Will Biden pick Karen Bass for VP? Congressional Black Caucus leader ﬁts the bill Page 06
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Pelosi on marriage and Pulse memorial House unanimously passes bill to honor 49 victims of massacre By KAREN OCAMB
America is lurching into a new era. Though Donald Trump desperately clings to the racist confederate heritage he reveres, the pulse of a newly awakened generation, more empathic, more colorful and more demanding is coursing through the country. And helping guide the transition to a more enlightened civilization is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is also ensuring the inclusion of the LGBTQ community that is otherwise overshadowed by momentous events. Friday, June 26, the fifth anniversary of marriage equality since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The historic decision was noted by some, though most of the media focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the police reform and anti-racist revolution underway since the murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer. But Pelosi, a decades-long LGBTQ ally, remembered on Twitter and through a House statement, noting the work that still remains. “Five years ago, our nation made a historic step toward fulfilling the promise of equality and justice for all when the Supreme Court unequivocally declared that marriage is right of all people, regardless of who you are or whom you love. Today, the love and commitment of countless LGBTQ couples and families enriches and strengthens our communities and honors our nation’s most fundamental values. “As we mark this momentous anniversary, we also celebrate the recent Supreme Court victory, affirming the right of all LGBTQ individuals to live free from discrimination in the workplace. Despite this great progress, the LGBTQ community still endures a relentless assault on their rights from the Trump Administration and widespread discrimination and violence throughout the country, particularly trans women of color who are face disproportionately high rates of homelessness, sexual assault, HIV and murder. That is why, over a year ago, House Democrats took bold action to pass the landmark Equality Act to finally and fully end discrimination against the LGBTQ community, not just in the workplace but in every place. Now, Leader Mitch McConnell must abandon his outrageous, partisan obstruction and allow the Senate to vote on this critical legislation. “In honor of this important day, we must remain vigilant in defense of the rights and dignity of the LGBTQ community. Together, we can confront the discrimination that continues to undermine our democracy as we work to build a brighter, more just and equal future for the LGBTQ community and all Americans.” But more solemnly, House Speaker Nancy
‘The love and commitment of countless LGBTQ couples and families enriches and strengthens our communities and honors our nation’s most fundamental values,’ said House Speaker NANCY PELOSI. (Blade file photo)
Pelosi took to the House Floor to deliver remarks in support of H.R. 3094, legislation to designate the National Pulse Memorial, four years after the mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. “Pulse was a peaceful haven where young LGBTQ Americans could enjoy music, dancing, celebration knowing they were in a sanctuary of safety and solidarity. Pulse was a monument to joy, a tribute to resilience and pride born out of the grief that Barbara Poma experienced after losing her brother, John, to AIDS. That was her motivation for starting this. May the grief that we experience now, at the loss of 49 who were murdered, move us to turn our pain into purpose,” Pelosi said. “Shortly after the horrific act of hatred at Pulse, I had the solemn privilege of traveling to Orlando and meeting with survivors and families who had lost loved ones. Their message to the Congress was – to a person that I met with there – was: ‘Please, do something to stop gun violence,’” she continued. “Yet, painfully, since that tragic night, the horror that we saw in Orlando has been replicated in countless other communities across the country. In too many places the epidemic of gun violence has killed too many innocent people and left too many
families suffering unimaginable pain and loss.” “Four years later, four years after Pulse, our grief remains raw, but our resolve to end the deadly scourge of gun violence and hatred – discrimination, that’s what it was about too – remains unwavering, strengthened by the memories of those who are lost to gun violence: 49 souls here, so many others,” Pelosi said. “Inspired by the spirit of hope that we celebrate during Pride month, especially this weekend, let us never relent in our mission to end the horror of gun violence once and for all, and end discrimination against anyone in our community.” The bill, spearheaded by Rep. Stephanie Murphy with Reps. Darren Soto and Val Demings, passed the House unanimously. “We owe it to the families and loved ones of the victims to honor their memories by dedicating a national memorial at Pulse. I’m proud to be co-leading this effort to create a place of healing for survivors and a welcoming place for all those seeking inspiration to create a better, safer, and more inclusive nation,” said Murphy. “By taking this important step, we are telling the world that we will fight to ensure no community will ever go through something like this again.”
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LA beaches closed, no fireworks for July 4 Coronavirus cases surge, leading to pull back By BRODY LEVESQUE
Angelenos prepare to celebrate the July Fourth holiday, the surge in coronavirus cases has triggered a dialing back of the phased reopening efforts. The alarming uptick also prompted the county government to ban all fireworks displays and close the county’s beaches. “Closing the beaches and prohibiting fireworks displays during this Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM has ordered bars and nightspots important summer holiday to close in seven counties including Los Angeles. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key) weekend was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but it’s the responsible decision to protect public health and our residents from a deadly virus. The Fourth of July holiday weekend typically means large crowds and gatherings to celebrate, a recipe for increased transmission of COVID-19,” Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County Director of Public Health said in a media statement. All public beaches, piers, public beach parking lots, beach bike paths that traverse the sanded portion of the beach, and beach access points will be temporarily closed to the public as of 12:01 a.m. on July 3, 2020, until 5 a.m. on July 6, 2020. Beyond the closure of the beaches and banning fireworks displays, county officials are bracing for running out of hospital beds and expecting overloaded ICUs within the next two weeks. Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered bars and nightspots to close in seven counties including Los Angeles where the uptick in new cases has been dramatic. “Californians must remain vigilant against this virus,” he said. “COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger. That’s why it is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus in the counties that are seeing the biggest increases.” According to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times this week, coronavirus hospitalizations in the state began accelerating around June 15 — which, given the incubation period of the virus, points to Memorial Day weekend holiday barbecues, beach trips and graduation parties as potential culprits. The analysis found that as of Sunday, June 28, 5.9 percent of coronavirus test results received over the past week are positive. That’s a significant jump from the figure the previous week, when it was 4.8 percent. Dr. Ferrer said that her department has identified more than 100,772 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and more than 3,326 deaths as of this week. Public Health officials noted that more than 1 million people have been tested for COVID-19 in Los Angeles County. Testing results are available for more than 1,089,000 individuals, with 9 percent of people testing positive. The cumulative positivity rate has increased from 8 to 9 percent, and the seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from lowest daily rate of 4.6 percent positivity in late May to 8.4 percent now.
JULY 03, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
SCOTUS decision may hurt LGBTQ asylum seekers Judicial due process handicapped by ruling By KAREN OCAMB
Blink and another devastating Trump administration edict might slip by. On June 25, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that is expected to severely hinder asylum seekers. The ruling, written by Justice Samuel Alito, said that Sri Lankan farmer Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, whose expedited removal was ordered by immigration officials, could not challenge that decision and seek asylum through the ‘The ruling … will give permission to racist and federal courts. xenophobic immigration officers to bluntly In 2017, Thuraissigiam was caught after discriminate against people who are seeking asylum and need protection,’ said BAMBY crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. He SALCEDO, CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition. told immigration officials that he had fled (Photo by Paolo Riveros) Sri Lanka “after being severely beaten by unidentified men because of his political support for a Tamil candidate, and he feared being targeted if he returned,” the Los Angeles Times reported. His asylum claim was rejected “because Thuraissigiam could not identify the men or their motive in beating him, nor had he claimed that the Sri Lankan government would not protect him against future attacks.” An asylum officer and judge decided that Thuraissigiam did not meet the “credible fear” threshold for asylum. His court appeal was rejected. Alito wrote that the petitioner “does not want ‘simple release’ but, ultimately, the opportunity to remain lawfully in the United States.” “If courts must review credible-fear claims that in the eyes of immigration officials and an immigration judge do not meet the low bar for such claims,” Alito wrote, “expedited removal would augment the burdens on that system.” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, wrote a strong dissent, arguing that the ruling could have broader consequences for immigration law and the treatment of undocumented immigrants and noncitizens. “Taken to its extreme, a rule conditioning due process rights on lawful entry would permit Congress to constitutionally eliminate all procedural protections for any noncitizen the Government deems unlawfully admitted and summarily deport them no matter how many decades they have lived here, how settled and integrated they are in their communities, or how many members of their family are U.S. citizens or residents,” Sotomayor wrote. “This judicially fashioned line-drawing is not administrable, threatens to create arbitrary divisions between noncitizens in this country subject to removal proceedings, and, most important, lacks any basis in the Constitution.” Sotomayor added that the ruling “handcuffs the Judiciary’s ability to perform its constitutional duty to safeguard individual liberty and dismantles a critical component of the separation of powers” and leaves “exercises of executive discretion unchecked.” “The ruling by the Supreme court in the case of Vijayakumar Thursissigiam will give permission to racist and xenophobic immigration officers to bluntly discriminate against people who are seeking asylum and need protection — particularly trans Latinas who continuously flee their countries because of the violence that they experience in their home countries,” says Bamby Salcedo, Founder and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition, which works closely with attorneys helping trans asylum seekers. “It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court is following the racist policies that this administration continues to place on our communities.”
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Will Biden pick Karen Bass for VP? Congressional Black Caucus leader fits the bill By KAREN OCAMB
his custody, pleading for air and his mother until he expired. Heading into the COVID-crazy Fourth of July holiday, the nation is wrestling with the The video of that May 25 murder exposed the scourge of systemic racism and sparked very meaning of freedom as even red states are mandating mask wearing, stay-at-home mass marches supporting Black Lives Matter. People of all races, ages and identities orders and small family gatherings. Many are now heeding infectious disease expert Dr. demanded police reform and justice for the death of George Floyd, including 25,000 Anthony Fauci’s blaring siren: “I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 [cases] a people who marched on June 14 with LGBTQ All Black Lives Matter from Hollywood to day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned,” Fauci told lawmakers. West Hollywood, spotlighting the America is in trouble. The Trump murders of Black trans people. administration’s failure to keep the Karen Bass has been working to country safe from the highly infectious dismantle systemic racism, as well novel coronavirus has exposed as other forms of social, racial and an inadequate healthcare system economic injustice, for decades. that largely impacts the elderly and She is a community activist who marginalized minorities, including was raised on civil rights activism in LGBTQ people at high risk for LA’s Jewish Venice-Fairfax district, contracting the new coronavirus. volunteered for Bobby Kennedy’s Many are turning their frightened presidential campaign in middle eyes to presumptive Democratic school, graduated from Hamilton presidential nominee Joe Biden to High School in West LA in 1971, heal the horribly divided nation this studied philosophy at San Diego November. University but switched her attention “Today we’re facing a serious to healthcare, graduating from USC’s threat, and we must meet it — as Keck School of Medicine Physician one country. But this president gives Assistant Program. She subsequently us no direction. He pits us against received her BA in health sciences one another,” Biden said June 30 in from Cal State/Dominguez Hills and televised remarks. her master’s in Social Work from USC. For a running mate, Biden says Bass focused that training on he wants an experienced woman fighting the crack epidemic in South who could immediately assume LA, where she founded the Community presidential leadership, if needed; Coalition to fight for substance abuse someone with whom he is “simpatico;” prevention programs and better and someone who shares his priorities foster care. She also fought the AIDS and values, which includes LGBTQ epidemic — all experience directly equality. applicable to dealing with the ongoing The New York Times identified 13 Rep. KAREN BASS with her gay deputy DARRYN HARRIS at In The Meantime Men in South LA. opioid crisis, as well as COVID-19. candidates, including out Wisconsin (Blade photo by Karen Ocamb) “I went through the AIDS crisis from Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who fit the bill. its very beginning. I watched all of Many politicos assume that Santa Monica Boulevard get wiped California Sen. Kamala Harris has a out near Vermont (Avenue). That whole area there. I watched everybody die within a lock on the spot. She is a highly qualified Black/Asian former presidential candidate who matter of two years,” Bass told the Los Angeles Blade last March. “But I think that this Biden knows through her relationship with his beloved late son Beau when they served [COVID-19 crisis] is really hard because you don’t have to have any physical contact…. as attorneys general. Biden was clearly hurt when Harris attacked him over segregation People are building the plane while it’s flying.” during a presidential debate but she apologized and they made up. Others are not as Torie Osborn, executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community forgiving. Services Center in 1989, met Bass at a meeting of progressive grassroots activists in a Several of the other candidates might fit the moment but no one matches the breadth South LA church basement. of bona fides offered by California Rep. Karen Bass. “This woman I didn’t know came up, introduced herself as Karen Bass from South LA, The Times frames Bass as a long shot since the Biden team “has reached an advanced an anti-police violence activist and a physician assistant,” Osborn says. The two talked all stage of the vetting process” and Bass’ extensive record may require more vetting than day with Bass noting that the gay community’s experience of AIDS deaths was similar to is possible before Biden’s announcement date around Aug. 1. Bass also lacked national what the Black community was experiencing during the crack epidemic. name recognition. “I had never heard anything like this before. She knew gay men. She clearly was an ally,” That changed when she became the congressional leader most identified with pushing Osborn says. for police reform after the world witnessed the 8-minute, 46-second cellphone video Bass also talked about the LAPD battering rams used to level suspected crack houses. showing a white Minneapolis police officer calmly kneeling on the neck of a Black man in 06 •
JULY 03, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
“They just had like a militarized response to the epidemic and she was really angry about it. And she said, ‘Do you understand that the genocidal attacks on my community are similar to the genocidal attacks on yours?’” Osborn says. “I never thought about the similarities between attacks by the state – for gays, it was the genocidal neglect of the Reagan years.” At a June 10 hearing on the bill she crafted with Rep. Jerry Nadler and Sens. Harris and Cory Booker — the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 — Bass noted that “she had begun protesting police violence the same year that Mr. Floyd was born, in 1973,” the New York Times reported. She also recalled LAPD Chief Daryl Gates “calling a news conference to claim that the reason so many black people were dying of chokeholds in police custody was ‘because our neck veins were different.’” Bass says the 1992 LA riots after the acquittal of four white police officers videotaped beating unarmed Black motorist Rodney King hit her personally. “I just drove around feeling that all of the years of my involvement and all of the things I had tried to do had been a failure,” Bass recalled in 2011. “I failed the young people because they felt no outlet other than to destroy.” Bass was talked into running for elective office by Miguel Contreras, the late chief of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. In 2005, she won the Assembly seat being vacated by Diane Watson. She was immediately given leadership positions by Speaker Fabian Nunez and risked political support by helping gay Assemblymember Mark Leno push AB 19, the state’s first marriage equality bill. Three years later, Bass was unanimously elected Speaker of the Assembly, making history as California’s first Black woman Speaker. Bass’s political skills were tested in 2008/2009 when the Speaker dealt with renowned sexist Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as difficult Democrats, to get California, the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis, out of the Great Recession. There is a reason Bass has been mentioned as the most likely to succeed House Speaker Pelosi, if she steps down. “Having had the great pleasure to serve with Congresswoman Bass in the State Assembly, before and after she became Speaker, I am not surprised that she is being considered by Joe Biden,” Leno tells the Los Angeles Blade. “Her talents and potential are obvious to all. Having authored the legislature’s Equal Marriage Rights bills, I know personally of her commitment to LGBTQ equality. She is a fierce champion of not only our community but to all those who are disenfranchised and struggling for equal treatment under the law.” Another plus for Biden in attempting to heal the nation — Bass sincerely reaches across the partisan divide to get things done. She calls Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy a friend from their days in the Assembly. She successfully passed the Justice in Policing Act by a 236-181 margin with three Republicans voting in favor. And Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate’s only Black Republican, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on June 28 that he has spoken often with Bass. “I give Karen Bass a lot of credit. She’s very serious about getting to a compromise,” Scott said. Bass told a Politico town hall on June 30 that she does not negotiate in public but she’ll keep pushing, “especially when we have this moment where transformative change is possible. But we have to push, we have to keep pushing, and I’m ready to do that.” Pushing for justice is at her core. “So the values that I treasure really were a result of watching the Civil Rights Movement on TV, talking to my father about what growing up in the South meant, and then growing up during the ’60s and watching young people try to change the world, led me to making a lifetime commitment to working for social and economic justice,” Bass told Jewish Journal
Rep. KAREN BASS with LA City Councilmember MIKE BONIN, Rep. TED LIEU and LA County Supervisor SHEILA KUEHL at an event sponsored by activist Torie Osborn before the coronavirus exploded. (Photo courtesy Osborn)
columnist Raphael Sonenshein in 2009. And then there’s martial arts. “When I was in my early 20s, I studied tae kwon do and hapkido. I earned brown belts in both of them. What it taught me was how to fight in a manner that is respectful; don’t personalize and get to the point. The goal of a martial artist is actually to not fight, [it’s] to prevent the fight. If somebody attacks you, you’re taught how to take their energy and use it against them,” Bass told LA Times columnist Patt Morrison in 2009. Those lessons helped Bass as Assembly Speaker. “The discipline, the control of emotions and picking your fights — not just fighting because it makes you feel good but fighting with a purpose.” Bass and Biden also share grief: like Biden, she suffered the tragic loss of her daughter Emilia, 23, a Loyola Marymount University student, and son-in-law Michael Wright, 23, in a 2006 car crash on the I-405 freeway. Karen Bass fits Joe Biden’s bill for VP: she is a highly regarded coalition-builder; has executive legislative experience during a financial crisis; is passionate about foster care, healthcare and fighting against systemic racism; and her values stem from a long battle for human rights. And she’s nice. What more could Joe Biden and a desperate country want?
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Gill Foundation pledges $250K to protect Stonewall Inn In 2014, the Gill Foundation coordinated with the National Park Foundation to identify LGBTQ places and events of historical significance. As part of that effort, the Stonewall Inn was designated as a national monument in 2016, making it the first-ever LGBTQ National Monument. According to the Gill Foundation, the ultimate goal for the Stonewall Inn is a permanent exhibition and visitors center near the Stonewall Inn to commemorate its important history. CHRIS JOHNSON
House approves bill for Pulse nat’l memorial
The modern Stonewall Inn is about half the size of the original bar and was last sold in 2006. (Photo by Travis Wise via Flickr)
Amid concerns the iconic Stonewall Inn in New York City may close due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Gill Foundation announced this week it will match contributions of up to $250,000 to protect the business from closure. The news was timed for the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which started in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City and was considered the start of the modern LGBTQ movement. Scott Miller and Tim Gill, co-chairs of the Gill Foundation, said in a statement, “Stonewall is a cornerstone of LGBTQ history and it must be protected.” “Queer people of color — including trans women of color like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Miss Major — led the uprisings against police brutality at Stonewall and in doing so helped spark the movement for LGBTQ equality,” Miller and Gill said. “We must preserve that history and the legacy of the activists who led the charge.” According to a CNN report, the Stonewall Inn is faced with mounting bills and uncertainty around when it can reopen during the coronavirus crisis. As a consequence, it has started an online fundraiser to ensure the LGBTQ landmark won’t close for good. The monthly rent for the Stonewall Inn is over $40,000 and although the bar received some Paycheck Protection Program funds, it was significantly less than the owners had expected, CNN reported. The bar sits next to the Stonewall National Monument, which is a national park, but does not receive any federal funding, according to CNN. The pledge of up to $250,000 from the Gill Foundation will be earmarked to support rent and utility costs. Stacy Lentz and Kurt Kelly, co-owners of the Stonewall Inn, welcomed the commitment from the Gill Foundation in a statement. “As the first and only LGBTQ National Monument, Stonewall is home not only to the history of our community, but also the history of our city and country,” Lentz and Kelly said. “We are beyond grateful for this generous pledge that will help us keep the history alive.” 08 •
The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved a bill that would designate the Pulse nightclub as a national memorial. A press release that U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, Val Demings, and Stephanie Murphy released notes House Resolution 3094 “grants a federal designation honoring the 49 lives taken on June 12, 2016, as well as the survivors, first responders and the entire Central Florida community.” Soto, Demings and Murphy are Democrats who represent Orlando in Congress. “I am grateful that the House has passed our legislation to make the Pulse site a national memorial,” said Demings. “We will always honor the family, friends, and neighbors we lost that night. Today, the U.S. House moved forward legislation that will help to ensure that the memories of the victims will always be a part of our national identity and that they will never be forgotten.” “Four years ago, we saw the atrocious and destructive nature of hatred plague our Orlando community when 49 lives were taken and 53 others were injured,” added Soto. “As we continue to honor the memory of those lost, I am proud to lead the fight with Congresswomen Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy to designate the National Pulse Memorial. Today, we remind the world that hate will never defeat love, grief can turn into strength and that a place of loss can become a sanctuary of healing. Together, we will continue to open minds and hearts. We will make the Pulse Memorial a national symbol of hope, love and light.” The onePULSE Foundation, a group founded by Pulse owner Barbara Poma that is planning to build a permanent memorial, applauded the lawmakers who introduced HR 3094. “Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill to recognize Pulse nightclub as a National Memorial Site, reminding the world that we will not let hate win,” said the onePULSE Foundation in a tweet. June 12 marked four years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the nightclub during its Latino night. The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
JULY 03, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
MICHAEL K. LAVERS
Obama, Biden reflect on LGBTQ Supreme Court wins Former President Barack Obama, in a video posted June 29 for a virtual celebration of Pride month, recognized Supreme Court decisions for LGBTQ rights as continuation of the work started by the Stonewall riots more than 50 years ago. “We’re almost 51 years since the night when the patrons President Barack Obama reflects at the Stonewall Inn on LGBTQ wins at the Supreme Court during a Pride Live event. stood up for their (Screen capture via Logo on YouTube) rights and set off one of America’s defining victories for civil rights,” Obama says in the video. “Because of the movement they sparked and the decades of work that followed, marriage equality became the law of the land five years ago and just this month the Supreme Court ruled that employers can no longer discriminate against LGBTQ workers.” Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled in the decision of Bostock v. Clayton County anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, thus illegal in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The decision in favor of same-sex marriage in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges came down in 2015 during Obama’s second term in office. “All that progress is worth celebrating and reflecting on,” Obama says. “The struggle and triumph for LGBTQ rights shows how protests and politics go hand in hand, how we’ve got to both shine a light on injustice and translate those aspirations into specific laws and institutional practices.” The virtual celebration, called Pride Live, was a three-day event that raised funds for LGBTQ organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the event, Pride Live announced that philanthropists Tim Gill and Scott Miller of the Gill Foundation contributed $50,000 to the cause. Joseph Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and his wife Dr. Jill Biden also appeared in a video for the event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pride month. “Pride is particularly poignant this year,” Biden says in the video. “Even as the LGBTQ+ rights continued to be attacked, the Supreme Court has affirmed protections for LGBTQ+ people against employment discrimination.” CHRIS JOHNSON
Global Pride amplifies Black voices men who represent the U.S. abroad as ambassadors, Celebrities, politicians and activists on Saturday united on Monday participated in an Atlantic Council Pride with Global Pride 2020, a 24-hour virtual event created month event. in light of widespread cancellations of Pride events and The State Department has repeatedly told the festivals due to the coronavirus pandemic. Blade the U.S. continues to focus its LGBTQ-specific The event celebrated LGBTQ progress thus far and foreign policy efforts on decriminalizing consensual drew attention to the violence and oppression that Black same-sex sexual relations and reducing violence LGBTQ and transgender individuals endure around the based on sexual orientation and gender identity. world. Global Pride organizers also collaborated with the The White House in 2019 tapped outgoing U.S. founders of Black Lives Matter to amplify Black LGBTQ Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to lead an voices. initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize Musical acts, dance routines and speeches by drag consensual same-sex sexual relations. Activists queens, LGBTQ artists and allies filled the 24-hour special, nevertheless continue to sharply criticize the Trump as well as history lessons on past Pride festivals around administration’s LGBTQ rights record, which includes the world and the foundations of the LGBTQ rights the State Department’s controversial Commission on movement. Testimonials, performances and speeches Unalienable Rights that Pompeo created last year. were submitted by individuals and organizations from 91 MICHAEL K. LAVERS countries, with 1,500 entries in total. Laverne Cox, Olivia Newton-John, Kesha, Adam Laverne Cox was one of a number of celebrities who took part in Global Pride Lambert, Pabllo Vittar, Deborah Cox, Pussy Riot, the last weekend. (Photo courtesy Netflix) Village People and Ahmed Umar and many other celebrities were featured at the event as performers, or who you love is celebrated, not denigrated. Embraced, not speakers and educators. Todrick Hall, an LGBTQ singer, delegitimized.” songwriter, producer and YouTube star hosted the event. Pelosi added Black trans women disproportionately “For many of us in the world, Pride is the only time we can President Trump last week met with the anti-LGBTQ endure higher rates of homelessness, violence and murder. visible,” said Hall. “Its the only time we can celebrate as one president of Poland at the White House. “It is an annual reminder of the struggle and violence that big glorious LGBTQIA+ family. For all of you, this is your Pride, Two senior administration officials who briefed reporters the LGBTQ+ community has endured for years,” Whitmer said. this is your moment.” said NATO and economic ties between Poland and the “That struggle is undoubtedly, disproportionately impacted Former Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy U.S. were among the topics that Trump and Andrzej Duda Black and Brown people in the LGBTQ+ community.” Pelosi (D-Calif.), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and planned to discuss. KAELA ROEDER Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel were some of the Duda is the first head of state the White House has event’s featured politicians and global leaders. hosted since the coronavirus pandemic began. Trump on Many headliners referenced worldwide protests against Wednesday described Duda as a “friend” before they met in the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims the Oval Office. of police brutality in the U.S. This event took place about a “I don’t think we’ve ever been closer to Poland than we are month after Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died in police right now,” said Trump before their meeting. “And we’re going custody when a then-Minneapolis police officer kneeled on to have a very important meeting on economic development, his neck for nearly nine minutes. military and other things.” The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said, “it is Duda met with Trump ahead of Poland’s June 28 presidential Rights and Labor on Monday publicly acknowledged Pride more important than ever to fight for all Black lives.” Although election. The meeting also sparked condemnation from the month. there have been countless protests and marches, there is still Human Rights Campaign and Kampania Przeciw Homofobii “The U.S. stands in solidarity with human rights defenders work to be done, she said. (Campaign Against Homophobia), a Polish LGBTQ advocacy working around the world to protect fundamental freedoms “We don’t want Black lives to only matter when we die,” group. of LGBTI persons and communities,” it said in a tweet. “All added Garza. “We want Black lives to matter when we are “I don’t care if they are going to talk about the army or people are endowed with unalienable human rights and alive. Black trans lives matter now, not just when Black trans electricity or whatever,” Justyna Nakielska of Kampania every government is obligated to provide equal protection people are murdered.” Przeciw Homofobii told the Blade during a WhatsApp under the law.” Many global leaders acknowledged these sentiments: That interview from Warsaw, the Polish capital. “For me it sends Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has yet to publicly Pride should act as a platform to continue the fight against a strong symbolic message and (a) practical (one) as well acknowledge Pride month, even though a number of systemic oppression and racism, in addition to being a time that each other supports the homophobic rhetoric of one embassies have done so. of celebration. another.” The U.S. Embassy in Russia draped a Pride flag on the side “This year’s Pride looks different than the Prides of Nakielska noted Duda last month said LGBTQ “ideology” is of its building in Moscow. yesteryear,” said Cox. “Let’s not forget the main reason we more harmful than communism. “Today we conclude the celebration of Pride month,” said commemorate Pride. We fight oppression, violence and Nakielska told the Blade that Duda’s Law and Justice party the embassy in Russian on its Twitter page. “But we continue discrimination … We stand united on a global stage. We make ahead of last October’s parliamentary elections noted that to protect the rights and fundamental freedoms of all people space to advocate, educate and celebrate.” LGBTQ Poles, among other things “want to sexualize children” around the world. Rights for LGBT people are human rights. Biden said this event is a chance to “return to the true roots and “are a threat to the family.” Nakielska also told the Blade Human rights are universal. It’s so simple.” of Pride.” that anti-LGBTQ groups began to lobby local governments to The U.S. Embassy in Lithuania on its Twitter page currently “The fight for LGBTQ equality is all our fight,” he said. “We enact homophobic and transphobic resolutions. has the rainbow and transgender Pride flags as its banner MICHAEL K. LAVERS have a responsibility to create a world where who you are picture. Ambassador Robert Gilchrist, one of five openly gay
Trump hosts anti-LGBTQ Polish leader
State Dept. human rights bureau acknowledges Pride
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Resurrecting George Floyd: Oriki for justice, healing & freedom Honoring vibrational frequency of George Floyd — Ibae T-Orun I. I see him Shadow boxing with inherited hatred His daily processing of purse clutchings and street crossings Drinking the fear of the big Black man The powerful elephant whose tusks were not recognized Carrying a basket of mistakes like every other human George: our Superfly, our Shaft (Y’all bettah shut your mouth, I’m talking about Shaft) Our Django wearing blue tuxedo and riding white horse That son who always calls his mama early on Mother’s Day That brother with two hustles and three jobs Still found time to twirl his daughter on his shoulders Daddy of girlchild who uttered prophetic visions of a daddy who came to change the world II. Cause of death: 20 counterfeit dollars Price of admission for an execution on Facebook live Chauvin’s cowardly knee on Goliath’s neck Senseless guns trained on the gunless Flashback to 1921 hanging captured in a celebratory photo Leaving humanity baffled by the soullessness of executioners Breath stopped and tears frozen in a sea of badges and blue uniforms III. Moving eyes to stone and hearts to lava His spirit rises from asphalt to fulfill a destiny 8 minute and 46 second shift from oppressed brother to revered ancestor A name that would be chanted a million times until it became a scripture Summoning descendants to white house steps Calling the breath of six volcanos to a swollen earth Inciting marches in 18 countries and 50 states
Birthing a new nation of young warriors whose lungs function in clouds of tear gas Whose bodies carry the tattoo of rubber bullets and billy clubs They who hypnotize police into prayer position at street altars They who move politicians to dress their wounds in Kente Cloth As we raise Black power fist at the doorway of America’s capitol As we transform murder scenes into temples with prayers, sage, candles and flowers Rip masks off fake allies and judicial pretenders Make proof that God’s plan trumps anything that evil and hate gives birth to IV. That moment you understand that just breathing could get you killed An era where human decency has disappeared like an obsolete fashion A people who have been infected with a spiritual virus called racism Carrying the weight of an ancestral debt on a bill of 400 years of free labor Stripes from a flawed religion that sanctioned gas chambers and conversion camps Or just a sick need for everyone to think, love and believe like you When intolerance morphs into yellow tape at the scene of hate crimes Violations that no laws, arrests or jail time will ever atone for The call to Oya for a storm strong enough to break the cycle Sacrifice to Shango for the balancing of the scales of justice Let the prophets speak light over the bodies of those who made this agreement For this little light of mine now becoming a torch for change done come VI. There is motion in stillness Ancestral elevation in hands of lightworkers Peace in Tsunami’s where new worlds are formed
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Love TaShia Asanti is an award-winning poet, activist, journalist, speaker and author of seven books. For more, visit officialtashiaasanti.com (Photo by D. Pepper Massey)
We are birthing hope in rivers Bringing messages through dreams We have become the healing They are a new breed of healers There is a purpose for this tragic period in American history To transcend the holocausts To see new skies open in freedom’s garden To drink of our collective liberation To lay down the sword and surrender the badge To write laws that end with a difference sentence To give ourselves permission to rest VII. This poem is for the resurrection of George Floyd On the day God chose to televise his revolution He is already reborn His spirit has risen He sits high in the holiness of ancient Mothers He watches over the street soldiers He carries our prayers to the Master His shackles are forever broken He walks in the company of mighty ancestors He basks in the prayers of the High Priests He laughs in the rhythm of victory And he has forever changed the colors of the flag in the land of the freeeeeeee!
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Celebrate Bostock, for now Religious questions continue to shape scope of legal protections In what is at least the biggest victory for LGBTQ Americans since the 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, last month the Supreme Court held that employers who fire employees for their sexual orientation or gender identity violate Title Patrick Hornbeck is chair and professor of VII of the Civil Rights Act. theology at Fordham University, where he is also But under what circumstances will a JD candidate at Fordham Law School. religious employers be subject to, and their employees protected by, the rule the Court announced? Let’s start with the positive. The decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and the two cases consolidated with it arguably expands the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans more broadly than the Court’s previous gay rights decisions. While the Court’s earlier decisions affirmed for LGBTQ people what retired Justice Anthony Kennedy dubbed “equal dignity in the eye of the law,” in practice they benefited LGBTQ people primarily in the context of our romantic, marital, and sexual relationships. Monday’s decision establishes the equality of LGBTQ individuals as individuals, of sexual orientation and gender identity as categories of human personhood. This should be a time of nearly unalloyed celebration for LGBTQ Americans, our families, friends, and allies. Though we mourn the loss of two of the plaintiffs in the cases, Donald Zarda and Aimee Stephens, who did not survive to see justice done, the decision has farreaching implications we have waited a long time for. But the Court’s opinion, authored by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and the court’s four liberal members, also signaled where the next front in the battle for LGBTQ equality will be drawn. Religion, as Justice Stephen Breyer commented at October’s oral arguments, “is the elephant in the room.” It was not for nothing that numerous faith-based organizations attempted to sway the Court’s thinking. National evangelical associations and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops weighed in on behalf of employers who had fired gay and transgender employees. But the Court heard from religious voices on the other side of the spectrum as well, with progressive Muslim, Jewish, and Christian groups urging the justices to affirm the God-given equality of all individuals and prohibit discrimination in our increasingly pluralistic society. Justice Breyer was right about the place of religion in the cases decided in June, because they did not explicitly feature arguments about religious freedom. Title VII does include an exception for religious organizations that wish to make employment decisions on the basis of their employees’ religious beliefs. Over the past 40 years, lower courts and the Supreme Court have added a separate, judge-made exception that, in the name of avoiding First Amendment problems, frees religious institutions from Title VII when it comes to the hiring and firing of those whom the courts deem “ministers.” But most objections to the full equality of LGBTQ Americans rest on religious grounds, and so it is not surprising that questions about religion continue to shape the scope of legal protections for LGBTQ citizens. We will not have to wait long for the next salvo in what has become an ongoing conflict between antidiscrimination laws and assertions about religious freedom. In May, two Trump administration cabinet departments proposed enabling healthcare providers and homeless shelters to turn away, for reasons of conscience, those who identify as transgender. Later this term—maybe even this week—the Supreme Court will hand down its decision in a second set of discrimination cases. Teachers at two Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles claim they were fired for legally
impermissible reasons: one because of a cancer diagnosis that rose to the level of a disability, the other because of age. The schools have argued that because the teachers performed “important religious functions,” they are covered by Title VII’s “ministerial exception” and, therefore, the schools’ employment decisions merit categorical immunity from antidiscrimination laws. Whether in the context of sexuality, disability, or age, situations like these demand that courts and legislators walk a very narrow tightrope. The Supreme Court did not need to, and therefore did not, resolve these complex questions in its landmark ruling in Bostock. But the questions keep turning up, in cases involving bakers and photographers, teachers and organists. For the peace of mind of all who work in and patronize institutions with a religious mission, sooner or later the Court will have to decide. Whether that day will also be a day of celebration for LGBTQ Americans remains to be seen.
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 03, 2020 • 11
‘Noah’s Arc’ cast reunites in character for Zoom event this weekend By KAELA ROEDER & JOEY DiGUGLIELMO
Intimacy, relationships, parenting, sexual health and social justice: these are just some of the topics covered in “Noah’s Arc,” the hit 2005-2006 series covering the daily life of a group of gay, Black men in Los Angeles. Often described as being ahead of its time, this show was the ﬁrst series to feature an all-Black, LGBTQ cast, making history in the industry. Dubbed a gay version of “Golden Girls” or “Sex and the City,” the show developed an active fan base that still loves it and its cast. The cast and creator Patrik-Ian Polk are set to reunite for a new episode “Noah’s Arc: The ’Rona Chronicles.” The group ﬁnds themselves navigating the global health crisis and mass protests for social justice and equal rights after a 12year hiatus. It airs Sunday, July 5 at 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST) on YouTube and Facebook Live. GLAAD and Impulse D.C. are supporting sponsors. Several LGBT charitable groups such as the Birmingham AIDS outreach, GLITS (Gays & Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society), In the Meantime Men’s Group and D.C.’s own CASA Ruby are beneﬁciaries. Look for the event page on Eventbrite. Gilead will present the show dubbed “social distancing & social unrest brings them together.” The starring characters of the show including Noah (Darryl Stephens), Alex (Rodney Chester), Ricky (Christian Vincent), Chance (Doug Spearman) and Wade (Jensen Atwood) will unite to ﬁlm the episode. Wrapping after two seasons on Logo TV and a 2008 feature ﬁlm (“Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom”) that follows Noah (Stephens) and Wade’s (Atwood) marriage, the cast said they’re looking forward to reuniting. The program will begin with a pre-show tailgate party hosted by the Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative, streaming testimonials from fans and clips from the original series. After the episode airs, there will be a live Q&A with the cast, including Stephens, Atwood, Chester, Spearman and Vincent. Karamo Brown of “Queer Eye” will moderate. The Blade spoke by phone last week with cast members Chester (Alex), Jenson (Wade) and Stephens (Noah) to talk about their excitement for the reunion and what the group has been up to since the show ended. RODNEY CHESTER (Alex) Portraying Alex Kirby, a conﬁdent and outspoken HIV counselor, Chester says he’s excited to reunite with the cast and “pick up where we left oﬀ” 12 years ago. Alex opens his own non-proﬁt HIV-awareness treatment
12 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 03, 2020
The cast of ‘Noah’s Arc’ during its original mid-2000s run. From left are CHRISTIAN VINCENT (Ricky), RODNEY CHESTER (Alex), DARRYL STEPHENS (Noah) and DOUG SPEARMAN (Chance). (ﬁle photo courtesy LOGO)
center called the Black AIDS Institute in the show, and Chester says the real-life Black AIDS Institute helped develop “Noah’s Arc.” Chester says the character of Alex and others on the show helped contribute to the valuable messaging on the Black LGBTQ experience in TV and ﬁlms seen in 2020. Successful LGBTQ Black men who owned their own non-proﬁt were nonexistent at the time. “We pioneered positive messaging that we are seeing today,” he says. He learned a great deal about sexual health and HIV throughout the process of ﬁlming the show and even learned how to conduct STD testing. Chester met (“Noah’s Arc” creator) Polk through playing Alexis in the movie “Punks,” a romantic comedy that follows a group of Black LGBTQ men in West Hollywood in the late ‘90s. Chester, who played Alexis in the ﬁlm, was connected to Polk from there. The part of Alex was written speciﬁcally by Polk for Chester to play. “He wanted to get my energy on stage. It was fun, I never had someone write a character for me before,” Chester says. This event could also kickstart the possibility of a reboot of the show, Chester says, which would possibly revolve around
the parents of the characters. Chester has been ﬁlling his time with acting and other creative projects since the show aired. Recently, he played Kevin in “As I Am,” a movie about a young Black LGBTQ man confronting his past and suppressed identity. The movie is in the process of ﬁnding a distributor. Looking back on the original episodes of the sitcom, Chester is proud of the work his cast and Polk did to put the show on screen. “I am happy to display positive characters … we don’t ﬁght,” he says. “We show positive friendships. We are all best friends.” JENSEN ATWOOD (Wade) Wade, a screenwriter who struggles with his sexual identity upon meeting Noah, showed the process of a hyper“straight” man coming to terms with being LGBTQ — a rare representation at the turn of the 21st Century. Atwood described the reunion as “surreal.” He says the cast has been trying to coordinate a reunion since the show wrapped and is excited to be back with the group and get “back to the foundations of Wade.” Because of the way the show tackled more sensitive
issues “head on” that were barely covered in other TV or ﬁlm programs, as Atwood says, “Noah’s Arc” was a catalyst for LGBTQ Pride. When the show ﬁrst aired in 2005, being gay was still seen as being an uncomfortable topic, Jenson says. When viewers and fans of the show would see him in public and ask him about the show, “their voice would change to a lower tone and almost whisper ‘Noah’s Arc.’” Now, Atwood says that attitude and stigma toward being LGBTQ and gay lifestyle has diminished and now LGBTQ is more a topic of pride and positivity. Comparing the mid-2000s and 2020, Atwood says there has been a palpable societal impact in attitudes toward LGBTQ people and feels proud of the work he and the team did and will continue to do for “The ’Rona Chronicles.” “People 15 years later still talk about it like it’s a brand-new show. I would say we all succeeded in the cast,” he says. Atwood has kept his sexuality private for his career, as well, and has avoided speaking openly about his identity on public platforms. He says it’s “personal.” He says playing Wade was “a challenge.” Atwood says he did not “associate with gay love,” but used the knowledge of love he did have to round out his character. “It was confusing because it was a world that I’m not a part of. I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to give the respect that the character needed,” he says. He says his career since wrapping “Noah’s Arc” has been “nonstop.” Previous projects include national commercials, short ﬁlms and putting out an album with his band Dreamkillaz, a rock band based in Los Angeles. Similar to the rest of the cast, Atwood says he’s excited to bring “The ’Rona Chronicles” to “Noah’s Arc” fans. “I think the fans deﬁnitely deserve it. And the fans have been wanting it. And more than anything, I’m excited. I’m excited for the fans,” he says.
DARRYL STEPHENS (left) and JENSEN ATWOOD in 2010. (Photo by Greg Hernandez via Wikimedia)
DARRYL STEPHENS (Noah) The ﬁrst year he played the title role on “Noah’s Arc,” actor Darryl Stephens also played gay characters in two other movies, the 2006 releases “Boy Culture” and “Another Gay Movie.” Although the three characters were all gay, he thought they were diverse enough that he didn’t worry about getting pigeonholed as an actor. “What I didn’t understand at the time was that TV characters resonate with audiences diﬀerently than ﬁlm characters,” the 46-year-old, openly gay actor says. “Because TV characters visit you in your living room every week. … People in the street don’t scream, ‘Andrew’ or ‘Angel,’ the scream, ‘Noah,’ right?” So while he has played mostly gay roles since “Noah’s Arc,” (“It’s shifted a little bit more now toward bitchy desk clerks,” he says), “Arc” was also a blessing, he says. “Oh my god, I wish I had friends like you guys.” “Oh my god, I want a relationship like you had with Wade.” “Oh my god, you were the ﬁrst character I could really relate to,” and on and on the recurring comments go. Stephens says it’s gratifying. “I’ve worked a lot and nothing in my life has had the impact that this show and that character has had for me,” he says. Playing Noah, he says, allowed him to get in touch with his softer side. He calls Noah “fragile” and an “sensitive, emotionally expressive Black gay man,” qualities he hasn’t seen as much in his subsequent roles. As of this June 26 interview, Stephens had not yet seen a reunion script — which will ﬁnd the actors in character reuniting via Zoom — but says he’s curious to see how Noah will have matured. So if the show had such a loyal audience, why was the run — 17 episodes plus the movie — so short? Stephens says LOGO was a ﬂedgling network at the time that didn’t fully grasp what it had in the show. He says in some ways, now, with limitless content hours available via streaming, a show like “Arc” would likely have lasted longer. On the other hand, he says, more queer characters on mainstream shows might lessen the demand for uber-queer shows. “This notion that we need a show catered speciﬁcally to queer people became outdated,” he says. “Our stories started being told in the context of larger stories and I think once that was recognized, LOGO recalibrated.” He’d be open to a reboot but says only if the characters and themes were fully brought up to date. “What was very groundbreaking in 2005, 2006 is very run of the mill now,” he says. “We’d really have to tackle those issues from a new perspective.” He remembers a scene in “Don’t Make Me Over” (season one, episode four) as his favorite of the series. The issue of gay men dressing and acting as straight as possible made for rich acting material, he says.
Actor DARRYL STEPHENS (Noah) today. (photo courtesy Stephens)
“Then we ended up blowing the lid oﬀ it with all the characters ending up in drag,” he says. Filming was arduous he says but not unusual. He expected long hours. What he remembers more, he says, is gooﬁng oﬀ with his fellow castmates, all of whom are on board for the reunion. Stephens kept a few of Noah’s clothes — boots from the movie, a few T-shirts. He gave his mom the poncho Noah was gay bashed in. “I loved it but I just felt it was something I wouldn’t wear again,” he says. “She wears it every now and then.” The core cast stay somewhat in touch. He says he and Rodney Chester “talk all the time.” He and Doug Spearman have worked together and are both cast in an upcoming series called “Boy Culture.” He calls his relationship with series creator Patrik-Ian Polk “good.” “We respect each other,” he says, although, “we don’t talk that often. But when we do, it’s very, ‘hey girl.’ We fall right back into it.” Stephens is in a relationship but won’t say more other than, “I’m very happy.” He lives in Los Angeles. If there’s been any downside to “Noah’s Arc,” Stephens says it’s mostly just that fans are sometimes underwhelmed when they seem him in person. “This is gonna sound dumb, but people expect me to be way more fashionable than I am,” he says. “I’m a jeans-andT-shirt dude down. Sometimes people see me on the street and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s not a ﬁerce outﬁt.’ That’s one of the curses of being such a cutting edge, provocative dresser on TV.”
LOSANGELESBLADE.COM • JULY 03, 2020 • 13
LA Pride broadcast honors history, stresses unity Celebrities, politicians come together for virtual celebration By JOHN PAUL KING
“Everybody was still frightened – but it was amazing.” That’s how Rev. Troy Perry describes the ﬁrst Los Angeles Pride Parade (which he co-founded), in an introductory segment shown at the beginning of the “LA Pride 50th Anniversary Celebration,” which aired on ABC7 on Saturday, June 27 and can still be streamed from the LA Pride website. The short introduction, charting the ﬁve-decade history of LA Pride (through footage taken of the event across the years, along with commentary from Perry and others) was more than nostalgia. It also served as a reminder that the ﬁrst Pride Parade was an act of political activism, a march for equality that took place in an American environment still very much in the grip of oppressively conservative power – the ﬁrst in what quickly became an oft-repeated refrain of such reminders throughout the broadcast. The presentation, which LA Pride put together in partnership with ABC7 and iHeart Media, was much anticipated, not in small part due to the success of last year’s festival and parade – the ﬁrst produced under the new leadership at Christopher Street West – but undoubtedly also in the light of what can only be called a series of unfortunate events leading into this year’s milestone 50th event. While it’s becoming harder for many of us, nearly four months into the pandemic, to get excited over another virtual party, the organization’s good will shone through to help its oﬃcial on-air celebration meet the needs of a community yearning for the sense of connection that feels so essential in making our Pride month so much more than just an excuse to party. Hosted by ABC7 personalities Brandi Hitt and Ellen Leyva, with Special Guest Host Raven-Symoné and additional assistance from correspondent Karl Schmid, the three-hour broadcast/streaming extravaganza was conceived as a sort of virtual parade, in lieu of the physical real world gathering taken from us this year by the coronavirus, and although at times the format gave it the inescapable feel of a “news and infotainment” broadcast, the overall structure did succeed in capturing the same sort of ﬂow one might get from a live procession – even kicking things oﬀ with the traditional revving of bikes, provided via remote video feed by the Motorcycle Contingent for Equality. From there, the anniversary celebration marched forward with an ongoing series of greetings from celebrity guests, civic and political leaders, community businesses and organizations, and sponsors showing their support for the LGBTQ community, mixed with music, entertainment, and messages of support – just like any other Pride parade. Among the luminaries oﬀering their Pride salutations were an array of famous names, representing every living generation of LGBTQ cultural experience; among them were such varied stars as Cheyenne Jackson, Carson Kressley, August Getty, Melissa Manchester, Leslie Jordan, Brian Michael Smith, Rome Flynn, Michael Feinstein, Fran Drescher, Jane Fonda, Hayley Kiyoko, Jake Borelli, Jake Choi, Lucie Arnaz, Joan Van Ark, Billy Porter, Gigi Gorgeous, Barbara Eden, Judy Tenuta, Jaclyn Smith, Donna Mills, Stefanie Powers, Dee Wallace, Donna Pescow, Elvira (Mistress of the Dark), and WeHo Mayor Lindsay Horvath, along with literally dozens of others. There were also the messages from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and other LA public servants, oﬀering “Happy Pride” wishes that felt sincere, if somewhat obligatory, as well as one from former Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg, who stressed solidarity throughout a prerecorded greeting in which he invoked the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s as “a story that has much to teach us in this moment” and called on the community to honor the contributions of trans people of color in the history of our struggle for LGBTQ rights; later in the broadcast, Dr. Jill Biden oﬀered a message from herself and her husband Joe, acknowledging the work that still needs to be accomplished in the ﬁght for true equality. There were also presentations by organizations and businesses serving the queer community, like PFLAG, AIDS Walk LA, The Los Angeles Rams, The LA Dodgers, The LA Kings, The Abbey, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and the all-LGBTQ+ chorus, the West Coast Singers. 14 •
JULY 03, 2020 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM
The evening also included segments paying tribute to noteworthy queer culture on our TV screens, an entertaining look at “Gay Slang” from Trixie Mattel and other drag stars, and a host of musical performances from the likes of GMCLA, Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, Broadway performers Brian Gallagher and Megan Hilty, and singer Joely Fisher. The musical highlight was undoubtedly the performance from trans artist Shea Diamond and Justin Tranter, who joined socially distanced forces with several familiar (and not-sofamiliar) faces to deliver an A screenshot from last weekend’s Pride broadcast. inventive video rendition of “I Am America,” the theme from HBO’s much-lauded new series, “We’re Here.” An inspirational power anthem for a new, inclusive and diverse queer generation, the number lifted the broadcast, for several thrilling minutes, above the constraints necessitated by its format and made it feel like we were celebrating in a crowd. The broadcast oﬀered any number of other entertaining and informative diversions throughout the evening, including a tantalizing brief taste of dance moves by the Iconic House of Ninja. a proﬁle on the ladies of “Pose,” and a segment about the growing visibility of LGBTQ athletes in the world of professional sports. It was, however, when things were allowed to get serious that this Pride celebration rose to its true greatness – such as a segment dedicated to elevating the voices of black members of the LGBTQ community, including local hero Phill Wilson, and one proﬁling queer elder Dan Guerrero, who turned his memories of being a gay Latino in the 1950s into the acclaimed one-man theatrical performance, “Gaytino.” Perhaps the most powerful moment of the broadcast came with a message from Laverne Cox, calling for unity in the struggle for justice. “Pride started as a ﬁght back against injustices, and this year, we need to talk about injustice,” said Cox, who spoke if the importance of elevating and embracing the voices of every segment within the LGBTQI+ community while, on the screen next to her, a list of names scrolled by to honor the 28 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were murdered in the US in 2019 and the 16 killed so far in 2020. As for the evening’s ﬁnale, the double-header of musical oﬀerings from Pride perennials Erasure and Katy Perry – essentially a pair of music videos – was inevitably a let-down for those to whom Pride means high-octane dancing all night long. Still, the stars preceded each entry with a personal greeting and “Happy Pride” wishes for LA, and even if their musical performances were not created fresh, in the moment, as we watched them, they were nothing short of stellar. It’s undeniable that watching a Pride celebration from your socially distant living room will never compare to being in the thick of it yourself. Still, for better or for worse, that’s what Pride 2020 was fated to be, and in the end, this 50th anniversary celebration rose to the challenge of our time to remind us that Pride can never truly be cancelled – not even by Covid.
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