Despite Controversy Make Your Date Detroit Delivers Results

Initiative Saves Hundreds of Black Babies 

By Darlene A. White and Patreice A. Massey, Managing Editor 

Most soon-to-be mothers around the world are preparing for baby showers; gender reveals and discussing different themes for baby nurseries as their pregnancies progress. But for an alarming number of black mothers in the city of Detroit, their focus is avoiding preterm labor in hopes of keeping their infants alive.    

Detroit has one of the worst (highest) preterm birth and infant mortality rates in the country, equal to that of some third world countries. With a preterm birth rate of 14.5 percent, Detroit earned an “F” among major U.S. cities for premature births according to the 2018 Premature Birth Report Card from the March of Dimes, the nation’s leading maternal and infant health nonprofit organization. 

“For every 1,000 babies born alive in the United States, about six die before their first birthday. But in Detroit, that number is higher. In Detroit, for every 1,000 live births, an average of 15 infants will die before their first birthday,” according to data obtained from the U.S. Office of Minority Health. 

Research has shown that disparities such as racial inequity, poverty, stress, food insecurity, lack of education, and limited access to transportation or health care can contribute to poor health outcomes for mothers and babies.  

In efforts to quell this epidemic, the city of Detroit has welcomed several initiatives geared towards reducing the city’s infant mortality rate. One such initiative is the Make Your Date Detroit program. Make Your Date Detroit is a Wayne State University organization that is fighting to turn the tide against premature births in Detroit. 

Make Your Date Detroit is a program steeped in controversy. There have been investigative reports delving into the program’s fundraising methods and allegations of a personal relationship involving the mayor of Detroit. Headlines tout impropriety and imply that the program may have received preferential treatment from city officials. It’s a salacious story, that has everyone talking. 

But what isn’t making headlines are the results seen from this program and the fact that it is saving lives in the African American community.  

According to its website, the program provides free prenatal care to city residents regardless of their insurance coverage. The program focuses on screening and treatment for a short cervix, a leading condition that contributes to preterm delivery. 

Mayor Mike Duggan, who has witnessed the effects of preterm labor during his time spent as the head of one of Detroit’s prominent health systems, believes infant mortality is a priority issue and supports Make Your Date Detroit 

“As the CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, it was very difficult to watch infants born at 7 or 8 months struggle even to breathe on their own,” said Mayor Duggan. “That happens in Detroit hundreds of times a year, twice as often as in the rest of Michigan. Make Your Date is an effort to give Detroit children every opportunity to begin their lives strong and healthy by helping moms carry their children to full term.” 

With the disproportionate number of infants of color affected by preterm birth, the goal of Make Your Date is to be the best support system for expecting mothers throughout their pregnancy.  

“African American infants are at a 50 percent greater risk of preterm birth compared to white infants. As a result, African American infants are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants,” says Marisa Rodriquez, director of strategic operations of the Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University. “African American women are three to four times more likely to die in pregnancy than white mothers. Hispanic mothers and infants are also at greater risk when compared to white women. There are tests and treatments that exist to reduce preterm birth, but many pregnant women do not have access to them. Our program works to make these lifesaving approaches available. What our program and others provide is important in the fight to reduce the very substantial racial and ethnic health disparities that are seen in pregnancy.” 

Rodriquez says that the Make Your Date program has already begun saving infant lives in a short period. 

Make Your Date has been so successful that participating mothers are 37 percent less likely to deliver at under 32 weeks and 28 percent are less likely to deliver at under 34 weeks,” she said. “In a city with such high rates of preterm birth and infant mortality, these results are remarkable. We are very proud that women are delivering healthy babies as a result of this program.” 

Expectant mothers can expect to receive an array of services that will help ensure the health of mother and baby—no insurance required.   

“If a pregnant woman has not gone to prenatal care or does not have insurance yet, Make Your Date connects pregnant women to receive the necessary prenatal care at the location she requests and insurance sign-up assistance,” said Rodriquez, “We help to facilitate access to early prenatal care and stay with these moms throughout their pregnancy to be sure they receive the necessary tests, treatment, and services to ensure a healthy pregnancy.” 

Deja Mason, 23, of Detroit, is a participant in the Make Your Date Detroit program. She says the program has helped educate her on what to expect during her pregnancy with her daughter 

“I enjoy the fact that this program gives you the proper insight to the problems that pregnancy may cause,” she stated. “I also like the fact that the program teaches you how to properly care for yourself during pregnancy.” 

The majority of the Make Your Date Detroit participants are African American women, residing in the City of Detroit, with an age range of 13-44; more than half are between 13 and 24. Some participants are first time mothers, others have several children and many have experienced a preterm birth or infant loss in a prior pregnancy. Some moms often have limited or no insurance, transportation, medical services, medication, food and shelter. 

Mason says that after participating in the program, she recommends Make Your Date Detroit to all expecting mothers.  

“These people running the Make Your Date program truly care and they take their time to teach and help all mothers who are expecting a baby. This is something that I truly needed when carrying my baby.” 

Anyone can be involved in bringing awareness to the Make Your Date Detroit program. Opportunities include acting as a volunteer, donating, or referring a friend or family member to the program. 

For more information on the Make Your Date Detroit program, please visit www.makeyourdate.org. 

For Maternal Infant Health Programs near you please call 1-833-MI4-MIHP (644-6447) or Email: MIHP@michigan.gov 

‘Conversation with the Candidate’ with Beto O’Rourke: Part 2

‘Conversation with the Candidate’ with Beto O’Rourke: Part 2

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>> WELCOME BACK TO OUR CONVERSATION WITH THE CANDIDATE AND TONIGHT’S GUEST FORMER CONGRESSMAN BETO O’ROURKE. IT’S TIME TO BRING IN QUESTIONS FROM OUR AUDIENCE. I’LL JUMP IN IF WE NEED A FOLLOW-UP. BUT FOR NOW LET’S GET RIGHT TO IT WITH OUR FIRST QUESTION MARIE MULROY: WHAT WOULD BE YOUR FIRST EXECUTIVE ORDER WHEN YOU GET ELECTED? THERE ARE SOME ANYTHING FOR US TO TAKE ON. LET’S HAVE A MINIMUM START THESE. REUNITE EVER CHILD HAS BEEN SEPARATED FROM THEIR PARENTS AT THE U.S. MEXICO BORDER. THE TORTURE WE ARE VISITING ON THEM, THE UNCERTAINTY OF WHEN OR IF THEY WILL SEE THEIR PARENTS AGAIN, IT’S MAKE SURE WE DO THE RIGHT THING IMMEDIATELY. I WILL ALSO TAKE EXECUTIVE ACTION GIVEN THE FACT THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS HAPPENING. IT POSES THE LARGEST EXISTENTIAL THREAT NOT JUST TO THIS COUNTRY BUT TO THE PLANET. WE WILL CRACK DOWN ON METHANE EMISSIONS. WE WILL STOP ALL OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION ON FEDERAL LANDS AND OFFSHORE ON THE NINTH RATES. WE WILL MAKE SURE WE PURSUE A VIGOROUS PLAN TO GET A NET ZERO GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY 2050. 2030 WILL BE HALFWAY THERE AND TO DO THAT WE HAVE TO START ON DAY ONE. THOSE ARE A FEW OF THE STEPS WE WILL TAKE. CAROLYN MORRILL: I RECEIVED THIS MESSAGE FROM MY SON SAYING “MOM- I AM OK -ACTIVE SHOOTER-SAFE IN LOCK DOWN. IN ODESSA, TEXAS, SO I AM GOIN TO ASK ABOUT GUN CONTROL. SINCE YOU ARE FROM TEXAS, WHAT WAS THE MAIN REASON FOR TEXAS TO LOOSEN ITS GUN CONTROLS ALLOWING IT TO HAVE GUNS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS AN IN CHURCHES, ETC. WHAT WAS THE MAIN RATIONALE FOR TEXAS TO DO THAT? >> POLITICS, THE NRA, MEMBERS OF THE STATE HOUSE AND SENATE THINKING THAT THE REELECTION WOULD BE ASSURED IF THEY PANDERED TO THE GUN LOBBY. COMPLETELY IGNORING THE FACT THAT WE NOW HAVE FOUR MASS SHOOTINGS IN JUST THE LAST TWO YEARS. SANTA FE HIGH SCHOOL, SUTHERLAND SPRING CHURCH, EVIL SHOT WHERE THEY PRAYED. EL PASO, 22 PEOPLE KILLED IN WALMART WITH AN AK-47. A WEAPON DESIGNED FOR WAR AND COMBAT TO KILL PEOPLE AS EFFECTIVELY, EFFICIENTLY AS POSSIBLE USED AGAINST US IN OUR CIVILIAN LIVES. AS YOU JUST MENTIONED, AND MIDLAND AND ODESSA, I AM SO SORRY THAT ANYONE HAD TO EXPERIEN THE VIOLENCE DIRECTED AGAINST THEM OR THE FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY OF BEING IN A LOCKDOWN SITUATION. HOW DO WE CONFRONT THIS? WE NEED TO PASS A BO AGENDA THAT HAS AS ITS CENTER, SAVING THE LIVES OF FELLOW AMERICANS. UNIVERSAL THAT PROJECTS. RED FLAG LAWS TO STOP SOMEONE IF THEY POSE A THREAT TO SOMEONE. ENDING THE SALE OF AK-47S AND AR-15’S. WE MUST GO FURTHER. YOU MUST HAVE MANDATORY LICENSING, REGULATION OF INDUSTRY OF THE GUNS THAT WE HAVE AND WE MUST I BACK THE AR $.50 — AR-15’S AND AK-47S. THE QUESTION YOU ASK EMPLOYEES THAT IT’S GOING TO BE DIFFICULT TO DO IN TEXAS OR IN THE UNITED STATES. I’M LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE IN TEXAS AND OF THE COUNTRY ON THIS CAMPAIGN, I’M NOT SO SURE ANYMORE. THEY HAVE TOLD ME THEY HAVE CHILDREN AS WELL. THEY’RE CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR KIDS SAFETY. THEY DON’T ACCEPT THAT WE LOSE 40,000 OF OUR FEDERAL — FELLOW AMERICANS TO GUN VIOLENCE EVERY YEAR. OWNERS OF AR-15’S SAYING I WILL GLADLY GIVE IT BACK OR DESTROYED IF IT WILL HELP TO SAVE LIVES. WE NEED POLITICAL LEADERSHIP THAT REFLECTS THEIR INTERESTS NOT THAT OF THE NRA. THAT IS WHY I NOT ONLY DON’T ACCEPT HELP FROM THE NRA, I DON’T ACCEPT A SINGLE DIME FROM A SINGLE LOBBYISTS, SPECIAL INTERESTS, IT’S TIME THAT WE SAVED THE LIVES OF OUR FELLOW AMERICANS AND THAT’S WHAT I WILL DO AS PRESIDENT. >> WHAT IF THERE IS A CITIZEN WHO OWNS AN AR-15 AND OBEYS THE LA AND PRACTICES GUN SAFETY, WHY ARE THEY NOT PART OF THE PROBLEM? >> WE WERE IN A MARCH ORGANIZED BY YOUNG PEOPLE. ALL OF THESE GREAT ACTIVIS AND ADVOCATES, STUDENTS WHO ARE GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT WE LEAD ON THIS ISSUE AND THE VACUUM OF LEADERSHIP FROM OUR POLITICIANS AND OFFICIALS. I REMEMBER AT THE END OF THAT MARCH. I HAD MY SON, HENRY, AT THE END ON MY SHOULDERS. WE SAW MEN HOLDING THOSE WEAPONS. HENRY SAID WHY SOMEONE SHOWING UP WITH ONE OF THESE GUNS THAT I AM USED SEEING IN MOVIES ABOUT WAR? I SAID DON’T PAY THEM A MIND DON’T GIVE THEM ANY ATTENTION THEY ARE JUST TRY TO MAKE A POINT AREA THAT WEAPON IS AN INSTRUMENT OF INTIMIDATION. A TOOL OF TERROR. IT IS THAT KIND OF WEAPON THAT KILLED PEOPLE IN THE WALMART. PEOPLE WHO ARE KILLED FOR THEIR ETHNICITY OR THEIR — THEIR PRESUMED IMMIGRATION STATUS. IT’S WHY HISPANICS ALL OVER THIS COUNTRY TELL ME THEY FEE LIKE THEY HAVE A TARGET ON HER BACK. AS LONG AS THERE ARE MILLIONS OF AK-47S AND AR-15’S OUT THERE, IT INSPIRES THE FEARED THAT THE TERRORISTS WANT US TO FEEL. IT IS A DIFFICULT POLITICAL STEP FOR US TO TAKE, IT IS A NECESSARY ONE. IF WE’RE GOING TO REDUCE THAT FEAR. FOUR-ON-TWO SAID THE LIVES OF OUR FELLOW AMERICANS. I WILL BUY THOSE WEAPONS BACK. KENNETH BERLIN: WHAT CAN YOU DO IN YOUR FIRST 100 DAYS TO GET IMMIGRATION REFORM ISSUES PASS IF THE REPUBLICANS HOLD THE SENATE ALSO, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON USING EXECUTIVE ORDERS IT YOU CAN’T GET ANYTHING THROUGH IN THE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS? >> THIS TOUCHES ON SOME OF THE QUESTIONS WE HAVE BEEN ASKED ALREADY. HOW DO WE GET SENSIBLE GUN LEGISLATION PASSED WHEN YOU HAVE LEGISLATORS FROM STATES LIKE TEXAS OR NEW HAMPSHIRE OR YOUR OWN GOVERNOR WHO DETAILED — VETOED THREE MEASURES PASSED THE LEGISLATURE. HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE PROGRESS? HOW DO WE COME TO GRIPS THAT WE LOST SEV CHILDREN IN OUR CUSTODY AND CARE AT THE U.S. MEXICO BORDER? THAT THERE ARE TENS OF THOUSANDS WHO REMAIN IN PLACE IN MEXICO THANKS TO OUR MIGRANT PROTECTION PROTOCOLS. THIS PHRASE THAT DENIES THE REALITY THAT WE ARE FACING CRUELTY AND TORTURE ON THESE KIDS. I THINK BY ELEVATING THOSE CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR STORIES, THAT CAN ONLY HELP TO COMPEL DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS AND INDEPENDENTS ALIKE TO DO THE RIGHT THING. SHOCK THE CONSCIENCE OF THE COUNTRY. FORCE US TO KNOWLEDGE WHAT IS BEING DONE IN OUR NAME RIGHT NOW. WHEN THE PRESIDENT BEGAN A ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICY LAST SUMMER, AND WAS SEPARATING CHILDREN FROM THEIR PARENTS, DEPORTING THE PARENTS BACK TO THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN AND THAT THE KIDS IN CAGES AND SENDING THEM TO A CAMP OUTSIDE OF EL PASO, MORE THAN 1000 OF US SHOWED UP IN THE WAKE OF THAT. WE BORE WITNESS AND TESTIFY BACK TO OUR FELLOW AMERICANS AND WITH THE POLITICAL PRESSURE ON THE ADMINISTRATION UNTIL THEY CHANGE THE POLICY. THE REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION OF DONALD TRUMP, ONE OF THE MOST HATEFUL MEN TOWARDS HISPANICS AND IMMIGRANTS THAT THIS COUNTRY HAS EVER SEE IN THAT EXAMPLE, I SAW THE POWER OF PEOPLE. THAT POWER WILL BE BROUGHT TO BEAR IN OUR ADMINISTRATION TO REWRITE OUR IMMIGRATION LAWS IN THE IMAGE OF THE PEOPLE OF MANCHESTER. THE PEOPLE OF EL PASO, OF A COUNTRY AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS AND IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES FROM THE WORLD OVER. AND THEIR SONS AND DAUGHTERS. THAT MEANS LEGALIZING THE PRESENCE OF 10 MILLION LABOR IN THE TOUGHEST JOBS YOU CAN FIND IN AMERICA IN THE SHADOWS. IT MEANS LEGALIZING THE PRESENCE OF DREAMERS MORE THAN ONE MILLION STRONG THAT THEY NEVER FEAR DEPORTATION BACK TO THEIR HOME COUNTRY. IT MEANS ADDRESSING ISSUES IN GUATEMALA, EL SALVADOR, HONDURAS LIKE REDUCING VIOLENCE THERE OR ADDRESSING HISTORI DROUGHT GUATEMALA IS SUFFERING. SOME FAMILIES DON’T HAVE TO MAKE THE 2000 MILE JOURNEY AND COME TO THIS COUNTRY IN THE FIRST PLACE. LET’S REMIND US WE ARE AT OUR BEST AND MAKE SURE WE LIVE OUR VALUES GOING FORWARD. REPUBLICAN, INDEPENDENT, DEMOCRAT ALIKE AREA ARE DEMOCRATS BEFORE — WE ARE AMERICANS BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE. >> >> WHAT WILL YOU DO IN THE FIRST 100 DAYS POLICY WISE THAT CAN GET SOME OF THESE THINGS DONE? >> THE LEGISLATION I JUST DESCRIBED WE WILL SEND TO CONGRESS WITHIN THE FIRST 100 DAYS. THE EXECUTIVE ACTIONS I WAS ASKED ABOUT EARLIER REUNITING FAMILIES WHO HAVE BEEN SEPARATED, COMMITTING TO KNOW ME — NEVER DETAINING ANOTHER FAMILY OR CHILD AGAIN. INSTITUTING A CASE MANAGEMENT PROGRAM I EXECUTIVE ORDER TO MAKE SURE THAT A FRACTION OF THE COST WOULD RESTORE THE DIGNITY TO THOSE FAMILIES. MAKE SURE THEY ARE OK AND IF THERE ABLE TO STAY UNDER OUR ASYLUM LAWS, THEY REVEAL THEIR GENIUS HERE. THEY CONTINUE TO CONTRIBUTE TO OUR GREATNESS AND THEY ARE THE ULTIMATE BENEFICIARIES. NATALYA ORLANDO: I KNOW YOU TOUCHED ON THIS EARLIER. WHAT ACTION WILL YOU TAKE TO STOP CLIMATE CHANGE FROM HINDERING OUR PLANET? >> THANK YOU FOR THE QUESTION. WE WILL HAVE ENFORCEABLE LIMITS ON GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS EVERY SINGLE YEAR OF OUR ADMINISTRATION. PAST THEM INTO LAW SO THEY ARE BINDING FOR THE ADMINISTRATIONS THAT FOLLOW OURS. IT IS ONLY IN THAT WAY THAT WE WILL GET TO NET ZERO GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY THE YEAR 2050. THE HALFWAY THERE — THAT WILL REQUIRE US — THEY FULLY WERE EMBRACED RENEWABLE ENERGY LIKE WIND AND SOLAR AND INVEST IN THE NEXT GENERATION OF TECHNOLOGIES LIKE EVERY STORAGE TECHNOLOGY TO DISTRIBUTE THE WIND AND SOLAR WHEN THE WIND IS NOT BLOWING AND THE SUN IS NOT SHINING BUT WE STILL NEED TO BE ABLE T ELECTRIFY OUR HOMES. IT MEANS PUTTING FARMERS IN THE DRIVER SEA AND PAYING THEM FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES THAT THEY WANT TO PROVIDE. PLANTING COVER CROPS YEAR-ROUND TO MAKE SURE WE PULL MORE CARBON OUT OF THE AIR AND SEQUESTER MORE OF IT IN THE SOIL. USE NO TILL AND PRECISION TILL FARMING. REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE TO RESTORE MORE. REBUTTING AN INCENTIVE TO KEEP MORE LAND IN CONSERVATION AND NOT CULTIVATE EVERY SQUARE INCH UNDER OWNERSHIP AS WE’RE INCENTIVIZED TO DO — IN OTHER WORDS, IF ALL OF US DO ALL THAT WE CAN, THIS COUNTRY CAN SET THE EXAMPLE FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD WHICH IS NECESSARY IF WE’RE ARE GOING TO CAN BE THE OTHER POWERS OF THE PLANET TO HAVE THEM DO THEIR PART AS WELL. EVEN IF WE WERE ABLE TO PUT A SWITCH TODAY AND STOP EMITTING ANY GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS, THAT IS ONLY 16% OF THE PROBLEM. IF WE’RE GOING TO KEEP OURSELVES — FROM GOING ONE DEGR CELSIUS OVER THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION LEVELS, WE NEED EVERY COUNTRY TO DO THEIR PART THREE OF ESTABLISHING THE MORAL AUTHORITY, BEING THE INDISPENSABLE COUNTRY AGAIN, USING EVERY OPPORTUNITY LIKE LAST WEEK’S G-7 SUMMIT OR OUR TRADE DEALS TO LEVERAGE OUR POWER AND INFLUENCE TO HELP OTHER COUNTRIES TO MEET THEIR COMMITMENTS, THAT IS HOW WE ARE GOING TO CONFRONT CLIMATE CHANGE BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. >> THANK YOU, I AGREE. >> THE NEXT QUESTION COMES FROM DAN PELLETIER: WHAT MAKES YOU QUALIFIED TO BE POTUS? QUESTION –? AT THE TIME THE THIRD POOREST URBAN COUNTY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA — AWASH IN TALENT LOOKING FOR AN OPPORTUNITY OR A CHANNEL THROUGH WHICH IT CAN EXPRESS ITSELF AREA WE TOOK TH CHANCE ON OUR HOME TOWN. WE TOOK THE CHANCE TOGETHER AND WERE SUCCESSFUL. SERVED ON THE EL PASO CITY COUNCIL FOR SIX YEARS AND EVERY WEEK I HELD A TOWN HALL MEETING DESPITE THIS ONE. I’VE LISTENED TO MY CONSTITUENTS, LEARN FROM THEM, REMINDED MYSELF WHO I AM ACCOUNTABLE TO THE END OF THE DAY AND BROUGHT THAT SAME PHILOSOPHY T SERVICE WHEN I WAS IN CONGRESS. HOLDING TOWN HALLS EVERY MONTH FOR THE SIX YEARS I WAS THERE AND ALTHOUGH EVERY DAY I SAID I WAS IN THE REPUBLICAN MAJORITY, WE WERE ABLE TO GET THINGS DONE AREA. PROTECTING PUBLIC LANDS IN AN ADMINISTRATION THAT WAS DIMINISHING THE SIZE OF OUR PUBLIC LANDS AREA INVESTING IN BOTH SECURITY AND SAFETY OF THE U.S. MEXICO BORDER AS WELL AS OUR ABILITY TO FACILITATE TRADE AND TRAVEL AND IMPROVE OUR QUALITY OF LIFE. WE DID THAT BY SEEING BEYOND OUR DIFFERENCES OF PARTY AFFILIATION AND PUTTING THIS COUNTRY FIRST. LASTLY, LAST YEAR WOMAN RAN FOR SENATE IN THIS 254 COUNTIES OF TEXAS, WE WROTE NO ONE OFF REGARDLESS OF HOW READ THE COUNTY WAS. WE WENT TO PEOPLE — PLACES WHO VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP 96%. WE DID SO BECAUSE THEY ARE EVERY BIT AS DESERVING OF OUR ATTENTION, RESPECT, BEING LISTENED TO AND SERVED. THE ONLY WAY I CAN DO THAT IS TO SHOW UP AND LISTEN TO THEM FIRST. WE ALSO SHOWED UP IN THE BLUE PLACES OF TEXAS TO MAKE SURE THEIR STORIES WERE INCLUDED IN OUR CAMPAIGN. AT THE END OF THE DAY, WE WON MORE VOTES THAN ANY DEMOCRAT HAD IN THE HISTORY OF TEXAS. WE WON INDEPENDENCE IMPORTANTLY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN DECADES AND ALMOST HALF A MILLION REPUBLICANS LIKE MY MOTHER VOTED FOR ME [LAUGHTER] NOT DESPITE BUT BECAUSE OF THE PROUD AGENDA WE BROUGHT IN BECAUSE WE INCLUDED THEM. THAT’S WHAT IT’S GOING TO TAKE A MOVEMENT OF AMERICANS REGARDLESS OF DIFFERENCES TO DEFEAT DONALD TRUMP AREA THAT’S WHAT IT’S GOING TO TAKE TO YOUR QUESTION VIA FACEBOOK TO MAKE SURE WE BRING THIS DEEPLY DIVIDED COUNTRY TOGETHER AGAIN. IN THE FACE OF HISTORIC THREATS WE HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE AND THE ABILITY TO PURSUE AN AMBITIOUS AGENDA THAT WILL DISTINGUISH AND DEFINED THIS COUNTRY FOREVER AFTER. KRISTI ST. LAURENT: YOU TOUCHED ON A LOT OF WHAT I WAS GOING TO ASK. I WANT TO DRILL DOWN. HE SERVED IN THE HOUSE, YOU KNOW HOW THINGS WORK. AND DON’T WORK. HOW YOU SEE BEYOND EXECUTIVE ORDER GETTING OUR GRAND IDEAS THROUGH? DO YOU SEE YOURSELF GOING TO THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE OR THE SENATE? DO YOU ANTICIPATE USING A STRONG CABINET? DO YOU ANTICIPATE STARTING THE BALL WITH EXECUTIVE ORDERS? HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PLANS COMING TO FRUITION? >> GREAT QUESTION. I THINK IT IS CLEAR THAT POLITICS AS USUAL IS NOT WORKING FOR THIS COUNTRY. WHEN WE FAIL TO MAKE PROGRESS ON ANY OF THE ISSUES THAT WE JUST TALKED ABOUT FROM CLIMATE TO HEALTH CARE TO IMMIGRATION TO THE ECONOMY, WE GIVE FOR A GROUND TO THE KIND OF DEMAGOGUES LIKE DONALD TRUMP WHO WILL USE OUR JUSTIFIED ANGER AND FRUSTRATION BUT TURN IT AGAINST THE MOST DEFENSELESS AND A VULNERABLE AS HE HAS DONE. IT IS GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE A DIFFERENT KIND OF POLITICS. I WILL BEGIN WITH HIS CAMPAIGN. MAKING SURE WE ARE NOT JUST LOOKING AT THE WHITE HOUSE BUT LOOKING TO BUILD A MAJORITY IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE. IN THAT HISTORIC TEXAS RUN, WE HELPED TO TURN TO CONGRESSIONAL — CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS FROM RED TO BLUE HELPING TO FLIP THE HOUSE. WE HELPED TO ELECT 17 AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN TO JUDICIAL POSITIONS IN HARRIS COUNTY HOME TO HOUSTON, TEXAS. MOST DIVERSE CITY IN THE COUNTRY THEREBY CHANGING THE FACE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE. LET’S DO THAT ACROSS THE COUNTRY. LET’S HELP CANDIDATES AT EVERY LEVEL OF THE BALLOT. ESPECIALLY IN THE FEDERAL RACES THAT WILL DETERMINE MAJORITIES AND WE CAN WORK. IF WHATEVER REASON WE ARE UNSUCCESSFUL IN CHANGING THE COMPOSITION OF THE U.S. SENATE, OF REPLACING MITCH MCCONNELL, THEN LET’S FIRST APPEAL TO THEM DIRECTLY. YOU MENTIONED GOING TO THE CAPITAL AND I WILL DO THAT. I BELIEVE THERE IS AN OFFICE IN THE CAPITAL RESERVE FOR THE PRESIDENT THAT I DON’T THINK IT’S EVER BEEN USED. LET’S START USING IT. LET’S KEEP OFFICE HOURS AND ALLOW ANY REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT OR INDEPENDENT TO COME IN AND SHARE WITH US WHAT’S ON THEIR MIND. SEE IF WE CAN’T FIND THE COMMON GROUND TO PURSUE THE COMMON GOOD FOR THIS COUNTRY. THEN FAILING THAT, LET’S MAKE SURE WE GO TO THEIR HOME DISTRICTS. AND TALK ABOUT THESE ISSUES AND IN FACT, LISTEN TO PEOPLE ON THESE ISSUES. I THINK THE CONSENSUS, THE POLITICAL WILL, THE PUBLIC SENTIMENT IS THERE RIGHT NOW ON CLIMATE CHANGE, GUNS, HEALTH CARE. IT IS JUST NOT FULLY REFLECTED IN THOSE WHO HOLD POWER. IF THOSE WHO HOLD POWER WILL DO THE RIGHT THING, LET’S GO AROUND THEM TO THE PEOPLE AND PUT THEM IN POWER. >> WE HAVE ABOUT 90 SECONDS BACK. YOU ARE COMING BACK HERE AND IT’S CLEAR I WATCHED YOU FOR NINE MONTHS. THERE IS A RIGHTEOUS ANGER AREA YOU WOULD REGRET YOU THAT GIVEN WHAT HAPPENED IN YOUR HOMETOWN. HOW DO YOU AVOID LETTING THAT CONSUME YOU? >> YOU EITHER GIVE UP IN THE FACE OF THE KIND OF TERROR WE SAW IN EL PASO WHERE DID YOU PEOPLE WERE KILLED IN A CITY THAT LOSES 18 PEOPLE IN A GIVEN YEAR. YOU’RE EITHER CONSUMED BY THE SUFFERING AND THE TRAGEDY OF IT, YOU EITHER ACCEPT IT AS AN ACT GOD OR A FUTURE OR OUR FATE OR YOU STAND UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I FEEL SO COMPELLED TO DO THAT RIGHT NOW. ESPECIALLY GIVEN WHERE THIS COUNTRY IS AND WHAT WE SAW IN EL PASO. ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE FACT THAT THE JUDGMENT I FEAR MOST OF ALL IS THAT OF MY CHILDREN. AND YOUR CHILDREN. THEY ARE COUNTING ON US TO DO THE RIGHT THING. THAT POWER IS STILL WITHIN OUR GRASP BUT IF WE WAIT MORE THAN 10 YEARS, WE HAVE LOST IT ON CLIMATE. IF WE WAIT ANOTHER DAY WE HAVE LOST IT ON GUN VIOLENCE. IF WE WAIT TO CONFRONT THE ENDEMIC RACISM, THE WHITE SUPREMACIST TERRORISM THAT IS THE NUMBER ONE DOMESTIC LAW ENFORCEMENT THREAT IN THIS COUNTRY THAN THAT IS ON ALL OF US BECAUSE WE CAN TAKE NO SOLACE OR COMFORT AND BLAMING IT ON THE PRESIDENT OR ON A GIVEN POLITICAL PARTY IN A GOVERNMENT OF, BY, AND FOR THE PEOPLE. RESPONSIBILITY RESTS ON ALL OF US AND I TAKE THAT RESPONSIBILITY VERY SERIOUSLY. >> WE’RE GOING TO CONTINUE ON AIR AND ON OUR MOBILE UP. — ONLINE AND ON OUR MOBILE APP.

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‘Conversation with the Candidate’ with Beto O’Rourke: Part 2

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke joins Adam Sexton for the latest installment of the “Conversation with the Candidate” series. In this portion, see a more traditional town-hall style format where the voters primarily ask questions of the candidate.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke joins Adam Sexton for the latest installment of the “Conversation with the Candidate” series. In this portion, see a more traditional town-hall style format where the voters primarily ask questions of the candidate.

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Best of Gay D.C. XVIII

Christmas comes early this year! Long an October staple, the Blade’s annual Best of Gay D.C. readers’ poll awards gets bumped up to September this year as we’re keeping next month open for our 50th anniversary festivities (shameless plug: the Birthday Gala is Oct. 18; tickets at blade50th.com).

So we’re taking this week’s edition to celebrate who and what you think are the best Washington has to offer its LGBT residents. 

For every perennial winner like Freddie’s Beach Bar, the 9:30 Club or Miss Pixie’s — which have all extended their dominance again this year — there are newer faces like Ricky Rose (Best Drag King), Donald Mitchell (D.C. Gay Flag Football) and Lexie Starre (Best Burlesque Dancer). 

Some winners and runners-up flip-flop in succeeding years. Rayceen Pendarvis and Bishop Allyson Abrams have something like a volleyball game unfolding in these pages in the Best Clergy category. Time for a sermon-a-thon?

We’re also taking this edition to honor the Blade’s own Lou Chibbaro, Jr. a staple of the paper since the mid-‘70s and celebrating his 35th year as a full-time staff member this year. In a Blade “Best Of” first, we give an award to one of our own. Chibbaro is the recipient of this year’s Local Hero Award, a title that has previously gone to Danica Roem, Gavin Grimm, Rev. Dean Snyder and more.  

Thankfully here, nobody has to “sashay away.” That’s the beauty of gay Washington — we can enjoy Pitchers one night, JR.’s another. Check out Nellie’s Brunch one weekend and Hank’s Oyster Bar another. It’s all good. 

About 3,500 nominations and 20,000 votes were cast in 99 categories for the 18th annual Best of Gay D.C. Awards. The Blade’s Stephen Rutgers coordinated the process. The photographers are credited throughout. This year’s contributing writers are Brian T. Carney, Patrick Folliard, Evan Caplan, Philip Van Slooten and Joey DiGuglielmo. Awards presented Sept. 19 at Dacha Navy Yard. 

The Blade staff congratulates each of this year’s winners and finalists. 

HERO AWARD: Lou Chibbaro, Jr.

Lou Chibbaro, Jr. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Longer than Johnny Carson was on “The Tonight Show,” longer than “Gunsmoke,” longer than Barbara Walters on “20/20” or Ted Koppel on “Nightline,” Lou Chibbaro, Jr.’s full-time run at the Washington Blade is not only a record (so far as we’re aware) in LGBT media, it exceeds the runs of many classic long-running shows or media personalities. 

Starting as a freelancer in 1976 and full-time in 1984 (the same year Alex Trebek started hosting “Jeopardy”), Chibbaro is not only an LGBT icon and institution, he’s a stalwart reporter still out there pounding the D.C. pavement with shoe-leather reporting of the highest kind. For these decades of selfless service, he’s the recipient of a Blade “Best of Gay D.C.” first — on the occasion of the paper’s 50th anniversary, Chibbaro gets this year’s Hero Award, an accolade previously won by Danica Roem, Gavin Grimm, Rev. Dean Snyder and others. 

Chibbaro moved to Washington in 1972, came out in 1975 and was alerted to the existence of the Blade (which had started just after Stonewall in 1969) by a gay counselor he knew in New York. Working as a reporter for a newsletter in energy and environmental issues, Chibbaro wandered into the Blade office, then on 19th St., on the second floor in the same building as the Lambda Rising gay book shop, and introduced himself to the editor, the late Joseph Crislip. He was soon contributing to the paper. He’d been contributing to a gay radio show broadcast out of Georgetown University but its plug had been pulled and Chibbaro was looking for another LGBT outlet. 

Chibbaro remembers an informal office. The paper was released monthly at the time. One of his early scoops (from tipster Paul Kuntzler) was about a plan — eventually abandoned — to have a gay presidential candidate speak at the Democratic National Convention in ’76. Initially, Chibbaro wrote under a pseudonym (Lou Romano), fearful his Blade work might inhibit his employability down the road. It was a common practice as Crislip, too, had a fake byline. By the late ‘70s, Chibbaro was writing under his legal name. 

Through many editors, location changes, buyouts and more, Chibbaro has remained. He attributes his longevity to a passion for the subject matter.

“I came to Washington as a political junkie and when you’re interested in politics, Washington is the place to be,” Chibbaro says. “And as a gay person and someone who slowly got to know the community quite well, the types of stories we do are very interesting to me. They have significance and can have an impact.”

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia recognized Chibbaro’s local crime beat reporting by presenting him with its 1998 Justice for Victims of Crime Award, citing his “outstanding service to crime victims and their families” through his news reporting.

Among his other life achievement awards are Community Pioneer from Rainbow History Project (2009), GLAA and GAYLAW  Distinguished Service Awards (2010, 2013 respectively), Anita Bonds Community Cornerstone Award (2016) and the Partnership Award from the CAEAR Coalition. 

“I have for many years viewed my career at the Washington Blade as both a job as well as a community service,” Chibbaro said. “It is truly an honor to receive the Hero Award.” (JD) 

NIGHTLIFE

Best DJ Presented by BYQueers

Keenan Orr

Keenan Orr (Photo courtesy of Orr)

His music has been called “a sharp mix of disco, electro, funk and classics of the ‘80s and ‘90s” with past residences at Cobalt, the Rock and Roll Hotel and more D.C. venues. Orr spins at Sleaze at Wonderland Ballroom (first Thursday of every month) and is starting a new Thursday event soon at Uproar. He also has residencies at Eighteenth Street Lounge and MARVIN. And yeah, he’s gay. Look for him on Facebook to follow his upcoming appearances. (JD) 

Runner-Up:  DJ TWiN

Best Dance Party

Avalon Saturdays, Soundcheck

Avalon Saturday at Soundcheck (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

1420 K St., N.W.

dougiemeyerpresents.com

Editor’s Pick: Sleaze, Wonderland Ballroom

Poised to celebrate its one-year anniversary in October, Avalon Saturdays at Soundcheck is a hit. 

During lunch break from a day at jury duty, party promoter extraordinaire Dougie Meyer explains, “At Avalon, we’ve accomplished what we set out to do. We brought a community together and gave them another safe space in D.C. to have fun and be themselves. Those who wanted to come for a drag show and those who want to dance to circuit music into the wee hours get that too.”

Things are still being tweaked, a year into the proceedings. 

“We’ve learned that to make Avalon great, we have to change something every week whether it’s the position of couches or discounted tickets or whatever. Our dedication to making our customers happy has earned us regulars, week after week, and that tells you you’re doing something right.”

Nothing is on autopilot here.

“A lot of people think you open the door, and — boom — there’s a party,” he says. “No, we have a team of people busting their asses all week long to make it happen. But on Saturday, it’s a night of fun and a good time with a changing roster of drag queens and DJs.”

And yet Avalon Saturdays isn’t resting on its laurels. Meyer says, “Our lineup through October is insane — our one-year anniversary party is followed by a Halloween party. We’ve already booked an international DJ for January 2020. The party keeps going.” (PF)

Best Bartender

Jo McDaniel, A League of Her Own (at Pitchers)

Jo McDaniel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jo’s second consecutive win! 

2319 18th St., N.W.

pitchersbardc.com

Runner-up: Matthew Strother, Green Lantern (a 2011 and 2012 winner for his work at Secrets)

Best Burlesque Dancer

Lexie Starre

Lexie Starr (Photo by Your Rouge Photography)

D.C. Gurly Show

dcgurlyshow.com

Runner-up: GiGi Holliday

Sexy Lexie Starre got her start in burlesque with the D.C. Girly Show, the District’s longest-running queer burlesque troupe. She’ll be back onstage in December with the troupe’s Raise the Roof show, a fundraiser that will benefit local organizations.

In the meantime, she produces Pretty Boi Drag with her wife Pretty Rik E (who was the Blade’s Best Drag King last year). They started the troupe in 2016 and have been selling out shows ever since. They focus on elevating the visibility of drag kings, especially drag kings of color, and present both large productions as well as Open Mic nights where both new and veteran kings can get stage time.

Lexie is also working on getting her new business up and running. Wingo Circle Birth Services (wingocircle.com) provides labor and postpartum doula services and inclusive childbirth education classes for queer parents and families.

Lexie’s been performing since 2011 and says that some of her favorite showbiz memories were performing “Proud Mary” with her wife as Ike and Tina Turner (fringe and all!) on the main stage at Capital Pride and auditioning for “America’s Got Talent” with the D.C. Gurly Show. (BTC)

Best Drag King 

Ricky Rosé

Runner-up: Pretty Rik (A flip-flop of last year’s outcome.)

Multi-title holding drag king Ricky Rosé’s ethos is pretty simple: follow your dreams and all drag is valid.

Speaking via phone from a bus en route to a gig in Richmond, Va., Ricky explains their drag persona: “I’d say Ricky Rosé is like the name — brings glam to ghetto. Also, I’m your cool dad. I like to throw it back to my Latinx culture, lip-syncing mostly reggaeton and salsa. I’m a very proud Puerto Rican.”

Based in D.C., Ricky has been doing drag for two years. “Shortly after seeing my first drag king show, my heart wanted to jump out of my chest. I knew I’d found my calling and passion. I went home the same day and started practicing makeup.”

Offstage, Ricky’s chosen name is Yadiel. Ricky Rosé is a longtime nickname. “I wanted to stick true to myself while discovering my true form through gender identity. I’m non-binary in daily life. I’ve questioned gender identity as a kid and came into my non-binary gender through drag. I feel at home most in drag.”

Ricky, who frequently performs in queer venues all over town and holds down a day job at Sephora on 14th Street, is grateful for the votes from Blade readers. “It means people are seeing my work and appreciating what I bring to the stage. My goal has been to discover who I am and share and celebrate that with folks.” (PF)

Best Drag Queen

Bombalicious Eklaver 

Bombalicious Eklaver (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The drag-alter ego of Ed Figueroa, famous for making space for other Asian drag queens in the region. Follow her at @bombalicious.eklaver on Instagram.

Runner-up: Brooklyn Heights

Best Transgender Performer

Riley Knoxx

Riley Knoxx (Washington Blade photo by Blake Bergen)

Runner-up: Ana Latour

Riley Knoxx is the world’s number one Beyoncé impersonator. A heady job that’s taken her around the globe and afforded her a comfortable life. And while Knoxx performs with drag queens, she isn’t a drag queen. “Because I’m transgender, my performance style is very much what you’d get if you went to a Beyoncé concert. I try to make it as close to that as possible.”

Need proof? Check out her cameo in Taylor Swift’s star-studded “You Need to Calm Down” video alongside luminaries such as Adam Lambert, Adam Rippon, Billy Porter, Katy Perry, RuPaul and many more! 

When Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” dropped in 2003, Knoxx took note. “People began to connect me with that song, and they started coming out to see me as her. My popularity grew with hers. So, naturally I thought there was something to this, and from that point on I only performed as Beyoncé.”

To remain on the top of the heap of a million Beyoncé impersonators takes work. As part of the job, D.C.-based Knoxx studies the star’s every move — how she walks, talks and holds the mic. She also dutifully mimics Beyoncé’s hair, wardrobe and makeup style. As a performer changes over the years, so must the impersonator.  

“Part of my career’s longevity is that I’m willing to change. I’ve never gotten bored, and so neither does the audience. It’s very different from year to year. If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. And growth has always been my goal.” 

Knoxx has always been a performer. She remembers being 5 years old, substituting a flashlight for a mic and pillowcase for long hair as she sang Whitney Houston songs around the house. 

“My trans experience was hard in the beginning, but performing helped to make it better. Having people who loved me before I loved myself was a big thing for me. As a transgender person, it has kept me going in a world that isn’t always loving toward transgender people.” (PF)

Best Rehoboth Drag Queen

Magnolia Applebottom

Magnolia Applebottom (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

The drag alter ego of Jeremy Bernstein hosts events all summer at the Blue Moon and other Rehoboth venues. Follow her at @mrsmagnolia on Instagram. 

Runner-Up: Regina Cox

Best Drag Show

Nellie’s Drag Brunch

Nellie’s Drag Brunch (Washington Blade photo by Vanessa Pham)

Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

900 U St., N.W.

nelliessportsbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Pretty Boi Drag (last year’s winner)

Best Singer or Band

Wicked Jezabel

Wicked Jezabel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Also won this award in 2013, 2017 and 2018! Frankie & Betty held the title 2014-2016. 

Editor’s Choice: White Ford Bronco

Best Straight Bar

Dacha Beer Garden

Dacha Beer Garden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Fifth consecutive win in this category!

1600 7th St., N.W.

202-524-8790

dachadc.com

Editor’s Choice: Players Club

Best Karaoke

Freddie’s Beach Bar

Freddie’s Beach Bar (Washington Blade photo by Doug Horn)

Freddie’s was runner-up last year.

555 S. 23rd St.

Arlington, Va.

freddiesbeachbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Uproar

Best ABSOLUT Happy Hour

Number Nine

Number Nine (Washington Blade photo by Hugh Clarke)

A Blade “Best Of” ping-pong game — A repeat of the 2017 outcome after flip-flopping last year! 

1435 P St., N.W.

numberninedc.com

Editor’s Choice: Trade

Best Live Music

9:30 Club 

9:30 Club (Photo by Katherine Gaines)

A perennial dominator — whopping 14th consecutive win in this category! Won every year since 2006 (plus 2002 and 2003 — every time the category has been included).

815 V St., N.W.

930.com

Editor’s Choice: Wolf Trap

Best Neighborhood Bar

Larry’s Lounge

Larry’s Lounge (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

1840 18th St., N.W.

Editor’s Choice: JR.’s

Best Bar Outside-the-District

Freddie’s Beach Bar

Freddie’s Beach Bar (Washington Blade photo by Doug Horn)

Extending their record! — with this win and the Best Karaoke win, that makes 23 wins for this Best of Gay D.C. favorite. Freddie’s has won this award every year since 2002 in addition to several others. It’s a Best of Gay D.C. all-time record for a single category.

555 S. 23rd St.

Arlington, Va.

freddiesbeachbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Baltimore Eagle

Best Outdoor Drinking

Dacha Navy Yard

Dacha Navy Yard (Photo courtesy of Designing the District)

Dacha Beer Garden won last year! 

79 Potomac Ave., S.E.

dachanavyyard.com

Editor’s Choice: Red Bear Brewing Co.

Best Place for Guys Night Out Presented by BYQueers

Pitchers

Pitchers (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

2319 18th St., N.W.

pitchersbardc.com

Editor’s Choice: Ziegfeld’s/Secrets

Best Place for Girls Night Out Presented by BYQueers

A League of Her Own (at Pitchers)

A League of Her Own (Washington Blade photo by Molly Byrom)

Second consecutive win in this category! 

2319 18th St., N.W.

Editor’s Choice: Ladies Tea at Hank’s Oyster Bar

Best Queer-Friendly Night Out Presented by BYQueers

D.C. Weirdo Show

D.C. Weirdo Show (Photo by StereoVision Photography)

dcweirdoshow.com

Editor’s Choice: Gay Bash

The D.C. Weirdo Show, the monthly cult favorite for freaks, geeks and exposed butt cheeks, started in 2006 at the Palace of Wonders on H Street before settling into its current home at the Dew Drop Inn in Brookland. Since 2015, the show has been hosted by Dr. Torcher and her fabulously weird colleagues. She typically serves as host and also performs as a fire eater, sword swallower and comedian. Her husband Mark is the tech weirdo; he does sounds lights and posters. Abraxas is the stage manager extraordinaire; as Dr. Torcher says, “she keeps the show flowing, manages props and sets the cast up for success.”

Dr. Torcher says, “The show is a supportive, creative stage for performers with tremendous talents in burlesque, clowning, comedy, performance art and sideshow. We’ve also had yo-yo stunts, pole dance, contortion, drag, dire flow arts and voguing.  

“Our audiences know that they will see a polished, thoughtful, strange and entertaining show. We’re an intentional reflection of the stories and communities that make D.C. everything it is. We center performances by queer people and people of color.”

Their next show, called “Weirdos for Life!” is this weekend (Sept. 20). Dr. Torcher is always on the lookout for new talent. New performers are included in every monthly show and the annual “Happy New Weirdo” show is all “new-to-us” performers. There’s an application on the website. Dr. Torcher says the troupe is always looking for “those who perform amazing physical feats and who represent stories that don’t usually get told on stage.” (BTC)

Best Rehoboth Bar

Blue Moon

Blue Moon (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Blue Moon was editor’s pick last year. 

35 Baltimore Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

bluemoonrehoboth.com

Editor’s Choice: The Pines

Best Rehoboth Bartender

Jamie Romano, Purple Parrot

Jamie Romano (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Third win in this category! Won in 2011 and 2013; was runner-up 2016-2017 (fair warning — he’s straight). 

Purple Parrot

134 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Runner-Up: Sutton Ward, The Pines

Best Rooftop View

VIDA U Street Penthouse Pool

VIDA Penthouse Pool (Photo courtesy of VIDA)

Second consecutive win!

1612 U St., N.W.

penthousepoolclub.com/u-street

Editor’s Choice: POV Rooftop Lounge

FOOD

Best Ethnic Restaurant

Rasika

Rasika (Photo by David Liu via Flickr)

633 D St., N.W. & 1190 New Hampshire Ave., N.W.

rasikarestaurant.com

Editor’s Choice: Tiger Fork

Best Bloody Mary

Hank’s Oyster Bar/Hank’s Cocktail Bar

Bloody Mary at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

819 Upshur St., N.W.

hankscocktailbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Logan Tavern (last year’s winner)

Best Brunch

Le Diplomate

(Photo courtesy of Starr Restaurants)

Second consecutive win! 

1601 14th St., N.W.

lediplomatedc.com

Editor’s Choice: Farmers and Distillers

Best Locally Made Product

Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.

(Photo courtesy of Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.)

Approachable, affordable and portable Southern staples. Third consecutive win in this category. 

2301 Bladensburg Rd., N.E.

masondixiebiscuits.com

Editor’s Choice: Capital City Mambo Sauce

Best New Restaurant

St. Anselm

(Photo courtesy of Starr Restaurants)

Editor’s Choice: Little Havana 

St. Anselm

1250 5th St., N.E.

stanselmdc.com

Of the several Stephen Starr restaurants, St. Anselm shimmers bright. Located by Union Market, this meat-forward upscale-tavern-style restaurant is based on the Brooklyn locale of the same name. Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley helms St. Anselm, a storied and award-winning chef, and a veteran of Jose Andres and Mike Isabella restaurants. 

Thick, hearty steaks livened by liberal helpings of herb butter are served in a vibrant atmosphere that’s part button-up and part button-down makes this an unsurprising choice for a favorite meaty meal. Beyond slabs of meat, diners are agog at the impressive shellfish and non-traditional steakhouse items like flaky biscuits with ramekins of pimento cheese and crispy “BoBo” chicken dressed up (or down?) with mumbo sauce. 

Chef Meek-Bradley, says that she and her staff “are so honored to be recognized by the (LGBT) community as Best New Restaurant. We are thrilled to be seen as a welcoming place to all of D.C.’s amazing diverse people.” (EC)

Best Food Festival or Event

Taste of D.C.

Taste of D.C. (Photo public domain)

“Largest culinary festival in the mid-Atlantic.” Runs Oct. 26-27.

thetasteofdc.org

Editor’s Choice: RAMW Restaurant Week

Best Craft Cocktails

Hank’s Cocktail Bar

Hank’s Cocktail Bar (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win! 

819 Upshur St., N.W.

hankscocktailbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Columbia Room

Best Fast Casual Dining

Stoney’s 

Stoney’s (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

1433 P St., N.W.

stoneys-dc.com

Editor’s Choice: CAVA (last year’s winner)

Best Local Brewery

D.C. Brau

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“Popular craft brewery offering free tours and tastings.” Fifth win in this category!

3178-B Bladensburg Rd., N.E.

dcbrau.com

Editor’s Choice: Red Bear Brewing Co.

Best Local Distillery

Republic Restoratives

Republic Restoratives (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

1369 New York Ave., N.E.

republicrestoratives.com

Editor’s Choice: District Distilling

Best Burger

Duke’s Grocery

Duke’s Grocery (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. 

1513 17th St., N.W.

dukesgrocery.com

Editor’s Choice: Shake Shack

Best Caterer

Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company

(Photo courtesy of Rocklands BBQ and Grilling Company)

Washington, Alexandria and Arlington

rocklands.com

Editor’s Choice: Occasions Caterers

Best Juice/Fuel Bar

Barry’s Bootcamp

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win!

1345 19th St., N.W.

barrysbootcamp.com

Editor’s Choice: Smoothie King

Best Chef

Jamie Leeds, Hank’s Oyster Bar

Jamie Leeds (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win! Locations at The Wharf, Dupont Circle, Old Town Alexandria and Capitol Hill. 

hanksoysterbar.com

Runner-Up: Patrick O’Connell, Inn at Little Washington

Best Coffee Shop

Compass Coffee

Compass Coffee (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Fourth consecutive win!

1335 7th St., N.W.

compasscoffee.com

Editor’s Choice: La Colombe

Best Special Occasion Restaurant

Floriana

Last year’s runner up! 

1602 17th St., N.W.

florianarestaurant.com

Editor’s Choice: Rose’s Luxury

Best Ice Cream/Gelato

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (Photo via Instagram)

1925 14th St., N.W.

jenis.com/scoop-shops

Editor’s Choice: Ice Cream Jubilee 

D.C.’s hottest club, even in the throes of winter, is often this brightly lit scoop shop of national notoriety. Jeni founded the first of her chain’s premium, artisan-style, cult-fave ice cream shops in 2002, and opened the front-and-center 14th and U spot in 2017.

 Jeni’s uses all-natural ingredients and sources from direct- and fair-trade suppliers for the highly Instagram-ready cups and cones. The super-creamy scoops layer fruit, nuts and other ingredients for unusual combos. Two top flavors may explain why the shop’s a winner: the brambleberry crisp, vanilla mixed with toasted pie topping and thick, sweet-tart jam; and the almond brittle, of brown-butter-almond candy crushed into buttercream ice cream. Yes, you can taste test them all. The vegan hot fudge topping doesn’t hurt. Be aware of the price point: a scoop is a cool $7.50.

When it opened, the shop’s team said, “We believe ice cream has the power to bring people together, so we’ve created the kind of space we’d love to gather with friends and strangers over a scoop of ice cream.” (EC)

Best Farmer’s Market

FRESHFARM Dupont Circle Market

Dupont Circle Farmers Market (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win! Sundays 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. year round

1600 20th St., N.W.

freshfarm.org/dupont-circle.html

Editor’s Choice: Eastern Market

Best Food Truck

Peruvian Brothers

Peruvian Brothers (Photo via Facebook)

4592 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria

peruvianbrothers.com

Editor’s Choice: Captain Cookie and the Milk Man Food Truck

Best Pizza

Timber Pizza Co

(Photo courtesy of Timber Pizza Co.)

Editor’s Choice: Comet Ping Pong 

809 Upshur St., N.W.

timberpizza.com

When it comes to top District-beloved pizza, it’s going down: you’re yelling Timber. 

The sizeable crispy-bottomed, blistered pies attract down-the-block lines in their hot Petworth digs. 

Owners Andrew Dana and Chris Brady, both from the D.C. area, started Timber when they realized that, “we hated our jobs … but we loved lunch,” they wrote. Dana and Brady founded their current brick-and-mortar shop in 2016 in Petworth after wowing crowds at farmers’ markets from its food truck starting two years prior. 

To helm the pizzeria, they brought on Chef Dani Moreira, who brings a distinct South American panache to her creative pies that are just traditional enough to be called “Neopolitan-ish.” 

At the popping shop, diners share communal tables and lots of napkins over stylishly titled pies coming out fast and hot from the wood-fired oven. Cheekily named pies include The Bentley, with chorizo, sopressata, Peruvian sweet peppers, and locally made spicy honey.

White and green pizzas, just as popular as red-sauced pies, add pops of Italianate color, and Chef Moreira brings out killer not-to-be-missed Argentine empanadas stuffed with saucy braised beef and sofrito. 

“As a D.C. native the best thing in the world is being voted Best Pizza by the people of D.C.! We’re always proud to be a friend of the LGBTQ community,” says Dana, not only co-owner, but also self-titled “chief dough boi.” 

Comet Ping Pong, the restaurant made infamous for “Pizzagate” in the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, was a two-time repeat winner in 2017-18. (EC)

Best Rehoboth Restaurant

Azzurro Italian Oven + Bar

210 2nd St., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 

azzurrorehoboth.com

Editor’s Choice: Blue Moon (last year’s winner) 

This new Italian restaurant features an irresistible menu of signature dishes like carpaccio di bresaola, a mozzarella bar, and a stunning frutti di mare overflowing with clams, mussels, lobster and more. All pastas are homemade in house. Chef/owner Francesco is a first-generation Italian who grew up in the restaurant business. His wife and co-owner Tonya makes everyone feel welcome and often brings limoncello with the check. The rooftop bar is one of the town’s too-few spots for outdoor dining and drinks. A new, must-visit dining destination in Rehoboth Beach.

Best Local Winery

City Winery

City Winery (Photo via Instagram)

Second year for both winner and editor’s choice! 

citywinery.com

1350 Okie St., N.E.

Editor’s Choice: District Winery

MEDIA

Best Local Website

DCist

dcist.com

Editor’s Choice: Popville (last year’s champ)

Best Local Influencer

Timur Tugberk, @timurdc 

Timur Tugberk (Photo courtesy of Designing the District)

Timur was last year’s runner-up. See this week’s Queery for more.

Runner-Up: Maggie McGill, @maggiemcgill

Best Local TV/Radio Personality

Ari Shapiro, NPR

Ari Shapiro (Photo by James C. Svehla of COD Newsroom via Wikimedia Commons)

npr.org/people/2101154/ari-shapiro

Runner-Up: Chuck Bell, NBC 4 (2015, 2016 and 2018 runner-up; 2014 winner)

You can hear Ari Shapiro’s velvet voice every weekday afternoon on NPR’s “All Things Considered” (broadcast locally on WAMU 88.5 FM). He’s been co-hosting the show since 2015. 

According to his bio on the NPR website, during his tenure at NPR he’s reported from above the Arctic Circle and aboard Air Force One and has filed stories from dozens of countries and most of the 50 states.

The out journalist began his reporting career as an intern for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in 2001. Since then he served as NPR’s Justice Correspondent in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, was embedded with the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, spent four years as White House Correspondent during President Obama’s first and second terms and spent two years as the network’s London correspondent before assuming his present position.

Shapiro has been widely recognized for the excellence of his reporting. At 25, he won the Daniel Schott Journalism Prize for his investigation into methamphetamine use and HIV transmission. He’s also been recognized for his coverage of disability benefits for injured American veterans, the American judicial system and Hurricane Katrina and has been included in the “Out 100” and the Advocate’s “Forty Under 40.”

The intrepid reporter has been out since high school where he wore a pink triangle on his knapsack. He married his longtime boyfriend Michal Gottlieb at San Francisco City Hall in February 2004.

When time allows, Shapiro also sings with the band Pink Martini. He can be heard on four of their albums singing in several languages. (BTC)

Best Radio Station

Hot 99.5

HOT 99.5’s Elizabethany at this year’s Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win! 

Editor’s Choice: The Tommy Show

PEOPLE

Best Amateur Athlete

Donald Mitchell

D.C. Gay Flag Football

dcgffl.org

Runner-Up: Sharifa Love (D.C. Furies, Rogue Darts)

D.C. Generals captain and wide receiver, Donald Mitchell, led his team to victory in Gay Bowl XVII and was quick to spread the love. 

“Everybody on our team made some play that was memorable,” the Nashville native told the Washington Post after the win. “There wasn’t one or two or three standouts. Everyone put in.”

Whether this Southern generosity was a part of his charm or his nature, it was appreciated by his community who named Mitchell best amateur athlete for 2019. 

“I’ve been on several teams,” Mitchell continued in the Post. “And I’ve never been more proud of a team that came together to fight for each other.”

Well, this award is one win he can claim for himself and still be proud. (PVS)

Best Artist

John Jack Photography

John Jack Gallagher (Photo courtesy of John Jack Photography)

John Jack Gallagher has been taking photos since his first boyfriend gave him a 35-millimeter camera for his birthday more than 30 years ago. In 2012, he started shooting professionally after members of the Stonewall Kickball team he’d been photographing insisted he shoot their wedding. A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. John Jack Gallagher was also the 2016 and 2017 winner. 

johnjackphotography.pixieset.com

Runner-up: Lisa Marie Thalhammer

Best Businessperson

David Winer

EatWell D.C.

Runner-up: Lisa Wise (Nest DC & Roost DC)

Being ‘woke’ is more than something trendy for local restaurateur David Winer — it’s something he feels in his heart. 

“Everyday I try to reach out to people and help them grow,” he says with a humility that seems rare for businesspeople these days, even those who become president. “And if I reach a couple of them, then that’s good. That’s the theme of our management company, to help others grow.”

For Winer, EatWell D.C. is about growing healthy communities, not just his bottom line.

“We are trying to do a better job of bringing local producers into the market,” he says of the work still ahead. “We’re trying to be environmentally neutral not only with our food, but with our beverages as well. We’re looking forward to educating a new crop of chefs to be sustainable and natural. That’s where we’re going.” 

Winer is humbled by the award and felt being environmentally and socially conscious weren’t just good business practices, but about “trying to live a good life” as well. (PVS)

Best Clergy

Bishop Allyson Abrams

Bishop Allyson Abrams (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Abrams regains the title after Rayceen won last year. They’re perpetual flip-floppers in this category. Abrams won in 2015 and 2017. Pendarvis won in 2016 and 2018 and was the 2017 runner-up. Abrams was the 2016 runner-up. 

Empowerment Liberation Cathedral

Sundays at 1 p.m.

4900 10th St., N.E. (Faith UCC Chapel)

empowermentliberationcathedral.org

Runner-up: Rayceen Pendarvis

Most Committed Activist

Charlotte Clymer

Charlotte Clymer (Photo courtesy Clymer)

The trans activist reached a settlement earlier this year with the Cuba Libre Restaurant after a manager forced her to leave after she used the women’s restroom in 2018. 

Runner-up: June Crenshaw

Best D.C. Public Official

Mayor Muriel Bowser

District of Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Mayor Muriel Bowser (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win for the mayor! 

Runner-up: David Grosso

Best Hill Staffer/LGBT Bureaucrat

Alec Buckley

@AlecBuckley6 

U.S. Senate legislative staffer

Runner-up: Jacob Trauberman

Even though Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, (D-N.D.) lost her 2018 re-election bid, her former legislative aide is still hard at work campaigning for causes on the Hill. 

“Our household believes we can do more to #EndGunViolence,” best Hill staffer Alec Buckley tweeted on June 7 above images of himself and his partner in matching Wear Orange T-shirts. “That’s why we #WearingOrange @Everytown @MomsDemand.”

With 47 Tweets, 45 followers and 643 likes, Buckley may not be in Trump territory on numbers, but he still uses his social media presence to inform the public on social issues.  (PVS)

Best Local Pro Athlete

Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

Elena Delle Donne (Photo courtesy of the Washington Mystics)

Donne’s second consecutive win! 

Runner-Up: Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

Elena Delle Donne keeps extending her accomplishments. This year, she joined the elite 50-40-90 club (NBA and WNBA players who have shooting percentages at or above 50 percent for field goals, 40 percent for three-pointers and 90 percent for free throws during an entire regular season), becoming the first-ever WNBA player to do so.

That puts Delle Donne alongside Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers including Steve Nash, Reggie Miller and Larry Bird. She was also named 2019 Associated Press WNBA player of the year and topped the league’s most popular jersey list for the third consecutive season.

In addition to her success on the basketball court (as the “small forward” for the Chicago Sky and the Washington Mystics she was named the WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2013 and the WNBA MVP in 2015 and is a five-time WNBA All-Star), Delle Donne (who’s out as a lesbian) is an award-winning author.

Her memoir “My Shot: Balancing It All and Standing Tall” recently won a Parents’ Choice Award from the Parents’ Choice Foundation. Aimed at middle school readers, the book is an amazingly frank but age-appropriate discussion of both her career highlights and her personal challenges, including her decision to come out.

Last year, she also launched the “Hoops” series of novels for young readers (ages 8-12). “Elle of the Ball” introduces Elle Deluca, who closely resembles Delle Donne herself. Elle’s height is an asset on the basketball court but a liability in her ballroom dancing class where she towers over her male dance partners. The series continues with “Full Court Press” and “Out of Bounds.”

Like her fictional counterpart, Delle Donne is very tall and had an early growth spurt. She’s 6’5” and wears a size 12 shoe. She gets her height from her parents. Her dad, a real estate developer, is 6’6” and her mom is 6’2.”

She also gets her feisty spirit and determination from them. When Delle Donne was in elementary school, her doctor wanted to start her on injections to stunt her growth. Her mother refused, and, according to an interview with ESPN, she told her daughter, “Why try to be like the rest of the pack? Be your own person.”

The young athlete also had to come to terms with the fact that she could do things that her beloved older sister Lizzie would never be able to do. Lizzie, with whom Delle Donne remains close, was born deaf and blind, with both cerebral palsy and autism, and is unable to speak.

Born in Wilmington, Del., in 1989, Delle Donne rose to national prominence as a high school basketball star at Ursuline Academy. She led her team to three straight Delaware State Championships and was ranked as the number one recruit by Scout.com.

Delle Donne was recruited by the University of Connecticut but ended up playing for the Blue Hens at the University of Delaware. In 2010, she was named both “Player of the Year” and “Rookie of the Year” by the Colonial Athletic Association. Although she was diagnosed with Lyme disease during her sophomore year, she continued to excel as a college athlete and was selected second overall in the 2014 WBNA Draft by the Chicago Sky. She joined the Washington Mystics in 2017.

In 2016, Delle Donne won a gold medal as a member of the Unites States women’s basketball team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Delle Donne officially came out in an interview with Vogue magazine in August 2016 where she announced her engagement to girlfriend Amanda Clifton. The couple was married in 2017.

The award-winning out athlete, who has signed endorsement deals with Nike, DuPont and Octagon, is also a noted philanthropist. She founded the Elena Delle Donne Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for Lyme Disease research and special needs programs and is also a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics. (BTC) 

Best Local Pro Sports Team

Washington Capitals

Braden Holyby, center, of the Washington Capitals marches in the 2019 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s Choice: Washington Nationals

Same outcome as last year. 

Best Fitness Instructor

Mark Raimondo

Mark Raimond (Photo courtesy of Barry’s Bootcamp)

Barry’s Bootcamp

1345 19th St., N.W.

barrysbootcamp.com

Runner-up: James Crawford (Solidcore)

When best fitness instructor winner, Mark Raimondo of Barry’s Bootcamp, first heard Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down,” he knew he had to use it in his class. 

“I was like this is awesome,” he says. “It will make people feel safe, warm and invited to my classes.”

Raimondo teaches large classes of 50 or more, two to three sessions a day, but he’s still made personal connections and a few good friends in two short years. 

While students’ achievements inspire him, dance music motivates him. 

“At the end of the day, it’s fitness and it’s supposed to be fun,” Raimondo says. “So, I might throw some old Britney (Spears) in there to get people jazzed up.” (PVS)

Best Real Estate Agent

Michael Moore, Compass

Michael Moore (Photo courtesy Moore)

michaelmoorehomesdc.com

Runner-Up: Stacey Williams-Zeiger, Zeiger Realty Inc.

Michael Moore was a little frustrated working in retail clothing when a friend suggested he’d be terrific in real estate. Initially hesitant, Moore met with a savvy Realtor who encouraged him to give it a shot. With not a lot to lose, he took the classes, passed the test, and went to work for a boutique company broker in 1988. He’s been at it ever since. 

Today as a successful Realtor and senior vice president at Compass Real Estate, Moore credits his success to consistent customer service. “My career began with first-time homebuyers. In time, first-time buyers become sellers and they buy another house and they tell their friends. Now my business is almost entirely referrals and repeats.” 

Moore’s specialty is marketing and getting homes ready for sale. “I’m a huge proponent of staging and doing what it takes to project the property in its best light,” he says. “I try to create a situation that when a prospective buyer walks in the door, they love it, and think to themselves ‘won’t my friends be jealous when they see me living here.’”

While he does have a fair amount of LGBT clients, Moore never directed business toward or away from any one group. “Essentially I’ve always thrown the net out and taken what I get,” he says. “I’ve weathered good markets and bad markets and everything in between. … Real estate is crazy, maddening, exciting. It’s been a love affair.” (PF) 

Real Estate Group

Marin Hagen & Sylvia Bergstrom, Coldwell Banker

1617 14th St., N.W.

coldwellbankerhomes.com

Runner-Up: The Evan+Mark Team, Compass (last year’s winner) 

Best Rehoboth Real Estate Agent

Lee Ann Wilkinson, Berkshire Hathaway

Lee Ann Wilkinson (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Second consecutive win!

16698 Kings Hwy A.

Lewes, Del.

leeanngroup.com

Runner-Up: Henry McKay, Jack Lingo Realtor

Best Straight Ally

Kathy Dalby

Kathy Dalby (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

runpacers.com

Runner-Up: Mari Rodale

In 2006, Kathy Dalby took a leap of faith. She left a dream D.C. job as a health care policy analyst for a high-profile law firm and took a full-time job at Pacers Running. She’s now CEO of the company, as well as the managing partner for Pacer Events, LLC, and publisher of RunWashington. The six stores serve as hubs for local runners and offer a full range of running gear along with training advice and a robust schedule of regular fun-runs and special race events. 

Based on her belief in “authentic and community-focused relationship building,” Dalby has been a staunch LGBT ally. Pacers Running has been a supporter of Capital Pride and the D.C. Front Runners. In turn, the Front Runners made one of Dalby’s childhood dreams come true when they asked her to be a member of their Pride Parade dance troupe.

Dalby says, “I try to create a culture at Pacers where we celebrate others. I am proud to be an award winner, but it’ll be a real win when we don’t feel like we need to single out straight folks for being supportive of our LGBTQ friends because frankly that should be the norm.”

She has some excellent advice: “Acknowledge your privilege and acknowledge the beauty in differences,” she says. “It’ll make you a better person, I promise.” (BTC)

Best Transgender Advocate

Ruby Corado

From left, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado and Lt. Brett Parson of the Metropolitan Police Department speak at a community forum on anti-LGBT violence on July 9, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A new title for Ruby after three wins as “Most Committed Activist” and the Local Heroine award in 2014. 

Casa Ruby

2822 Georgia Ave., N.W.

casaruby.org

Runner-Up: Sarah McBride  

Best Stylist 

Michael Ian Hodges 

Michael Hodges (Photo courtesy of Logan Aveda 14 Salon and Spa)

Logan 14 Aveda Salon Spa

1314 B 14th St., N.W. 

logan14salonspa.com

Runner Up: Roel Ruiz (last year’s winner)

For top stylist and Logan 14 Aveda Salon Spa owner Michael Ian Hodges, the recipe for success is simple: skills, consistency and friendliness. Also, location doesn’t hurt. There are more gays per inch in Logan Circle than anywhere else in the country, he notes. 

While adept at all types of styling, he’s best known for his men’s barber cuts. 

“I can do 44 cuts a day on a busy day. I have an assistant, and I double book: two guys every hour on a 12-hour day.”

Hodges first caught the hair bug sitting on the counter of his mom’s salon in England watching her do hair. When the family moved to the U.S., he brought his passion with him. After apprenticing with to an accomplished London-trained stylist in Maclean, Va.,, he began his professional career. Thirty years later, he’s still at it. 

At Logan 14, he maintains a large book of clients and helms a crew of 24 stylists. He’s grateful for his clients’ patronage. “They’re like family. I know their lives backwards and forwards. There’s a mutual support and caring. Relationships are important.”

Looking forward, Hodges, who lives with his husband on the D.C. line in Mount Rainier, Md., is expanding the size of Logan 14, and he’s considering opening a barbershop in the future. “I’m not getting any younger, (he turns 50 next year) but I see myself working and staying in the industry for a long time.” (PF)

COMMUNITY

Best Art Gallery

Renwick Gallery

Renwick Gallery (Photo public domain)

A repeat of last year’s outcome for both winner and editor’s choice.

1661 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.

americanart.si.edu

Editor’s Choice: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Best Adult Store

Bite the Fruit

Fourth consecutive win in this category! 

1723 Connecticut Ave., N.W. 

bitethefruit.com

Runner-up: Lotus Blooms

Best Car Dealership

BMW of Fairfax

BMW of Fairfax (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Last year’s editor’s choice. 

8427 Lee Highway, Fairfax, Va.

bmwoffairfax.com

Editor’s Choice: Maserati of Arlington

Best Apartment/Condo Building

Atlantic Plumbing

(Photo courtesy of Atlantic Plumbing)

Last year’s editor’s choice and the 2016-2017 winner.

2112 8th St., N.W.

atlanticplumbingdc.com

Editor’s Choice: City Market at O

Best Doctor/Medical Provider

Whitman-Walker Health

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. 

whitman-walker.org

Runner-Up: Dr. Robyn Zeiger

Best Fitness or Workout Spot

VIDA Fitness

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome.

Locations at U Street, Logan Circle and Gallery Place

vidafitness.com

Editor’s Choice: Barry’s Bootcamp

Best Gayborhood

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle Fountain, Russian news agency, gay news, Washington Blade
Dupont Circle (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Shaw is dethroned after three consecutive wins! Logan was also the 2016 runner up. 

Editor’s Choice: Logan Circle

Best Hardware Store

Logan Ace Hardware 

Logan Ace Hardware (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A perennial favorite in this category. Third consecutive win! 

1734 14th St., N.W.

acehardwaredc.com

Editor’s Choice: True Value on 17th

Best Home Furnishings

Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams 

Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams in their 14th Street NW store. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win on the occasion of their 30th anniversary! 

1526 14th St., N.W.

mgbwhome.com

Runner-up: Room & Board

Best Home Improvement Service

Case Design

(Photo courtesy of Case Design)

“Full-service home remodelers building your dreams.” Third consecutive win! 

Locations in Washington and Bethesda.

casedesign.com

Editor’s Choice: Magnolia Plumbing, Heating & Cooling

Best Hotel

The Line

1770 Euclid St., N.W.

thelinehotel.com

Editor’s Choice: W Hotel

Best House of Worship

Foundry United Methodist Church

Foundry United Methodist Church (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Foundry fights back! Dethrones Empowerment Liberation Cathedral, which had four consecutive wins (2015-2018). Foundry (church home to 17 U.S. presidents) held the title 2011-2014 was last year’s editor’s choice. 

1500 16th St., N.W.

foundryumc.org

Editor’s Choice: St Thomas’ Parish Episcopal Church

Best Lawyer

Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Whitman-Walker Health

whitman-walker.org

Runner-Up: Michele Zavos (last year’s winner)

Since 2008, Amy Nelson has been director of legal services at Whitman-Walker Health. One of her milestone accomplishments was organizing the name and gender change legal clinic in 2012, which continues to serve hundreds of clients in updating their gender markers on identity documents annually.

Nelson is understandably proud about her work at the historic D.C. institution, saying, “Working at Whitman-Walker Health means being a part of history, part of a big messy family full of inspiration and passion, and is like no other job I could imagine. I am extremely excited about our expansion in Southeast and expanded services for youth.”

Nelson also underscores the importance of reaching out to D.C.’s diverse communities. “D.C.’s many (LGBT) and immigrant communities are fabulous and bold but need a little more love to stay healthy and safe as this country moves to erase them,” she says. 

The fierce advocate acknowledges the role her family plays in sustaining her work. “I am so grateful to be sharing my life chaos with the one and only amazing June Crenshaw whose commitment to D.C.’s queer youth experiencing homelessness is limitless,” she says. “Her heart inspires me to do better, be kinder and be OK with being me.”

She also unwinds by hanging out with her nieces and nephew in Arlington. “They are adorable rays of sunshine and happiness who ground me every weekend,” she says. But be careful if you ask to see pictures of them. Nelson warns, “I only have a few thousand photos of them on my phone.” (BTC)

Best LGBT Social Group

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Their show “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” is Saturday night (5 and 8 p.m.) at City Winery. The chorus knocks off Stonewall Sports after two consecutive wins. 

gmcw.org

Editor’s Choice: Stonewall Sports  

Best LGBT Sports League

Stonewall Kickball

Third consecutive win; 2016 runner-up. 

stonewallkickball.com

Editor’s Choice: DC Frontrunners

Best LGBT-Owned Business

District Title

A full-service provider of real estate settlements and title insurance. 

1150 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

districttitle.com

Editor’s Choice: Social Driver

Most LGBT-Friendly Workplace

Whitman-Walker Health

(Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Third consecutive win.

1525 14th St., N.W.

whitman-walker.org

Editor’s Choice: National LGBTQ Task Force

Best LGBT Event

Capital Pride Celebration

The main stage at the 2019 Capital Pride Festival (Washington Blade photo by Drew Brown)

Third consecutive win! 

Editor’s Choice: Cherry Fund Weekend

Best Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian America Art Museum (Photo by Zach Frank via Wikimedia Commons)

F & 8th St., N.W.

americanart.si.edu

Editor’s Choice: National Museum of African American History and Culture

Best Non-Profit

SMYAL

SMYAL Fall Brunch fundraiser (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders. Second consecutive win! 

410 7th St., S.E.

smyal.org

Editor’s Choice: Latino GLBT History Project

Best Private School

Barrie

13500 Layhill Rd.

Silver Spring, Md.

barrie.org

Editor’s Choice: Edmund Burke (also last year’s editor’s choice) 

Best Pet Business

City Dogs Daycare

1832 18th St., N.W.

301 H St., N.E.

city-dogs.com

Editor’s Choice: District Dogs

Best Place to Buy Second-Hand Stuff

Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot

Miss Pixie’s (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A perennial favorite in this category! Same outcome for third consecutive year. 

1626 14th St., N.W.

misspixies.com

Editor’s choice: Buffalo Exchange (2016 runner-up)

Best Movie Theater

Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema

Landmark’s Atlantic Plumbing Cinema (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

New releases plus indie fare, foreign and avant garde. Third consecutive win. 

807 V St., N.W.

landmarktheatres.com

Editor’s Choice: AMC Loews Georgetown

Best Rehoboth Business

Purple Parrot

Purple Parrot (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Second consecutive win! 

134 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

ppgrill.com

Editor’s Choice: Blue Moon

Best Salon/Spa

Logan 14 Aveda

Logan 14 Aveda (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Fourth consecutive win! 

1314 14th St., N.W.

logan14salonspa.com

Editor’s Choice: Bang Salon

Best Alternative Transportation

Capital Bike Share

Capital Bikeshare (Photo by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz via Wikimedia Commons)

capitalbikeshare.com

Editor’s Choice: Lyft

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. 

Best Day Trip

Easton, Md.

Easton, Md. (Photo by Mellowcream via Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s Choice: Harper’s Ferry

Best Regional Pride

Annapolis Pride

Annapolis Pride (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s Choice: Baltimore Pride

Best Tattoo Parlor

Fatty’s Tattoos & Piercings

1333 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

516 H St., N.E.

8638 Colesville Rd. (Silver Spring) 

fattystattoos.com

Runner-up: Tattoo Paradise (winner last two years)

“It feels good, but we’re kind of used to it,” says Fatty (the only name he gives), owner of Fatty’s Tattoo on receiving this year’s Best Tattoo Parlor award. “We’ve been voted D.C.’s best tattoo shop 10 times now. Since 2009.”

It’s also their 25th year in D.C., and Fatty says success comes from welcoming everyone equally. When the Dupont Circle shop first opened, not all businesses embraced tattoo lovers.

“Back in the ’90s, tattooing was underground and being gay was still kind of underground, so we matched up pretty nicely.”

Fatty saw many shops close after the 2008 recession, but this match helped keep his parlor open. 

“That’s our mission of excellence,” he says. “The customer doesn’t need to see it posted, they need to feel it.” (PVS)

Best Theater

Kennedy Center

Kennedy Center (Photo by Make Male via Wikimedia Commons)

The Kennedy Center returns after an upset flip-flop last year; it held the title 2015-2017!

2700 F St., N.W.

kennedy-center.org

Editor’s Choice: Studio Theatre

Best Theater Production

“Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” (Studio Theatre, July)

Editor’s Choice: John Cameron Mitchell’s “Origin of Love” (National Theatre)

Best Veterinarian 

Friendship Hospital for Animals

An upset flip-flop of last year’s outcome — CityPaws held the title 2015-2018. 

friendshipanimaldc.com

4105 Brandywine St., N.W.

Editor’s Choice: City Paws Animal Hospital 

Electability becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks in New York’s Washington Square Park on Monday. (Craig Ruttle/AP)
Opinion writer

September 19 at 10:30 AM

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in her 20,000-person rally Washington Square Park in New York on Monday night, declared, “Yes, there’s a lot at stake in this election. And I know people are scared. But we can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in just because we’re too scared to do anything else.” She later denied she was referring to former vice president Joe Biden, but I don’t think she was talking about Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) or former Maryland congressman John Delaney.

At any rate, the “scared” pitch refers to the “electability” argument that posits Biden is a safer choice to beat President Trump so voters should go with him.

How voters decided on this definition of electability in large part is due to the mainstream media that has obsessed on “winning back the white working class” and has insisted the road to the White House runs through the upper Midwest. It ignores the crucial role of suburban women, the need to turn out the African American base and college-educated voters. (If electability is defined in that sense, a Warren-Kamala Harris ticket or Warren-Stacey Abrams might be ideal.)

Unfortunately, once that storyline is set — America won’t vote for women as readily as men (as if the 2018 election never occurred) and won’t support a non-white candidate as readily as a white candidate (2008, anyone?) — it becomes very hard to beat down. Voters’ belief in flawed political analysis drives poll numbers, which in turn confirms their theory of electability.

In the RealClearPolitics average, Biden leads Trump by nearly 12 points. He is consistently outside the margin of error. Other candidates lead Trump as well but not by as big a margin. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is generally out of the margin of error (he leads by nearly seven points in the RCP averages) while Warren, Harris and Pete Buttigieg lead by single digits. Voters concerned about electability seize on the polls numbers. See, Biden is the most electable! This information loop built on a shaky premise will likely continue until new information — actual primary returns — comes into the picture.

Given all that, Warren’s plea not to be “scared” gets to the nub of the problem. Democrats understandably think Trump is an existential threat to our democracy, to immigrants, to civil rights and to everything else they hold dear. It is very hard to get them to make a choice that makes it just a little bit more likely Trump would get four more years. The risk of losing is so great that many voters (operating on the conventional wisdom) will take a safer candidate.

There is even a psychological explanation and well-accepted principle in behavioral economics: Loss aversion. A paper for Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania explained:

The psychology and economics literature suggests that legislators face an uphill battle when proposing legislation that has both costs and benefits due to the power of loss aversion, a cognitive bias that causes individuals to dramatically overweight losses relative to gains. … Because losses loom larger than gains psychologically, policies that would create net benefits for society but would also involve costs may frequently be defeated.

The same is true of candidates. Fear of loss to an awful opponent outweighs the potential gain with a candidate you might like better.

This doesn’t mean Biden will inevitably win because of loss aversion. However, it’s probably not a good idea for Warren to talk about voters being “scared.” That’s a little like the “don’t think about pink elephants.” Voters (not her devoted base but others she needs to win over) are scared, and loss aversion tells us that when people are scared, they will overweigh losses relative to gains. Bringing up the very basis for loss aversion (fear!) seems unwise.

By contrast, Jill Biden, an educator who might know a thing or two about psychology, laid out a perfect argument to demonstrate loss aversion. “You know you may like another candidate better but you have to look at who’s going to win,” she said at a New Hampshire campaign event in August. “Joe is that person.”

Warren might do better making the case that she is just as electable if not more so than Biden. Painting Biden as risky — because of age or proclivity to ramble or whatever — and herself as the one to run rings around Trump might be a better bet. Alternatively, she can wait around for a meltdown moment when Biden demonstrates how risky he really is. Either way, she shouldn’t knock “scared”; it’s real and a powerful motivator.

Read more:

Helaine Olen: Warren’s masterful speech in New York

Paul Waldman: Joe Biden is still ahead. But Elizabeth Warren is closing in.

Jennifer Rubin: How long will Warren dodge on health care and taxes?

Helaine Olen: What Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have in common

Ed Rendell: I like Elizabeth Warren. Too bad she’s a hypocrite.

Biden’s Electability Advantage Will Be Hard to Shake Among Risk-Averse Democrats

People mean different things by electability. But Biden benefits from nearly all of them. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Sometimes it feels like political writers (myself included) spend a lot of time trying to tell voters to think differently than they actually do. This is clearly the case with Democrats and their obsession with presidential “electability.” My colleague Eric Levitz and I have both written about how slippery the very concept is, with Eric sensibly concluding Democrats should “simply vote for whichever candidate they would most like to be president.”

But at this point, there’s really little evidence that the electability craze is going to fade, or will stop mattering as it becomes simply another sign of candidate preferences determined by other factors. In a new poll it conducted with Ipsos, FiveThirtyEight found fresh evidence this week that beating Trump is the top “issue” for Democrats watching presidential debates, even though the candidates spend most of their time talking about policy matters:

John Daniels Jr. named chair of Advocate Aurora board

John Daniels, Jr., chairman emeritus of Quarles & Brady, accepts the William C. Frye Award alongside young men from the MKE Fellows program.

John Daniels Jr., chairman emeritus of Quarles & Brady LLP, was elected chair of the Advocate Aurora Health board of directors.

He succeeds Joanne Disch, who has served as board chair since the Advocate Health-Aurora Health Care merger in April 2018.

“We are so very fortunate to have John’s leadership,” said Jim Skogsbergh,  president and chief executive officer of Advocate Aurora Health. “John’s business acumen combined with his steadfast commitment to our communities will serve our organization well as we advance our bold strategic plan forward.”

“Joanne is very deserving of our gratitude, given her strong leadership as chair over the last 17 months as we brought our two organizations together,” he added.

Daniels’ term runs through April 2022.

He has gained recognition for his involvement in various civic organizations, including serving on the board of Chicago United, as national president of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, as a board member of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and chair of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

He also founded the Milwaukee Fellowship Open, which provides support to academically talented African American young men in Wisconsin to prepare them to graduate from college and for career success.

Daniels, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was also named one of the “50 Most Influential Diverse Attorneys in America” by the National Bar Association.

“I am privileged to serve in this role and honored to be a part of such a tremendous organization that is committed to transforming health care and delivering on our purpose of helping people live well,” Daniels said.

Advocate Aurora has dual headquarters in Downers Grove, Illinois and Milwaukee.

Opinion: 58 mayors on why we need Pete Buttigieg in the White House

CLOSE

Pete Buttigieg, a two-term mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is now running for president at the age of 37. Here’s what we know about the man and his campaign. Dwight Adams, dwight.adams@indystar.com

Pete Buttigieg is a role model to mayors. We proudly endorse him from heartland towns, coastal cities and suburban communities across this country.

As we face unprecedented challenges, America needs leadership in Washington that gets things done. That’s why we need a great mayor in the White House.

We are more than 50 mayors across the country — from Santa Monica, California, to Topeka, Kansas, to Hartford, Connecticut — who know that an executive with vision and proven ability to get results is the key to a bright future for our nation. We see exactly that in Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

South Bend is a quintessential American city, with big challenges and ever bigger opportunities. It remains close-knit — people stop Pete on the street, give him ideas and feedback, and hold him accountable for everything from potholes to racial justice.

We have watched Mayor Pete over the past eight years, as his steady and inspired leadership has revitalized his city. It was no surprise to us when his constituents reelected him with 80% of the vote. Pete has transformed South Bend, and now he is showing what American leadership can and should be in the years ahead.

South Bend is Buttigieg’s success story

First, Mayor Pete puts practical solutions over partisan ideology. For mayors, politics isn’t a blood sport. While inaction and gridlock are the norm in Washington, mayors don’t have the option to kick the can down the road. Our residents expect electricity when they flip the switch, clean water from their taps and trash picked up regularly. It would be unthinkable for a mayor like Pete to shut down the government because of a petty ideological disagreement.

10 Hoosier mayors are endorsing Buttigieg: Joe Hogsett isn’t one of them

Pete’s vision for Medicare For All Who Want It is a great example of advancing progressive goals with a commitment to achieving results. By giving every American the choice to walk away from their private insurance and into a public alternative, Pete’s plan will make health care more affordable and universal while trusting Americans to do what’s right for them. While others may focus on what sounds good, Pete has always been about what works well.

Second, Mayor Pete looks forward, not back. Like many of us, he comes from a heartland city decimated by automation and globalization. Pete carries South Bend’s history with him, but he also knows that neither South Bend nor our country can return to the past. Instead, he has helped shepherd his community through a dramatic turnaround. Anyone who visits his city can see firsthand that it is growing and innovating, and that unemployment is falling.

How this claim stands up: Pete Buttigieg says he’s mayor of a turnaround city

Pete knows that we need to focus on the long term, including 21st century threats like climate change. South Bend itself has seen two historic floods during his tenure, and Pete’s administration has worked to make the city more resilient in the floods’ wake. Pete’s new climate change proposal is exactly what you’d expect from a mayor. It’s bold enough to meet this crisis, but with its focus on enlisting everyone from farmers to the military, it’s also unifying enough to actually get done.

Third, Mayor Pete is deeply invested in making sure every American is heard and feels they belong — especially in marginalized communities. Mayors in diverse cities don’t see people as abstract categories. We see them as our pediatricians, Little League volunteers, the retired letter carrier who says hi to our kids — and act accordingly.

Mayor Pete, the role model

While Washington has ignored or exacerbated our immigration crisis, Pete created a municipal ID card so that undocumented residents could open bank accounts and fill prescriptions. And because Pete knows that population growth is the key to economic growth, his plan for rural America would provide Community Renewal Visas to bring immigrants to communities in need of revitalization.

In the wake of a tragic officer-involved shooting in South Bend, we have seen Pete engage in an honest dialogue about the shadow of racism. And he has backed up his words with concrete plans. His Douglass Plan is arguably the most comprehensive plan any candidate has offered to start dismantling systemic racism and directly invest in black Americans. It puts forward ambitious-yet-attainable goals — from tripling the number of entrepreneurs from underserved backgrounds, to creating health equity zones to cutting incarceration by 50%.

CLOSE

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks with IndyStar about his message on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Michelle Pemberton, michelle.pemberton@indystar.com

Finally, Pete understands the power of moral leadership. Mayors are walking symbols of their cities. When we cut a ribbon at a new factory, or comfort a grieving parent whose child was lost to gun violence, we are showing the people we represent that their community stands with them. That kind of empathetic leadership is desperately needed in the Oval Office.

For all these reasons, Mayor Pete has become a role model — and in some cases, a mentor — to mayors like us. We endorse him from heartland towns, coastal cities, suburban communities and every other corner of our great country. What’s more, in the spirit of the community of mayors, we are already offering Pete our best ideas and helping engage grassroots supporters all across the country.

We’re proud to stand together as “Mayors for Pete,” and hope you’ll join us in supporting this bold and unifying leader who will help us write a better future.

The mayors endorsing Pete Buttigieg include: Steve Adler (Austin, Texas), Nan Whaley (Dayton, Ohio), Christopher Cabaldon (West Sacramento, California), Justin Flippen (Wilton Manors, Florida), Christine Hunchsofsky (Parkland, Florida), Dean Trantalis (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Betsy Hodges (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Annise Parker (Houston, Texas), Rob Moon (Palm Springs, California), John D’Amico (West Hollywood, California), Luke Bronin (Hartford, Connecticut), Liz Alpert (Sarasota, Florida), Michelle De La Isla (Topeka, Kansas), Jim Gray (Lexington, Kentucky), Patrick Wojahn (College Park, Maryland), John Cranley (Cincinnati, Ohio), Ian Baltutis (Burlington, North Carolina), John Hamilton (Bloomington, Indiana), Jacob Day (Salsbury, Maryland), Zach Vruwink (Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin), Matt Shorraw (Monessen, Pennsylvania), Breea Clark (Norman, Oklahoma), Gabriel Quinto (El Cerrito, California), Joe Signorello (Roselle Park, New Jersey), John Harabedian (Sierra Madre, California), Mark Kleinschmidt (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), Layla Walz (Wells, Nevada), Lydia Lavelle (Carrboro, North Carolina), Suzanne Prentis (Lebanon, New Hampshire), Ross Swords, Jr (Brownsville, Pennsylvania), Leirion Gaylor Baird (Lincoln, Nebraska), Kristopher Larsen (Nederland, Colorado), Noam Bramson (New Rochelle, New York), Steve Hagerty (Evanston, Illinois), David Berger (Lima, Ohio), Tari Renner (Bloomington, Illinois), Sly James (Kansas City, Missouri), Andy Berke (Chattanooga, Tennessee), Daniel Yost (Woodside, California), Ted Ellis (Bluffton, Indiana), Hugh Wirth (Oakland City, Indiana), Ron Strouse (Doylestown, Pennsylvania), Beth Bashert (Ypsilanti, Michigan), Duane Rosenberg (New Carrollton, Maryland), Shawn Raup-Konsavage (Bernville, Pennsylvania), Dave Kitchell (Logansport, Indiana), Rosalynn Bliss (Grand Rapids, Michigan), Tom McDermott (Hammond, Indiana), Henry Schwaller (Hays, Kansas), Greg Goodnight (Kokomo, Indiana), Mark Barbee (Bridgeport, Pennsylvania), Jim Carruthers (Traverse City, Michigan), Gleam Davis (Santa Monica, California), Ryan Arndorfer (Britt, Iowa), Brent Bascom (Rising Sun, Indiana), Gay Ann Harney (Rockport, Indiana), Ron Meer (Michigan City, Indiana), Gabriel Greer (Peru, Indiana).

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NNPA to Honor Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) for Contributions in Education

Bobby Scott

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent@StacyBrownMedia

      “The first thing we have to do is focus on the issues. We can’t spend all of our time talking about [the scandals] and not talking about equity in education,” said Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA).

Virginia Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott has always advocated for a fair and equitable education for all students.

When he helped spearhead the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Scott had civil rights in mind. ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind law, which amplified the federal government’s role in U.S. classrooms. No Child Left Behind launched a national system that judged schools based on math and reading test scores and required them to raise scores every year or face escalating penalties.

“Fifty years ago, Congress originally passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to help make that right a reality,” said Scott, the chair of the Committee on Education and Labor. “The Every Student Succeeds Act honors the civil rights legacy of that law,” he said.

Similar to ESSA, No Child Left Behind was crafted and passed with strong bipartisan support. However, over time, its testing-centric accountability structure became widely seen as overly punitive.

Despite the Trump administration’s callousness toward a fair and equal education for all regardless of their race or background. Scott has remained vigilant about ESSA and education’s role in transforming communities.

In recognition of his unwavering dedication, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) will present him with the 2019 NNPA National Leadership Award for his outstanding contributions and courageous leadership in the field of education.

The 2019 honorees are the Honorable Karen Bass, U.S. Representative (D-CA); the Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, U.S. Representative (D-MD); the Honorable Bobby Scott, U.S. Representative (D-VA); the Honorable Bennie Thompson, U.S. Representative (D-MS); Ray Curry, Secretary-Treasurer of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agriculture (UAW); Shani W. Hosten, Vice President Multicultural Leadership, AARP; Dr. Kim Smith-Whitley, Clinical Director of Hematology and Director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP); and Crystal Windham, Director, Cadillac Interior Design, General Motors.

The NNPA’s National Leadership Awards are an annual event that coincides with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference. This year, the National Leadership Awards are supported by NNPA’s corporate partners and sponsors, including General Motors; RAI Services Company; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Pfizer, Inc.

NNPA’s corporate sponsors include Toyota; Ford Motor Co., AARP; Northrop Grumman; Wells Fargo; Volkswagen; UAW; API; Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts; Comcast NBC Universal; U.S. Census; CBCF Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Koch Industries; Ascension; and AmeriHealth.

A U.S. Army Veteran, Scott was born in Washington, DC in 1947.

He has represented Virginia’s third congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993.

Before Congress, Scott served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1978 to 1983 and in Virginia’s State Senate from 1983 to 1993.

During his tenure in the Virginia General Assembly, Scott successfully sponsored laws critical to Virginians in education, employment, health care, social services, economic development, crime prevention, and consumer protection.

His legislative successes in the state legislature included laws that increased Virginia’s minimum wage.

Scott created the Governor’s Employment and Training Council and improved health care benefits for women, infants, and children.

In Congress, as part of his efforts to provide universal health care, Scott sought to ensure that millions of uninsured children have access to comprehensive health care services.

The congressman has the distinction of being the first African American elected to Congress from the Commonwealth of Virginia since Reconstruction and only the second African American from elected to Congress by Virginians in state’s history.

Having a maternal grandfather of Filipino ancestry also gives him the distinction of being the first American with Filipino ancestry to serve as a voting member of Congress.

Throughout his service, Scott has championed early childhood education.

He’s often cited research that shows early childhood education during a child’s formative years as being critical to brain development.

“Participating in high-quality early childhood education is critical for children,” Scott said. “Doing so lessens the chances they will be involved in the criminal justice system, violence, or illegal drugs,” he said.

Scott is the lead sponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act.

The measure is a comprehensive early learning and childcare bill that ensures affordable and high-quality childcare for working-class families and those living paycheck to paycheck.

“If we are going to prepare our country’s youth for their future properly, we must ensure that we are giving them the fundamental tools necessary to grow into skillful and productive members of the workforce, starting from the beginning of childhood,” Scott said in a recent interview with NNPA Newswire.

Earlier this year, Scott’s committee voted in favor of the Rebuild America’s School Act, a bill that would provide about $100 billion for school infrastructure.

Scott and his colleagues also advanced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which toughens penalties that businesses face for gender-pay disparities.

“The first thing we have to do is focus on the issues. We can’t spend all of our time talking about [the scandals] and not talking about equity in education,” Scott said.

“In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be able to succeed in life if denied an opportunity of an education; that such an opportunity is a right that must be equal for all,” he said.

The bill seeks to help minority students overcome some of the many disadvantages they face.

Much of which was spelled out in a 2019 report that revealed white school districts receive $23 billion more in funding than non-white districts despite serving the same number of students.

Because the school system relies so heavily on community wealth, the gap reflects both the prosperity divide in America and the fragmented nature of school district borders.

The system is designed to exclude outside students and protect internal advantage, according to the authors of the 2019 education report.

For every student enrolled, the average non-white school district receives $2,226 less than a white school district, the report revealed.

“After the 1954 Supreme Court ruling, we turned around and funded education with the real estate tax, guaranteeing that the wealthy areas will have more resources than low-income areas,” Scott said.

“Adam Clayton Powell spearheaded legislation in the 1960s that put more money into low-income areas. And, the Higher Education Act passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson, assured that no child would be turned away from college because he’s poor,” Scott said.

“Then there was the Pell Grant which assured that a child could go to any college and not incur that much debt. You can have equity in K-12, but you’ve got to have Head Start … and we have to make sure that legacy continues,” he said.

Scott said public schools in the U.S. are at a critical breaking point and noted that one estimate found that school infrastructure is shortchanged by $46 billion every year.

The Paycheck Fairness Act removes many of the legal defenses that businesses use to claim that they aren’t discriminating.

It makes it unlawful for businesses to inquire about a worker’s wage history or use it as a hiring factor if they know, among other provisions.

“Even when wage discrimination is discovered, workplace rules that restrict information about wages and pay raises often keep working women from holding employers accountable for discrimination,” Scott said.

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Oral Health Can Affect Brain Health

An article published in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology in 2010 revealed that gum disease could increase a person’s risk of heart disease by 20 percent, though further research in this area is still deemed necessary.

On the other hand, research teams from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, were presently looking at the association of oral health to brain health.

An evidence linking oral health to a decline in the cognitive features such as memory and executive function was found in a recently published review of 23 studies.

Researchers from Rutgers University conducted two separate studies that both appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The studies looked into decreased cognition and perceived stress in Chinese American adults aged 60 the least.

XinQi Dong, director of Rutgers University’s Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, explained that racial and ethnic minority groups are specifically susceptible to the negative impact of poor oral health. “Minorities have less access to preventive dental care that is further exacerbated by language barriers and low socioeconomic status,” he said.

Dong continued that older Chinese Americans are at certain risk for experiencing oral health symptoms because of lack of dental insurance or not regularly visiting a dental clinic.

There were 2,700 Chinese Americans from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago (PINE) interviewed in the conducted studies.

On the first study, the participants were asked on their oral health and were given five cognitive tests to finish. On the second study, they were asked if they ever had dry mouth issues and gauge their stress levels, social support and social strain utilizing pre-defined scales.

Out of the total number of participants examined, nearly half reported tooth-related symptoms and more than 25 precent said they had dry mouth. 

No significant connection between gum and cognitive problems were found but a link between reduced cognition and tooth symptoms were discovered in the study as well as dry mouth to perceived stress.

However, researchers were convinced that the subjects might not have reported gum issues due to perceiving them as less problematic.

The team believes that the results of their studies invite better understanding of the oral health and psychosocial influences of the examined population and that ensuring good oral condition of older Chinese Americans should be their chief goal.

According to Weiyu Mao, author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Nevada’s School of Social Work, interventions has to go beyond the usual risk factors, like the health conditions and behaviors and account for the psychosocial determinants such stress and social support.

“Inclusive efforts such as these could even go some way to reducing cognitive decline,” Mao said.

Tooth loss Tooth loss is another symptom of diabetes, especially in African Americans. Partha S. Sahana CC BY 2.0

Youth, Trauma, Trials, Time: What Drives Disparities in Hamilton County’s Juvenile Justice System?

Abdul2mosqueAbdul Kabir MuhammadNick SwartsellThe late afternoon sun is streaming into the windows of the Clifton Mosque’s lobby by the time Abdul Kabir Muhammad walks in, a coral shirt to match the sunset stretched across broad shoulders, a big smile pulling his black beard upward.

Muhammad’s shirt is flecked with grass from the mowing he’s been doing that day— and most days, all day, for the last couple years. 

The 35-year-old started his own landscaping business that now takes him across the city and into tony suburbs like Indian Hill as a way to support his three children after he spent more than nine years in a state prison in Madison County.

Muhammad is very open about his past, but isn’t here to talk about that time, necessarily. He’s here to talk about a time before that; before he went to prison and discovered Islam and a sense of stability, before the whirlwind of adult court appearances, a time when he was still a kid with a single mom trying to navigate the quickly-draining environs of Cincinnati’s near West Side. When the trouble started. 

“I can look back and see and admit that a lot of what I was doing was reactionary,” he says. “At the time, I didn’t want to see it that way — I was still in war mode. When you’re young and you experience and witness violence from the first, it makes you a certain way. My home wasn’t bad. My mom was on top of everything. But my environment outside of that — Westwood, Price Hill, those areas — you had things like someone throwing a rock and hitting you in the head and taking your bookbag. Those kinds of things affect you.”

Muhammad’s experience isn’t unique. Hamilton County’s lower-income neighborhoods and schools like the ones he grew up in — many of them predominantly black, thanks to decades of government policies and market forces that wrought intense economic segregation — feed a highly disproportionate number of African-American youth into the county’s juvenile justice system. 

That system has been in the background of local conversations about crime, justice and race lately. In the midst of a sweltering summer during which gun violence claimed the lives of multiple minors as young as 14, the saga of Democratic former Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter reached a furious coda when she was dragged out of a Hamilton County courtroom to serve a six-month sentence. Hunter ran on promises to reform the county’s juvenile system, and, her supporters say, paid a political price for trying to do so. Others, however, say Hunter fell behind on her job, didn’t work with other judges and broke the law. 

Whether or not Hunter was treated justly, the racial disparities she campaigned on fixing are real, viewable in black and white in the form of Hamilton County Juvenile Court data and Cincinnati Police arrest records. 

In a county where Census data says 30.3 percent of people under 18 are African-American, 81 percent of the more than 2,000 minors issued warrants through the Hamilton County Juvenile Court last year were black, according to data CityBeat obtained from the court — up from 75 percent in 2015. And 75 percent of the 930 young people admitted to the county’s youth detention center in 2018 were black — though that’s down from 80 percent in 2015.

Those disparities also exist on the front lines of the juvenile justice system: select streets and schools in Cincinnati and its poorer suburbs, most predominantly black, where police make the most juvenile arrests. In Cincinnati, which is about 43 percent black, 85 to 90 percent of juveniles arrested by Cincinnati Police have been black in recent years, arrest data from the city shows. 

Few dispute the clear overrepresentation of black youth in the county’s juvenile justice system. And those disparities certainly aren’t unique to Hamilton County. But that is just the start of a vast, complicated conversation. Why are so many more black youth arrested in Hamilton County, either in schools or in neighborhoods? What happens to them when they enter the juvenile system? What roles do racial bias, socioeconomic factors and the trauma that can come with growing up without resources play? 

Pushing against these questions are still more numbers: police are arresting far fewer youth than they used to — part of a national trend in falling crime rates — and Hamilton County Juvenile Court is locking up or sending away far fewer of them to state juvenile detention centers thanks in part to a series of diversion programs, court officials say. In the last five years, the number of youth detained in Hamilton County has dropped nearly 20 percent.

In 1995, Hamilton County Juvenile Court sent 440 young people, most of them African-American, to detention facilities run by Ohio’s Department of Youth Services. Last year, it sent just 60. It also transferred 130 young people to the adult justice system via a process known as “bind-over” in 1995; last year, it bound over 33 youth. Of those, however, 30 were black. 

Judge WilliamsHamilton County Juvenile Court Judge John WilliamsNick SwartsellHamilton County Juvenile Court Judge John Williams, a Republican and former juvenile prosecutor, ran against Hunter and was later appointed and then elected judge in 2012. He acknowledges the disparities in terms of the youth who come through his doors, but defends the court’s treatment of them. 

For him, it boils down to economics. 

“The reason we’re having so many more minority kids is that there is not as much opportunity in those areas (where they live),” Williams says. “If the family is being pulled apart, if mom’s working maybe two jobs or more, the young ones are left to be taking care of themselves. Now, these numbers are the vast minority of people. Criminal complaints are down by half from their peak (in the 1990s). And we’ve also taken a different path here in the court.”

Even with fewer arrests, detentions and bind-overs, however, the disparities persist. Some activists say that police shouldn’t be arresting kids in schools and neighborhoods at all and that children shouldn’t be subjected to courts. Others, including legal advocates, say that police and courts still need to do a better job offering community-based means by which to deal with young people. 

The Northern Kentucky-based Children’s Law Center advocates for young people caught up in Hamilton County’s juvenile justice system and other courts throughout the region. CLC reentry attorney Carrie Gilbert says the drivers of the large racial disparities in the county’s juvenile justice system are complex. 

“I don’t think it’s coming from any single source,” she says. “I don’t think we will ever be able to just point and say, ‘It’s the police,’ or, ‘It’s the county.’ I think it’s white supremacy that is ingrained in our systems and our institutions. I think it’s very difficult for institutions to have conversations about that.” 

The Front Lines

IntakeThe intake area of the Hamilton County Youth CenterNick SwartsellData shows most of the roughly 1,800 juvenile arrests in Cincinnati that happened in 2016 occurred in neighborhoods like the ones Muhammad grew up in. In 2016, Westwood saw almost 150 juvenile arrests — 85 percent of them black youth. The West End saw more than 160 juvenile arrests that year, all but a handful of them black youth. College Hill saw roughly 200 juvenile arrests — more than 90 percent of them black youth.

Meanwhile, predominantly white, higher-income neighborhoods had far fewer arrests of young people. Hyde Park saw fewer than 30. Mount Lookout had just a few.

But the pattern isn’t always clear-cut: Some lower-income, majority black neighborhoods like Millvale and South Cumminsville also had very few juvenile arrests, even when controlling for the size of the populations there.

The disparities go beyond arrests. 

In connection with a lawsuit last year over the tasing of an 11-year-old girl by an off-duty CPD officer at a Kroger, attorneys with Cincinnati law firm Gerhardstein & Branch analyzed taser use by CPD from 2013 to 2018. They found that all but six of the 110 minors tased by CPD were black, and that 48 of those youth were under the age of 15. 

Not all of that legal trouble for young people starts in schools, but there are hundreds of arrests at districts like Cincinnati Public Schools every year. And data obtained via a public records request by CityBeat shows big disparities in arrests between 2011 and 2015 in CPS. CityBeat has requested more recent data but has yet to receive it from Cincinnati Police. 

In 2015, 595 of the 670 arrests of minors on CPS property were of black youth — 89 percent. That’s well above the 63 percent of district students who are black. Data for the four previous years — representing more than 3,700 arrests when including 2015 data — show similar disparities. 

Not surprisingly, those arrests tend to happen in the district’s larger high schools, but not all of them. Western Hills High School in Westwood, which has a student body of just over 1,000, saw more than 1,000 arrests between 2011 and 2015, according to the data. Aiken High School in College Hill, which has about 650 students, saw 540 arrests over those five years. Withrow High School, which hosts roughly 1,200 students, saw roughly 500 in that time period. All are predominantly black.

Predominantly white Walnut Hills, meanwhile, CPS’ flagship magnet school with an enrollment of almost 3,000, saw roughly 20 arrests from 2011 to 2015, according to the data. 

Some of the arrests at CPS were for fighting, weapons possession or other serious safety concerns. Others, however, are harder to ascribe to safety. 

Between 2011 and 2015, three 8-year-olds, three 9-year-olds, 18 10-year-olds, 27 11-year-olds and 66 12-year-olds were arrested at CPS elementary schools. 

Some of those incidents were also intense; for example, a 2015 fight in which one 9-year-old was arrested for repeatedly kicking and punching another young student with a group of other students until the victim had a broken elbow and bruised spine. Others, however, were seemingly minor, sometimes stemming from events like throwing things in a school cafeteria or pranks.  

In one 2014 case, police reports reveal that a white school staff member called officers on an 8-year-old student for making a lewd phone call over a school telephone. That student ended up with a written citation from officers and a call home to his parents, though no further action seems to have been taken following the arrest. 

CPS did not respond to two emails seeking details about the district’s policies around law enforcement. Cincinnati Police Schools Resource Officers, however, were happy to talk about their work in CPS. 

SROs have been somewhat controversial in Cincinnati, with some activist groups saying they represent an inappropriate law enforcement presence in places that should be dedicated to learning. Before changing its name to Cincinnati Mass Action for Black Liberation, Cincinnati Black Lives Matter mounted a relatively popular and long-running “CPD Out of CPS” campaign protesting police presence in local public schools. 

But Cincinnati Police School Resource Officer Eddie Hawkins says SROs work hard to build rapport with students precisely so they can head off problems and avoid arrests — an assessment even some police accountability advocates like the Black United Front’s Iris Roley and attorney Al Gerhardstein of Gerhardstein & Branch generally agree with. 

Hawkins grew up in Avondale and readily admits he questioned some of the things he saw from police when he was younger. He also acknowledges there is some racial bias in policing and in the arrest disparities both in the juvenile and adult justice systems. 

But for Hawkins, the main drivers are a mix of readily available, sometimes-violent social media, the crumbling of low-income families and the tightly wound issues of race and poverty that sometimes come to a boiling point in some public schools and neighborhoods with lower-income youth. Add to the mix the fact that most students in those situations don’t have the resources to mount a legal defense or the networks to keep an incident out of the courts the way more affluent families might, and that some officers patrolling those areas don’t have much exposure to minority communities, and you’ve got a recipe for the kinds of disparities shown in the data, he says.  

“I don’t think anyone says racism doesn’t exist,” he says. “Are we really willing to have the tough conversations about it? I can show you the disparities when it comes to African-Americans and arrests. But let’s talk about the intangibles that are happening that get those kids in trouble. Are some kids in the suburbs doing acid, doing dope, stealing their parents’ credit cards? They’re up to a lot of the same things, but it’s a different environment.”

Trauma around violence in some communities also plays a big role, Hawkins says.

“When you have a third of fourth grader who is losing classmates to violence, stray bullets, or they’re losing their 14- or 15-year-old siblings to violent crimes — that’s very traumatic,” Hawkins says. “I hear young people say they’re not going to live to 18. That’s their reality. 

“We also have a lot of families that are experiencing homelessness. Some of these folks have jobs. The American dream sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. You’re out here, you’re working and, yeah, maybe you had kids younger than you should have, but you’re trying to make ends meet, and it gets stressful. And then maybe you’re living out of a car, and the kids see their parents are doing what they can, but they don’t have the best clothes at school and they get ragged on — all those things wear on the psyche of a young person. When you’re young, your brain isn’t developed enough to take on all of that. So, a lot of young people crack and lash out.”

Against that backdrop, the role SROs play isn’t well-understood, he says. They’re there to mediate conflicts and to connect students with things like CPD’s Summer Cadet Program and an annual student-organized Youth Summit as well as to mental health services that schools and outside providers offer.

“For us it’s an opportunity to engage young people a little more in-depth,” he says. “With your normal officer on the street, the interactions they’re having with young people are generally negative, because they’re responding to a crime. Yes, ultimately, our job is to police. If there is a criminal infraction, we’ll handle it like a criminal infraction. However, we have the ability to be flexible. We can take into consideration if a young person has a lot going on. What can we do before we get to the justice system, before we take this person to jail?”

CPD has 14 SROs responsible for 112 public, charter and private schools. Each SRO is based at one of CPS’ high schools. From those schools, each also covers middle and elementary schools in the general geographic area, as well as covering for neighboring SROs when they’re busy or off duty. 

It’s a lot different from other departments across the country, says CPD Youth Services Unit Supervisor Cassandra Tucker. 

“In most cities, it’s two SROs in a high school, one in the middle school, one in the elementary,” she says. “One SRO here could have a high school plus 12 to 14 other schools.”

A few CPS teachers, speaking off the record, have said they generally don’t worry about SROs, but expressed concerns about drug sweeps and locker searches by CPD at schools like Aiken. 

Hamilton County Public Defender Juvenile Division Director Alison Hatheway echoes those concerns and adds that she has seen video of at least two cases in which officers in schools used force against youth that she felt was “disturbing” and wasn’t warranted.

“They do go in and do random searches,” she says. “I know that happens. And it may happen more regularly at some schools than others.”

Despite those concerns, Hatheway acknowledges she’s seen fewer youth coming to the court from CPS in recent years, even before the Ohio General Assembly effectively decriminalized truancy in 2017. But there is still work to be done, she says.

 “I think Cincinnati Public Schools have been less quick to bring kids in,” she says. “It’s less of a problem now, but it’s still happening. I feel like if it happens once, that’s too many times, but I’m admittedly on the other side of the fence. School isn’t the place where you should go expecting to be arrested. Now, if blood is being shed or things like that, that’s different. But generally, the stuff we see, the little fights and theft… no.”

Both Hawkins and Tucker acknowledge implicit bias plays a role in disparities in the juvenile justice system and policing — especially in neighborhoods — but say the answer is acknowledging those biases and working past them.

“We’ve worked with individuals who had never worked around African-Americans until they got this job,” Tucker says. “It’s hard for me to believe, but it happens with a lot of people. Are there biases? Yes. Is there racism? Yes. But it’s about what you do about it.”

First Signs of Trouble

COVER0918Central Fairmount1Central Fairmount School, where Muhammad went to elementary, closed in 2008.Nick Swartsell

The links between school, neighborhood and the justice system aren’t new. 

Back when he was growing up around Westwood, Price Hill and South Fairmount in the 1990s, Muhammad went by the name on his birth certificate — Romyl Williams. 

His neighborhood was tough. South Fairmount, where Central Fairmount School was located, had an unemployment rate of 16 percent in 1990, when Muhammad would have been preparing to start school there, and more than a quarter of people in the neighborhood lived below the poverty line. 

His mother was single, and by the age of 9, he had experienced things that would put him in what he calls “a constant state of fight-or-flight” — including a brawl starting from a friendly game of football that at one point seemed to bring out most of the people living in his apartment complex. 

That year, he says he was kicked out of Central Fairmount after a fight with a white student who was pulling on Muhammad’s sister’s hair and pushing her. Muhammad stepped in, he says, leading the other student to call him the n-word. The resulting altercation left the other child with a concussion. Muhammad soon found himself in the principal’s office with his mother, who argued to keep Muhammad in school as the other child’s mother was calling for him to be expelled. The principal decided Muhammad should go.

“In that moment, I felt like something was wrong with the world,” he says. “Because my mom was my world. She wasn’t on drugs. I never saw her drink. I never saw her lift a cigarette to her face. She was just a single black woman who had children young and could only afford a place in the ghetto. I saw this person who was the world for me, who was my source of power, be overpowered. And I gave up on the world a little after that, I think. I began to see that I had to find power for myself.”

Looking to keep him in school, Muhammad’s mother shifted him to his grandmother’s house, just across the city line in Colerain. School there was easier in some ways, and harder in others. 

While he enjoyed the calmer atmosphere, Muhammad says it was hard to adjust to a predominantly white school after having attended one that was mostly black. Behavior problems began surfacing as he struggled to fit in, and within a year, he was placed in a special education class. 

“They didn’t have a system in place to deal with that at the time,” he says. “They had not dealt with children who came from the inner city who had problems with violence because we came from a violent environment. So they isolated you. It turned into, ‘How did this kid get in here?’ I felt like. It was confusion on top of confusion. And just to protect my sanity, I had to make myself not care about things. And that’s when your behavior becomes risky.” 

The family continued to move around, landing in Mount Healthy when Muhammad was in his teens. He wasn’t the only one coming from a rough environment to the suburban community at the time. 

“All of my friends who came out there came from the inner city,” he says. “Some from Winton Terrace, some from downtown, some from Bond Hill. Their moms flocked out to Mount Healthy. Certain neighborhoods have their gangs and their rivalries. And in those neighborhoods, it was contained. But in Mount Healthy, all those kids who came from all those rival neighborhoods, rival streets, now we’re all in one neighborhood.”

At 14, a group mistook Muhammad for a member of a rival gang, he says, because they knew where he had moved from. They started to jump him, but a group from another gang stepped in and fought for him.  

“That hit my heart,” he says. “So, I started to run with them for awhile. That’s when everything avalanched.”

Muhammad had a few run-ins with the law as a fledgling gang member that didn’t amount to much, but at 16 he was arrested during a large fight between rival groups at Mount Healthy High School. He was charged with assault and spent several days in 2020 — the Hamilton County Youth Center, nicknamed “2020” for its address at 2020 Auburn Ave. in Mount Auburn — before he was released. 

The experience marked another turning point for him, he says.

“It was weird,” he says. “Very weird, because it was my first time in the system. After that, it was nonstop.”

In 2020

IMG4677A cell in the Hamilton County Youth CenterNick Swartsell

In the years since Muhammad first spent time in the Youth Center, the juvenile justice system has changed somewhat. 

These days, young people picked up by police or brought by guardians enter the large, angular Hamilton County Youth Center in Mount Auburn from a lower level and take Elevator 4 to the first floor, where they are booked into the facility’s secure northern side. 

On the southern side, there are two courtrooms and a battery of psychological assessment units where court clinicians and others work to keep some family behavioral issues from hitting court dockets and assess young people already there for competency to stand trial and mental health issues. 

In many ways, the secure side of the facility is much like you would expect a detention facility to be. Guards in a central security kiosk monitor video feeds from across the huge facility and buzz staff and visitors through double sets of locked doors. The construction is cinder block, the interior spartan and white. 

Brian Bell is the director of detention here. He wears a crisp suit, sports neatly cropped hair and has just a hint of a twang when he speaks. 

On a recent tour of the facility, Bell runs through the procedure when a young person is brought in. 

First, a county clerk — one of several working at cinder block cubicles here on the first floor — will review police reports and determine whether the county has probable cause to hold the young person. The youth is also asked whether they are injured, ill, under the influence or pregnant — all conditions that could result in being taken to the hospital instead of held in the Youth Center. 

Youth are also assessed for risk of suicide — the last at the Youth Center was in 1985 — and if they are found to be at high risk, they are monitored by detention facility staff every four or five minutes via a system where guards must push a button just outside the window into a youth’s cell. If the button isn’t pushed within that time frame, the central security kiosk is alerted. Lower-risk youth are monitored in person every 14 to 15 minutes. 

The probable cause determination that happens early in the intake process is important. In 2014, the Children’s Law Center sued Hamilton County over allegations it was holding young people in violation of their constitutional rights to due process. The suit cited two particular cases in which juveniles were held for more than 20 days in the Youth Center without probable cause determinations, but the CLC also sought to make the legal challenge a class-action suit, citing the 2,340 youth detained at the center the prior year. 

The suit also cited statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention that suggested that black children in Hamilton County were almost 10 times more likely to be arrested in 2013 than white children and more than two times as likely to be placed in detention. 

As a result of the lawsuit, the county juvenile court agreed to make significant changes in its intake processes, including new processes for warrants issued for youth, more training for clerks at the Youth Center, the creation of an on-duty magistrate position available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to weigh in on probable cause and other changes.

The county also has a new risk-assessment tool called RAI developed last year in collaboration with youth advocates, nonprofits, the prosecutor’s office and others to better determine when a child can be safely diverted from detention. That computerized assessment tool considers age, offense history, seriousness of the current alleged offense, whether parents or guardians are available, whether there are diversion options open and a number of other details. 

“We try to divert and cite as often as possible,” Bell says. “Twenty years ago, you’d have a high percentage (of kids staying here). We had 200 kids as our everyday population. Now, based on movements to not detain low-level offenders, we have 82 people here today.”

County officials can choose to override the RAI — either in favor of diversion, or the other way around — holding youth they believe pose too steep a risk to release.

If there is probable cause to hold someone, the youth will be cited and given a plea hearing date. They are then admitted, given jumpsuits and slippers issued by the Youth Center, searched fully and given the opportunity to shower. 

There are also myriad health care options available at the Youth Center, including two nurses from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital available 24 hours a day, a part-time dental clinic and mental health care. All youth held in the Youth Center also attend classes instructed by CPS teachers from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day. 

2020jailgardenA garden at the Hamilton County Youth CenterNick Swartsell

Bell stresses that the Youth Center is focused on programming that can help provide therapeutic activities — 22 different offerings that range from art to yoga to gardening in an area outside the center’s gym — plus a variety of other programs offered by faith-based groups.

“I learned how to play chess in here,” Youth Center Housing Director Will Allen says of one of those programs as he stands outside an austere, green-and-white painted “pod” where the kids live. “One of the kids taught me. It used to be every time I came in for my shift — his name was Ron, I still remember him — we’d sit down and play.”

The average stay in the Youth Center — before young people go to a state-run facility, a placement or 30 days probation on an electronic monitoring unit — is roughly 27 days, a number that has gotten higher since 2015, when it was just 18 days. But the numbers are slightly deceptive, court administrators say. 

When young adults over 18 held in a separate part of the Youth Center thanks to the passage of a 2012 law are taken out of the equation, the average stay drops to 18 days. That’s still up from almost 12 days in 2015, however. 

Most are awaiting hearings before one of the court system’s 22 magistrates or one of its two judges for serious, felony-level offenses. 

Multiple Roads from the Court

Those hearings mostly happen downtown at the former headquarters of the defunct Cincinnati Times-Star newspaper. The towering, Gotham City-style Art Deco tower was built in 1933, when journalism still made money, and looms over Broadway Street.

Judge Williams hears cases in the Times-Star’s wood-paneled former boardroom on the 14th floor, and his chambers are next door in the former president’s office. That’s poetic, Williams says — his great-grandfather once worked as a landscaper for Hulbert Taft, who ran the Times-Star and sat in the same office.

One of Williams’ cases on a recent August morning involves Kevin*, a 16-year-old being tried on charges related to attempted grand theft. He had been in what is called a “placement” — a residential alternative to a detention facility — called Hillcrest just north of Cincinnati in Wyoming. But he’s walked out twice, and now prosecutors want to send him to a state juvenile detention center. Kevin’s attorney wants him to get one more chance at Hillcrest, saying despite his attempts to leave he has made progress there. 

Williams splits the difference, sending Kevin to a different placement outside Columbus called Abraxas. That facility has somewhat more intensive drug addiction and mental health programs, though public defenders note its distance from Cincinnati — more than three hours — often makes family therapy sessions and visits difficult for some. 

Kevin has seen a lot, Williams notes. He knows that from disposition reports he receives — confidential histories of each youth printed on green paper. Kevin’s mother has struggled mightily with addiction and his father is absent. Kevin himself has faced challenges with mental illness.

“I know you’ve faced terrible things in your life,” Williams tells him. “But you don’t have the right to take other people’s things.” 

Williams says many of the youth he sees come through his court are struggling like Kevin with various forms of trauma. It’s his job, he says, to balance that with the risks of keeping a young person from being detained.

“We’re all learning more about the impacts of trauma,” he says. “But it’s how you treat it and move forward with it. It’s amazing how many of these kids have not only friends but immediate family who have been shot, for example.”

COVER0918Juvenile Court Bldg2The Hamilton County Juvenile Court building at 800 Broadway StreetNick Swartsell

Guns, Fear and  the Law

Muhammad knows all about that. Just a couple years after his first brush with the juvenile system, as he was on the cusp of legal adulthood, two things happened: first, three brothers from Evanston Muhammad knew well were gunned down in their home for money they had made selling drugs; only one narrowly survived by playing dead. 

“He was my friend,” Muhammad says of the survivor. “That turned me into a soldier. I was like, ‘I’m not getting done like that.’ So that deep insecurity, you know, the defensiveness, set in, and I went out and got a gun.”

Not long after, Muhammad found himself in a gun battle of his own when a younger cousin got caught up in a fight at a run-down motel near Springdale. It was another in a growing line of brushes with the law. A young woman was shot, but the bullets that injured her weren’t from Muhammad’s .38 caliber handgun, so he got off with felony probation. 

But the die was cast. Over time, Muhammad moved from selling a little weed into harder drugs. In 2005, he was caught selling heroin in a drug bust that aired on the TV show COPS. A stint in jail for that offense introduced him to the men with whom he would eventually catch the burglary case that netted him almost a decade in prison.

“I was 22 years old facing a nine-year sentence,” he says. “I had to figure out how I got there. And I really think it was that environment during those developmental years of my life. That survival, defensive mentality came early. You’re not looking toward when you get to high school, you’re trying to get through this day.”

These days, court administrators say, there are a number of diversion programs that might help young people stay off that particular path. 

According to court data, roughly 60 percent of the youth who come to the Youth Center end up in some kind of diversion program — though attorneys who represent those youth say the programs aren’t always successful and question whether they do enough to keep kids out of detention facilities. 

“What we’ve been finding is that the court has these kind of catch-all programs that they utilize,” says juvenile public defender Hatheway. “But that program may not meet that kid’s needs. We’ve been working to find more community resources. Sometimes we might advocate that placement isn’t warranted — you shouldn’t be pulling kids out of their homes.” 

The public defender’s office this year received a U.S. Department of Justice grant to develop more individualized ways to advocate for and legally represent youth caught up in the juvenile justice system, Hatheway says. 

The court does have a series of community diversion dockets based in Avondale, Price Hill and other communities that have seen large numbers of juvenile arrests. Those community courts served about 300 people last year, according to court data. The aim, court administrators say, is to keep kids out of actual court and to keep their records clean while solving community problems. 

There is also an option available to a handful of qualified youth each year: highly individualized, therapy-intensive dockets for those suffering specific mental health challenges. 

The Mental Health Docket

Juvenile Court IDD HearingMagistrate David Kelley talks with parole officer James Mack and a Lighthouse clinician before a pretrial diversion docket hearing.Nick Swartsell

In a mint-green room in the lower level of Lighthouse Youth & Family Service’s enormous, Swiss chalet-like building in Walnut Hills, a team of the nonprofit’s therapists, case managers and education specialists as well as court employees sit around a table hashing out cases on the county’s Individualized Disposition Docket, which was created in 2004. Another docket for lower-level offenders, the Pretrial Diversion Docket, was created in 2007. Between the two, they served 57 youth last year, roughly 60 percent of whom successfully completed the program.

Information for each case — and recommendations for the docket’s magistrate, David Kelley — are projected large on the wall.

One case involves a 17-year-old named Darren* facing a felony assault charge. He’s also struggling with substance abuse issues, but his case worker and Hamilton County probation officer James Mack explain that he’s recently had several of his friends die and has been using marijuana to cope. Mack says the young man shows charisma in his group therapy sessions and believes he could tap into those skills in a positive way. But he’s insecure about his intelligence and acts out sometimes during therapy. 

Youth legal advocates say such dockets are helpful, but question why they serve such a small number of youth and also point out they place a large onus on the families of the youth involved. 

“Many of our kids have troubles that circle back to trauma and mental health issues,” says Kelsey Vice, a social worker with the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Juvenile Division. “I think a lot of our kids could benefit from programs like (IDD). But at the same time, those programs also require a lot of parental involvement and a lot of court involvement. I had a case recently where the kid was a perfect fit for the program, but the guardian wanted no part of it. She didn’t want it normalized for him to be in front of a court on a bi-weekly or weekly basis. Parents have the right to say no to these programs. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want help of some kind.” 

The day after the meeting at Lighthouse, back at the Youth Center’s non-secure side, Magistrate Kelley hears the half-dozen or so cases on his docket, including Darren’s. 

Lighthouse Intake Coordinator Amy Duwell tells Magistrate Kelley that Darren is doing well in his group therapy sessions when he applies himself. 

“In group, he has such positive leadership skills when he uses them for that,” she says. “Good, bad or otherwise, the other guys really look up to him. He has a lot of potential.” 

Kelley praises Darren for not picking up new charges and for his positive progress, including earning some school credits in math. He gives a three-week continuance for Darren’s case pending a drug test.

Not everyone caught up in the juvenile courts gets such individualized treatment, some attorneys point out. While more than 80 percent of youths receiving warrants in Hamilton County are black, only 56 percent of the youths in county diversion programs are. 

Not all probation programs end up working for young people, CLC Executive Director Acena Beck says.

“The magistrates who are ruling on these probation violations don’t always know these kids. They only see these kids when they’re in trouble. They’re getting these reports, but they’re not getting a holistic view. I understand that there is this balance between community safety and not locking kids up, but I think Hamilton County probation in an attempt to be more holistic, they’re interacting with the kids a lot, seeing every single little slip up. It’s a double-edged sword.”

Beck says Hamilton County could do more to address racial disparities by adopting policies developed 20 years ago by the Annie E. Casey Foundation called Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. Some 300 counties across the country use JDAI, including Cuyahoga, Franklin, Montgomery, Lucas, Summit and other counties in Ohio.

The approach pushes even further toward reducing the number of youths detained by the juvenile system by engaging law enforcement agencies and increasing options for community-based programs, expanded shelter care and home detention. Those efforts have reduced daily populations in participating counties’ detention centers by an average of 40 percent, and decreased detention of minority youth by an average of 44 percent.

“I think our biggest focus is on the racial and ethnic disparities,” Beck says. “It’s at every point of contact that these disparities exist. That’s why we need to be a JDAI county. It won’t solve all the problems, but we’ll at least start reflecting on this data.”

In the meantime, outside Magistrate Kelley’s courtroom, Darren and his mother say they feel somewhat optimistic.

“I feel like it helps a lot,” he says of the mental health docket. “I would have been locked up a while ago without it. But I have a habit — well, not a habit. But it’s hard for me to stop. Marijuana use helps me, but at the same time, they’re trying to get me to stop. I have too much on my mind and don’t know how to cope with it all.”

Darren says he loves to cook and would eventually like to be a chef. He’s eying a program at Cincinnati State that teaches culinary arts. 

His mother generally agrees the docket has been good for Darren’s depression and ADHD.

“He does have aggression problems, and he used to cope in bad ways,” she says. “The program definitely helps. It gives him something to do that’s positive. I’m glad he got the positive side of it, and not the other side of the system.”

*CityBeat has changed the names of minors currently under adjudication