Losangelesblade.com, Volume 05, Issue 29, July 16, 2021

Page 1


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Alleged trans incident at upscale LA Spa may have been staged Video quickly made the rounds among far right By ROBERT LANSING

On June 24, Instagram user “cubaangel” posted a video of herself angrily confronting a staff member at the Wi Spa in Koreatown, accusing them of letting a disrobed transgender person into the women’s section of the business. There is increasing doubt among law enforcement and staff at the Wi Spa whether there was ever was a transgender person there to begin with. Anonymous sources within the LAPD tell the Blade they have been unable to find any corroborating evidence that there was a transgender person present on that day. Similarly, a source at the Spa told the Blade there’s no record of any of its usual transgender clients on its appointments guest list on the day in question. Treatment at the spa is by appointment only, and most of its transgender clients are well known to the staff. Several other factors cast doubt on the veracity of the claims in the video. Cubaangel’s Instagram account is almost exclusively Christian memes, which begs the question why she chose to go to a spa well known for being LGBTQ friendly. During Cubaangel’s video, no transgender person can be seen, and no other witnesses have come forward to confirm the allegations made. It’s also not the first time Wi Spa has been targeted for catering to transgender people. After the alleged, unconfirmed incident, Wi Spa was deluged with 1-star Yelp! and Trip Advisor reviews. It also remains a possibility that there was a person, unknown to the Wi Spa staff, who pretended to be transgender to create an inciting incident. In 2015, antitransgender activists in Washington State deliberately encouraged men to enter women’s facilities. One cisgender man entered a swimming pool changing area wearing only board shorts while claiming that he had a right to be there (he was removed from the premises without charges being filed). The video quickly made the rounds in far right, and Trans-Exclusionary Feminist (TERF) sites. Anti-trans “feminist” websites like Mumsnet, Ovarit, and Spinster were sharing content by far right provocateurs known for disinformation, like Ian Miles Cheong, by June 27. Shortly thereafter, flyers for a protest on July 3 began circulating in religious right, far right, and TERF social media circles, and were shared by Cubaangel on the 29th and users on Spinster. They discussed defending the alt-right troll website, Kiwifarms, which is known for targeting transgender women. Prior to the protest, a Los Angeles trans woman was falsely accused by anti-trans feminists of being the alleged transgender person in the video. She received multiple death threats and harassment, including a picture of a masked man brandishing an assault weapon

threatening to shoot her. The anti-trans protest was a mix of religious fundamentalist street preachers, QAnon conspiracy theorists chanting “save our children,” and Proud Boys. Black-bloc (like Antifa) and trans activists engaged in a counter protest at the same time, and violence erupted. Right wing personality Andy Ngo, who coordinates

people in popular right-wing media like Fox News has grown both more frequent, and more extreme. In April, Tucker Carlson (who serves as a gateway to the far right) declared that transgender people are a threat to the “perpetuation of the species.” Dr. Joe Mulhall, head of research at the UK’s renowned anti-extremist watchdog group Hope Not Hate, discussed

(Screenshot via coverage from freelance news videographer Vishal P. Singh)

with far right groups when they’re looking to engage in violence on camera, was also there. A right-wing protester drew a gun on a person recording the event and told him it was “something to shoot you with.” A videographer wearing a vest marked “PRESS” was struck from behind by a right wing protester with a metal pipe. Another anti-trans protester stabbed two people: a pro-trans counter protester who was reportedly hospitalized by the wound, and a fellow antitrans protesters while she was attempting to help him off the ground. The LAPD quickly declared the protest and counter-protest unlawful assemblies and dispersed them. All of this fits into an emerging pattern of the alt-right, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, violent far right groups like the Proud Boys, the religious right, and anti-trans “feminists” collaborating and coordinating as they share the same media streams. Rhetoric against transgender

this trend in a recent interview. “We see more anti-trans content from within the far right than against any other minority today… [They] disproportionally talk about trans rights way more than Muslims now”. He sees transphobia as more accepted publicly than anti-Semitism. “Talking about Jews isn’t. It ostracizes you. But if you talk about trans issues it opens the doors to the mainstream. The far right are saying things they know will be echoed in the comment pages of the right-wing press.” Flyers are circulating online advertising a second protest against Wi Spa on July 17. LAPD sources say they are aware, and will be taking steps to avoid a repeat of July 3. However, as of publication, no warrants, indictments, or arrests have been made as a result of the violence. (Robert Lansing is a pseudonym for a longtime investigative trans researcher and writer-journalist. Use of the pseudonym is to protect the writer from retribution and potential harm by right-wing extremists.)



Biden nominates Garcetti as U.S. ambassador to India Would become first L.A. mayor in more than 100 years to voluntarily leave office By BRODY LEVESQUE

The White House announced last week that President Joe Biden has nominated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as the U.S. Ambassador to India. If confirmed by the Senate, Garcetti would become the first L.A. mayor in more than a 100 years to voluntarily leave office before the end of his term. Garcetti has been the mayor of the City of Los Angeles since 2013, following 12 years as a member of the City Council, including six as Council president. As mayor, Garcetti oversees the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere, the largest municipal utility in the country, and one of the busiest airports in the world. He led LA’s successful bid to return the summer Olympic Games to American soil for the first time in three decades. He currently chairs LA Metro, the country’s secondbusiest transit agency, which is building or extending 15 new transit lines, and shifting to an all-electric fleet. Garcetti co-founded Climate Mayors and led more than 400 U.S. mayors to adopt the Paris Climate agreement. He is the current Chair of C40 Cities – a network of 97 of the world’s biggest cities taking bold climate action and has led the organization’s engagement and expansion in India as well as C40’s global response to the COVID pandemic through the sharing of best practices and


(Blade file photo)

resources. During 12 years as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve Component, Garcetti served under the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet and the Defense

Intelligence Agency, retiring in 2017 as a Lieutenant. The mayor is also a Rhodes Scholar, he studied at Queen’s College, Oxford and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Garcetti was selected as an inaugural Asia 21 Fellow of the Asia Society, and taught at Occidental College’s Department of Diplomacy and World Affairs, as well as at the University of Southern California’s School of International Relations. He is the founding chair of the Latino Alliance of Mayors at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, serves on the Board of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, and speaks fluent Spanish. Garcetti earned a B.A. and M.A. at Columbia University, where he was a John Jay Scholar. If the mayor were to resign and accept the post, he would still face Senate confirmation, which could take weeks or months. Should he step aside, the City Charter gives City Council the power to appoint an interim mayor to replace Garcetti through the end of his term. The council’s president, currently Nury Martinez, can also act as mayor pending an appointment of a successor — complicating the upcoming mayoral election, in which Martinez is said to be “seriously considering” a run, KTLA reported.



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LA Gay Chorus member in hospital after altercation in Palm Springs No evidence to suggest a hate crime FROM STAFF REPORTS

A Glendale marketing and advertising executive remains in critical condition at Desert Regional Hospital Centre, after suffering severe head and neck injuries as the result of an altercation in the early morning hours of July 9 according to the Palm Springs Police Department (PSPD). The victim has been identified on social media accounts and a GoFundMe page as Justin Wicker, who is also a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. The PSPD released a statement detailing the incident saying that officers were dispatched to the 400 block of E. Arenas Rd. regarding a victim of a battery. Officers learned that the victim and a friend were walking from a local bar on E. Arenas Rd. and engaged in conversation with another male. The victim told the male that he resembled the actor

Eddie Murphy, according to the statement. It was reported that the male became angry at this comment and a physical confrontation occurred. The male began chasing the victim. While running away, the victim slipped and struck his head on the ground. The subject chasing the victim left the area. The victim was transported to a local area hospital and is in critical condition. Because of the physical confrontation and fact that the male was chasing the victim when the victim fell and became injured, officers are investigating this incident as an assault and battery. We have seen social media rumors indicating this incident was a targeted hate crime. At this time, there is no reported information or evidence to suggest a hate crime occurred. The investigation is still early and ongoing and investigators

are looking for anyone who may have additional information about this incident to come forward and provide us with the additional details. The suspect is described as a black male adult, approximately 5 feet, 8 inches tall wearing a light blue button up shirt, white shorts, and was last seen in a black convertible type vehicle. Investigators are looking through video evidence at this time to see if there are any images that can be released to assist identifying the suspect in this case. If you do have information that would assist investigators, we ask that you call us at 760-327-1441. You can also report information anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 760-3417867.



Alarming rise in COVID Delta variant among unvaccinated Urgency to get more people vaccinated in L.A. By BRODY LEVESQUE

As Angelenos settle into a less restrictive mode as some coronavirus safety protocols have eased and with more residents engaged in summer activities after the July 4 holiday weekend, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is reporting an alarming uptick in reported cases of the coronavirus Delta variant. In two days, the county recorded more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases. It was the first time since early March that Public Health has reported two consecutive days when more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases were reported. Transmission of COVID-19 in L.A. County is increasing among younger unvaccinated L.A. County residents, Public Health noted in a media release adding, of the 1,094 new cases of COVID-19 reported today, 83% are among people under the age of 50 years old with the highest number of new cases among residents between the ages of 18 and 49 years old with 70% of new cases. “As cases increase, the urgency to get more people vaccinated is rising. Nearly 100% of new cases are occurring among those not fully vaccinated. All of our COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at protecting you from severe disease from COVID-19 and variants of concern like the Delta variant,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health. “We remain focused on equitably bringing vaccines and high-quality health information to all of our L.A. County communities with a particular focus on those communities that have been hard hit by the pandemic.” The statistics in Los Angeles bear out the fact that although about 67 percent of Americans 18 and older have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine and almost 60 percent are fully vaccinated, vaccination rates vary sharply by region and various ideological groups. Speaking to CNN earlier this week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently expressed concern over the rise of the delta coronavirus variant as case numbers climb quicker than she expected. “Although we expected the delta variant to become the dominant strain in the United States, this rapid rise is troubling,” she said. The CDC head then stressed, “Widespread vaccination is what will truly turn the corner on this pandemic. Please know, if you are not vaccinated, you remain susceptible.” Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told host Jake Tapper that he was dismayed by the politicization of getting Americans vaccinated. “Why are we having red states and places in the South that are very highly


‘It’s horrifying … I just don’t get that. I mean, and I don’t think that anybody who is thinking clearly can get that,’ said Dr. ANTHONY FAUCI, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of CPAC attendees cheering the fact that the U.S. hasn’t met its vaccination goals. (Blade file photo)

ideological in one way not wanting to get vaccinations?” Fauci said, adding; “Vaccinations have nothing to do with politics… The virus doesn’t know whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican or an independent.” Tapper also asked Fauci to react to the CPAC Texas crowd cheering that the government has been unable to reach its vaccine goals so far. Fauci said, “It’s horrifying… I just don’t get that. I mean, and I don’t think that anybody who is thinking clearly can get that.” The Hill reported that U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) also appeared on CNN and said that he wants House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other leaders within the party to call out “garbage politicians” who are playing into fears of Americans who are hesitant or reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene compared those going door to door to Nazi brownshirts,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper said. “Congresswoman Lauren Boebert called them ‘needle Nazis.’ Sen. Ted Cruz said it sounds to him like Soviet Russia. What’s your response to all that?” he asked. “Jake, it’s insanity. It’s absolute insanity,” Kinzinger said. “This is outrage politics that is being played by my party, and it’s going to get Americans killed. My party has been hijacked. It is on its way to the ground,” Kinzinger said.

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Statue of Martin Luther King Jr. vandalized in Long Beach A statue of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was spray painted with what appeared to be emblems from the Nazi German era including a swastika and the Schutzstaffel (SS) dual lightening bolt runes. According to the Long Beach Police Department, officers were dispatched to a call about the statue being vandalized at approximately 3:30 PM on Friday. It is located within the Martin Luther King Jr. Park at 1950 Lemon Avenue. A LBPD spokesperson told the Blade Monday that the vandalism is being investigated as a hate crime or hate bias criminal act and acknowledged that this is the second time within the past two years the statue has been vandalized with graffiti often associated with white supremacist groups. In a tweet, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia called the graffiti “horrific,” assuring residents that police are working to find whoever’s responsible. “Our MLK statue is a symbol of hope and justice for the community,” the mayor said. “This hate and desecration has no place in our city.” FROM STAFF REPORTS (Photo of desecrated statue via Twitter)

SF Gay Men’s Chorus receives death threats after InfoWars article The office of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is closed “out of an abundance of caution” after members started receiving a barrage of negative messages, including death threats, in response to a mischaracterization of a song the group posted to YouTube, its executive director said Thursday. Chris Verdugo, a gay man who is the executive director of the chorus, told the Bay Area Reporter July 8 that the website InfoWars — run by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — called the song “A Message from the Gay Community” “pedophilic” in an online article July 7. That apparently unleashed the vitriol. “The threat that stuck in my head,” Verdugo said of the harassing messages he fielded, “was, ‘We’re gonna put lead in your head.’ That was quite frightening.” The chorus posted its video to YouTube last week. Verdugo said that the song includes the words “we’re coming for your children” to evoke long-standing fears that gay men will convert children to homosexuality, for the purpose of exposing those fears. The real conversion gay men are interested in, Verdugo said, is teaching others to be “tolerant and fair.” That message was lost on, or deliberately misrepresented by, InfoWars, Verdugo said. “The song is tongue-in-cheek, satirical, and I’d say nuanced except it’s not even that,” Verdugo said. “Since Anita Bryant, there’s been people who think there is a gay agenda; that pedophiles will convert children to become homosexuals. That’s not true, but we do have a gay agenda — teaching children to be tolerant and fair. “Yeah, we’re going to convert them to be tolerant, kind, justice-seeking people,” Verdugo said. Anita Bryant, of course, is the anti-gay activist who in the 1970s ran the Save Our Children campaign to overturn equal protection laws nationwide. Bryant served as brand ambassador for the Florida Citrus Commission from 1969 to 1980. In 1977, during her successful campaign to repeal an anti-discrimination ordinance in Dade County, Florida, the gay community retaliated by organizing a boycott of orange juice. Bryant once stated “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children.” Verdugo said that members of the chorus and administration have been inundated with phone calls and messages, which “span the gamut from just people being hateful, which we’re accustomed to, to people saying we should be killed, and more references to Hitler and the Nazis than I have ever seen in my life.” Verdugo said that the office, housed in the chorus’ National LGBTQ Center for the 08 • JULY 16, 2021 • LOSANGELESBLADE.COM

Arts, will be closed until further notice. An investigator from the San Francisco Police Department is working on the case, he added, and the chorus has been in touch with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Francisco field office. The field office acknowledged that the incident was reported to it. “I can confirm that this incident was reported to law enforcement, including the FBI,” the FBI San Francisco media team stated in an email. “We will be unable to comment further.” The SFPD has been unable to confirm or deny that investigations into the death threats are taking place as of press time. As the B.A.R. previously reported, GLAAD found that LGBTQs face more online hate and harassment than any minority group. Some of this is fueled by false equivalencies between homosexuality and pedophilia, as GLAAD found in a March study. As the B.A.R. reported last year, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) was the subject of death threats for introducing a bill that InfoWars falsely stated would “decriminalize adult men having sex with boys.” Wiener’s bill, which is now law, did not change criminal statutes. It allowed judges the option to not include on the state’s sex offender registry those over the age of 18 who have been convicted of oral or anal intercourse with someone between the ages of 14 and 17, provided that the individual so convicted is within 10 years of age of their consensual sexual partner. This year, Wiener is aiming to secure $1.7 million in the state’s budget for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’s National LGBTQ Center for the Arts on Valencia Street. The funds would be used for a new air circulation and filtration system; Governor Gavin Newsom still needs to sign off on the final budget. (John Ferrannini is assistant news editor of The Bay Area Reporter.This article is reprinted with permission.)

LOCAL (Editor’s note: Blade contributor Yariel Valdés González fled his native Cuba to escape persecution because of his work as an independent journalist. He asked for asylum in the U.S. on March 27, 2019. He spent nearly a year in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody until his release on March 4, 2020. Valdés has written about his experiences in ICE custody that the Blade is publishing in four parts. Visit losangelesblade.com for part I.

‘Welcome to hell!’ An ICE detainee’s diaries, part II Gay Cuban journalist arrives at Louisiana jail By YARIEL VALDÉS GONZALÉS

Welcome to hell! (May 3, 2019) The trip between Mississippi and Louisiana took more than six hours, six endless hours shackled and handcuffed to go to an unknown location. We were in a mobile jail: The windows were secured with bars and inside there was a padlocked security gate, which separates us from the officers in charge of our transportation. I was traveling with Jeiser, a Honduran friend, on a metal seat that numbed my butt until I could barely feel it. The handcuffs were already beginning to leave marks on my hands. The landscape was a great distraction: Immense forests, vast lakes, fields and houses submerged by the floods from the last rains, a few buildings, car dealerships. It was a quick glimpse of daily life in America, so close and yet so far away. The truth was I did not want to miss out on that route, but sleepiness periodically defeated me. I had hardly slept at all the night before. I was lying on the floor in Tallahatchie waiting for the transfer, a long and tedious process. Resting on the bus was in intervals because the handcuffs made it impossible to get into a comfortable position. We also had to go to the bathroom cuffed hand and foot and eat what they gave us: A bag with two pieces of bread, cheese, mayonnaise, some chips, some sweet cookies and a tiny bottle of water. You had to become almost a contortionist to eat like that, but necessity works wonders! And they even told us not to throw anything on the floor, an inconceivable order while being locked up in a moving vehicle. We finally reached our destination: Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility. The jail from the outside looks like a large, rough, imposing and challenging concrete cube. A fat woman who spoke in Spanish and English entered the bus and led us into the prison. Several officers proceeded to free us from the handcuffs as soon as we got out. Finally! They gave me a cardboard box with my name that was, conveniently, already waiting for me. I also had a new identification number (also known as an A number), which would be my ID inside the jail. We had to put our clothes and shoes in the box and they gave us the uniform: A bright yellow shirt and pants and plastic flip-flops so rough they looked like enemies of the feet. I think no one in this country would think of wearing them, much less the fabric of these clothes that are made in Pakistan with a 65 percent polyester and 35 percent cotton blend. The result is a garment that is rough to the touch and does not yield, further contributing to the feeling of confinement and suffocation. It is as if the uniform also reminds you that you are in prison. After completing the registration process, they brought us to a classroom where we waited for the prison’s warden. He soon arrived with the help of the fat lady who translated into Spanish as he explained the rules of the game. “You are not prisoners,” he warned in a stern voice. “You are only detained until your immigration process is complete, about which we have no power or information. We are only here to feed and care for you.” The warden added that although we are not “prisoners,” as counterproductive it may seem, we are subject to the rules of any prisoner in this jail. “Anyone who breaks them will be punished,” added that large man in his 40s with a threatening tone. I was nevertheless happy to be out of Tallahatchie. I would only wait a few days here to see the judge and be able to go free to continue my process. I was told the judge can “reactivate” my parole and everything would be resolved soon. They led me to my dorm after the “friendly” welcome ended. A prisoner dressed in green stripes who was standing very close to the entrance gave me a bag with some belongings and a very thin mattress. They opened the door and I went inside. People inside crowded around the door and a panel of glass that allowed us to see into the room. Everyone was eager to see the new victims. “That is a Cuban,” one of them said as soon as I entered.

They immediately took my mattress when they heard my affirmative answer and helped me to settle in my bed, number 30 in the C-3 bunker. “Welcome to hell!” another Cuban told me and little by little everyone was in charge of erasing all the hopes that sustained me. “Nobody leaves here,” they said to me and the joy for the supposed end was fading. They began to deny every bit of information that I brought with me. There are Cubans here who have been in prison for a year or more, only in this detention center. I could not believe it. All of them had “credible fear,” all of them were entitled to parole and all of them were locked up with their dreams hanging by a thread. Many of the Cubans have already lost their asylum hearings and are appealing the immigration judge’s decision. “The only ones who have left here have been deported or who have been out of Cuba for more than two years,” they warned me. I’ve only been off the island for seven months, so that option doesn’t apply to me, at least not at the moment. I felt like all the doors were closing. Each conversation was a slam to my longings, a slap that plunged me deeper into a sea of despair. I exploded. I burst into tears in my bed, under the blanket. I couldn’t control myself. I spent a long time trying to overcome that painful and bitter trance on my own, drawing upon my strength to get up from my hiding place. I barely made it. I went to make the free calls that prisons always offer every time you arrive at a new detention center when you still don’t have money on your phone account. They are just three or five-minute calls that only allow you to say where you are and how you are. I called my aunt and uncle and told them my current location and the ways for them to add money to an account so I could call them. I also contacted (Washington Blade International News Editor) Michael (Lavers) and Hugo Landa, the director of Cubanet, an independent news site for which I worked from Cuba.

Yariel Valdés González’s Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility ID (Photo courtesy of Yariel Valdés González)



ICE detainee reveals harsh treatment I poured all my frustrations on them. The words barely came out as my eyes were two springs of tears. They tried to calm me down as best they could. They told me that “each case is different” and not to worry because they would not abandon me. Their words comforted me a little bit. They were a small ointment for the open, latent and bleeding wound that Louisiana was giving me. I hung up while trying to erase the anguish from my face. I don’t know if I made it. I didn’t want to appear weak to everyone else, although I imagine my comrades from Tallahatchie were in the same situation. I was hungry at night and the rest of the Cubans must have known that from their own experiences. They invited me to a meal they made at around 8 p.m. They served me some rice and soup, for which I will be forever grateful, in a glass. It was a delicacy from the gods in order to not go to sleep hungry, which is one of the worst sensations in life. Prison journalism The idea of writing about Louisiana had been on my mind for several days. I had already done journalism in Tallahatchie by interviewing my friends Darwin and Brittany and I was also thinking of sitting down to organize the ideas for those interviews around the situation of the LGTBQ community in Honduras and Guatemala, the countries from which my friends come. Their testimonies were terrifying voices in my ears, which could not understand such disproportionate evil or justification. I wrote both stories, trying to relive the terror of both, persecuted by homophobic and soulless gangs, in no time. The articles also sought to make their cases visible and that it could also serve as evidence in their migration processes. I don’t know if they were able to see them at some point, or if a relative told them, because they were already in different detention centers by the time I wrote them and they were published. My meeting with the warden My article on Louisiana has been a success. Michael tells me that many people have read it and shared it on social media. Other websites have also aggregated it or have written their own versions of it and many people in Cuba already know where and how I am. My only fear is that my grandparents will find out. We have protected them because they are already too old and we must avoid unnecessary suffering and worry. It won’t solve anything if they know. The Blade will have my story on the front page. It is a great honor for me, as a Cuban journalist and exile. Being on the cover of a newspaper has always thrilled me. Another article of mine had already headlined that gay weekly in the American capital, but undoubtedly this one will acquire other dimensions, which I hope will be positive for me and for those of us who live in Bossier. So it was. One afternoon an officer called my name at the entrance to the dorm. I picked up my documents thinking that it would be a legal visit. I was, however, brought to the

reception area where I was greeted by another officer who began to speak to me. His first question was whether I spoke English. I replied, “a little.” A nurse of Mexican ancestry who was standing next to me would assist me if my vocabulary was not up to the level of the conversation. With a serious tone, the warden told me that he had received a complaint: The human rights of immigrants in his prison were being violated. The person responsible was me and he had brought me before him to tell him about the “mistreatments” that I had suffered and that had reached the ears of his bosses who were obviously not happy with the bad publicity. He had never dealt with me before. I wasn’t on any list of troublemakers or those who had not been disciplined, so he didn’t understand the root of it all. I had confused him. The warden looked concerned. His face revealed gestures of disorientation until I explained that I was a journalist. His face at that moment lit up and he came to understand what was happening. He was not aware of my article. He had only received that complaint that to him was baseless and full of lies. We got into a debate on many issues with prison and the immigration process that I face here. He claimed that I (and everyone else) were just upset A handwritten draft of an article about Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility’s conditions that Yariel Valdés González about the way things were going with the judge, sent to the Washington Blade. (Photo courtesy of Valdés) but he couldn’t do anything about it. As the highest authority in the jail — only after a few minutes of so he proved. conversation did I know that I was talking to the Our conversation progressed calmly, without rises warden because I did not remember his face — he did have in tone and in an atmosphere of respect, although the the power to change many of the absurd rules and racist tension never left the room. I felt at various points that he and abusive behaviors of some of his subordinates. understood my viewpoints and I had the remote illusion He had not experienced many of the situations that some changes could come. described in the article first hand, but therein lies one of The warden, of course, did not like seeing his damaged the journalist’s functions: To cover other people’s problems reputation on the internet, and that made him defensive and publicize them in search of an appropriate solution. all the time. He tried to explain to me the causes of many We each expressed our points of view on what we actions, justifying the vile and ruthless behavior of some. He considered fair and unfair, rights and duties of immigrants covered himself with a sheepskin before the wolf in front in their custody and different situations that did not require of him who had attacked his institution with “falsehoods.” a great effort to make our stay in this place more pleasant. There was not a second during the meeting in which he I even complained about an officer who looked at us with did not perceive the nervous pulses of my blood running the eyes of a crazy racist and treated us like subhumans. through me from head to toe. I still managed to stay calm, He said he would talk to him and asked about the officer despite the fact that my heart pounding in my chest proved who had brought me to him, a young man with weight and the opposite. hatred to spare. I rated his behavior as “more or less,” so The nurse asked me to write the title of the article — as not to put myself in such a difficult situation, and they “Living an ‘American Nightmare’” — and the page where she all laughed. could find it while the warden and I ended that conversation The reception room where the interrogation took with a handshake. He took me back to my dorm with the place was packed with officers. No one wanted to miss same officer. An alert went off inside the prison from that this unusual sight. They all looked at me with inquiring moment on: They had an immigrant inside who could be eyes, offended because I was “biting the hand that fed heard on the outside. Inside me, on the contrary, hope was me.” That is why I had to measure my words with a ruler. sewn that some improvements could come true. The most I was entering dangerous territory. I could not forget my certain thing, however, was that I was forever marked as position: I am at their mercy, although the warden left me “the one who wrote the article.” with the feeling that he is a rational and receptive man, or




Boston Pride dissolves after inclusion controversy No further events or programming planned FROM STAFF REPORTS

The board of Boston Pride announced last week on the organization’s website that it is dissolving. The Boston Globe reported that a controversy over inclusion, coupled with complaints that the organization excluded people of color and trans people, which had led some to boycott the group were the primary reasons. The statement from the Boston Pride Board of Directors read: “For years, we have volunteered our time with Boston Pride because we care about and are passionate about the LGBTQIA+ community. We strived to foster an environment of diversity and unity within our organization and the community. Over the past 50 years, Boston Pride has facilitated programs and events that have changed our society and promoted equality, but we know there is still work to be done. “Over the past year, we have invested time and energy to address the concerns of the community, both with our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access work with Dorrington & Saunders and by forming the Transformation Advisory Committee comprised of members of the LGBTQIA+ community to help bring change to our organization. We are grateful for all who have been involved in this process. “It is clear to us that our community needs and wants change without the involvement of Boston Pride. We have heard the concerns of the QTBIPOC community and others. We care too much to stand in the way. Therefore, Boston Pride is dissolving. There will be no

further events or programming planned, and the board is taking steps to close down the organization. “We know many people care about Pride in Boston, and we encourage them to continue the work. By making the decision to close down, we hope new leaders will emerge from the community to lead the Pride movement in Boston. This decision was made with a heavy heart, out of love and hope for a better future.” Boston’s NPR outlet WBUR reported “the announcement comes after years of growing tension with other Bostonbased LGBTQ+ community leaders and organizations. In 2015, Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted the Boston Pride parade to demand more inclusivity and representation in the Pride organization. And last year, 80% of Boston Pride’s volunteer workforce resigned after a statement put out by Boston Pride’s board received backlash. The board came under fire for removing key parts of the statement, which was originally written by the volunteer workforce. Former volunteers alleged that the board removed “Black Lives Matter,” without consent from its Black Pride committee members. Workers also cited allegations of racism and transphobia as reasons they resigned.” In announcing its dissolution, Boston Pride’s board stated that no further events or programming were planned, and the board is taking steps to close down the organization. It is unclear whether this includes the previously planned Boston Pride parade, which had been postponed until September.



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Editor of Blade’s Cuba media partner released after violent arrest

“Pose” made television history once again on Tuesday with the announcement that Mj Rodriguez, who played the role of house mother Blanca through all three seasons of the beloved FX series, has received a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the 73rd Annual Emmy Awards. It’s the first time in the history of the Television Academy’s prestigious awards body that a transgender performer has been recognized with a nomination in one of the leading actor categories. The Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk/Steven Canals-created series, which follows the lives of several characters involved in the New York Ballroom culture during the 1980s and ‘90s, has been an Emmy contender since its first season, when it was nominated for Primetime Emmys as Outstanding MJ RODRIGUEZ stars in ‘Pose.’ (Photo by kathclick via Bigstock) Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. It won the latter award for actor Billy Porter, who was nominated again for the show’s second season, and on Tuesday snagged his third nomination in the category. Porter’s win in 2019 made him the first openly gay performer to receive the award in that category. In addition to40the two acting nods, “Pose” was nominated for3 the second time as Outstanding Drama Series. 100 40 100 10 25 50 75 90 100 30 100 40 40 70 40 70 40 40 40 70 40 40 70 40 70 40 40 The show also received nominations for its hairstyling, makeup, prosthetic makeup and costumes (categories included in the Primetime Creative Arts Emmys, which are presented in a separate ceremony), bringing the total nominations for the show’s three-season run to 20. “Pose” was also honored with a special Television Academy Honors award at the 2019 Emmys, for “impactful” television. 30 30 100 40 100 40 40 100 10 40 40 20 70 70 70 70 40 70 40 40 0000 3.1 2.2 2.2 10.2 7.4 7.4 25 19 19 50 40 40 75 66 66 100 100 100 80 70 70 100 In response to Rodriguez’ nomination, GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis released a statement: “Michaela Jaé (Mj) Rodriguez’s Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series is a breakthrough for transgender women in Hollywood, and a long-overdue recognition for her groundbreaking performance over the past three seasons of ‘Pose.’” T:10" JOHN PAUL KING 3%


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Cuban police have released the editor of the Washington Blade’s media partner on the island. Tremenda Nota Director Maykel González Vivero in a series of tweets said riot police who claimed he was throwing rocks during an antigovernment protest in Havana on Sunday violently arrested him. GONZÁLEZ VIVERO A source early Wednesday confirmed MAYKEL (Blade photo by Michael Key) that González has been released, but he cannot leave his home. The source did not provide any information about González’s condition. González is among the journalists who were arrested during Sunday’s protests against mounting food shortages, the government’s response to the pandemic and a worsening economic crisis that took ISO 12647-7 Digital Control Strip 2009 place across Cuba. 100 60 100 70 30 100 60 100 70 30 100 60 100 70 A “We condemn the government’s violent repression of protesters, journalists and activists,” tweeted Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, on Tuesday. Cuban detained most recently B 100 100 60police 100 100 have 70 70 previously 30 30 100 100 60 100 100 González, 70 70 30 30 100 100 60 100 100 in 70 70 November 2020. The Interior Ministry in late 2019 banned him from leaving Cuba. MICHAEL K. LAVERS

Rodriguez first trans performer up for lead acting Emmy

When we use energy matters. We have the power to harness California’s abundance of wind and solar resources. But during peak hours, electricity is generated mostly by fossil fuels to meet demand. Use less energy from 4-9PM, for a cleaner California. L E A R N M O R E AT E N E R G Y U P G R A D E C A . O R G / N E W S PA P E R

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COVID breakthrough infections strike summer tourists visiting Provincetown Dozens test positive for virus after weekend getaway By CHRIS JOHNSON | cjohnson@washblade.com Dozens of summer tourists who were among those visiting the gay resort town of Provincetown, Mass., over the weekend came back with more than beach memories and a tan: They tested positive for COVID-19 — even though they were vaccinated against the disease. The surprise outbreak among individuals who did their public duty to get vaccinated is taking many ROBERT KOY, who came down observers aback at a time with COVID after visiting when Americans who Provincetown, said the breakthrough infections despite refuse to get the shot, vaccinations are ‘a nice reminder despite overwhelming that we’re still kind of learning.’ evidence of safety (Photo courtesy Koy) and effectiveness in combatting coronavirus, are facing heavy criticism, which experts say precludes the nation from reaching herd immunity. Robert Koy, a gay 28-year-old business strategist from Chicago, told the Washington Blade he tested positive for coronavirus on Monday after learning about mild symptoms among housemates during his visit to Provincetown. “It was just kind of wild,” Koy said. “You went through the whole year-and-a-half of the pandemic and you got vaccinated and do what you’re supposed to do. There wasn’t really any negative pressure against traveling over the Fourth of July for a vaccinated person.” Koy, who said he was vaccinated in April and is now largely asymptomatic aside from a mild cough, said finding out about the dozens of people who came down with coronavirus after visiting Provincetown despite being vaccinated was “really surprising.” “Here in Chicago, I think it’s the same in D.C., but people are drawn out here on the dance floor until four in the morning on a Saturday night, and no one has really seemed to be affected,” Koy said. “So the whole experience was kind of unexpected.” At the same time, Koy said he’s glad no severe cases were being reported and called the breakthrough outbreak “a nice reminder that we’re still kind of learning.” To be sure, the anecdotal reports of COVID infections among vaccinated people who went to Provincetown doesn’t justify refusing the vaccine. All signs and evidence show COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, as medical experts continue to say as they try to convince Americans, many of whom are intransigent against the vaccine, to take their shots. But the COVID breakthrough cases over a short period of time weren’t insignificant in number and put in stark relief the limitations of the vaccine in fully shielding people from coronavirus, including vulnerability from individuals spreading the disease by refusing shots and fears about the emerging Delta variant. Kyle Blaine, a White House reporter for CNN, was among the more high-profile individuals who reported having contracted coronavirus after visiting Provincetown over the weekend.

“PSA: If you were in Provincetown last week and have cold/flu symptoms, please get tested for Covid,” Blain tweeted on Sunday. “My husband and I are fully vaccinated and tested positive yesterday. We’re OK — only mild symptoms so far. I know close to a dozen other vaccinated people who tested positive.” Michael Ahrens, a 32-year-old gay D.C. resident who came down with coronavirus after spending a week in Provincetown, said he initially obtained a negative test result after returning from his vacation, then upon taking a second test Monday out of an abundance of caution tested positive for COVID. “I think, in that moment, I wasn’t as surprised because I had started hearing about more people testing positive, but I really didn’t have any symptoms, so I was surprised because of that,” Ahrens said. “If you had told me a few days prior, that a bunch of fully vaccinated people were going to be testing positive for COVID, I wouldn’t have believed you.” None of the coronavirus cases associated with visiting Provincetown appear to be life-threatening. The COVID patients who spoke with the Blade said they had mild symptoms such as fatigue and a mild cough, but exhibited no signs of major illness. One person, however, said on Twitter in response to a local reporter’s public inquiry for stories he was among the breakthrough cases and had been hospitalized as a result of his condition. The individual didn’t immediately respond by Blade deadline to go on the record and elaborate further on the severity of his illness. David Hardy, a Los Angeles-based scientific and medical consultant, said the breakthrough infections are “a difficult situation on which to comment due to the imprecise nature of the information available.” “It would be highly surprising to discover that ‘dozens’ of fully vaccinated tourists (gay or straight) were becoming ill with COVID-19 after visiting P-Town,” Hardy said. “We know that all three vaccines given EUA status in the U.S. reduce the chance of contracting COVID-19 illnesses by 85 percent to 95 percent. Recent data from studies evaluating the new Delta variant becoming more common in the U.S. now show that these three vaccines still protect against COVID-19 illness.” Hardy added, however, what isn’t known is whether the vaccines “prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19.” “Limited data says that the chance of infection is reduced by ~70%-75% after vaccination, which is good but not great,” Hardy said. “Persons with asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection can still transmit the virus.” A firm count on the number of tourists who went to Provincetown over the weekend and came back with coronavirus would be impossible. After all, individuals could have visited the resort over the weekend, returned home with COVID-19 and gotten their test result elsewhere or never got tested because they remain asymptomatic. The number of coronavirus cases reported by the Barnstable County Department of Public Health last week was between 20 to 25 and more than half were “short-term visitors,” according to local WBZ reporter Louisa Moller. Sean Holihan, a gay D.C. resident who visited Provincetown over the July 4th holiday, counted himself on Twitter among almost 30 tourists who came down with COVID as he cautioned against reading too much into the infections. “Between myself and others, I know of nearly 30 breakthrough cases of Covid that came from visiting Provincetown for the


4th of July,” Holihan wrote. “In each and every situation, the symptoms were mild and no one required a hospital visit. The vaccine works.” A Massachusetts Department of Health spokesperson said specific cases for Provincetown weren’t immediately available, but “breakthrough case numbers are incredibly low and cases in which the person was hospitalized or died are even lower.” As of July 10, the total number of breakthrough cases reported to the Massachusetts Department of Health was 4,450 cases out of 4,195,844 vaccinated individuals, the spokesperson said. That fraction is 0.1 percent of vaccinated individuals. “All available data continue to support that all three vaccines used in the U.S. are highly protective against severe disease and death from all known variants of COVID-19.,” the spokesperson said. “The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.” Having chosen a gay resort town for a vacation getaway, many of the tourists who went to Provincetown were members of the LGBTQ community and predominantly gay white men. COVID infection in a community that commonly holds progressive views runs counter to the narrative the virus is spreading among Trump-supporting Americans who refuse to get vaccinated despite assurances of safety and the dangers of contracting COVID. Coronavirus would have ample opportunity to spread among the tourists in Provincetown. Beach parties during the day and club dancing at night, not to mention the close proximity of tourists cramming themselves into group homes to lower costs of their visit, would have been called “super-spreader” events at the peak of the pandemic. At least one venue was strict about requiring proof of vaccination before allowing entry into the festivities, turning away those without vaccination cards or even cards showing proof of having taken one of two vaccine shots needed for full vaccination. Other venues, however, were lax at a time when Americans would be expected to have vaccinations before gathering in a large crowd and required no proof of immunity before allowing patrons to enter. Additionally, a ferry tourists commonly use for travel between the Boston airport and the Provincetown resort was cancelled over the weekend due to inclement weather, forcing visitors to cram themselves in crowded buses to get to their destination without open air or social distancing protecting them from infection. Despite having contracted the disease, the COVID patients who spoke to the Blade said coming down with the disease despite having been vaccinated has done nothing to change their views. Koy said the coronavirus outbreak may be evidence the restrictions lifted in recent weeks were too many, too quick and more caution should be exercised. “All the restrictions just kind of ripped away within such a short time span,” Koy said. “I don’t think there was any major caution encouraged as far as going out or as you’re traveling, like continuing to really be vigilant and stay within a small circle of people.” Ahrens said having come down with coronavirus after receiving his vaccination has done nothing to dissuade him from his belief the vaccine is safe and effective. “I followed guidance for fully vaccinated people and fortunately people who are vaccinated are having a much easier time fighting off COVID than people who are not vaccinated,” Ahrens said.

Bamby Salcedo

is president and CEO of Los Angeles-based TransLatin@Coalition.

CDC fails to fund trans-led organizations’ HIV programs Application was not even acknowledged or replied to

As the president and CEO of one of the few reputable trans-led organizations, I would like to express our gross disappointment at being excluded from the CDC’s funding of their HIV prevention program PS21-2102 for the next five years. In September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that “Community-based organizations are uniquely positioned to complement and extend the reach of HIV prevention efforts…” The CDC then announced the availability of fiscal year 2021 funds for a cooperative agreement program for community-based organizations (CBOs) to develop and implement high-impact human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention programs. The funding is now available from July 1st, 2021. The TransLatin@ Coalition applied for funding in November 2020. We were notified and engaged in a rigorous site visit as part of the process. In June of this year, the organization followed up on the application with the CDC, and our response was not even acknowledged or replied to. This is an obvious disrespect and a lack of due process from the individuals involved and the team from this announcement. On behalf of the TransLatin@ Coalition, our partners and supporters, and the thousands of community members that we serve, we would like to express our extreme disappointment in being ignored and overlooked by the CDC’s lack of transparency and professionalism and exclusion from the PS21-2102 funding opportunity. The CDC has failed to support the life-saving work that we carry out with and for the trans community every single day. We see how the system continues to be corrupted and the staff responsible under CDC from the PS21-2102 announcement continues to fund large organizations that have a proven record of underperforming and only get the money to enlarge their pockets and budgets who do not support trans people and who use these type of grants to other programs and staff and the funds and services do not go to the trans community. These organizations only get this funding because they have personal connections and ties to the CDC and who have political power. It’s always about accessibility and “who you know in the game.” It is obvious that the system is broken and continues to diminish and ignore the work of smaller organizations, particularly trans-led organizations who are often the only groups there to support the most marginalized in our communities. We demand inclusion and transparency throughout the CDC’s decision making and an accountability process as it relates to the lives of trans people and the investment in the lives of our community in the eradication of HIV and the social conditions that continue to keep us getting infected with HIV and in the margins. We expect representation from trans-led organizations and trans individuals in the decision-making process, including representation from individuals and organizations who are truly on the frontlines of the HIV fight like The TransLatin@ Coalition and others. En español: Como la Presidenta y CEO de una de las pocas organizaciones de confianza con líderes Trans, quiero expresar nuestro disgusto y decepción al ser excluidos del financiamiento


para programas de prevención de VIH PS21-2102 por los siguientes 5 años por parte de la CDC. En Septiembre del 2020, el Centro para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC) admitió que “las organizaciones locales y compuestas de la comunidad están en una posición única para complementar y extender el alcance de los esfuerzos para prevenir el VIH…” Acto seguido la CDC anunció que había fondos disponibles para el año fiscal 2021 para un programa de acuerdo cooperativo para las organizaciones basadas en la comunidad (CBOs) para desarrollar e implementar programas de alto impacto para la prevención del Virus de Inmunodeficiencia Humana (VIH). Estos fondos están disponibles desde Julio primero de 2021. La Coalición TransLatin@ aplicó para financiamiento en Noviembre 2020. Fuimos notificados e involucrados en una rigurosa visita como parte del proceso. En Junio de este año, dimos seguimiento a nuestra aplicación con la CDC y nuestra respuesta ni siquiera fue reconocida o ha sido respondida. Esto es una falta de respeto y de debido proceso de parte de las personas involucradas y del equipo responsable por el anuncio. De parte de la Coalición TransLatin@, nuestros socios y las personas que nos apoyan y los miembros de la comunidad que servimos queremos expresar nuestra extrema decepción al ser ignorados y pasados por alto por la CDC y su falta de transparencia y profesionalismo al ser excluidos de la oportunidad para financiamiento PS21-2102. La CDC ha fracasado en apoyar el trabajo vital que hacemos por parte y con la comunidad trans todos los días. Somos testigos de cómo el sistema continúa siendo corrompido y el equipo responsable de la CDC por el anuncio de PS21-2102 continua financiando organizaciones que tienen una reputación de bajo desempeño y solo utilizan el dinero para hacerse más grandes los bolsillos y presupuestos sin apoyar a las personas trans que utilizan este tipo de financiamiento para otros programas y personal y los fondos y servicios no van a la comunidad trans. Estas organizaciones sólo obtienen este financiamiento porque tienen conexiones personales y enlaces a la CDC y tienen poder político. Todo esto es sobre acceso y ‘a quién conoces en el juego.’ Es obvio que el sistema está roto y continua denigrando e ignorando el trabajo de organizaciones más pequeñas, particularmente organizaciones con líderes trans que generalmente son las únicas que están ahí para apoyar a los más marginados en nuestra comunidad. Exigimos inclusión y transparencia a lo largo del proceso de toma de decisiones de la CDC y un proceso para hacerse responsable en las cuestiones de las vidas de las personas trans y la inversión en las vidas de nuestra comunidad para la erradicación del VIH y las condiciones sociales que continúan manteniéndonos sufriendo de VIH y en los márgenes de la sociedad. Esperamos representación de parte de organizaciones con líderes trans y personas trans en el proceso para tomar decisiones, incluyendo representación de parte de personas y organizaciones que de verdad estén en la primera línea de la batalla contra el VIH tal como La Coalición TransLatin@ y otras.



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Norma Hernandez has been a housekeeper at Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood for 12 years.

WeHo Council must stand with women against abuse

12 years of hard work at Mondrian Hotel ended with job loss in pandemic My name is Norma Hernandez, and I worked at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood as a housekeeper for 12 years. For all that time, I would wake up at the crack of dawn and go to work to be able to provide for my three boys. My work has always been my livelihood. I worked hard every day to build a better life for myself and my family. Then the pandemic hit. At first it was a temporary closure. The hotel called a meeting to inform us that we would have to shut down for a few weeks. Three weeks later, me and my coworkers received a letter that we had been fired. I panicked. What was I going to do about my mortgage? I was forced to go on unemployment for the first time in my life, similar to many of my coworkers who have always worked extremely hard as immigrants to this country. Many of my coworkers worked at the hotel for even longer than me, 20 or 30 plus years. The industry has reopened and to date many of us have heard nothing from the hotel about whether we should expect our jobs back. It has been shocking for me, especially since I was always the kind of person who would pick up extra shifts on my days off when the company needed me. Even before the pandemic, we faced difficult circumstances in the hotel. Every day we were assigned 12 rooms to clean. I was sometimes unable to finish the rooms during my shift because guests would check out late or rooms would be excessively dirty after a big party. When I would get an extremely dirty room, it could take up to two hours to clean. In order to finish my daily assignments, I would go without water to avoid bathroom breaks and save time. I would often skip my lunch and my breaks. And I would come home so tired that I would not have energy to spend quality time with my children. I faced these circumstances for 12 years, and yet I consistently gave the company my best work.


I am speaking out on behalf of all hotel workers in West Hollywood because we are tired of being treated as if we are invisible. We make the beds, cook the food, bus the tables, and wash the dishes that have built the tourism industry in West Hollywood. We do the work. We deserve to share in the industry’s recovery, and to work safely from abuse too. It is women like myself who have worked long hours and endured decades of heavy workloads with inadequate compensation to provide for our families and make West Hollywood the tourism destination that it is. We have been some of the hardest hit economically by this pandemic, while hotel owners like mine have worried more about how to make money and not enough about its workers. It is on the backs of workers like me that Pebblebrook is able to profit off of five out of the 22 hotels here in West Hollywood. I know that the residents of West Hollywood support workers like myself and understand that this policy is meant to protect us and uplift our city. Similar policies have been passed in cities like Long Beach and Santa Monica. The West Hollywood City Council can lead the way and pass the most progressive law to date. We urge the West Hollywood City Council to stand on the right side of history and put women workers first, and stand with us against abuse by passing a policy that would provide us guaranteed workplace protections. Me and my coworkers have dedicated decades of our lives to our jobs. We want to go back to work, and we want to go back to a workplace where we are compensated fairly for the work that we do. As housekeepers we often must work alone in isolated areas of the hotel and having protections from sexual assault, like panic buttons, would make me feel safer. These are the types of protections from abuse the West Hollywood City Council can provide on July 19 and we hope that they listen to us.

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Dazzling dance doc celebrates legacy of AIDS-era masterpiece Capturing the will to survive of a beleaguered generation By JOHN PAUL KING

Once upon a time in New York City, Bill and Arnie formed a dance company. They met each other in 1971, falling in love at first sight across a crowded room at SUNY, and spent the next decade exploring their lives and their art together. Arnie was a photographer, at first, but his fascination with the human body and its movement – stoked by his collaborations with Bill, a dancer who was his muse and favorite photographic subject – soon led him to become a dancer himself. Together they found acclaim as a team, creating their own works as part of the American Dance Asylum during a rise that culminated in the birth of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in 1982. What followed was a brilliant and prolific period in which the two partners were among the most celebrated dance artists in the New York scene. It was also a period when AIDS was ravaging the dance community, decimating the ranks of companies all over the city and casting its dark shadow over much of the work being produced at the time. Bill and Arnie, charmed as their lives had been, could not escape that shadow, and Arnie Zane died of AIDS-related lymphoma, at the age of 39, in 1988. That bittersweet true-life love story would make for a profoundly moving documentary on its own strength alone, but the film delivered by co-directors Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz has its sights on something bigger than that. “Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters” is the story of what happened after Zane’s untimely passing, and it illuminates the way that art provides a channel for the personal to become universal and give expression to the shared trauma of an entire community. The new documentary, which debuted at the DOC NYC film festival and opens in select theaters and virtual cinemas nationwide on July 16, is not about Bill and Arnie, nor even about Bill himself – though his name is in the title and he appears extensively onscreen, both in contemporary and archival footage – but about the seminal ballet that came in the wake of Arnie’s passing. “D-Man in the Waters” was mounted in 1989 by Jones and the company he and Zane had started, shaped by a creative process through which both he and his dancers found expression for the myriad emotions spawned by their loss. Set to Felix Mendelssohn’s soaring Octet for Strings, the piece captures the infectious energy, innocence and will to survive of a beleaguered generation, propelled by the non-stop momentum of dancers hurling across the stage in a whirlwind of leaps, rolls, and slides. Though it gives full weight to the inevitable sorrow at its core, it nevertheless maintains an attitude of defiant celebration, embodying strength and resilience over loss, and is widely acknowledged today as one of the most significant works of art to come out of the AIDS epidemic. “Can You Bring It” utilizes extensive interviews and archival footage to chronicle the history of the original “D-Man” – the title referring to the nickname for Demian Acquavella, a beloved company member who struggled against the virus during its creation before himself dying in 1990 – while also following a contemporary remount of the production by students at Loyola Marymount University. Those students are led by none other than the film’s co-director, Rosalynde LeBlanc (herself a former member of the Jones/Zane Company and a leading figure in maintaining Jones’ legacy and pedagogy), and a large portion of the modern footage is centered around LeBlanc and Jones himself working with

‘Can You Bring It’ from co-directors Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz captures the beauty of bodies in motion. (Photo courtesy Kino Lorber)

these young pre-professional dancers – most of them likely not even born when the AIDS crisis was raging – to help them find the personal connection required to unlock the power of the choreography. Through the juxtaposition of the two creative efforts, original and modern, the movie provides a thoughtful – and unexpectedly gripping – exploration of the process by which art can be adapted to the needs of a different era without losing the essence at its core. From an intellectual or aesthetic perspective, it’s a rich and nuanced close-up look at the hard work – as much of it mental and emotional as physical – that is the art of dance. What makes “Can You Bring It” profound enough to be an extension of the very piece it documents, however, is the wider lens that allows us to the piece in the context of both periods at once. In 1989, Jones’ tour de force ballet gave physical manifestation to the fear, anger, grief, and hope for salvation that an emerging dance company felt as they were embattled by the AIDS epidemic – but for the group of young dancers tasked with reinterpreting the work three decades later, that experience is something from a history book. To commit to the piece and perform it successfully, they must deepen their understanding of its power – and that means exploring what is at stake in their own personal lives during a troubling time that presents a whole new set of challenges, struggles, and heartbreaks. Needless to say, it’s work not cut out for the faint of heart. Of course, as any fan of dance documentaries can tell you, the real thrill of such films is the opportunity to see the beauty of bodies in motion, captured up-close on camera and overpowering all other concerns through the transcendent urgency of its perfection. “Can You Bring It” does not disappoint on this level, either. That should be no surprise. Bill T. Jones, after all, has continued throughout the decades, as has the company he founded with Arnie, which still bears both of their names. He’s gone on to win Tony Awards (for choreographing “Spring Awakening” and “Fela!”), become a Kennedy Center Honoree, and be awarded a MacArthur Grant, over a long career in which he has choreographed more than 120 works, and the dancing we see onscreen all bears the pedigree of having been shaped, either directly or indirectly, by his influence. Add to that the presence of one co-director (LeBlanc) who has been intertwined with his work through most of her own career, and another (Hurwitz) who is one of the most honored documentary cinematographers working today, and you couldn’t ask for a better team to put together a great dance documentary. Yet what makes a dance documentary truly great is its resonance within a larger world. Dance – and indeed, film, or any other form of art – is at its best when it serves to explore the experience of life itself, through all its levels and nuances. “Can You Bring It” does just that, offering up a lyrical and detailed portrait of artists and their work that is also rich in wisdom, compassion, empathy, diversity, and historical perspective – a testament to the power of art and the triumph of the human spirit. In a world where the concept of community is often used more to divide us than to unite us, such ideas are a balm for the soul.



‘The Guncle’ never wanted kids but now has two Novel is as charming as they come with a surprise ending By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

The situation you’re facing isn’t one you wanted. You had no wish for it; in fact, it’s 100 percent the opposite. Not your circus, not your monkeys, as they say. So usually, you’d follow your instincts and run but this time, you surprise yourself by stepping up and taking ownership. Now it is your problem but, as in the new novel, “The Guncle” by Steven Rowley, that’s more than OK. Sara had been his friend first. Patrick wasn’t exactly happy when she married his brother, Greg, but she managed to make it work and he loved her for it. He loved her first, actually, and he never let her forget it. But now she was gone and Greg had asked the impossible: would Patrick – gay man, former TV star, Palm Springs fixture, no-responsibilities Patrick – take Greg and Sara’s kids, nine-year-old Maisie and six-year-old Grant, for the summer so Greg could go to rehab while grieving the death of his wife? Could the kids’ GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick) step up? No. There was no way that Patrick was taking temporary custody of two kids – but then his older sister, Clara, copped an attitude, rolled her eyes, and told him he was “off the hook.” PfftRight. And so Greg headed to rehab after the funeral and the kids went home with Patrick to Palm Springs. It would be a long 90 days. Grant was cute but full of questions; Patrick learned to make things up. Maisie was nobody’s fool and Patrick learned to hide his passwords. He gave them “Guncle” Rules (gay + uncle = guncle), life lessons, and stories about their mother – but past that, what does a gay man who never wanted kids do when he suddenly has two of them? He takes them to the museum way too often, that’s what. He takes them to fivestar restaurants and cringes when they order kid food. He lounges with them in the pool, gets them a dog, lets them put up a Christmas tree in July, hugs them, and throws a party. And he loves them. There are four words that best describe “The Guncle”: A. Dor. A. Bull. That’s it. This novel is simply as charming as they come and don’t be surprised if you can almost hear your favorite actors as any of the characters here. Don’t be surprised, either, if you spend your vacation racing to reach the ending you think’s coming and you’re wrong. Indeed, author Steven Rowley offers the perfect mix of snorts and sobs here, snarky fun one minute and pathos the next but neither emotion is belabored or forced. That gives readers room to enjoy the tale as it unfolds and grows like an inflating pool toy, and to watch the characters twisting wistfully in irresistible, concentric circles. Your ticket’s in your hand, your suitcase is packed, your destination is close, but you need a book to get you there. If you’d love to immerse yourself inside a sweet novel like “The Guncle,” then step right up.


‘The Guncle’ By Steven Rowley c.2021, Putnam $27 | 326 pages



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Adventure cruisers

These two vehicles are perfect for your next adventure By JOE PHILLIPS

With everyone itching to get out and travel during the big reopening, it’s no wonder roadways are jammed with day-trippers and tourists. But these two vehicles can help you avoid the noise and go on your own excellent adventure. CHRYSLER PACIFICA PINNACLE $55,000 Mpg: 19 city/28 highway 0 to 60 mph: 7.9 seconds


Is there such a thing as a fun minivan? You wouldn’t think so. But the Chrysler Pacifica has won numerous awards for its spirited suspension and nimble handling. This hauler is much better at transporting people and cargo than most pickups and SUVs. And this year the Pacifica, already a style maven among minivans, gets a tasteful makeover. This includes a streamlined grille, liftgate, wheels, and front and rear running lights. For better traction on slippery roads, all-wheel drive is now available. There’s also a new top-tier trim level—the Pinnacle—with quilted Nappa leather seats and (bling alert!) snazzy matching pillows for the second-row captain’s chairs. The infotainment system, already easy to use, now has a crisp 10.1-inch screen, along with smartphone integration and up to 12 USB ports. Because of an improved processor, the infotainment system is more responsive. This was a big plus whenever I approached highway construction zones and needed to find a quick escape route. In the end, I was able to deftly skirt bottlenecks, enjoy a few unfamiliar yet pleasant byways, and still arrive everywhere on time. Along with a backup camera, there’s a 360-degree view to help you fit into almost any parking spot. And while it may seem a bit creepy, a new FamCam inside the cabin helps you keep an eye on the kids—or any unruly adults—who may be acting up in the backseat. Crash-test scores are stellar, and Chrysler found a way to shoehorn in almost every safety feature, including blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection. No, the Pacifica Pinnacle is not a sport sedan or souped-up super coupe. But it also doesn’t drive like a bulky minivan, despite the acres of interior room and cubbyholes. Instead, I was able to enjoy the best of both worlds—a refreshing ride with plenty of room for passengers and cargo. For neat freaks like me, there was an extra bonus: a built-in vacuum cleaner.


MERCEDES AMG GT 43 $91,000 Mpg: 20 city/25 highway 0 to 60 mph: 4.8 seconds For auto journalists, test vehicles are like speed dating: Each car is the object of your affection—but only until the next one arrives. Yet sometimes you really do find a soul mate. That’s the case with the Mercedes AMG GT 43. This four-door sedan looks like a hot rod, sounds like a muscle car and drives like a high-performance speedster. Each time I slipped behind the wheel, there was something new and exciting to stir the senses. Cue the silky nine-speed transmission. The subdued ambient lighting. The snug seats that hug you like a lover. And the various driver settings that let you stiffen the suspension to take any corner like a pro. With the touch of a button, you can ratchet up the exhaust rumble to impress your neighbors. Press another button to raise the large rear spoiler—effectively saying “back off” to anyone clueless enough to tailgate such a ferocious fastback. Even curbside, the haughty look of this ride is intimidating. Inside, there are dual 12.3-inch digital displays and a wide center console with wireless charging pad. Another charging pad is part of an optional rear-seat package, which adds three-zone climate control, heated/cooled rear cupholders, two more USB ports and a rear touchscreen. The new infotainment system offers speech recognition for voice commands and software that actually learns how to anticipate when you might be about to change the nav screen or radio channel. And the clarity of the Burmester surround-sound stereo remains crystal clear even when it’s cranked up to the max. Despite a base price of $91,000, the AMG GT 43 is actually a bargain. After all, the slightly more powerful GT 53 starts at $100,000, and the highend GT 63 is an eye-popping $162,000. At the end of a weeklong stint with this dream machine, I had fallen hard it—finding any excuse to make an extra Starbucks run or go on a spur-of-the-moment day trip or drive to the grocery store three times in an hour or, well, you get the picture.

Mercedes AMG GT 43