By LOU CHIBBARO, JR. , Washington Blade
Nov. 25, 2005

D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams has appointed Darlene Nipper, the former executive director of the Black Entertainment Television Network Foundation, as the new director of his Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Affairs, mayoral press secretary Vince Morris said Tuesday.

Nipper’s selection came as a surprise to many of the city’s gay activists, who said they do not know her and were not aware of her being involved in any of the city’s gay organizations.

Nipper could not be reached by press time, and the mayor’s office had not released a biography of her background as of Tuesday night.

A source in the mayor’s office, who asked not to be identified because the source was not authorized to speak to the media, said Nipper was a close friend of Wanda Alston, the LGBT Affairs office director who was murdered last March during a robbery at her home in Northeast D.C.

Alston had appointed Nipper to the mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee, where she headed a subcommittee on health issues, the source said.

In a eulogy she delivered at Alston’s funeral, Nipper described herself as one of Alston’s closest friends.

A Web search revealed that Nipper served as executive director of the BET Foundation in 2004 and worked in 2001 as vice president of public education for the National Mental Health Association.

In April of this year, the online publication WebMD interviewed Nipper about her personal fight against breast cancer. In the article, Nipper, who was 40 years old, said a new cancer-fighting drug enabled her to push the disease into remission.

Nothing in the online search indicated whether Nipper has been open about her sexual orientation.

Veteran lesbian activist Carlene Cheatam, who served as Williams’ first liaison to the gay community in 1999, said she met Nipper for the first time Monday night. Cheatam said she offered to help Nipper become acquainted with the people and groups Nipper will be charged with representing on the mayor’s behalf.

“I’m not aware of anyone active in the community who knows her,” Cheatam said. “But Tony Williams must have seen something in her in the interview process that made him feel she will do well in that position. I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.”