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Pulse survivors to be honored in WeHo fundraiser and at Long Beach Pride

The Abbey’s David Cooley and Pulse Nightclub owner Barbara Poma host WeHo fundraiser for onePULSE Foundation on anniversary of massacre, June 12

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Pulse, Orlando, LA Pride

Milan D’Marco (L) and Brian Reagan (R) are among the survivors of the Pulse Nightclub massacre who will attend events in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Photo courtesy D’Marco ad Reagan.

David Cooley and Pulse Nightclub owner Barbara Poma have announced a fundraiser for the onePULSE Foundation to be held at The Abbey on Monday, June 5, to mark the first anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, which occurred on June 12 of last year. Several survivors will be attending and sharing their stories.

The night begins at 7pm with a ticketed cocktail reception and seated multi-course dinner at The Chapel at the Abbey, co-hosted by Cooley and Poma. The $150 tickets are limited to 125 people and 100 percent of the ticket sales will go to onePULSE Foundation.

Next door at The Abbey, which will remain open to all and accepting donations at the door, a special charity drag show hosted by Allusia will begin at 9:30 pm. Sasha Colby, Jessica Wild, Misty Violet, Barbie’s Addiction, Calypso Jette as well as others will be performing.

David Cooley, owner of The Abbey. (Photo Courtesy The Abbey)

“This was the worst massacre against the LGBT community in American history and it took place in a nightclub, a safe space for the community, and something that is very personal to me,” said Cooley. “I had the opportunity to host Barbara and some of the survivors at The Abbey a few months ago and it was a life-changing experience. I want each of the survivors and victims’ families to know that we are still with you and we will make sure the world remembers your stories.”

Donations to onePULSE Foundation will help build and maintain a memorial and museum as well as provide educational scholarships and community grants to care for survivors and victims’ families.

Tickets for the dinner as well as limited reserved seating for the drag show are available at theabbeyweho.com/onepulse.

Long Beach Pride will also honor those killed in the shooting. Milan D’Marco and Brian Reagan, themselves survivors of the tragedy, will be paying tribute to the victims prior to the start of the Long Beach Pride Parade on May 21. The special tribute will begin at 9:30 am at the parade grandstand on Ocean Boulevard between Junipero and Cherry avenues in Long Beach. The parade begins at 10:30 am the same day.

“We are very much honored to join Long Beach Pride and the LGBTQ Long Beach community for this special tribute,” Reagan said in the statement. “As a survivor, that terrible day has forever changed me as a person. As a member of the international LGBTQ community, I know now more than ever that it is my duty to encourage love in all lives so that we all can heal together to prevent such atrocities against the human race.”

The Pulse Nightclub tragedy became the deadliest terrorist attack ever suffered on U.S. soil by a single gunman when a shooter opened fire in the Orlando nightclub, killing 49 people and injuring almost 60 more.

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Los Angeles

The Giant Sleeps- Iconic Black pastor & HIV/AIDS activist Carl Bean dies

Rev. Bean was a guiding light in the fight to end the AIDS pandemic, the effort to provide support to those with HIV.

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Archbishop Carl Bean, courtesy of the Rev. Elder Russell E. Thornhill, Unity Fellowship Church Movement 

LOS ANGELES – In announcement tinged with sadness, the leadership of Unity Fellowship Church Movement broke the news Tuesday of the death of its founder, Archbishop Carl Bean.

Since its founding in South Los Angeles in 1982, the denomination has had open arms and embraced Black LGBTQ Angelenos and many in the LGBTQ movement and beyond consider it the first Christian church in the United States to welcome Black LGBTQ people.

Courtesy of the Rev. Elder Russell E. Thornhill, 
Unity Fellowship Church Movement 

Tributes to Bishop Bean have begun to pour in from around the country as people remembered the dynamic and engaging man of faith.


“Archbishop Carl Bean was an inspiration. Bean cared about LGBTQ+ / same gender loving people when few others did – and consistently dedicated his life to improving the lives of people in our community. From reminding us all that we were ‘born this way’ in his music and Unity Fellowship Church movement and ministry to creating the first organization in Los Angeles focused on helping Black and Latino HIV/AIDS patients when no one else would – Bean’s legacy will live on forever,”
said  David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition 

Bean’s work in the areas addressing the AIDS/HIV pandemic was noteworthy on its own. According to the Los Angeles Sentinel“Archbishop Carl Bean started the Minority AIDS Project (MAP) in Los Angeles. MAP was the first community HIV/AIDS organization that focused on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS transmission in the black community during a time when the disease was considered to be relatively new.” 

In an emailed statement to the Blade, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation(AHF), the largest global AIDS organization today and which began its journey providing care and services to HIV/AIDS patients 35 years ago in Los Angeles providing hospice care to people dying of AIDS, mourned the passing of Bishop Bean.

Archbishop Carl Bean was my brother in the struggle for the last 35 years. We marched through the fire together during the height of the pain and the dying. Regardless of the pressures that could have divided us, we were always there for each other,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF.  “An irreplaceable part of our history is retired with his death. However, a small piece of his legacy of service lives on at the Carl Bean House, which started as a hospice and still serves today as sacred ground and a place of healing.  Rest in the peace you richly earned dear friend and comrade.”

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Archbishop Carl Bean and thank him for his profound and visionary compassion and dedication to marginalized populations be they people with AIDS, people of color, LGBTQ people of color and more,” said Cynthia Davis, MPH, an AHF Board Member.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO, Lorri L. Jean  wrote;

Today, the Center joins people throughout Los Angeles mourning the loss of Archbishop Carl Bean. Through the Unity Fellowship and the Minority AIDS Project, Rev. Bean was a guiding light in the fight to end the AIDS pandemic, the effort to provide support to those with HIV, and his lifelong advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ people.

His mission was driven by a sense of justice and deep faith. His work—especially on behalf of Black people with HIV—was inspirational not only to those who provide services to people with HIV/AIDS but to all of us in the LGBTQ movement for equality.

We have lost a leader, but his presence will live on and serve as a beacon for all who believe we can make the world a better place through love and a shared commitment to social justice.

Robert Boller the Los Angeles based Project Angel Food’s Director of Programs sent a tribute in memory of the late prelate;

Archbishop Carl Bean passed away in Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 7, 2021. This was the passing of a legendary LGBTQ+ AIDS activist, founder of the Unity Fellowship Church in South Los Angeles, and visionary pioneer behind the Minority AIDS Project. His 1977 Motown hit “I Was Born This Way” became an anthem of LGBTQ+ empowerment in the late seventies and inspired Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.

That’s how the world remembers Carl Bean. 

Project Angel Food has a more personal connection. We remember him as a friend, and as a partner in bringing life-saving meals to those with HIV/AIDS― no matter where they lived, and no matter the color of their skin. His fierce commitment to the ideal that love is for everyone, and caring for people with AIDS aligned with OUR vision, our values, and our call.

So much of our history is oral history; hearing how our relationship with Archbishop Bean and Minority AIDS Project came about. Today, 76% of our clients are people of color, but that wasn’t always the case. It’s my understanding that when we were founded in 1989, many of our first clients were gay white males in Hollywood and West Hollywood. In 1994, with the Ryan White CARE Act, we had to take a hard look at who we were serving, and recognized a need to reach out to other communities, especially communities of color.

This is when Project Angel Food first partnered with Archbishop Carl Bean and Minority AIDS Project. The Minority AIDS Project was led by Carl and operated out of his Unity Fellowship Church on Jefferson Boulevard between La Brea and Hauser. They helped us expand throughout South Los Angeles and all the way to Long Beach.

When I joined Project Angel Food in 1997, another church was acting as our distribution point for South Los Angeles, but with the death of that congregation’s AIDS minister in the early 2000’s, we needed to find a new home. That’s when we reunited with Archbishop Bean, who was happy to take us in at Minority AIDS Project. Their community center became our South Los Angeles distribution center.

Here’s how it worked: our Project Angel Food staff driver would drop off meals at Minority AIDS Project, then a volunteer from that area, who we called “Mr. Chris,” would make deliveries to our clients from there. He rarely ever missed a delivery day for nearly 15 years; he said it was his personal mission. 

One day the regular driver was out, so as the Dispatch Manager I jumped into the field and took the meals to Unity Hall to meet Mr.Chris. As I entered the hall a big handsome charismatic gentlemen greeted me with a smile and a deep, “Hello and Welcome.” I still hear that booming voice in my head that resonated with the power of love.

I returned his greeting and went about my business. When I saw Mr. Chris, he laughed and said, “I see you met the big boss.” That was how I came to meet Archbishop Carl Bean.

Project Angel Food, Los Angeles and the world lost an icon of the AIDS movement. Archbishop Dean was instrumental in our growth and into the inclusive agency we are today. His legacy reminds us that we are all worthy of love and hope “Love IS for Everyone.”

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Los Angeles

LAPD seeking registered sex offender in June Wi-Spa incident

The suspect has a lengthy criminal history which includes nearly a dozen felony convictions for crimes ranging from sex offenses to burglary

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Photo Credit: City of Los Angeles Police Department

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has charged 52-year-old Darren Merager, a registered sex offender, with five felony counts of indecent exposure stemming from a viral video incident of an alleged exposure at the Wi-Spa on June 23, 2021.

The spa, which is located in the 2700 block of Wilshire Boulevard in the Westlake/Koreatown neighborhood, had been the focal point of targeted violent protests against Trans people by far-right extremists the Proud Boys and other radical right-wing groups after the incident was posted to Instagram and went viral.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Blade Thursday via phone, Los Angeles Police Department Public Information Officer Tony Im confirmed that an arrest warrant has been issued for Merager, whose last known residence is in Riverside County East of Los Angeles, but Merager was not in custody as of Thursday evening he said.

Five individuals, four females and a female minor, had come forward to report the indecent exposure incident to the LAPD. Detectives assigned to LAPD’s Rampart Division conducted interviews of victims and witnesses, reviewed the evidence, and ultimately corroborated the allegations.

The investigation was presented to the LA County DA’s Office for filing consideration and Merager’s actions were deemed criminal. The suspect has been a registered sex offender since 2006 as per California Penal Code 290, due to indecent exposure incidents in 2002 and 2003. 

Merager has a lengthy criminal history which includes nearly a dozen felony convictions for crimes ranging from sex offenses to burglary and escape. In December of 2018, investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s West Hollywood substation arrested Merager on seven felony indecent exposure counts, stemming from allegations of indecent exposure in front of women and children at West Hollywood Park.

Merager is currently awaiting trial on the seven counts which were first filed in 2019 by the LA County DA’s office according to court records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

In poster distributed in December of 2018 by the LA County Sheriff’s Department, Merager is described as “claims to be female in order to gain access to women’s locker rooms and showers.”

The LA DA’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment or provide a copy of the criminal complaint against Merager according to the Times. A Blade request has also gone unanswered as of time of publication Thursday evening.

In a lengthy interview with the New York Post first published Thursday morning, “Everything about the Wi-Spa was a bunch of garbage and lies,” Merager said.

Merager went on to claim a Trans female gander identity and says [she] is legally female in California and was in a jacuzzi in the women’s section when accosted by “Cubana Angel.” 

“She never saw me naked. I was underwater with water all the way up to my chest,” Merager told the Post and denies ever being erect or around children at the spa. Merager claims to actually be the victim of sexual harassment by transphobic women at the Wi Spa.

Merager is a tier-one California registered sex offender with two prior convictions of indecent exposure stemming from the 2002 and 2003 convictions and declined to comment on those convictions. In 2008 Merager was also convicted for failure to register as a sex offender.

A Trans activist who asked to remain unidentified told the Blade that the situation with Merager is a Trans person’s worst nightmare; “This is no different than the religious fundies claiming all gay guys are paedophiles and want to diddle little boys,” they said adding; “Horrible scenarios like this are used as justification to attack Trans people- this isn’t a trans person regardless of claims made, no this is a serial sexual predator, a criminal deviant.”  

Detectives are asking anyone who may be a victim or has additional information regarding this investigation to contact Rampart Detectives at (213) 484-3450. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). 

Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call the LA Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477) or go directly to www.lacrimestoppers.org.  Tipsters may also visit www.lapdonline.org and click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu.

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Los Angeles

LA County Supervisors appoint new head for commission on homeless

The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness will hold its first virtual meeting on September 8, 2021 at 10 a.m

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Former Los Angeles County Counsel Mary Wickham speaking in 2019 (Photo Credit: Los Angeles County)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have appointed former Los Angeles County Counsel Mary Wickham as Executive Director of the newly formed Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, effective Tuesday.

The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness was established following the July 27 motion authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger and co-authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, to research and provide recommendations to the Board for a new homelessness governance model that is appropriate for Los Angeles County.

“It’s an honor to serve the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the residents of Los Angeles County as Executive Director of the Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness. I thank the Board for their leadership on this issue and look forward to working with the Commission to report back on governance models,” said Wickham who was hired as a 120-day retiree.

The commission will be made up of 12 members, with one appointed by each of the five Supervisors, one by the mayor of Los Angeles, three from the Los Angeles City Council president, two from the Councils of Government, and one nominated by the Contract Cities Association. The new Commission will be housed under the Executive Office of the Board.

“The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness has brought together experts who will use their diverse perspectives to find clear, strategic solutions to the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles County,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “I’m eager to see the commissioners, who bring representation from across the county, cut through the red tape to guide real results in our mission to provide housing, health, and mental health care to those on our streets. With the guidance of our former County Counsel Mary Wickham as the Executive Director, I am confident the next six months will result in thoughtful, effective outcomes.”

Wickham, who retired in July 2021 after 23 years of service, will lead the aggressive, in-depth study of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) governance to identify intrinsic challenges of the existing system and provide recommendations for improvement to the Board within a six-month time frame. Some of those recommendations will focus on the design of an enhanced framework that ensures an accountable governance.

After leaving her post as Los Angeles County Counsel, Wickham was appointed to serve as a Commissioner for the Superior Courts in the Criminal Division.

Prior to County Counsel, she served as Executive Director of the County Equity Oversight Panel overseeing all aspects of the Countywide Workplace Equity Program.

“Mary brings the experience needed to help facilitate this new Commission in tackling homelessness crisis,” said Celia Zavala, Executive Officer of the Board. “We are eager to support this new Commission who will offer solutions to the Board to help them navigate this multi-layered complex issue.”

The Blue-Ribbon Commission on Homelessness will hold its first virtual meeting on September 8, 2021 at 10 a.m. For more information, visit bos.lacounty.gov.

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