Dallas City Councilwoman Vonciel Hill refuses to sign gay Pride letter

For the last several weeks we’ve been putting together what is know as “The official guide to Dallas Pride” — a publication of the Dallas Tavern Guild that is distributed inside Dallas Voice in advance of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. One of the features that appears regularly in the annual Pride guide is a letter from the Dallas City Council congratulating the Tavern Guild, which puts on the festival and parade.

This year, for the third consecutive year, the letter is signed by 14 of the 15 council members, including the mayor. And for the third consecutive year, the lone holdout who refuses to sign the letter is Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill, who has also refused to ride on the city float in the parade.

Although we’ve never asked Ms. Hill specifically about the letter, here’s the explanation she gave us in 2009 for not appearing in the parade:

“I won’t be participating [this year], and based on my present beliefs, I won’t be participating in the future,” Hill said. “There’s no reason I should be castigated for that.”

Asked what those beliefs are, Hill said: “I believe that all people are loved by God, all people are created equal under God, but there are acts that God does not bless. It does not mean the person is any less God’s child. I’m entitled to stand for what I believe, and I don’t appreciate anyone castigating me for standing for what I believe.”

Maybe Hill is right. Maybe we shouldn’t castigate her for her religious beliefs. Given that redistricting has put one of the city’s most heavily gay neighborhoods in her new district, maybe instead we should just vote her out of office!

Read the council’s letter after the jump — and in case you’re wondering, the Pride guide will be distributed inside the Aug. 31 and Sept. 14 editions of Dallas Voice.

—  John Wright

Dallas LGBT Task Force aims to expand diversity training to all city employees within 3 years

Sherry Durant, Dallas Fire-Rescue LGBT liaison, explains the goal of expanding LGBT training to all city employees at a city services event June 13. The event was the second in the city’s June Pride series. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Fire-Rescue plans to expand its LGBT training program to its veteran employees this summer and eventually to every city employee over the next three years, according to Sherry Durant, the department’s LGBT liaison.

Durant was among six city officials who spoke and answered questions during a panel discussion at the Oak Lawn library branch on Wednesday night. The event drew about 40 people and was the second in Dallas’ “Honor, Educate and Celebrate” June Pride Month series planned by Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force.

Task Force member Pam Gerber said the group has discussed expanding LGBT training to all Dallas city employees and will work with officials to achieve the goal in the future. The only city departments that currently conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training are police and fire.

Durant, who’s served as LGBT liaison for DFR since 2008 and is a member of the Task Force, said 1,048 new recruits have undergone LGBT training since the training program began in 2004. She said she has been working with the Dallas County Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Resource Center Dallas to create a training program for veteran Fire-Rescue employees. The veteran employee training will begin in late July or early August, she said, estimating that it would take about 36 weeks for the 1,248 employees to complete the training.

After DFR finishes its veteran employee training, Durant said she wants to help the veteran police employees undergo the training and then move onto other city departments, so all city employees will have LGBT training within the next three years.

City Manager Mary Suhm, Assistant fire Chief Joseph Vasquez and Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for Dallas police, joined Durant on the panel and shared what their departments offer the LGBT community. Executive Assistant City Attorney Melissa Miles and Chalisa Warren, senior public information representative with the Fair Housing Office, spoke about the city’s decade-old nondiscrimination ordinance.

Martin oversees the Police Department’s sensitivity training, which helps recruits understand how to handle interactions with members of the LGBT community. She said she will also teach the current officers over the next two years about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. She said a lot of officers are not aware of how the law works because it is a federal law and affects how departments report hate crime statistics to the FBI.

Suhm said during her 35 years working for the city she has seen a lot of improvements for the LGBT community, from training in the police department in the early ’90s to later working with City Council to pass domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Miles said her section of the city attorney’s office handles the discrimination complaints after the Fair Housing Office investigates, working with the alleged violators to inform them about the ordinance and to help educate them even if the complaint is dismissed for no cause.

Questions about the reporting hate crimes and discrimination under the ordinance came up during the meeting, as several in the audience said people do not report incidents of hate or discrimination because they want it to remain confidential.

—  Dallasvoice

Razzle Dazzle Dallas booth space available

Razzle Dazzle Dallas 2011 main stage

Booth space is available for the day and night Razzle Dazzle Dallas events on Cedar Springs Road on June 9. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on May 30.

Businesses, sports teams, faith groups, jewelers, clothiers, nonprofits, corporate affinity organizations and community groups are welcome to market themselves to the more than 30,000 expected buyers and Razzle Dazzle attendees.

A vendor application is available online.

The festival hours on June 9 are from 10 a.m. to midnight.

DAYTIME:
One Nonprofit Booth Space — $100
One For-Profit Booth Space — $150

NIGHTIME:
One Nonprofit Booth Space — $150
One For-Profit Booth Space — $200

ALL DAY:
One Nonprofit Booth Space — $200
One For-Profit Booth Space — $275

RENTAL:
(1) Electrical Outlet — $25
(1) 10’x10’ Tent, (1) Table, (2) Chairs — $125

Contact Dave Berryman at Bravo Event Groups with any questions.

—  David Taffet

Caraway, Davis absent from gay Pride

Eleven of 15 councilmembers appeared on the city float.

Dallas City Councilmembers Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway were absent from Sunday’s Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, despite having RSVP’d affirmatively for the gay Pride celebration.

Eleven of 15 councilmembers, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, rode in the parade, sources at City Hall confirmed this week.

“He enjoyed it and looks forward to next year,” said Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Rawlings, who became the third mayor in Dallas history to ride in the parade.

Councilmembers Sandy Greyson and Vonciel Jones Hill were the only two who indicated in advance they wouldn’t make the parade — Hill due to religious objections and Greyson because of a scheduling conflict.

—  John Wright

PHOTOS: Winning entries from the 28th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade

The following were the winning entries from Sunday’s 28th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade:

THE SPIRIT OF OAKLAWN AWARD, BEST OVERALL ENTRY: EXKLUSIVE/KALIENTE

—  John Wright

Pride festival changes called a success

There was more green at the Festival in Lee Park this year — both in terms of open space and money raised for the gay Pride beneficiaries. (Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice)

Ultimately it might be impossible to say by how much attendance was down at Sunday’s gay Pride Festival in Lee Park.

But according to Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, we do know this: Approximately 5,300 people paid $5 each to get into the festival.

Beyond that, Doughman estimated there were 700 unpaid attendees who received complimentary wristbands through festival vendors or groups that marched in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, which would bring the total crowd to 6,000.

In previous years, about 7,500 people attended the festival, according to Doughman, which would mean a 20 percent drop — in line with what organizers predicted after they decided to fence in the park and charge admission for the first time.

But Doughman said precise attendance figures for previous years — or even this year, since we don’t know how many who received complimentary wristbands actually showed up — simply don’t exist.

And even if they did, he added, they wouldn’t really matter. In Doughman’s view, critics who predicted disaster for the festival as a result of the $5 admission charge clearly were proven wrong. And the Tavern Guild, which organizes both the Pride parade and festival, was vindicated.

“We got tons of compliments from people who were in the park, not only vendors but just from people who attended,” Doughman said. “It may have been less headcount, but we think the quality of event was highly improved.”

—  John Wright

Scenes from Dallas Pride — Part III

GO TO PART I  >>>

<<< GO TO PART II

Photos by Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice (MarceloMedia)


 

—  John Wright

Scenes from Dallas Pride 2011 — Part I

>>> GO TO PART II

>>> GO TO PART III

Photos by Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice (MarceloMedia)



—  John Wright

A few scenes from Dallas Pride

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings breaks us off some beads.

UPDATE: CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PICS

DV photographer Chuck Dube will be sending over about a gazillion photos from gay Pride shortly, and DVtv segment producer Brent Paxton will be along with video. We’ll post all that just as soon as we can, but for now here are a few shots I took of the parade from my vantage point — which was somewhere in front of Kroger. That’s where I went because that’s where I was told there would be an area set aside for media, which there wasn’t. So instead I got to take in the parade with the rest of the crowd, including a very friendly lesbian named Stacy, who agreed to give me a spot next to her along the barricades in exchange for posting her photo here, which I’ve done below.

Anyhow, as superficial as appearing in the Pride parade has become for politicians, it was good to see Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings riding prominently atop the city float (above). However, the overall turnout from city council members appeared to be fewer than the 13 who had RSVP’d (we’re working to get an accurate headcount). It was also good to see County Judge Clay Jenkins in the parade, riding with the Dallas Young Democrats.

After the parade I ran home to meet the BF, who had gotten off work at 3, and we headed to Lee Park. When we arrived at the festival around 5, the entrance near Rawlins Street was literally jammed with people (photo below) as the cashier apparently couldn’t keep up with the line. There was also a large crowd congregating on a sidewalk across the street — either because they didn’t want to pay to get in or they didn’t want to leave their coolers unattended. When we walked past, police officers were yelling at them not to sit on the curb.

Attendance appeared to be down significantly at the park, but as we noted last week, organizers expected this given the new $5 admission charge. Even my new friend Stacy from the parade told me in no uncertain terms that she didn’t plan to go to the park because she didn’t want to pay.

But we won’t know to what degree attendance was down — or other details about the parade and festival — till Tuesday. That’s when Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, says he’ll be available to talk.

This entrance to Lee Park at Rawlins Street was jammed with people when we arrived at about 5 p.m.

A few more of my pics are below. Check back shortly for others.

—  John Wright

Pink Noise: The Dallas Voice Radio Show

This week we talked about Dallas Pride and the controversial changes to the Festival in Lee Park.

—  John Wright