A New Honor

The Center announces first-ever awards for service

by Will O'Bryan
Published on September 13, 2007, 12:00am | Comments

The Center-Home for GLBT in Metro D.C. has announced it will be holding its annual fall fundraiser Sept. 19 to honor the five co-founders of the affiliated D.C. Crystal Meth Working Group (DCMWG): Christopher Dyer, Sgt. Brett Parson, Councilmember David Catania (I-At large), David Schwartz, Kevin Shipman and Bruce Weiss.

''We talked about this for a long time, because we'd never really given awards out,'' says Center President Michael Sessa. ''Last year, we honored Cherry and gave Paul Marengo a certificate for appreciation, but we never really did these grand awards.''

While The Center has some consistent events -- such as the annual Academy Awards gala ''Glamour, Glitter and Gold'' -- Sessa says Center leadership is moving toward fine-tuning the autumnal event into its signature fundraiser.

''It could be something different next year, but always a fundraiser,'' he says, pointing to last September's Center-sponsored tea dance, befouled by uncooperative weather. ''We'd like this to become our annual gala. It has to build up.''

Regardless of the timing or the format, honorees seem happy to be recognized.

Shipman, manager of the Office of Community Emphasis Programs of the D.C. Department of Health's Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration, actually spoke at the initial May 2005 meeting that planted the seed for the DCCMWG: ''The Leather Community Wants You To Know: The Truth About Crystal Meth,'' sponsored by Brother Help Thyself, The Center and Titan Bar. Using the drug's street name, Shipman grabbed the near-capacity crowd's attention two years ago, warning, ''Tina is a bad woman. Tina is simply crack with an attitude. This is a bad-ass drug.''

Today, Shipman reflects on that initial meeting, and the line that's brought him and his co-honorees from there to here.

''I'm very grateful, that's for sure,'' he says of the Center recognition. ''It's funny. I don't know that any of us thought we were starting anything, just responding to something. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm really proud of how [the DCCMWG] has evolved. ...It's a classic example of how a community can become aware of an issue, elevate it, and push that vision into action. I'm really proud of where it's at and how it's all volunteer.''

Adds Sessa: ''Those five guys really put in their hearts, souls and time. They made a personal commitment and they did it willingly to make sure that the Crystal Meth Working Group moved forward. Since the start, it's passion that's driven the group.''

Sessa says that while the DCCMWG continues its mission fighting methamphetamine addiction in the District, The Center will now be turning some attention to local HIV-vaccine efforts, as well as what Sessa believes may be a disturbing escalation in unprotected anal sex between men, known as ''barebacking.''

The Center's Fall 2007 Fundraiser will be held Wednesday, Sept. 19, at a private residence in Northwest. A $50 donation per attendee is suggested. For the address and RSVP information, go to The Center's Web site at www.thedccenter.org.