Longtime D.C. transgender rights advocate and community activist Earline Budd was honored on Wednesday as the first recipient of an annual Toast to LGBTQIA+ Elder award initiated by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.
About 50 people, including D.C. Councilmember Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), attended a ceremony hosted by the mayor’s office to honor Budd on her selection for the recognition. The event was held at the Atlas Performing Arts Center at 1333 H St., N.E.
“The Toast to LGBTQIA+ Elders is a way for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and greater community to give thanks and recognition to those who paved the way for many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community today,” said Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office, in a statement.
Bowles said he and the mayor’s office were honored to have selected Budd for the first annual Toast award.
“We thank Ms. Budd for her 35+ years of outstanding and extraordinary dedication to the most vulnerable of our communities through support and harm reduction services,” Bowles said in the statement. “Known as THE Advocate, Ms. Budd has been steadfast in community outreach, an accomplishment of immense significance, especially to our LGBTIA+ youth.”
Budd’s selection as the first Toast to LGBTQIA+ Elder recipient came one month after she was honored in a ceremony unveiling a large wall mural painting of Budd in an alley next to the Atlas Performing Arts Center, making her the first trans person to be portrayed in D.C.’s citywide wall mural program.
Among those attending Tuesday’s elder recognition event was local artist Shani Shih, who designed and painted the Budd wall mural.
Also attending was Sean Cuddihy, a member of the staff of D.C. Councilmember Robert White (D-At-Large), who presented Budd with a resolution introduced by White and passed unanimously by the Council called the Earline Budd Recognition Resolution.
The resolution, among other things, credits Budd for dedicating “decades of her life to advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other gender and sexual minority (LGBTQ) communities in the District of Columbia, especially those struggling with substance abuse, mental health challenges, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS.”
It also mentions Budd’s role as founder and executive director of the D.C. group Empowering the Transgender Community and her work as Re-entry Program Manager for the D.C. organization HIPS, which provides support and services for sex workers and those impacted by drug use.
Parker became the first openly gay member of the D.C. Council since 2015 when he took office in January. He presented another Council resolution at the Wednesday Toast to Budd event recognizing the life of trans woman Jasmine Star Parker, who was found murdered on a street in Northeast D.C. on Dec. 7.
Parker presented the Jasmine Star Parker Memorial Recognition Resolution of 2023 to members of Parker’s family, including her mother and sister, who attended the Wednesday event. Parker credited Budd’s efforts to draw attention to the Jasmine Parker murder, including Budd’s role in organizing a vigil honoring Jasmine Parker, with prompting him to introduce the Jasmine Parker resolution.
“The Council of the District of Columbia honors Jasmine Star Parker’s memory, joins with those privileged to have known her in mourning her untimely death and condemns all forms of hate and violence directed towards members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly Black trans women,” the resolution states.
In his remarks at the Wednesday event, Parker said his current role as the city’s only Black openly gay council member was made possible by people like Earlene Budd.
“Before there was ever a Zachary Parker there was an Earline Budd,” he told the gathering. “Thank you for serving as a personal inspiration for me and countless other youth and individuals across the District,” Parker said. “On behalf of more than 90,000 residents of Ward 5 and every LGBTQIA+ person in the District, thank you.”
Among the others who spoke at the event about the important role Budd has played in helping to secure LGBTQ rights were D.C. event host and longtime LGBTQ advocate Rayceen Pendarvis, who served as host at the Tuesday event; and longtime local trans rights advocate Jeri Hughes.
“I’m so honored to have the privilege to host this wonderful event as we honor a living legend,” Pendarvis told the gathering. “Not many people in their lifetime can say that they know a living legend,” Pendarvis said, pointing to Budd. “I am honored to call you a friend, sister, and colleague.”
Hughes said she and Budd have been friends for at least 17 years and have worked together on numerous projects related to human rights.
“Earline Budd has always been defined in my eyes as a woman of service,” Hughes said. “She’s one of the most selfless human beings that I’ve ever known. She spends most of her days thinking of ways to care for others and help others.”
Budd, who spoke at the conclusion of the event, recited the names of the many community activists and government officials she has interacted with in her years of community organizing and advocacy and praised them for their help in her endeavors. She expressed strong gratitude and called for recognition of Shih for her painting of the Budd wall mural.
“Let me say with an honor to God, it is not by any means a false profit that I find myself here, because God knew before that this day would come,” Budd said. “I didn’t know it, that it would come, I’m here to say I’ve been to so many places. And I tell people that if this were my last day, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, I have lived a good life.”