@glccb.org) by Sunday, Aug. 10 to confirm your attendance. A tentative agenda of the August board meeting, as well as GLCCB board updates, can be found at GLCCB.org.

06
Aug
2014

Mayor would welcome Arizona’s LGBT residents

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore, gay pride, gay news, Maryland, Washington Blade, LGBT residents

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. In discussing the vetoed legislation in Arizona that would have allowed business owners to discriminate against gays and lesbians on religious grounds, she invited LGBT residents from Arizona to move to Baltimore even though Arizona has better weather.

“On balance, I think the LGBT community would be better off, save the weather, we can’t promise you the weather, but better off in Baltimore. I’m more than happy to deal with the welcome. I think it’s a much friendlier place. It burns me up to know that a community that has given so much, particularly for the Democratic Party, is under siege. It’s 2014.

“We have a great LGBT community in Baltimore.  I’ve been a big supporter to the first LGBT, the same-sex marriage in the state right after New Year’s. And there’s no war going on in Baltimore.”

05
Mar
2014