Audra McDonald, from Broadway to Strathmore to London

Broadway singer Audra McDonald, coming to Strathmore May 26, 2017. (Autumn de Wilde)

When Audra McDonald brings her trio to Strathmore for an evening of American musical standards Friday night, it will be only one facet of the Broadway star’s fully activated schedule.

Last year she headlined “Shuffle Along,” George C. Wolfe’s ambitious adaptation of a forgotten 1921 show that pioneered black artists on Broadway, until she stepped away, unexpectedly pregnant with her second daughter at 45. She played Madame de Garderobe in Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” and has another project in the can, a movie of Michael John LaChiusa’s 1994 off-Broadway “Hello Again.” This treatment of the 1897 sexual circle “La Ronde” debuts June 4 during the Toronto LGBT Film Festival; McDonald’s romantic partners are played by Cheyenne Jackson and Martha Plimpton.

Next month McDonald will be in London’s West End reprising her performance as the late-career Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” – another haunted, addicted figure after McDonald starred in the controversially revised “Porgy and Bess.” She won Tony Awards for both roles, making her the most decorated Broadway performer ever.

Recently she found a few minutes to chat by phone from another dot on the concert route (Los Angeles) about all this performing, and about her well-known activism: find her on Twitter: @AudraEqualityMc.

Who has been harder for you to live with: Bess, or Billie?

Actually, James Baldwin wrote that Billie Holiday should have played Bess in the film. I try to leave them at the theater as much as I can. They’re both heavy. Billie is harder; it’s just me and the band, so in some ways it’s heavier lifting. “Porgy and Bess” has a huge cast, lots of characters.

The movie “Hello Again”: how musical is it, how racy is it?

It’s very musical, and I haven’t seen everything, but it’s one of raciest things I’ve ever done. I had a great time doing it. It seemed like all my scenes were shot very late at night, so there was a like dream-like quality to my time on the set. It was shot all over New York City.

“Shuffle Along” is still on your website. Will we ever see another full-blown production of that?

I’m sorry it didn’t run longer. It was an incredible piece of theater, and I was proud to be part of it. George Wolfe is forever not only the artist and the leader and the mentor, but the educator, too, making all of us aware of this incredible group of people that history had forgotten. I would hope it would have a life down the road.

What’s your favorite music to sing now?

Right now, I have about six more concerts singing this repertoire I’ve been doing a couple years. Then I’m going to move on, and in another year or so I’m starting a new concert.

What’s motherhood like at 46? Does Sally travel?

Yes. She’s six months old. She’s sleeping in the hotel room now. I just stepped out onto balcony to talk to you.

Was there a specific turning point for you about being public in your stances? You’ve long advocated for Marriage Equality, and you’re active with Covenant House [a shelter for homeless youth in New York City].

Basically when I joined Twitter, because of that terrible Proposition 8 in California [banning same-sex marriage]. The fact that so many of my friends and family were affected, I was devastated. I felt I had to speak up.

Can you translate that into performance?

I certainly find a way to talk about what I believe in during my concerts. I understand I have fans who might disagree, but . . . they’re coming to see me. I’m not there to lecture, but I make it known. Sometimes I have to find more universal ways to talk about what I believe in. Because most people believe in human dignity and love, maybe in some of my concerts I can change some people’s minds, or open their minds little.

That is always in back of my mind, what legacy I’ll leave my children and grandchildren. Will they see that great-grandmom was loud about what people needed to be loud about? There are different ways of doing that – whether in concerts, or the work I do on the national board for Covenant House, or marching or donating, whatever, whenever. Trying to be a good citizen of the human race.

Audra McDonald. Friday at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda. Tickets $45-$105. Call 301-581-5100 or visit

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President Trump’s Proposed Budget Would Sharply Cut HIV and Chronic Disease Prevention, Eliminate Important HIV Care Programs

This week, President Trump released a proposed budget that, if enacted, would sharply reduce spending for healthcare and disease prevention. The proposed budget would cut Medicaid by $800 billion over 10 years. It would also cut the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) by 20 percent over the next two years. One in three American children — 46 million in total — receive healthcare either through Medicaid or CHIP. People living with HIV, Black and Latino people, and the children living in these families would be among those most affected by Trump’s $4 trillion budget, which sets government spending priorities for the fiscal year that begins in October.

“The Trump-Pence Administration’s proposed budget would dismantle the public health infrastructure first put in place by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Program in 1965,” said Sean Cahill, PhD, Director of Health Policy Research at the Fenway Institute. “Black and Latino people, people living with HIV, and children living in poverty experience poorer health and health outcomes than the general population. They rely disproportionately on Medicaid and CHIP. These cuts will be devastating to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Some of the more worrisome Trump-Pence Administration budget proposals include the following:

  • A 16.6% cut in funding for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted disease, and tuberculosis at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the approximately 40,000 Americans newly diagnosed with HIV each year, nearly half are African American, and about two-thirds are gay and bisexual men or transgender women. Nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases are diagnosed each year in the U.S., half of them among 15- to 24-year-olds. Diagnoses of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are increasing and cost an estimated $16 billion a year to treat. Funding for the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention is critical to address these health concerns. Because we don’t have a cure or vaccine for HIV and STDs, cutting funding for evidence-based detection and prevention programs guarantees that these epidemics will continue to grow, costing more resources later.
  • Reduced funding of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (a cut of $59 million). The program is critical to the people living in the U.S. with HIV, a population that increases annually as approximately 40,000 people are newly diagnosed with HIV each year and people live longer thanks to better antiretroviral medications. Additionally, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program would become even more critical if people living with HIV lose subsidized marketplace insurance or Medicaid if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced by the American Health Care Act. The Ryan White Program has been essentially flat funded since the early 2000s, even though the number of people accessing Ryan White services has nearly doubled, and the value of the funding has decreased due to inflation.
  • Total elimination of AIDS Education and Training Centers and Special Projects of National Significance, which are run under the auspices of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. The education and training centers and the special projects program are laboratories of innovation in finding ways to keep people with HIV engaged in the healthcare system, particularly those who have long experienced discrimination in healthcare settings — such as transgender people — and those who face unique challenges and issues, such as formerly incarcerated people and older adults living with HIV. When people with HIV are able to sustain their healthcare treatment regimens, their viral load lowers, which makes it much more difficult to transmit the virus to other people. The education centers and special projects program also assist with rapid response to outbreaks of disease. When nearly 200 people were diagnosed with HIV in rural Scott County, Indiana over a 15-month period in 2014-15, the Midwest AIDS Education and Training Centers provided in-depth training to doctors and care providers in the area and helped get those newly diagnosed with HIV into immediate care.
  • A reduction in funding for the National Institutes of Health of $5.7 billion, or 17.4 percent overall, for FY18. The Trump budget would cut funding for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where most HIV/AIDS research is conducted, by $838 million, an 18.1 percent cut.
  • A reduction of $1.1 billion in funding for treatment of people living with HIV in Africa and other parts of the world. amfAR estimates that this cut of nearly 20 percent in global HIV funding would cost more than 1 million lives and cause 300,000 children to become orphans.
  • A 13.1 percent cut in funding for the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, and a 36.7 percent cut in funding for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Under the Obama Administration, Office of Civil Rights was instrumental in promoting nondiscriminatory care for transgender patients. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has led important efforts to shift the U.S. health system from paper medical records to electronic health records, and has promoted the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data from patients to better understand and address LGBT health disparities.
  • President Trump’s proposed budget cuts funding for a number of other important centers for research at the CDC. For example, the proposed budget would cut funding for the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion by 18.9 percent. Chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are major drivers of rising healthcare costs in the U.S. Funding for the Center for Global Health would be cut by 17.8 percent. The proposed budget would also cut the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was created by the Affordable Care Act and currently funds many important public health projects and initiatives at the CDC, by 37.3 percent.

“This budget proposes a radical rejection of the social compact that has sustained our country for half a century,” Cahill added. “It would also undermine important progress we have made in preventing and treating HIV here and in Africa. It casts our most vulnerable people aside and leaves them to fend for themselves without the resources they need to succeed.” V

Via Press Release

ACA Repeal Could Reverse HIV/AIDS Treatment, Prevention Progress

Prescription pills

Photo: e-Magine Art (Flickr)

HIV infections in the United States declined 18 percent among gay and bisexual men between 2008 and 2014.

The Affordable Care Act did a lot to expand HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention for people at highest risk for the disease. Many gay men and other men who have sex with men gained health insurance and new infections went down. The estimated number of annual HIV infections in the United States declined 18 percent among gay and bisexual men between 2008 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But if the Republican Obamacare replacement bill becomes law, much of this progress could be reversed, according to epidemiologist Greg Millett. Millet helped craft Obama’s first National HIV/AIDS Strategy and is currently Vice President and Director of Public Policy at the Foundation for Aids Research.

At a recent HIV conference in Indianapolis, Millet shared his concerns about the future of HIV prevention and treatment.

Reporter Emily Forman of Side Effects Public Media spoke to him to find out what’s at stake.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

EF: What has the Affordable Care Act done for men who have sex with men living with HIV?

GM: We know that under the Affordable Care Act that there are definitely more people living with HIV who have been able to receive health insurance funding. That’s something that we definitely saw with CDC data, that in particular under the ACA Medicaid expansion, those states that expanded Medicaid, we saw better outcomes for people living with HIV as compared to those states that did not expand Medicaid. That’s really incredible news and something that we hope policy makers take a good look at.

We also know that essential health benefits under the Affordable Care Act have really been a lifeline for people living with HIV – paying for mental health services, paying for drugs and a variety of other services that people previously did not have coverage for. In particular, with men who have sex with men–  it doesn’t matter what demographic: income level, HIV status, race, or age– [we find] that between 2008 and 2014 there was a dramatic increase in access to health care and health insurance coverage.

EF: If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, what’s at stake for this population?

GM: What we’re facing right now is the possibility of that being jeopardized by the [American Health Care Act]  which would strip essential health benefits, allow discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, and also doesn’t necessarily do much to continue to encourage states to expand Medicaid to cover people living with HIV. So under the current proposal that we have in Congress, it could actually do damage to the really wonderful efforts that we’ve been making in reducing new infections in the United States because it’s going to cover fewer people living with HIV and it’s certainly not going to cover preventative services for people who are at risk for HIV. So, in many ways it would move us backwards.

EF: One of those preventative services is a medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. Anyone at high risk for HIV can take PrEP to lower their chances of infection. What stands in the way of people gaining access to PrEP?

GM: There are several barriers that stand in the way. First is just knowledge of PrEP. Even though PrEP has been available for several years now, there are many individuals that don’t know that there’s actually a pill that you can take to keep you from becoming infected with HIV. There’s also the barrier of cost. People believing that they might not be able to afford PrEP it might not be covered by their insurance. Another issue for PrEP is the fact that PrEP is not necessarily being dispensed at the same rate nationally. So for instance, you find in San Francisco that there’s been an exponential increase in the number of people who are using PrEP. You find the same thing in Washington, DC. But in smaller areas in rural areas you still see very few percentages of men who have sex with men (MSM) who are using PrEP. In some southern cities such as Atlanta where there is a huge HIV/AIDS epidemic among African Americans as well as gay men you’re still seeing that PrEP use is still fairly low.

EF: While there are fewer new HIV infections among men who have sex with men as a whole, African American men continue to have the highest rate of HIV infection. How much does this have to do with access to care?

GM: If you don’t have access to health insurance then you’re less likely to be virally suppressed.We’ve seen in multiple studies now that black gay men are less likely to have health insurance than white gay men and then of course [this] also means that black gay men who are HIV negative won’t have access to pre-exposure prophylaxis the way that white gay men who are HIV negative do.

Even though there’s an explosion of men who have sex with men who are availing themselves of pre-exposure prophylaxis, when you take a look at the demographics of that you find that there’s vanishingly few numbers of African Americans who are a part of that population that’s taking PrEP. And of course that has implications for our epidemic because black gay men are less than 1 percent of the population but constitute nearly 25 percent of new infections that take place each year so if you’re not focusing on the group where most of the infections are taking place in the United States then we’re really not doing much to end the epidemic.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news initiative covering public health.

Confronting racism in LGBT community

racism, gay news, Washington Blade

‘I think what you’re seeing … is that folks are no longer waiting for these establishment or mainstream organizations to get it,” said Angela Peoples, executive director of Get Equal. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Strong concerns raised earlier this month by a local LGBT group that D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes the city’s annual LGBT Pride parade and festival, has not adequately addressed issues of concern to people of color came as a surprise to some in the LGBT community.

During a May 8 meeting of the Capital Pride Alliance’s board of directors, members of a newly formed coalition called No Justice No Pride said the board included only a few token members who were people of color and the board as a whole, according to No Justice No Pride members, remains insensitive to the needs and issues of people of color, especially transgender people of color.

Capital Pride officials, who dispute that assessment, said they nevertheless welcome the views of everyone in the LGBT community and promised to redouble their efforts to be more inclusive and to better represent people of color and the full diversity of the community.

In interviews this week, the Washington Blade asked four prominent black LGBT leaders who head local and national LGBT organizations to talk about how they see the current state of race relations within the LGBT community and within LGBT organizations.

The Blade also interviewed a prominent African-American official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the activist is not authorized to speak to the media.

Do the concerns by people of color that surfaced at the Capital Pride Alliance meeting earlier this month go beyond Capital Pride and touch on other local and national LGBT organizations?

Guillaume Bagal, the recently elected president of D.C.’s Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, who’s black, said the answer is yes.

“While race-related issues are at the forefront of the Capital Pride dispute, it is simply a manifestation of what has been brewing for decades in local and national LGBTQ organizations,” Bagal said.

“Take the District for instance,” he told the Blade in a statement. “Despite our richness in both social and advocacy LGBTQ groups, there remains an air of segregation many have either grown accustomed to or continue to justify rather than addressing head on. The call to address Black and Brown issues within the LGBTQ community will only get louder, and I hope LGBTQ organizations at the local and national level begin to reflect the needs of people living at the intersection of multiple societally marginalized identities.”

He said local and national LGBT organizations “need to come to terms with the reality that unless race is specified, it’s white.”

“By this I mean that unless you are intentional in addressing the needs of people of color or other minority groups, you are likely catering to the same white, cisgender, middle and upper-class gay men,” he said. “Furthermore, using words like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ is problematic when your leadership does not reflect the community you claim to serve, and your organizational decisions are perceived as shallow and tone-deaf by communities of color.”

Earl Fowlkes is executive director of the Center for Black Equity, a national D.C.-based group that advocates for African-American LGBT people and helps organize Black Pride events in the U.S. and abroad. He is also president of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and chair of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus.

‘I think there are always issues of inclusion that have to be dealt with. And we have to struggle with those,’ said longtime advocate Earl Fowlkes.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“The reality is in our community, the LGBTQ community, we still struggle with issues of race and class and age and gender identity, and they all intertwine,” he told the Blade. “It’s very complicated.”

He noted that while Capital Pride continues to encounter problems related to people of color he feels things have improved in recent years.

“I’ve noticed an increase in black participants in the parade of affinity groups and organizations,” he said in discussing the Capital Pride events. “And also people who were watching the parade – there are more people of color watching the parade,” Fowlkes said.

“But we have to look at this more holistically and understand that it’s not just the three days where we have to be better about race for Pride,” Fowlkes continued. “It should be the whole year. We don’t socialize together. There are very few places where black and white socialize together, which is the basis of relationships and friendships, the basis of understanding,” he said.

“And until we start doing that and creating those spaces to do that we’re going to have misunderstandings and a lack of sensitivity toward issues of race,” Fowlkes said.

He added, “It’s difficult because if you focus on three days of the year as opposed to looking at the entire year there are tensions as we have gentrification, where people of color, particularly blacks who lived in D.C. for many years are forced to move out because of the increase in housing costs. And a lot of those people are LGBT too.”

Angela Peoples, executive director of the national LGBT direct action group Get Equal and a member of the No Justice No Pride coalition, said she is surprised that members of the LGBT community would be asking at this time whether there are shortcomings among LGBT organizations and LGBT events pertaining to racial justice and people of color.

“I’m sorry – I’m a little taken aback by the question because this is part of the premise of the entire No Justice No Pride campaign,” she said. “It’s part of the reason that there is a Black Pride, Latino Pride, etc. in the first place,” Peoples said.

“It’s because the LGBT community historically and today has been racist and at best has encouraged people of color, particularly black folks, to fall in line.”

Most importantly, Peoples said, none of this is a new development in the LGBT community.

“So yes, there are issues. There have been issues for decades. This is not new. This is not the first time,” she said.

“And I think what you’re seeing, especially all across the country, is that folks are no longer waiting for these establishment or mainstream organizations or for the mainstream movement to get it,” she continued.

Among other things, Peoples said more LGBT organizations and advocates need to undertake a “serious conversation” about who the leadership should be, who we put our resources in,” and who should be involved in these conversations.

“And it seems to me that the mainstream movement time and time again is not willing to do that,” she said. “We’ve called on HRC to divest from Wells Fargo because of their treatment of black and brown communities. We’ve called on the Task Force and Creating Change to divest from Wells Fargo because of their relationship with the Dakota Access Pipeline and to private prisons.”

“And these groups don’t want to respond. They don’t want to hear truth,” Peoples said.

She was referring to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, and the National LGBTQ Task Force’s selection of Wells Fargo Bank as a corporate sponsor. Creating Change is a national LGBT conference organized by the Task Force.

“Wells Fargo has not been a direct sponsor of Creating Change in years and as of July 1, 2017 they will no longer be a national corporate sponsor of the National LGBTQ Task Force,” said Russell Roybal, the group’s deputy executive director.

“They remain the presenting sponsor of the Task Force Gala-Miami as they have for the last several years,” Roybal added.

A spokesperson for HRC couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. HRC has said Wells Fargo Bank has consistently received the HRC Foundation’s highest rating for a corporation on internal personnel policies for LGBT employees.

Isaiah Williams, external affairs director for the National Black Justice Coalition, another D.C.-based group that advocates for the black LGBT community, said mainstream LGBT rights organizations have historically not focused on many of the issues deemed important for LGBT people of color.

“In thinking about the last decade, marriage equality was the fight,” said Williams. “We were very much in support of that fight, but that was a very privileged fight,” he said. “It doesn’t take into consideration the most marginalized within the LGBTQ community and our issues. And when we look at those issues we’re just trying to survive. We’re just trying to get employment where we can be our authentic selves and that we’re protected and that we can’t be fired just because of who we are as LGBT people who happen to be LGBT people of color,” Williams said.

“There has always been this issue around what are the issues we’re fighting for. And do those issues come from a place of privilege? It’s incumbent upon the movement to always center on the most marginalized, the most left behind,” he said.

In pointing to the issues that matter most to many LGBT people of color, Wilson added, “If you don’t have employment protections, if you don’t have housing protections, if you don’t have access to health care that is accessible and of quality then who cares about a marriage certificate when your quality of life is still marginalized, it’s still oppressed?”

When asked if what appears to be a large number of people of color in D.C., both LGBT and straight, who have jobs in professions such as law, medicine, business, and elective office is a sign of possible change, Williams expressed caution.

“You’re speaking of individuals,” he said. “I’m talking about systemic issues. Racism is not – please quote me on this. Racism is not about only individuals. Racism is about institutions of a system that supports racist outcomes,” he continued.

“So yes, we might have a judge. We just had the first black president. But the state of black America some would argue is still horrible. We still have record unemployment rates. We still have the Affordable Care Act that gives us access to health care, but that is being taken away,” said Williams.

“And so like everything else, the LGBT equality movement is continuing to have to deal with this notion of marginalization that really comes from a place of systemic oppression via racism.”

The activist who spoke on condition of anonymity agreed with many of the points raised by Peoples and Williams.

“I would say that as with most things, what goes on in the LGBTQ community mirrors what goes on in the mainstream community when it comes to racism and patriarchy and socio-economic differences and oppression,” the activist said.

“So it’s never gone away and as long as it’s not addressed it’s not going to go away,” said the activist. “I think what you’re seeing is a lot of the racial tensions that are bubbling up to the surface have been there underneath.”

The activist added, “And I think while some of these organizations realize that changes have to be made, not everybody realizes the urgency. They think they can do it over the course of time. And I think what you’re seeing is young activists are saying they’re not going to wait anymore. They’re very vocal. They’re very impatient. And they’re coming from another era that most people my age aren’t used to.”

The activist said some of the issues raised by groups such as No Justice No Pride are valid while other issues being raised are not valid, such as banning police from the Capital Pride parade.

“But there seems to be no middle ground,” said the activist. “If the powers that be met the activists on some middle ground and say this is what we can do now and this is what we can do moving forward you would see some movement. But I think everybody’s in an all-or-nothing stance and that’s unfortunate.”

Fowlkes said while many hurdles remain in the quest for full inclusion of people of color in LGBT organizations and institutions he sees important progress being made on that front locally.

“Capital Pride is taking a great deal of energy into improving its relationship with different parts of our community, including Black Pride,” he said. “We work with them. We talk to them. We have a relationship with them. And we will be participating in their Pride and they participate in our Pride.”

Fowlkes, who has played a lead role in organizing D.C.’s Black Pride activities for over a decade, said the different Pride events held in D.C. each year such as Black Pride, Trans Pride, and Latino Pride are not mutually exclusive.

“People need to understand their communities and be proud of their communities, whatever part of the community they come from,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t participate in Capital Pride or Capital Pride is evil,” he continued.

“I think there are always issues of inclusion that have to be dealt with. And we have to struggle with those,” said Fowlkes. “And there’s nothing wrong with that struggle. That struggle brings growth. And we have to always keep struggling and we have to be reminded of how important that struggle is.”

African American Family’s Home Burned In Suspected Hate Crime

Seven members of an African American family in upstate New York are lucky to be alive after what police say was a racially motivated arson on Mother’s Day.

“It’s very disturbing,” Schodack Police Chief Joseph Belardo told HuffPost. “We’re throwing every resource we have into investigating this, and when we find the person responsible, they will be facing some very serious criminal charges.”

Laquan Madison discovered the fire when he awoke to use the bathroom late Sunday night and noticed an orange glow in a window, police said. Madison looked outside to see his detached garage on fire, and the flames inching closer to his house.

“I screamed my wife’s name,” Madison told The Albany Times Union. “We all got out.”

Firefighters quickly saw that the blaze was far more sinister than most house fires.

“When they arrived, they saw a swastika and a racial epithet had been spray-painted on the garage,” Belardo said. “Putting that together with this fire is why we are investigating this as a hate crime.”

The garage burned to the ground, but volunteer firefighters from five area departments saved the family’s home and limited the damage to the exterior. 

The Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police are assisting Schodack police investigating the cause of the blaze. The Times Union reported the garage was not hooked up to electricity.

A motive behind the crime – aside from hate – is unknown to police. Authorities said they’re unaware of any prior issues involving any family members. 

“This family has lived in this neighborhood for years,” Belardo said.

Laurie Salzer, who lives in the neighborhood with her husband Adam, told Albany’s WNYT NewsChannel 13 it’s a quiet neighborhood.

“Everyone gets along with one another and they’re all friends,” Salzer said. “So that’s another reason why this is so very disturbing.”

Schodack Police Department

A photo of the home taken by police after the arson fire.

Belardo said hate crimes are uncommon in Schodack, a small town in Rensselaer County. He said he can’t recall a similar crime during his two decades on the police force.

“This does not represent our community,” Belardo said. “The community is outraged. We are 100-percent behind the family.”

Madison told the Times Union he is glad his wife and children escaped.

“People are going to be who they are,” Madison said. “My hope is they understand life is not a joke. You can’t toy with people.”

Investigators said evidence from the crime scene may help identify the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, members of the community have been reaching out to the police department to see how they can help the Madison family.

“We’re getting calls from all over the area,” Belardo said. “It makes me proud that members of my community are stepping up and this family is not going through this alone. I know [the Madisons] are fearful, but we’re confident and working toward a quick resolution.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Schodack police at 518-477-8077.

David Lohr covers crime and missing persons. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow him on Twitter.

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Racism And Police Killings in the Age of Donald Trump

… like Pence, the institutional racism embedded in policing … Black. Has White American racism against Black America decreased … this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias.” … House, police prejudice against African-Americans will obviously be … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

A wild roundup of statewide summer festivals and events


Mike the Headless Chicken Festival

June 2-3

Fruita, Colorado,

click to enlarge Mike the Headless Chicken Festival - COURTESY FRUITA

  • Courtesy Fruita
  • Mike the Headless Chicken Festival

In 1945, a Colorado farmer beheaded his chicken, expecting to eat it for dinner that night. Instead, Mike the Headless Chicken lived on for 18 months, becoming quite the sideshow celebrity. The small town of Fruita celebrates this resilient fowl every year with a festival of, well, seemingly unrelated events. Between the boisterous live music, the car show and the golf tournament, enjoy a 5K run, vendor booths and — perhaps morbidly — a wing- and peep-eating contest. Though the weekend’s lineup contains a poultry show, the likelihood of any Mike impersonators is pretty low. No chicken has ever beaten that 18-month record.

Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown

June 9-11

Denver Marriott South, 10345 Park Meadows Drive, Lone Tree,

click to enlarge Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown - COURTESY ROCKY MOUNTAIN PINBALL SHOWDOWN

  • Courtesy Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown
  • Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown

The word “gamer” may have different definitions these days. Just know that the kinds of gamers attracted to this event aren’t going to be playing Call of Duty. Instead, check out a gameroom expo with pinball and retro video games, from console to arcade. Representatives from pinball leagues (yes, there is such a thing) from around the country will be on hand to demonstrate their skills and recruit players. Plus, as with any good convention, speakers and panels will provide a pretty sweet education in all things pinball. The best part? No quarters required. Once you pay your $15 to $70 admission, you can pinball to your heart’s content.

Colorado Renaissance Festival

Weekends, June 10-July 30

650 W. Perry Park Ave., Larkspur,

Time to strap into that corset. Just remember to let out the laces when you start in on that turkey leg.

Springs Spree

June 11

America the Beautiful Park, 126 Cimino Drive,

Summer shenanigans of all sorts, for all manner of local interests.


June 15-18


Called “the nation’s oldest whitewater festival,” FIBArk stands for “First in Boating on the Arkansas.” Basically, now that the weather’s nice, the people of Salida can’t wait to dunk themselves in freezing water and leave their boats and bodies to the mercy of the river, raging with runoff. But they sure as heck have a good time doing it. With kayak competitions, races on river and land, surfing, a parade and live music, the weekend celebrates much more than just the river. It also celebrates the community of Salida.

Pikes Peak Celtic Festival

June 16-18

Memorial Park, 1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave.,

Bagpipes, beer and Highland games — no kilt required.

Starlight Spectacular

June 17

Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center, 1805 N. 30th St.,

Night biking has never been brighter. This year’s theme: superheroes.

Pikes Peak Airstrip Attack

June 17-18

Colorado Jet Center at Colorado Springs Airport, 1575 Aviation Way,

Think The Fast and the Furious with fewer explosions and more actual racing.

Donkey Derby Days

June 24-25

Cripple Creek, Bennett Avenue,

Believe it or not, Cripple Creek boasts a vibrant, bustling donkey scene. See the best of it at this annual event.

Sand in the City

June 24-25

Ralston Park, 64th Avenue and Simms Street, Arvada,

Landlocked Colorado might not be the place where you’d expect a beach party, but Arvada finds a way to provide. Sand in the City dishes out exactly what it promises: sand. Buckets of it. Local artists will create monstrously huge sand sculptures, and kids and families can try their hand at creating their own in the giant sandbox. If you aren’t too interested in getting sand in your shoes, you can still enjoy the live music, the luaus on Saturday and Sunday, the food and beer, and a plethora of kids’ activities. Maybe it’s not Cancun, but it’s the best beach party in Colorado.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

June 25

Pikes Peak,

These people actually choose to make that horrifying, winding drive up Pikes Peak — at speeds of 70-plus mph.


Green Box Arts Festival

July 1-9

Green Mountain Falls,

Dance, silversmithing, painting, culinary arts and more — Green Box has it all. And you’d be surprised how much of it is free.

Colorado Black Arts Festival

July 7-9

Denver City Park, East 17th Avenue,

click to enlarge Colorado Black Arts Festival - COURTESY COLORADO BLACK ARTS FESTIVAL

  • Courtesy Colorado Black Arts Festival
  • Colorado Black Arts Festival

Celebrate and congregate at what has been called a “family reunion” of sorts, which draws artists and attendees from all over the world. This celebration of African-American culture lasts three days, and includes a showcase of African-American visual arts, music, performing arts, cuisine and more. Not only can you enjoy a rather extensive marketplace of artisan goods and crafts, but you can also join in on the parade and enjoy screenings of films by black filmmakers in the pavilion. Last year, more than 40,000 people attended.


July 8-9

America the Beautiful Park, 126 Cimino Drive,

We’re here, we’re queer, we’re ready to party.

Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Days

July 12-15

Downtown Colorado Springs,

Classic cowboy and Western events, plus the most important part to some: beer.

El Paso County Fair

July 15-22

County Fairgrounds, 366 10th St., Calhan,

What, like we could list it all in a sentence? There’s so much going on, you’re bound to find some cool activities and entertainment to tickle your fancy.

Telluride Nothing Festival

July 18-20

Telluride, Colorado,

When we ask someone at the office in Telluride if the Nothing Festival is still going on — or, rather, not going on — she laughs and says yes, and that it might be a nice, quiet time to visit Telluride. According to the Nothing Festival’s website, it was “accidentally” created by a resident who was sick and tired of how many festivals filled the streets in summer. So, this weekend was set aside for absolutely nothing to happen in the town of Telluride. During this festival, “sunrises and sunsets [will continue] as normal; gravity will continue to be in effect; the earth’s rotation will be increased to add a few thrills; the laws of physics will be on display.” Though one annual event breaks through the nothing. On the last day of the festival, a parade of people walks through downtown wearing — and this is important — absolutely nothing.

Rocky Mountain State Games

July 21-23 and 28-30

Every sport under the sun — or under the lights — with athletes of all ages and levels.

Copper Mountain Mac & Cheese Fest

July 29-30

Copper Mountain, 209 Ten Mile Circle,

In honor of that versatile childhood staple that can become gourmet in the hands of the right chef, this festival celebrates the glorious marriage of noodle and cheese. Not only will there be a contest for a $1,000 cash prize and the title of “Best Mac & Cheese in Summit County,” but there’s also plenty to get up to even if you aren’t a chef. Help judge the food, participate in eating contests, bring the family for mini-golf, bumper boats, a climbing wall and more, and enjoy live music while you’re at it.

Vail Dance Festival

July 29-Aug. 12

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre, 530 S. Frontage Road, Vail,

click to enlarge Vail Dance Festival - ERIN BAIANO

  • Erin Baiano
  • Vail Dance Festival

Forget these weekend-long festivals. The town of Vail brings in so many dancers for this event, they’ve got two weeks set aside to celebrate them and share their performances. Not only will this year’s festival include some of the best of the best from Colorado itself, such as Colorado Ballet, but it will also bring in companies from all over the country. Whether your flavor is classic ballet or modern interpretive dance, hip-hop, blues, ballroom or tango, you’ll be able to find at least one event in this impressive lineup to consider. Notable companies include: Wonderbound (who recently performed right here in the Springs), Martha Graham Dance Company and BalletX.

Blues Under the Bridge

July 29

Colorado Avenue Bridge, 218 W. Colorado Ave.,

This annual blues bash has become a Springs staple for good reason.

Fiddles, Vittles and Vino

July 30

Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, 3105 Gateway Road,

Go for the wine, the food or the bluegrass. Just be sure to go!


Springs Beer Fest

Aug. 5

America the Beautiful Park, 126 Cimino Drive,

More than 50 breweries pack this outdoor festival to share their top suds with beer enthusiasts.

Rocky Mountain Rampage

Aug. 18-20

Memorial Park, 1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave.,

Sponsor a young skateboarder or just come out to watch professionals and amateurs alike shred the Memorial Park halfpipe.

Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon

Aug. 19 (ascent), Aug. 20 (marathon)

Barr Trail, Manitou Springs,

Test your own endurance or simply celebrate your superhuman running buddies.

Salute to
American Veterans Rally

Aug. 18-20

Cripple Creek,

No motorcycle required to attend, but you’ll see a lot of them during this three-day festival in honor of veterans.

Colorado State Fair

Aug. 25-Sept. 4

State Fairgrounds, 1001 Beulah Ave., Pueblo,

Like the aforementioned county fair but, you know, bigger.

Find more local summertime listings at, and

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment