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Consider the Blade Foundation on Giving Tuesday

Your tax-deductible donation will support work of LGBTQ journalists

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Blade Foundation, gay news, Washington Blade

Visit bladefoundation.org to donate today.

Many of us marked the morning after Thanksgiving by heading to Black Friday sales — and then put an altruistic spin on holiday shopping, by showing local merchants some Small Business Saturday love.

Now, on Nov. 27, the Tuesday after Turkey Day offers our readership a different kind of activity, one that supports the work of this publishing house and that’s as tangible as it is tax deductible.

Established as a counterbalance to the pull of post-Thanksgiving consumerism, “Giving Tuesday” (#GivingTuesday) is an internationally observed day that encourages charitable donations.

This year, we’re asking Blade readers to consider the Blade Foundation when donating your purpose-driven dollars.

Founded in 2010, initially to fund digitization of the Washington Blade’s print and photo archive (work that’s nearly complete), the Blade Foundation has shifted its efforts to help fund enterprise journalism projects on LGBTQ topics. You may have already read some of those reports in the Washington Blade and Los Angeles Blade. With the support of the Blade Foundation, our foreign freelance correspondents have generated more than 200 articles, covering vital issues in places where LGBTQ visibility remains limited — among them, Cuba, Chile, Brazil and Honduras. The Foundation also raises money to fund scholarships and fellowships for LGBTQ journalists. We hope to expand the scope of our reporting in troubled hotspots around the globe.

But for Blade Foundation reporting, the lives of LGBTQ people living in many of these communities are often victims without recourse. We help shine a light where there is injustice and invisibility.

Just as skeptics and fence-sitters often become allies when they hear the stories and struggles of somebody close to them, we offer these portraits, to put a face on why supporting our particular mission of LGBTQ advocacy is important.

“As we saw with our domestic reporting, where the Blade goes, the mainstream media follow,” said Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff. “By shining a light on the challenges facing LGBTQ people in other parts of the world, we hope to bring understanding and ultimately change.”

Our international news editor, Michael K. Lavers is a New Hampshire native with a “strong interest in news and global affairs,” whose “second-ever journalism class at UNH was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.” He joined the Washington Blade in 2012, and has served as the newspaper’s international news editor since June 2015.

“I have had the immense privilege of reporting from nearly two dozen countries and territories — including Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Hungary, Israel, Turkey, Spain, and from the U.N. — since I began working at the Blade,” Lavers said. Many countries, Lavers noted, “have seen progress on LGBT rights in recent years, while others, including the U.S., have seen painful setbacks. The Blade has had a front row seat to the events that have shaped our community for nearly 50 years. Our work remains as important today as ever before.”

The Washington Blade has been a major force in America’s LGBTQ life, having served the community since 1969; the New York Times referred to it as “one of the most influential publications written for a gay audience.”

Washington Blade photo editor Michael Key recalled life in the mid-90s, when “there were few positive representations of LGBT life to be found in the media.” Discovering a copy of the Washington Blade at his local library in Fairfax, Va., Key recalled, “I was very excited as soon as I started reading the paper, as a closeted teenager in high school. Here was a paper that represented a community that I knew had to exist, but I hadn’t yet found.”

The Washington Blade, he noted, “helped me to come out in my senior year. I couldn’t imagine back then that I would be working now as an adult at the nation’s oldest and most respected LGBT newspaper, capturing the movement in photos.” Key’s coverage for the Blade has included the Obama years, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the dismantling of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the sweeping Supreme Court ruling granting marriage equality. “Today,” he notes, “I cover the news in photographs, from the Trump White House and the many protests countering the policies of the current administration, as well as other events of interest to the LGBT community. The Blade changed my life, and I am excited to bring the news to a new generation of movers and shakers.”

In 2016, the newspaper expanded to the West Coast with the launch of the Los Angeles Blade, bringing a focus on serious LGBTQ journalism to America’s second largest city.

The Los Angeles Blade has benefitted from the Blade Foundation’s ability to cross borders, as witnessed by our recent reporting in Tijuana. When a trans woman died while in ICE custody, our reporter was on the story. When trans and LGB members of the asylum seekers made their way to the border, we helped document their journey.

The Los Angeles Blade’s news editor, Karen Ocamb started her career in journalism “right out of college in 1973, working as a desk assistant at CBS Network News in New York.” Eleven years later, her final job for CBS News was producing the 1984 Olympics coverage for its affiliates, out of TV City in Los Angeles. She got back into journalism in 1988, “after so many friends died from AIDS and I needed a way to contribute, aside from being a care-provider.”

Asked why our readers should consider supporting the Blade Foundation, Ocamb said she considers LGBT journalism to be “an important contribution to the movement toward full equality under the law, and in society.” While acknowledging the contribution of allies and LGBT mainstream journalists, “Nothing,” Ocamb noted, “compares to the insights from community-ensconced reporters who grasp the nuances and shades of arguments, that might be missed or misunderstood by someone not immersed in LGBT politics and culture.” It is imperative, she added, “that LGBT journalists ferret out LGBT contributions,” here at home, and abroad. “Whether it is in the SoCal 2018 midterm campaigns or as first responders and victims in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we were there. It is our job to witness and record LGBT history as it transpires.”

Editor and publisher Troy Masters has been doing just that, since the early days of the AIDS crisis. Before he helped launched the Los Angeles Blade, “to fill a void in LGBTQ news and journalism,” Masters recalled, “I co-founded Gay City News [in NYC] and, for over nearly two decades, it has been witness to a community that fought hard for survival and that has flourished to power.” Calling LGBT news media “foundational to helping advance community self-awareness about the issues we face and the events that impact our lives,” Masters was blunt about how your support will strengthen the mission of Blade publications, and help us endure: “I believe,” he said, “the very survival of LGBT people depends on dynamic, LGBTQ-owned news media.”

If your life has been impacted, and your perspective informed, by Blade publications, you’re already part of our history.

Now, on Giving Tuesday, we ask that you partner with us in our steadfast commitment to serve the community internationally.

To do so, visit bladefoundation.org. Your donation will fund enterprise journalism projects focused on LGBTQ and other underrepresented communities, and help us to create scholarships for LGBTQ journalists.

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National

VP Harris and Second Gentleman join Pride walk to rally at Freedom Plaza

The Capital Pride Alliance, the organization which produces the annual event organized the intersectional LGBTQ+ walk and celebration.

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Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband, the Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff (Screenshot of coverage from WJLA 7 Washington DC)

WASHINGTON – To the shock of on-lookers who then burst into cheers Saturday afternoon, Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband, the Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, joined in walking with the Pride marchers on 13th Street NW in the District by the Warner Theatre headed to Freedom Plaza.

Accompanying the Vice-President, White House Pool reporter Eugene Daniels noted the Vice President and second gentleman walked with crowd down 13th and stopped at the Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street NW intersection at the corner of the Freedom Plaza where she talked to the crowd for a bit. Daniels could not hear much but reported that she did say: 

“We still have so much to do. We celebrate all the accomplishments. Finally marriage is the law of the land. We need to make sure that our transgender community are all protected.”

“There is so much more work to do and I know we are committed.”

The crowd chanted her name over and over. She stayed for about ten minutes waving and talking. 

The Capital Pride Alliance, the organization which produces the annual event in the nation’s capital, because of the pandemic as the District was reopening, had set-up and organized the intersectional Pride Walk and Rally at Freedom Plaza, LGBTQ+ walk and celebration.

At around 12:30, the march departed down P Street NW and traveled to Logan Circle and then headed south on 13th Street to Freedom Plaza. The march ended at Freedom Plaza where a 1:30 p.m. rally was held and where D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was one of those who spoke.

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National

Orlando marks the fifth anniversary of the Pulse massacre

“I echo our mayor to say to the survivors and family members of Pulse: it’s okay to not be okay. This was a tragedy.”

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Pulse Nightclub (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

ORLANDO, FL – On that morning five summers ago this date, survivors gathered, stunned and grieving over the horror that had been visited upon them and others frantically calling phones that would never be answered again while a community took stock of the mass murder that had claimed the lives of forty-nine innocents. June, 12, 2016 joined a litany of dates of death and suffering in American history this time impacting the LGBTQ community and beyond.

Saturday, survivors and community leaders gather in Orlando, Florida to commemorate and honor those 49 American lives lost in that act of senseless gun violence.

“Orlando was called to action on June 12, 2016. Our city was asked to find in ourselves the strength to respond with empathy when faced with an unthinkable act of violence. We are still working every day to honor the 49 angels and every person impacted by the Pulse tragedy with action. Together, we continue to make Orlando a more inclusive, welcoming and equitable community for all,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. ““Orlando United” was our call to action five years ago, but it is up to us all to ensure that this isn’t simply a slogan that we bring out annually as we mark the time that’s passed since the tragedy. Instead, it must be part of our core commitment to real change.”

“We’re still very much in the healing phase and trying to find our way,” Pulse owner Barbara Poma told the Blade on Tuesday during a telephone interview.

The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Nearly half of the victims were LGBTQ Puerto Ricans. The massacre also sparked renewed calls for gun control.

Poma told the Blade that she expects construction will begin on a “Survivor’s Walk” at the site by the end of the year. A museum — which she described as an “education center” that will “talk about the history of the LGBT community and its struggles and stripes for the last century or so … about why safe spaces were important to this community” and what happened at Pulse and the global response to it — will be built a third of a mile away.

“We really feel it is important to never forget what happened at Pulse and to tell the story of that,” said Poma.

Poma noted the onePULSE Foundation of which she is the executive director met with representatives of the 9/11 Tribute Museum and the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum to discuss the memorial. Poma when she spoke with the Blade acknowledged the plans have been criticized.

“This kind of opposition is not unique to these kind of projects,” she said. “It’s just important to know that really what we’re trying to do is make sure what happened is never forgotten and those lives were never forgotten,” added Poma.

In a rare bipartisan move, a bill that designates the former Pulse nightclub a national memorial was passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate this past Wednesday.

“The tragedy at Pulse rocked our community and served as a reminder of the work we have to do to uproot hate and bigotry. We’re proud of the bipartisan coalition of Florida Congressional leaders for leading the effort to recognize this hallowed ground as a national memorial site.,” Brandon J. Wolf, the Development Officer and Media Relations Manager for LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida and a Pulse survivor told the Blade. “Our visibility matters. May the 49 lives stolen never be forgotten. And may we always honor them with action.”

Wolf was inside the club at the time of the shooting and lost his two best friends, Juan Ramon Guerrero and Christopher Andrew (Drew) Leinonen, who were among the 49 murdered during the rampage. Wolf had managed to escape but the event has forever left him scarred.

Then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hugging Brandon J. Wolf a survivor as Biden and President Obama meet with family members of the victims and other survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
Then U.S. President Barack Obama embracing Brandon J. Wolf a survivor as he and Joe Biden meet with family members of the victims and other survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Since that terrible night Wolf has been a force for advocacy in gun control and LGBTQ equality rights and is a nationally recognized leader in those endeavors to include by President Joe Biden.

“Pulse is hallowed ground and what happened on June 12, 2016 must never be forgotten. ” Wolf added.

“I echo our mayor to say to the survivors and family members of Pulse: it’s okay to not be okay. This was a tragedy. The nation may have watched and grieved with us, but the pain that you may be feeling is personal. I want you to know that we embrace you with love, not as symbols but as yourselves. If you are struggling, there is help available, and I encourage you to reach out,” said U.S. House Representative Val Demings (D-FL)

“It can be hard to find the words, because the truth is that no words can make this right for the survivors and families of those we lost. That’s why five years ago we promised to ‘honor them with action,’ not just with words. As we move forward from this anniversary, it is my prayer that all of us will recommit ourselves to that mission, to ensure that every Pulse survivor—and every American—can live in a nation where each person is safe to go out to a nightclub or any other place, where our LGBTQ community is protected, where the highest-quality mental health support is available to those who need it, and where we treat gun violence as the threat that it is to our loved ones. I know that we can do better, and as we commemorate this sorrowful anniversary, I believe that we must do better.”

In Washington, California U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, co-sponsor of legislation to make Pulse a National Memorial reflected,

“It is my hope that this memorial will serve as an enduring reminder of the pain and loss felt in Orlando five years ago and as a testament to the resilience and strength of the LGBTQ+ community. It is also an important reminder of the need recommit ourselves to end the senseless cycle of gun violence that has touched too many families across the country and taken too many of our loved ones,” Padilla told the Blade in an emailed statement.

“It’s an epidemic that has claimed far too many LGBTQ+ lives, particularly in Black and Latino communities. We will never let the memory of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting fade away– and this memorial is an important part of their enduring legacy,” he added.

The White House on Saturday released a statement from President Biden who had traveled and met with survivors and the families of the victims 5 days after the massacre while he was the vice-president of the United States under President Barack Obama.

“Five years ago today in Orlando in the middle of Pride Month, our nation suffered the deadliest attack affecting the LGBTQ+ community in American history, and at the time, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman.

Within minutes, the Pulse nightclub that had long been a place of acceptance and joy turned into a place of unspeakable pain and loss. Forty-nine people were there celebrating Latin night were murdered, even more injured, and countless others scarred forever – the victims were family members, partners and friends, veterans and students, young, Black, Asian and Latino – our fellow Americans.

A few days later, I traveled with President Obama to pay respects to them and their families, to thank the brave first responders and the community who found strength and compassion in each other, and to pledge that what happened would not be forgotten. 

Over the years, I have stayed in touch with families of the victims and with the survivors who have turned their pain into purpose, and who remind us that we must do more than remember victims of gun violence and all of the survivors, family members, and friends left behind; we must act.

In the coming days, I will sign a bill designating Pulse Nightclub as a national memorial, enshrining in law what has been true since that terrible day five years ago: Pulse Nightclub is hallowed ground.

But there is more we must do to address the public health epidemic of gun violence in all of its forms – mass shootings and daily acts of gun violence that don’t make national headlines.

It is long past time we close the loopholes that allow gun buyers to bypass background checks in this country, and the Senate should start by passing the three House-passed bills which would do exactly that. It is long past time we ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, establish extreme risk protection orders, also known as “red flag” laws, and eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.

We must also acknowledge gun violence’s particular impact on LGBTQ+ communities across our nation. We must drive out hate and inequities that contribute to the epidemic of violence and murder against transgender women – especially transgender women of color. We must create a world in which our LGBTQ+ young people are loved, accepted, and feel safe in living their truth. And the Senate must swiftly pass the Equality Act, legislation that will ensure LGBTQ+ Americans finally have equal protection under law.

In the memory of all of those lost at the Pulse nightclub five years ago, let us continue the work to be a nation at our best – one that recognizes and protects the dignity and safety of every American.”

Additional reporting by Michael K. Lavers

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California

Newsom signs orders to roll back coronavirus restrictions next Tuesday

The Governor’s Office established a timeline to continue winding down the various provisions of the 58 COVID-related executive orders.

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Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – Effective June 15, restrictions such as physical distancing, capacity limits and the county tier system will end as Governor Gavin Newsom signed a series of executive orders Friday marking a return to normalcy after nearly 15 months of the ongoing battle to protect the state’s residents from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.  Additionally, those Californians who are fully vaccinated won’t be required to wear a mask — including indoors.

Newsom’s actions also include terminating the Stay-at-Home Order that was implemented early in the pandemic to protect Californians and retiring the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

“California is turning the page on this pandemic, thanks to swift action by the state and the work of Californians who followed public health guidelines and got vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities,” said Newsom. “With nearly 40 million vaccines administered and among the lowest case rates in the nation, we are lifting the orders that impact Californians on a day-to-day basis while remaining vigilant to protect public health and safety as the pandemic persists.”

The Governor’s Office today established a timeline and process to continue winding down the various provisions of the 58 COVID-related executive orders, which suspended statutes and regulations to help the state and businesses continue operations during the pandemic.

To ensure that impacted individuals and entities have time to prepare for the changes, the provisions will sunset in phases, beginning later this month, in July and in September. For example, the suspension of certain licensing requirements for manufacturers to produce hand sanitizer will end on June 30, as shortages are no longer a concern. By the end of September, nearly 90 percent of the executive actions taken since March 2020 will have been lifted.

The California Department of Public Health on Friday released a new state public health officer order that goes into effect on June 15. 

Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s public health officer, issued a new order that, among other things, puts in place new requirements for mask wearing that take effect Tuesday. The new rules say fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear a mask in most places, either indoors our outdoors. But the state is still requiring people who have not been vaccinated to wear a mask in public places.

“We’ve met our metrics, we feel prepared,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services Agency secretary, told reporters on Friday. “Things in California, from a COVID transmission perspective, are going reasonably well.”

These actions supports the full and safe reopening of the state, while maintaining focused public health requirements that address the risk posed by variants as some regions across the nation and world continue to experience high levels of transmission, Ghaly noted.

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