Individuals who had either no previous or a minimal involvement with the organization had created a slate to take over the executive committee. This in and of itself was highly irregular and had never occurred throughout the history of the club. This irregularity was exacerbated by the fact that this slate won the election by a narrow margin, relying solely on votes from members who had also recently joined with the apparent singular motive of stacking the election. This was further exacerbated because many of the addresses provided by these new members could not be validated. There was even further controversy because many of the same new members had joined the club at a reduced rate reserved for seniors, students and individuals suffering financial hardship. The number of members who joined claiming hardship was unprecedented, and many who were claiming hardship provided employment information reflecting positions that would indicate comfortable if not affluent circumstance.
Because of all of the irregularities, formal complaints were brought to the club by members who requested a meeting to confront the stated issues. I was one of those members; former Stein Club President Mario Acosta-Vélez was the other. The existing executive committee responded to these concerns by calling for a meeting with the sole and stated purpose of bringing the matter before the members.
Several highly respected members of the club objected to the meeting under the assumption that the meeting in and of itself violated the bylaws. They stated that the executive committee had failed to provide the required time for notice. This was represented to be inaccurate as a misinterpretation of the stated bylaws. However, due to the controversy it was agreed that no formal action would be taken and the meeting was to serve as a forum for all interested parties to express their opinions and concerns. This satisfied those members who questioned the time for notice.
The meeting was called to order, and rules of the day were agreed upon. This was easier said than done. All told, there were about 70 individuals who attended. Many of these individuals made considerable objections to any suggestion put forth by the existing ''lame-duck'' executive committee.
The formal complaints that were provided in writing were to be read. Unfortunately, these complaints had to be cut off and abbreviated to accommodate the two-minute rule that had been agreed upon as a rule of the day. Acosta-Vélez was unable to attend, and much of his impassioned plea for an equitable resolution went unheard. Acosta-Vélez was especially offended by the inference that the Stein club was an ''elitist'' organization and did not welcome young people and/or people of color. Much of the substance was removed or omitted. I provided an extremely cut-down version of my own complaint verbally.
A couple of the new members made comments concerning the unwelcoming atmosphere of the club and the members. Essentially, they mirrored statements which President-elect Garcia had provided to the local press prior to the meeting. He stated, ''These new members are young people, people of color, and people from low-income backgrounds who were otherwise not engaged in Stein's activities. … We should be having a special meeting celebrating these new members, and finding ways to engage them.''
One of the young women who vocalized this opinion was noticeably pale, and conspicuously Caucasian. And none of the new members were all that young. None of them included, for instance, the young people from the Wanda Alston House, who have previously accompanied me to club meetings.
This inference of elitism is extremely offensive and demands a response. The Gertrude Stein Club is, and always has been, extremely welcoming to any and all individuals who show an interest in the club's activities. There is no demand or need for a high income. The Alston House youngsters were provided with an open invitation with free admission to the latest Stein Club event, the annual award ceremonies. Three of the members of the lame-duck executive board are African-American, two are women and one male. Another is a Native-American transsexual male. And the treasurer is Caucasian male.
Please understand that I seriously oppose representing these individuals by these racial and gender-specific terms. I don't think of them in the terms stated. They are individuals, people I respect, and they have names. It is, unfortunately, necessary to display the patent absurdity of any inference that the club is anything but inclusive and diverse. This absurdity only validates that President-elect Garcia, and the new members who supported his election, know nothing of the Gertrude Stein Club other than what they delude themselves into believing. I can only question why, if they truly believe this absurdity, that they would choose to join the club and aspire to lead a group of unwelcoming and elitist bigots. Another question was presented by one of the members, Cartwright Moore, who asked the newly elected slate to provide an explanation of their intentions. Were they building their résumés? What did they hope to do for the club? What was their agenda? His questions conspicuously went without an answer or even the courtesy of a reply.
Former Stein Club President Kurt Vorndran offered a resolution that would address irregularities attached to officer elections. It was voted to be postponed by the membership. It would appear that no one wanted to be a part of the old unwelcoming Stein Club crowd who questioned the ethics of the most recent election.
People spoke out; they provided opinions on the legality of the election and the adherence to club bylaws. The provision of incorrect addresses had never been an issue. The income status of members had never been previously validated or questioned. All of these statements were true and went without challenge. It was a feel-good moment. The members decided to uphold the election as it stood. Our newest members were now to be our leaders, and comprise our executive committee. The conspicuous irregularity of the election was to be ignored, and the Stein Club would be a welcoming and inclusive organization. Only two members failed to affirm, and one objected. Me. I had to object. The Dec. 3 election still remains, at least to me, an injustice and a terrible farce.
I want to finish by saying that I intend to remain a member of the club, as long as they will have me. I may not be popular, but I respect the club and all of the members, including our newly elected leaders and their supporters. I do not believe that they are bad people. I do believe they acted rashly, that their actions have damaged the club's credibility, and hurt some good people. But the club is not the executive committee – it is the mission, and all of the members. So, what's one farcical election when it is weighed against the passion of so many talented individuals dedicated to equality? Not so much. I have too much to do to give it another moment's thought. I am done with this. Let's get to work.
Jeri Hughes is a District resident who promotes LGBT equality....more
On Dec. 3 the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club narrowly elected Martin Garcia as president (47-45), Angela Peoples as vice president for political and legislative affairs (47-44), and Vincent Paolo Villano as vice president for administration (48-41). Current Treasurer Barrie Daneker and Secretary Jimmie Luthuli ran unopposed and as such were re-elected. The margin of victory was apparently provided by an influx of dozens of new members who were recruited days before the election by taking advantage of the Stein Club's liberal membership requirements. In fact, the new officers only became new members just before the election. The Stein Club's membership requirements allow new members to register up to the day of the election as long as they have paid membership dues. In addition, there is no provision in the bylaws that prohibits new members from being elected officers.
Unfortunately, I was in Long Beach, Calif., attending the Victory Fund's LGBT Leadership Conference and was not able to participate in the ''spirited'' debates that took place during the club's annual meeting. The debates, I am told, were followed by the election and while both sides were bruised in a tight election, the new slate of officers were prepared to take their positions in January 2013. I know candidates from both slates and was amazed at the array of community-organizing experience and leadership ability on both sides.
However, there were more seasoned members who were upset by the influx of last-minute new members. Some of the Stein members have subsequently claimed that some of the new members had addresses that could not be verified and falsely paid the $15 ''Special Membership'' dues, reserved for low-income persons, full-time students and senior citizens. The GSDC executive committee convened, sought legal counsel and called for a special meeting based on ''membership irregularities'' to overturn the Dec. 3 results with the possibilities of holding new elections in January 2013.
I attended the special meeting on Dec. 19 to hear about the ''membership irregularities.'' I was surprised to see nearly 80 people in the room. Like me, very few people could find one sentence that defined the criteria for ''low income'' and how the GSDC defines a proper member's address. In the end, a few seasoned members were not happy about the perceived takeover by new members; a few new members spoke of not feeling welcomed and nearly everyone affirmed what was already a fact: The Dec. 3 election and valid and legal.
Like many members, I was concerned about the process as opposed to who won or lost the election. What also concerned me as a Stein member is the rhetoric that has followed the election. One Stein Club member referred to the election as a sham and called the new members strangers to the club. Is the election a sham because a group of 20-something people of color took advantage of a flawed process (that others have before them have likewise taken advantage of without question)? Does being unknown to some Stein Club members mean that the new members are not involved in the political process in other communities? Another self-identified Southern-born member inferred the new officers and their supporters were carpetbaggers. As an African-American, I cannot imagine the use of the word ''carpetbagger'' describing any political process in an appropriate context.
For me the bottom line is that as an openly gay Democrat I believe that members of the Stein Club should avoid language and actions that sound like those who oppose our values. This is the same language used to limit political access and invalidate the votes of people of color, women, immigrants, young adults, labor and the LGBT community. We can and must do better! Clearly, membership and criteria for officers needs to be redefined as to provide clarity, while not being restrictive. Perhaps we (the Stein Club leadership and members) can also reform the membership criteria to prevent mass influx of membership 30 days before the GSDC endorsement process, which can skew the results favoring one candidate over another. We have moved forward by honoring the elections' outcome, now we need to support the new officers in a proper leadership transition and hold them to the same standards of excellence that past GSDC officers have upheld.
Earl Fowlkes Jr. is a Democratic National Committee at-large member and the president/CEO of the Center for Black Equity....more
Members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city's largest LGBT political organization, overwhelmingly rejected challenges to the club's Dec. 3 executive-board elections Wednesday evening, reaffirming Martin Garcia as its next president, Angela Peoples as vice president for legislative and political affairs, and Vincent Villano as vice president for administration.
Somewhere between 60 and 70 members of the club gathered at One Judiciary Square to address two formal challenges to the Dec. 3 results, in which the Garcia-Peoples-Villano slate, spurred by an influx of more than 45 new members who joined the club in the week prior to the elections, ousted incumbent Stein President Lateefah Williams and two other members of her candidate slate.
After the Dec. 3 votes were challenged, Williams removed her name from consideration for re-election. She also recused herself from the executive-board vote calling for the Dec. 19 special meeting at which members might have invalidated the Dec. 3 results, as recommended by Donald R. Dinan, a lawyer who serves as counsel for the D.C. Democratic State Party, of which the Stein Club is an affiliate. Notably, others countered prior to the Dec. 19 meeting that not only would such an invalidation break club bylaws, but that the meeting itself did so in that it was not called at least two weeks prior.
In her position as president, Williams oversaw the special meeting and served as moderator between those who felt the elections had been rigged as a result of that last-minute surge in memberships – including several who applied for ''special memberships,'' intended for senior citizens, full-time students and low-income people – and those who felt the insurgent slate had recruited and organized newer members both fairly and in keeping with club bylaws.
According to Williams, several members questioned the integrity of the Stein membership roll after the Dec. 3 elections. In responding to those questions, Treasurer Barrie Daneker confirmed that 18 people had selected the designation for ''special memberships,'' which cost $15, compared to $35 generic memberships.
Seventeen of those 18 memberships were flagged as questionable after it appeared that an unusually large number of people had opted for the ''special memberships,'' but had provided employment information that seemed to disqualify them from low-income status. Further, 11 of those members provided addresses that were not in the D.C. metropolitan area. The current executive board members sought the advice of Dinan, who recommended that the results be invalidated and a new election held.
During the Dec. 19 discussion, Stein Secretary Jimmie Luthuli, Daneker and Stein member Ed Craft read aloud letters from former Stein President Mario Acosta and Stein member Jeri Hughes that challenged the election results and asked the members to set aside the Dec. 3 results and amend the group's bylaws to require members to belong for 30 days – the waiting period for participating in candidate-endorsement forums – before being considered eligible to vote in officer elections.
In her letter, Hughes called the Dec. 3 elections ''a farce,'' taking issue with what she perceived as an outside group organizing externally and attempting to take over and potentially change the mission and focus of the Stein Club by drowning out and making irrelevant the views or desires of longer-term club members, with whom the incoming executive officers have not established working relationships.
In the course of the meeting, many on both sides of the debate came to agree that because there is nothing in the bylaws that defines ''low-income'' nor any requirement to establish residency in the D.C. area, the elections were valid.
But the meeting also served as a chance for members to have their voices heard, with longtime members expressing frustration that newer members had not been involved in the club or tried to engage them prior to running a slate of candidates. Some newer members complained of hostility on the part of older members and a sense of being made to feel unwelcome.
Former Stein President Kurt Vorndran submitted a resolution to the members that sought to institute reforms and clarify ambiguities in the club's bylaws, rather than invalidate the Dec. 3 results.
Vorndran proposed four specific reforms: clarifying that, although members may reside anywhere, the club is intended for those in the D.C. metropolitan area, meaning the club should encourage those who live or vote in another jurisdiction to join and participate in the local Democratic affiliates for that area; amending the bylaws to require members to belong for 30 days prior to participating in officers elections; temporarily raising the ''special membership'' price to $30 until the club can amend the bylaws to set eligibility criteria for such memberships; and reaffirming the club's vision of itself as an organization that functions with a sense of community and solidarity among members as a result of a history of interacting with each other and participating in the club.
Local activist Lane Hudson thanked Vorndran for his resolution, but moved to table it until the club's next meeting in January, when such reforms could be more fully vetted. The motion to table Vorndran's resolution until the Jan. 3 meeting passed by more than a 4-to-1 margin.
Daneker then made a motion to reaffirm the results of the Dec. 3 elections, which was overwhelmingly approved on a voice vote, with two members abstaining.
Afterward, Hughes, as one of the chief challengers of the election results, called the meeting a ''Kumbaya moment.'' While she maintained her written characterization of the Dec. 3 elections as a farce, she also noted that the decision by the majority of members to approve the results of the election was good for the club, because it allows members to move forward with a single purpose of making life better for LGBT individuals in the District.
Garcia, the newly elected president, said he felt the meeting accomplished its goal of allowing all members to state their concerns about the club's direction. He said he and his slate were committed healing rifts in the organization and reaching out to longer-term members to build on their accomplishments and harness their energy for the betterment of the club.
Looking forward to 2013, Peoples, the new vice president of legislative and political affairs, said she felt Vorndran's memo did address some of the concerns raised in the course of the special meeting, and said she would be fine with amending the bylaws in accordance with members' desires.
''Our intent all along – as it has been and will continue to be – is to move the Stein Club forward and help it to be unified,'' Peoples said. ''I hope the excitement, and the energy, and even a little bit of drama that's been circulated around this election will serve as a catalyst to show folks that this organization's got some fire in it. We're going to be doing a lot of work, not just to make sure the organization is functioning, but to have an impact and continue the legacy of advocacy and activism for the LGBT community in D.C.''
Williams, as the outgoing president, told Metro Weekly after the meeting that she had withdrawn her candidacy for president because she saw that the contentiousness surrounding the election was not healthy for the club, and hoped her withdrawal would ''take some of the sting'' out of the situation. She also vowed to stay actively involved in the club as a regular member.
''I think the meeting was successful as an initial first step at dialogue between long-term and new members, and bringing both groups together,'' Williams said. ''Unfortunately, due to some motions that ended the dialogue early, some members still feel that they did not have an opportunity to have their questions addressed. I think the key is to look at this meeting as the beginning of the process of healing and not the culmination of it.''
''I hope that all members continue to engage one another to work through any concerns that may still exist,'' she continued. ''I wish the new board well and I hope that they continue efforts to help bridge the gap between long-term and new members.''
[Editor's note: As originally posted, Jimmie Luthuli's name was misspelled as Lithuli.]...more
Romaine Brooks's somber art was in contrast to her passionate love life. Her friends and lovers were interesting and important cultural figures of the early 20th century.
The top 10 entertainment highlights on our gaydar during this holiday break: Beyonce's little sister, Les Mis of course, and the Disney songbook.
The 25-year-old star caused a scene at West Hollywood's Gym Bar December 8, "hopping from person to person, group to group and making everyone feel very uncomfortable," reports TMZ. When Pelletier, who witnesses say appeared wasted, refused to leave, staffers called the police.
Officers initially arrested Pelletier for public intoxication, but after they searched him, they discovered the source of his unbridled energyâ"cocaine and methamphetamine.
On Monday, December 17, Pelletier was arrested again at Los Angeles International Airport after allegedly peeing in public. The star reportedly caused a disturbance aboard his plane before takeoff and was booted from his flight. Deemed too intoxicated to fly, Pelletier was asked to wait in the terminal for another flight, which is where he decided to drop trou and relieve himself. He was arrested for public intoxication.
Pelletier pleaded not guilty to both possession charges on December 11 and is due in court January 17. Bronson has now spoken up about the situations and is claiming that he was setup and that neither of the events happened! He claimed that a random man bought him drinks at the airport and then later snitched on him to have him kicked off the plane!
Just who was this drink-buying stranger? Well, according to Bronson's reps, they think he was an "obsessed fan!"
In case the Twihard within you fails to recognize him, Pelletier plays the character of Jared in the vampire film franchise, a Quileute shape-shifter.