walston.jpgWanda Renita Alston, the director of the Washington, D.C. Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Affairs, was murdered in her home on March 16. She was 45.
Born in Newport News, Va., Alston earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Norfolk State University in Virginia and a master’s degree in international management from Southeastern University in Washington, D.C. She overcame an addiction to cocaine and dedicated herself to becoming a feminist and a leader in the LGBT community.
In the early 1990s, Alston served as the executive assistant to Patricia Ireland, the former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and acted as the staff liaison to Rev. Jesse Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition. As NOW’s special projects director, Alston helped organize four national marches on Washington and a Fight the Right March in San Francisco. In 1995, she lead a NOW delegation to the World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.
Alston then worked with the Office of Human Rights and the Department of Employment Services. She helped establish sensitivity training for all government agencies and encouraged family court judges in the District of Columbia to create a mentoring program for children in foster care who self-identified as LGBT. Alston received numerous community service awards for her efforts, including the 1994 Welmore Cook Award from Black Pride, Inc., the 1995 National Welfare Rights Union community award, the 1995 D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals community service award and the 2004 Trust Servant Award from the Transgender Health Empowerment organization. In 1997, she established her own political consulting firm, Alston Consulting Services, Inc.
From 2001 to 2004, Alston served as a special assistant to D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams on LGBT issues. Last September, the passionate advocate was appointed director of the newly formed Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs. Her goal in the Cabinet-level position: “To ensure that the district’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents are fully integrated into the city’s civil and economic life.” In an effort to bridge the diversity gap in queer political culture, Alston recently organized the first citywide LGBT summit, which will be held on April 30.
“Wanda Alston’s contributions to the people of this city were beyond measure. She was a passionate, energetic woman who often spoke for those who were not able to speak for themselves and who cared for those who could not care for themselves. She was someone to admire; she was someone to learn from; and she was someone we loved. This is a huge loss for me personally, but beyond that, this is a huge loss for our city. My heart is broken,” Mayor Williams stated on his Website.
Alston was stabbed to death, allegedly by a neighbor who knocked on her door looking for money to buy crack. William Martin Parrott Jr., 38, was arrested less than 24 hours after Alston’s girlfriend, Stacey Long, found her body. Parrott has been charged with first-degree murder.
[Update – July 30, 2005: William Parrot, 38, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the stabbing death of gay activist Wanda Alston. On July 29, D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith E. Retchin sentenced him to 24 years in prison, the maximum term under sentencing guidelines.]