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#ResistMarch founder quits Christopher Street West board

A successful march behind him, Pendleton pivots

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University of Tennessee, gay news, Washington Blade

Brian Pendleton addresses tens of thousands at the rally in West Hollywood after #ResistMarch on June 11. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

When Brian Pendleton, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist, posted to his social media accounts a community call to transform the annual LA Pride Parade into a protest march, he was shocked by the response.

Within a few days, his post racked up more than 30,000 likes.

Pendleton’s post also tapped into lingering concerns about the management of Christopher Street West (the organizing committee of LA Pride and Festival) under the leadership of Christopher Classen and what many saw as his efforts to transform the previous year’s event (LA Pride 2016) into a more mainstream music festival. Those efforts outraged many within the local community who told the West Hollywood City Council that Christopher Street West was abandoning LGBT history and dishonoring the founder’s legacy.

In 2016, CSW allegedly lost upwards of $300,000, according to local media sources, and depleted Christopher Street West of surplus funds it had banked from previous years.

But the parade and festival plans for 2017 were challenged by much more than the financial losses from the previous year. Construction in the West Hollywood Park, in which the festival is traditionally held, meant that organizers were restricted to less than one-third the space normally available for the event. The result was a conundrum, forcing Christopher Street West to reduce the size of the event and to still determine a way to make it profitable. The effort to plan the footprint of the event was the focus of several City Council meetings and several proposals from Jeff Consolletti, the Festival producer and director.

Pendleton’s idea for #ResistMarch, perhaps because it had gone viral, was attractive enough to CSW that he was asked to join the group’s board of directors. When he did it solved a host of issues, including another serious public relations problem that threatened the organization after several high-profile board members left. Those board members resigned in protest, largely because they did not feel there had been any lessons learned from the previous year’s concerns, including a commitment to transparency.

Upon joining CSW’s board, Pendleton was given the go-ahead to organize #ResistMarch — but was offered an insufficient budget from CSW.  CSW’s insistence on a three-stage festival left no money to support the march. “They said If I wanted to spend it, I had to raise it on my own,” said Pendleton. Additionally, no other board members volunteered to help in the task of organizing the massive undertaking.  CSW effectively turned the parade over to Pendleton but without offering any support.

Pendleton, who has raised nearly one billion dollars for nonprofit organizations, certainly had the experience and the funding network needed to pull it off.

Within a week of LA Pride’s adoption of #ResistMarch, Pendleton, operating under CSW’s 501(c)3 non-profit status, began raising funds from private donors, organizing a committee that grew to 65 people, inviting a broad base of community, mapping out a March route (Hollywood and Highland to Santa Monica Boulevard and Robertson) and arranging the necessary permits and safety provisions with both the City of Los Angeles and the City of West Hollywood. Pendleton secured a commitment from West Hollywood to double the amount of services the City would provide to what became an expanded, open march. West Hollywood City Councilmember John D’Amico, said of the doubling of the amount of city services (from $500,000 value to $1,000,000 value), “Free speech isn’t free.”

Pendleton ultimately raised more than $200,000 in cash.

Though the #ResistMarch was deemed a success, attracting upwards of 100,000 marchers, recriminations have set in. A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “CSW did nothing to support Brian but they have tried to claim credit.” The source says no financial accounting was given to Pendleton, though he requested it “repeatedly” in part to gauge registration and status of the funds he solicited.

In a widely distributed and general post-event statement about the financial results, CSW said the two-day festival was a success that drew approximately 60,000 attendees, 10,000 more than the year before. The statement attributes the festival attendance increase to price reductions for entry fees, better weather and no attendance impacting news events like the Pulse shooting. It does not allude to the boost in attendance on Sunday that may have resulted from the large crowds from #ResistMarch that dispersed at the festival entrance.

But the statement seems to contain some veiled barbs at #ResistMarch. CSW says foregoing the Parade in favor of a protest march negatively impacted Christopher Street West’s finances since it precluded revenues from corporate sponsors and affinity group fees. #ResistMarch was an unsponsored  “people’s march.”  CSW’s statement also suggests that the costs associated with a much larger parade route, manpower and infrastructure costs required to create and manage two stages and marketing required for an event that was falsely reported to be cancelled put an additional strain on the organization’s finances.

The funding of #ResistMarch, however, was completely dependent on Pendleton. “It strains credulity that CSW could imply #ResistMarch infrastructure costs impacted the organization in any way. It was sink or swim for Brian and that was clear. He facilitated organization and implementation of the march, relieving CSW of all direct costs a parade would have incurred otherwise. He raised money for it and he funded the gap…he was given no assistance. CSW simply cannot point to the expenses of #ResistMarch since those were entirely covered by Pendleton,” says a former CSW board member who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Classen, however, says that “during the time of Pendleton’s tenure on the board of CSW, no board member resigned and none have resigned since.”

Will DeSmit, however, a gay man in his late 20’s who was added to CSW’s board in 2016 to better reflect the diversity of the community, resigned shortly after Pendleton joined.

CSW has certainly always faced difficulties mounting LA Pride but it seems that no matter what the outcome, critics are prevalent.

A common refrain among  #ResistMarch committee members who were contacted for this story was that they did not want the memory of the march to be tarnished by acrimonious politics.

“My memory of this effort was of so many wonderful, diverse people who came together, busted our butts and made it happen,” said one.

One marcher, Kit Winter, a Los Angeles attorney, said #ResistMarch “lifted the cloud of constant post-election anxiety and being with other people who were willing to show up and be heard reassured me.”

Pendleton recently resigned from the board of Christopher Street West and says he has moved on.  

“#ResistMarch was one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done and I have nothing but great love for the team of people who worked so hard to make it happen and endless admiration for the people who showed up and marched,” he said.

He is now attending the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program and is considering a run for public office.

It remains unclear if the West Hollywood City Council will ask CSW for a breakdown and explanation of the discrepancy in financial expenses.

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Pride Special

2021 Palm Springs Pride was much more than a Pride celebration

Everything Pride — literally everything — the pandemic had robbed from us was on full display-the first full-scale in person Pride since 2020

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Palm Springs Pride 2021 (Blade photo by Troy Masters)

PALM SPRINGS – Even the Palm Trees were sashaying this weekend as the 35th Greater Palm Springs Pride Festival freed the city from the doldrums of a pandemic that, while not exactly over, certainly felt that way, at least for a weekend.

Everything Pride and everything Palm Springs — literally everything — the pandemic had robbed from us was on full display, yet with an added zest: It was the first full-scale Pride celebration in California since January 2020 and people were ready to celebrate. Last year’s event was held virtually on Facebook.

Thousands upon thousands of mostly maskless people of every stripe swarmed the city over the three days from one end to the other, something that seemed unimaginable even just a few weeks ago.  

87 year old Dan Bertin wiped a tear from his eye when the Los Angeles Blade asked him why he had decided to attend Palm Springs Pride. “I got off the phone this morning with my son in London, he’s gay like me,” he laughed, “and he told me his husband and my newborn grandson will arrive on a flight from Paris on Friday next week. I am so happy, I just had to celebrate.”

Lydia, the mother of 9 year old Stanton says her son insisted they attend the Festival on Sunday. Mom told the Blade, “at this point he says he is gay so I thought he should see this.” Stanton, who was wearing a mask since he is not vaccinated, said he knew he wasn’t alone but he had no idea there were so many people like him. Pointing to other kid passersby he said, “Look, they are just like me.”  His mom corrected him. “Don’t make assumptions about people, Stanton.” He laughed and ran into the bounce house Festival organizers had set up for kids and his mom followed.  “I couldn’t sit this one out so we drove up from the border today. I’m so proud to be his mom.”  Stanton, she said, was born Stacy.

Tammy Green said the event was her first public event since Covid. “I am so damned tired of all this isolating I could scream.  I’m fully vaccinated and ready for some lovin’ so if you know any hot dykes you can hook me up with I also waxed just for Pride baby!”

Joel Stern and his husband Randall flew in from Seattle:  “We love Palm Springs and we love Pride so when we found cheap airfares on Alaska from Seattle to Palm Springs on Pride week, we jumped,” said Joel. “Yes, this bitch forget to book a hotel room,” snapped Randall. “So I made him splurge on $1200 a night AirBnB and we have a mansion with a pool and are headed back now!”

John W, a homeless and differently abled Transman who has one arm, said he lives in Palm Springs. He got misty-eyed petting Cody, the dog owned by Arturo Jimenez and his partner, LA Blade publisher Troy Masters, saying “I can’t have a dog but I love them.  I have too many PTSD’s and can barely take care of myself. But today, at Pride, surrounded by people willing to talk to me, I feel free and even the sudden loud noises aren’t triggering me.”

Scott E. from New York says met a “Daddy” on Grinder who invited him to Palm Spring Pride after a round of x-rated pics. “Honey, I booked that ticket and here I am, but he was a no show.  It’s fine,” he said as he grinned and gestured at a man of a certain age, “I’m sure I’m gonna be fine.”

Evan Caplan, who visited Palm Springs Pride from Washington, D.C., said “Palm Springs Pride was an opportunity to get away from everything in DC and enjoy the weather, the festivities, and the opportunity to meet all sorts of different people. It was a magical escape to party on the streets and feel welcome by everyone in the city. It was also a reaffirmation of the spirit of the gay community coming together after a challenging and difficult year,” he added. 

Tracy S. flew in from Nashville. The 32 year old Public Relations agent said he came out during the Pandemic and was too shy to attend Nashville’s Pride event, so he jumped on a Southwest flight “that cost nearly nothing” for his first trip to the desert or to SoCal.  “I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same,” he said.

Robin Tyler, the LA based 79 year old Lesbian activist and comedian, took to the mainstage of the event on Friday night and brought the house down. Her favorite joke of the evening: “I met a man in Palm Springs who said he was from Texas. Texas, where men ARE men, and women are nothing. There the right wing courts believe that life begins at conception, and ends at birth!”

Robin Tyler performing at PS Pride 2021 (Courtesy of Robin Tyler)

On Sunday, the parade kicked off at Palm Canyon Drive, slowly making its way to the entrance to the Pride Festival at Amado Road where thousands of smiling people, some still waving flags and their signage from the parade, drag queens decked out galore, young and old, Daddy’s and pups, lined the parade route. Dozens of floats, jumping to the blaring music with writhing go-go boys and some more sedate offerings passed by as merchants hawked their wares. 

Mary Rostow and her wife June watched the parade pass by waving at old friends.

“I am seeing people I haven’t seen in years and it makes my heart sing,” Mary said. “We haven’t got that many Prides left and it really means a lot to me that they pulled this together. June, who was wearing a mask that said “Vaxed” said “We really have a lot to celebrate”

Members of the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles (America’s first chorus consisting of Transgender, Non-Binary, Intersex, Gender-Non-Conforming and Gender-Fluid individuals) performed “More Friends Than You Know,” a stirring song about diversity and acceptance and empowerment after marching in the parade.

Alan Uphold, a former board member of the Chorus who recently relocated to Palm Springs from Los Angeles with his husband Jeff Olde, was moved to tears by their performance, saide the song “gets me every time.”

Many other local businesses and organizations also had a presence in the parade; a group with Planned Parenthood received loud cheers as they marched by, while Wang’s in the Desert, a popular Palm Springs Pan Asian Cuisine restaurant, mounted a red-and-yellow dragon’s head on the back of a truck. Men in leather hawked drink specials outside downtown bars, and hundreds watched the event while eating on restaurant patios. 

Milling about the nearly 200 booths, the glow on people’s faces told the real story.

“We have 4 bags of souvenirs, including the Los Angeles Blade,” said Drexel Simpson from Phoenix. “It’s our first trip since Covid and there’s simply no way to tell you how liberating it is to hang out with people, no masks on, hugging old friends, kissing them like old times and just getting back to normal. It’s like the Covid Liberation Pride. And I hope the world follows.”

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Pride Special

Monét X Change joins Kiva to Celebrate Pride

Kiva, the sought-after cannabis brand, is following through once again with their second annual partnership with world famous drag superstar Monét X Change.

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Monét X Change via KIVA

LOS ANGELES – ’Tis the season of rainbow sponsorships. Pride partnerships between companies of all sizes and queer celebrities of all caches abound. In the whirl of Pride collabs, it’s important to know which companies are for real.

Kiva, the sought-after cannabis brand, is following through once again with their second annual partnership with world famous drag superstar Monét X Change. Monét went Live on Kiva’s Instagram Thursday evening, hosting a candid conversation with viewers on Pride, cannabis and how the two are intertwined. 

On her Instagram Live, Monét started off the bat by calling out other companies who “slap on a rainbow” and call it a day. Kiva is not one of those companies. This Pride month, Kiva has made donations to GLAAD and has pledged to continue their involvement and support of the LGBT+ community year-round, something with Monét cited on Live as especially noteworthy.

GLAAD is an internationally recognized LGBT+ organization that works ubiquitously in the worlds of entertainment, news, and digital media to accelerate acceptance and celebrate LGBTQ+ stories.

Monét X Change gained fame on the 10th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, where she won Miss Congeniality. She went on to win (in a tie) the fourth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Working her way to the top of the industry, she is now regarded as one of the most popular and successful queens to come out of the show, frequently partnering with her pal from New York, Season 8 winner Bob the Drag Queen.

You can now find Monét everywhere in almost every facet of the entertainment world. Most recently, Monét released “Love Like This” – a beachy bop with a fresh queer Caribbean sound.

Joining Monét’s Kiva live stream was a colorful bunch of up and coming New York queens, including the in-demand Jacklynn Hyde, her leggy New York sister Tina Twirler and the crown-snatching Sabbyiana. 

Back by popular demand, Kiva is relaunching the much asked for Tropical Punch Camino Gummies. These fruity little edibles are a Pride spin-off of Kiva’s popular line of Camino gummies. A light, refreshing edible with 5mg THC per dose perfect for Pride month.

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Events

LA Pride breaks silence announces ‘Thrive with Pride’

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LOS ANGELES – After weeks of ‘stay tuned’ on its website and no real engagement with the media or the LGBTQ community, Christopher Street West Association Inc. the nonprofit organization that produces the annual LA Pride celebration announced its planned June programming for LA Pride 2021 on Thursday.

Pride 2021 activations are themed around the daily reminder to Thrive with Pride.

LA Pride weekend will kick-off on Thursday night, June 10th with a concert exclusively presented by and live streamed on TikTok featuring hyper-pop diva Charli XCX and a showcase of up and coming LGBTQ+ performers across genres. In-person concert opportunities are not available at this time. Fans and followers can follow @tiktokforgood and @lapride on TikTok for updates and advanced promotions. 

Further, a televised special titled “Thrive with Pride Celebration” is set for Saturday, June 12th airing 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT on ABC 7 Los Angeles, the most-watched station in Southern California, will feature special guests, performances and LA Pride honorees. 

“To thrive means to flourish and progress despite the circumstances. Pride this year is a moment for you to stop and breathe,” said Sharon-Franklin Brown, CSW board president. “It’s a moment to remember you’re not just surviving one of the hardest years in recent memory, but growing into your truth. This is why we were so intentional in our planning. We want to bring a moment of celebration, a moment to highlight the community, and an opportunity to give back. If we as a community can come together, even for a moment, to realize we’ve broken down some barriers put on us, it’ll strengthen our resolve to continue tearing more down for those to come after us.” 

“After an unprecedented year of challenge and struggle, I am so pleased that this year’s pride festivities embrace the spirit of the first pride parade and our activist roots,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. “By bringing together LGBTQ+ communities from every corner of our City, we will uplift all voices and elevate the important work of the icons of the LGBTQ movement who sacrificed everything in their young lives at the time so we can all celebrate together in 2021. With a mix of virtual and potential in-person events, this year’s festivities will keep our community safe and connected while providing every Angeleno an opportunity to embrace giving and volunteerism.” 

In recognition of the incredibly difficult work Los Angeles social justice and non-profit organizations have put into achieving equity, actionable change and stability, LA Pride will launch a 30-day give back campaign to support these efforts. Pride Makes a Difference will highlight opportunities for Angelenos to sign up to either volunteer, or donate goods and/or money to local organizations in Los Angeles County. Pride Makes a Difference is a new program in conjunction with Big Sunday. As part of these new efforts, drop off locations will be set up all throughout Los Angeles. A list of selected local organizations and drop off sites will be available soon to choose from, as well as the sign-up details and commitment.

“Our utmost priority in whatever we’re doing to celebrate Pride this year ensures safety and follows CDC-approved pandemic guidelines,” continued Brown. “That’s why we’re announcing this programming first. Any potential in-person celebratory activations will be announced at a later date in the coming weeks. The more we put safety first, the more likely we’re able to plan big physical events in the future, including Pride 2022, where we can celebrate who we are, where we came from, and where we need to go.”

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