“Lazy Policing” and a Hate Crime in Columbia Heights: Your Take

Flickr: aliciagriffin

Columbia Heights Metro, as seen from 14th Street NW.

There are some lessons that can be learned from an incident late last month when five women were assaulted by two men near the Columbia Heights Metro, according to observers. Originally, the men were flirtatious, but when one of the women identified another as her partner, the men shouted homophobic slurs, then physically attacked them.

Chai Shenoy of Holla Back DC noted that it was a bystander who called police. “Kudos,” Shenoy said. “Community engagement is key to creating safe spaces in DC.”

She said Police Chief Cathy Lanier was smart to send a strong signal by investigating the police officers who were involved.

Shenoy said that’s key “with the increase of gender-based crimes happening in the LGBTQ community.”

D.C. residents used social media to air their concerns about the case:

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A Tale of Two Pride Festivals

For decades, D.C. has been home to two large LGBT– lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender — celebrations: Capital Pride and DC Black Pride.

Folks not tuned into the local LGBT community are most familiar with June’s Capital Pride, a 12-day long event with an award-winning parade through the streets of Dupont and Logan circles and a festival that draws 250,000 people. Meanwhile, DC Black Pride, held over Memorial Day weekend, remains a more low-key event with a festival, poetry slams and a dozen workshops.

DC Black Pride started 20 years ago as a celebration and fundraiser for HIV/AIDS organizations serving the black community. Other cities were already hosting such events, but D.C.’s was the first dubbed “Black Pride.” Now, there are more than 30 black prides nationwide, which focus on black LGBT issues.

tedeytan / Flickr

Capital Pride culminates in a festival held along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The D.C. event grew popular in the early days as there was “a feeling that Capital Pride was less inclusive at the time,” according to DC Black Pride board member Earl Fowlkes.

But since then, events catering to diverse segments of the LGBT community have been held during the Capital Pride celebration. Capital Pride board chairman Mike Lutz says the 12-day long celebration is “very representative” of people of all ages, orientations, races and religions.

“Capital Pride is for everyone,” Lutz says.

In recent years, Black Pride has scaled back. This year’s event was smaller because the organization plans to host year-round events, but also due to less funding. Meanwhile, Capital Pride has grown in size and demographics.

So is there still a need to host a black pride event?

“I don’t see it as a separate thing as some people do,” Fowlkes says. “But obviously, whether I felt the need or not, 300,000 people come every year to [black] pride” celebrations around the country.

Yet, Fowlkes says he still doesn’t see many people of color attending the Capital Pride festival along Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Race, Class and Gay Marriage

Flickr: laverrue

Wedding Cake figurines.

Over at TAPPED, Jamelle Bouie explains it all, if by all we mean “Black People and Gay Marriage”:

The broader question is this: Why aren’t black people energized about gay marriage, despite having high rates of religious attendance? Easy answer: It’s class, stupid. To channel Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels for a moment, the culture wars are mostly fought between Republican and Democratic elites; after all, it’s easy to obsess over gay people when you’re not worried about paying your bills.

For African Americans, who are disproportionately lower-income, gay marriage is far less important than jobs, health care, and economic growth (this is also true of working-class whites, though to a lesser extent). When you couple this with extremely high support for President Obama — and also, the fact that black people hold different opinions on different things — it’s no real surprise that African Americans, as a class, are less than interested in whether gay people can marry or serve openly in the military.

Black and Transgendered? Double the Suffering.

Flickr: Serena Epstein

Tyra Hunter was a popular African American hair stylist in Washington, D.C. In 1995, she was in a serious car accident at 50th and C Streets SE. The emergency personnel who arrived on scene started to rescue her, but they stopped abruptly; instead of providing Hunter with aid, they mocked her. When she finally reached a hospital, Doctors didn’t help her, either.

Sounds outrageous, right? It was. Hunter’s mother sued the city for negligence and malpractice– and won $2.8 million.

At this point, you might be wondering– “Why would EMTs and Doctors withhold care from an accident victim?”

Well, Hunter was transgendered. According to Monica Roberts of The TransGriot, when firefighters discovered that fact after cutting through her clothing, they discontinued care and insulted her.

A firefighter) began joking with the other fire department personnel at the scene as the bystanders pleaded with them to resume working to save Tyra’s life. One bystander is quoted as saying, “It don’t make any difference, he’s [sic] a person, he’s a human being.”

Indeed. I first learned about this appalling case via Colorlines, which “has been building a home for journalism in service to racial justice since 1998″. In their recent article, “Still No Freedom Rainbow for Transgender People of Color”, Hunter’s memory was invoked to demonstrate how little progress has been made:
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One Station, Many Voices


Today’s WAMU commentary is from Joel Carela, who is part of WAMU’s Youth Voices program in partnership with Youth Radio and D.C’s Latin American Youth Center.

I’ve always been put off by TV shows and movies that glorify casual sex. Like the “American Pie” movies, whose main characters are always in search of a quick and easy hook-up. They make the guys who can separate sex and emotions seem normal and emasculate the ones who develop feelings beyond the mattress.

As an emotional person, I never liked that message — but I guess somehow it seeped into my brain.

Last fall, I started college and moved into a dorm with more than 100 other hormonal teenagers. Suddenly, we had easy access to all sorts of things that were out of reach back home: alcohol, drugs and each other.

It wasn’t long before I started to connect really well with a guy in my international politics class, who also happened to live across the hall. We shared an affinity for baroque-era choral music and an interest in the British monarchy.

You can listen to it, here.
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Gentrification and the LGBT community

Flickr: kate.gardiner

Now reading: Amanda Hess’ piece on “Gay bars, gentrification, and homophobia” in TBD:

LGBT establishments have a complex history with the gentrification of cities. At a glance: In response to discriminatory zoning laws and social ostracization, gay bars traditionally set up shop in underdeveloped urban areas with lower rents and looser regulations. Around these establishments, LGBT neighborhoods formed, later attracting more well-to-do members of the community—and eventually, more affluent straights, too. The gentrification of a gay village signaled a certain mainstream social acceptance of gays—but it also meant pushing less affluent members of the LGBT community back on the social fringes. Straight gentrifiers of gay villages may be willing to tolerate wealthy gay yuppies, but they can also facilitate the marginalization of others in the LGBT community.

Gray Off to Not-So-Inclusive Start

Flickr: thisisbossi

"Gray Pride" at the Gay Pride Parade, this year.

The social web is buzzing about Mayor-elect Gray’s broken campaign promise to the LGBT community; while campaigning, one of Gray’s answers to the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance questionnaire included a promise to include LGBT community members in a search for the new police and fire chiefs. That didn’t happen:

The key point is that Mr. Gray did not invite anyone from the LGBT community in the search process. It isn’t clear that he checked with anyone outside of his transition team’s inner circle. Arguably, Chief Lanier is not “new” but that’s really being Clintonesque.

Chief Lanier essentially disbanded the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) at a time when anti-LGBT hate crimes are on the rise. The true value of the GLLU was community involvement. There was a time when the GLLU would visit community groups, bars, and social events just to introduce themselves and say hello. That was a time when the community started to trust the police. Lanier squandered that good will. I don’t recall the last time that I saw someone from the GLLU at any event. I did see them at a couple of the Pride events where they were not talking to anyone in the community. It was quite a waste of an opportunity. Unlike Chief Ramsey, Chief Lanier does not meet with us regularly, and would only do so if she had no other choice. It would be nice to have a police chief that treated us like a welcome part of the community. Mayor-Elect Gray says that she is an advocate of community policing. My experience is that she opposes that policy.

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On Kojo, Tomorrow: LGBT Youth in D.C.

Michael Paolantonio

Andrew Barnett of SMYAL

I wish I had seen this earlier, so I could have posted it when you were all bored at work and more likely to see it. After reading the following preview, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s Kojo Nnamdi show and I thought some of you might be interested in it, too:

Bullying and suicide often come to mind in daily conversations about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. But young people from these communities confront a wide range of challenges their straight peers never see, often with little support from their families or schools. We hear about the personal experiences and activism of local LGBT youth.

One of the scheduled guests, Andrew Barnett, is Executive Director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL). The KNS website has the following video of a local 16-year old named Sydney, who goes to SMYAL just so she can “be (herself)”.
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How D.C. is different: Hate Crimes-edition

Photography by Jason Pier @

2009 National Equality March

Over at TBD, Amanda Hess looks at “How D.C. hate crimes compare to the nation’s“:

The District of Columbia is the rare jurisdiction where crimes based on sexual orientation dominate hate crime stats. According to the report, almost half of the nation’s hate crimes—48.8 percent—are committed based on the victim’s race. But in D.C., as many as 85 percent of hate crimes reported to federal law enforcement are based on the victim’s sexual orientation.

Further down in her piece, Hess reported that hate crimes in D.C. which target sexual orientation “most often involve black suspects” targeting victims of various races.

In 2008, the District reported 30 offenses based on sexual orientation, eight based on race, three based on ethnicity, one based on religion, and zero based on disability. Last year, D.C. again reported 30 based on sexual orientation, but noted a decline in other kinds of hate crimes—2009 recorded three incidents based on race, two based on ethnicity, and zero based on religion or disability…

Race and Class on R Street

I can’t stop thinking about my last post, where I highlighted the powerful piece Amanda Hess wrote for TBD, about an anomalous block in Logan Circle which is struggling with the exact issues this blog was created to address: race and class. One block in a desirable neighborhood, where gentrification coexists with an affordable housing development was home to at least two victims of appalling, violent assaults, because of their race and sexual orientation– and in one case, the perpetrators did not live where they committed their crime. They were just hanging out there.

It’s depressing to consider, because when I usually talk to people in this city about gentrification, the most optimistic types hope for an arrangement which sounds…exactly like the 1400 block of R Street, where the affordable R Street Apartments sit next to more expensive homes, creating a neighborhood full of ethnic and economic diversity. Unfortunately, Amanda’s investigation uncovered intimidation and what sound like hate crimes at R Street Apartments, which leads me to wonder if affordable housing can coexist with market-rate real estate? If off-duty cops are afraid to walk on a certain block of R Street, why isn’t more being done to make it safe?

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