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Crystal Meth Emergency Town Hall Meeting Tonight

In The Meantime Men hosts discussion about Gemmel Moore’s death and solutions for addiction

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Gemmel Moore. (Photo from Facebook memorial page)

The toxicology report has not come back to determine the exact cause of death for 26 year old Gemmel Moore, but the Los Angeles Coroner’s office originally ruled his death an “accidental” overdose from crystal meth. For Jeffrey King, founder and CEO of In The Meantime Men, that sounded an alarm too many people have ignored for too long about the epidemic of crystal meth in the LGBT African American community.

King, along with a slew of community partners, is holding an open Emergency Town Hall Meeting and Call to Action tonightTuesday night, from 7:00-9:00pm at The Carl Bean House, 2146 W. Adams Blvd. in LA.

The first part of the evening, King tells the Los Angeles Blade, will be devoted to “giving dignity to the life Gemmel Moore lived, to empower the life of this young man who shared the same kind of experience with many peers. We think it’s important to shed light on the complexity of addiction and crystal meth—where race meets sexual orientation meets addiction. With race comes racism. Why was he not working a full time job or in school? Why was he escorting? To make fast money? Because he had too many felonies that made it difficult to find a job? It’s a cycle. And he was surrounded by amazing people—we’re going to be delving into all that complicated stuff.”

Jeffrey King, Founder, CEO of In The Meantime Men. (Photo via King’s Facebook page)

But, King says, the meeting will also work to find solutions, highlight the important work mental health and social support agencies are doing together, and formulate a call to action.  Kathy Watt, director of the Van Ness Recovery House will be there, for instance. But why is the Van Ness House the only facility (other than Tarzana) for LGBT addicts/alcoholics seeking help? Sober living facilities help keep you clean and sober, he says, they don’t get you out of the clutches of addiction. Perhaps a campaign targeting local elected officials can raise awareness of the state of emergency the silent meth epidemic has created in the Los Angeles County African American and Latino communities.

King is doing his part. Every Saturday from 11:30-12:30, there is a free 12 Step Recovery Meeting called “The West Adams Group” at the Carl Bean House at 2146 W. Adams Blvd.

He also features a breakdown of drugs and what they do on the In The Meantime Men website under the category “LARG (LA Addiction/Recovery Guide).” Here’s an excerpt under crystal meth: “Long-range damage: In the long term, meth use can cause irreversible harm: increased heart rate and blood pressure; damaged blood vessels in the brain that can cause strokes or an irregular heartbeat that can, in turn, cause cardiovascular collapse or death; and liver, kidney and lung damage. Users may suffer brain damage, including memory loss and an increasing inability to grasp abstract thoughts. Those who recover are usually subject to memory gaps and extreme mood swings.”

But crystal meth has its own brand of scariness. The Addictionblog  notes that: “[M]eth users can take a lethal dose and not realize it right away. But in general, meth overdose is characterized by physiological deterioration, eventually leading to a heart attack or stroke. Further, meth should not be used by people with heart, thyroid disorders and diabetes, because these chronic conditions may lead to sudden death….Because of rapid onset, death proceeds suddenly and unexpectedly after a meth OD. Many fatalities usually manifest symptoms of coma, shock, inability to pass and secrete urine, and muscle twitching. Emergency department visits due to meth overdose have been up to 130,000 per year, out of which almost 15% were fatalities.”

Crystal meth was out of control in the Los Angeles County area in the early 2000s—so bad in Long Beach, for instance, that the Long Beach Press Telegram ran an important and shocking series called “The Meth Menace.”   With PrEP not even on the horizon, the addiction, coupled with high risk sex, lead to the frightening conclusion about the possible spread of HIV. “Meth use, which has intensified over the past five years and replaced cocaine as the most popular illegal stimulant in Long Beach, and the nation, is widely abused among heterosexuals, too, but the high-risk sexual behavior it triggers among gay men has presented a new front in the war on AIDS,” the report said.

Then the epidemic seemed to subside. But not in the black community. “If you were paying attention, a few years back, about 2006 and 2007, you could already see a rising problem for black gay men on the horizon. No one talks about it, but it’s true. Even then the conversations, scattered and infrequent though they may have been, were just beginning to take shape: black gay men in New York City were talking about developing a crystal meth awareness campaign,” Charles Stephens, co-editor of the anthology Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call, wrote in a 2015 essay called “Black gay men must face the crystal meth enemy in their midst.”

Stephens acknowledged it wasn’t an easy discussion. “For one thing, we are subjected to such pervasive scientific objectification by society that a consideration of our interior lives, is often unthinkable,” he wrote. “To talk about meth addiction and black gay men forces a conversation about our sexual practices and our sexual pleasures. It forces a conversation about how we seek intimacy and connection. It forces a conversation about how we struggle to cope with racism and homophobia and also struggle to transcend them. It forces a conversation about how black gay men have inherited the collective trauma faced by our ancestors and elders.”

More recently, filmmaker Christopher Rudolph produced a documentary ParTy Boi: Black Diamonds in Ice Castles about how there has been an uptick in crystal meth that is devastating queer communities of color. “In [’parTy & play’] community it has become a part of the norm,” Rice says in the trailer.

Brain function: the normal brain left. Meth brain, right. (Graphic from NIDA/NIH)

But the drug is not restricted to gay men. A new study from Chapman University “found that transgender teenagers are twice as likely as their cisgender peers to have substance abuse problems,” including crystal meth, according to a news report about the study, which published in the Journal of School Health. Researchers dove into results of the California Healthy Kids Survey (which 4778 transgender and 630,200 non-transgender students) in middle and high schools in nearly all school districts in California between 2013 and 2015. “Transgender teens were about 2.5 times more likely to use cocaine/methamphetamine in their lifetime, and more than twice as likely to report inhalant use as well as prescription pain medication use.”

“Transgender adolescents face tremendous social stress in families and schools, which often leads to behavioral health disparities,” Kris De Pedro, PhD, assistant professor at Chapman University and lead author on the study, said in a statement.  

“California is a unique context for exploring substance use among transgender adolescents,” the study noted. “California is one of the most racially, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse states in the United States. More than half of California public middle and high school students are nonwhite.”

For more information about the open community forum on crystal meth, go to Jeffrey King’s Facebook page  or call: 323-733-4868

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood’s new mayor & mayor pro tempore take office

In their speeches after they took their oaths, both women laid out their visions looking towards the future of the City

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City of West Hollywood, California (Blade file photo)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – In a ceremony conducted virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the greater Southland, just prior to the nitty gritty of the city’s business being conducted, the city council installed its new mayor and mayor pro tempore this past Monday.

Swearing in WeHo’s new Mayor Lauren Meister, was former West Hollywood City Councilmember John Heilman, and administering the oath of office to newly designated Mayor pro tempore Sepi Shyne, was Melahat Rafiei the principal and founder of Progressive Solutions Consulting, a premier political consulting and fundraising firm based in Long Beach, California and also the Secretary of the California Democratic Party.

Meister, was first elected to the City Council on March 3, 2015 and re-elected for her second term on March 5, 2019.

Shyne, elected to her first term on the City Council November 2020, also managed to set a mark in history as the first openly lesbian Iranian woman to serve and with her election giving the city Council a female-led majority.

In their speeches after they took their oaths, both women laid out their visions looking towards the future of the City.

Mayor Meister in her remarks noted;

Lauren Meister at a regular city council meeting in 2019. (Blade file photo)

Today is kind of bittersweet. It is the second anniversary of Spike’s passing but it is also the beginning of the Jewish holiday, Sukkot, the season of rejoicing. According to Chabad, “it’s a festival — laden with unique mitzvahs, quality time with our community and family, all with an extra-large serving of joy.” I’m hopeful that my swearing in on this festive day is a good omen!

I want to thank everyone for their well wishes and support.  I want to thank my family for their love, encouragement, and unlimited patience. Thank you to my colleagues for your vote of confidence as I take on the role of Mayor for the second time. 

I also want to thank my former Council colleague, John Heilman, for swearing me in as your mayor tonight. It means a lot to me.

When I was installed as Mayor back in April 2016, I spoke about renewing the community spirit that helped form this great city nearly 37 years ago, which John and others were a big part of. 

As a community, we gathered as one after 9/11, we mourned the tragedy of the Pulse Nightclub mass murder, we celebrated marriage equality, and we marched, stood up to, and survived a challenging national political climate. 

I have lived in this city over 30 years, and over the years, I have witnessed many stages in our city’s maturity – I have seen issues divide our city. I have seen the east side pitted against the west side, businesses pitted against residents, tenants pitted against landlords. 

But I have to say, that after being elected to Council, the drama that seemed to plague every Council meeting with a controversial topic… the theatre – and a lot of it was theatre – seemed to dissipate.  

Now, however, we’re seeing a divisiveness that I haven’t seen in a while, and it’s disturbing.  It’s disturbing because we are still one small city and one community – a community comprised of people from all walks of life, a community with young people and older people; a community with businesses and workers.  All must be valued; none should be discounted. A rainbow flag is not just six colors or 10 colors – if it truly represents our community, then it is an infinite number of colors. Putting people into categories, labeling them, disparaging them, does not serve this community. 

I’d like to say, today, that my goal as Mayor is to solve our three biggest issues: homelessness, housing affordability, and making our city safer. 

As Mayor, I’d like to strengthen our neighborhoods, encourage economic diversity, and further initiatives to protect our renters and our small businesses. I’d like to make West Hollywood a premier green city by increasing our urban forest and embracing biodiversity. I’d like to find a companion care center close to home for our lost, found, and abandoned animals. 

And, importantly, I’d like for West Hollywood to be the most prepared and resilient city in the country – for whatever emergency or disaster strikes – whether it be earthquake, drought, pandemic, or recession. 

But none of this can happen if we don’t work together and focus on the city’s recovery from this pandemic. None of this can happen, if we don’t focus on keeping people healthy and getting people vaccinated.  And none of this can happen if we, as a council, don’t make recovery our number one priority. 

So, in the coming weeks, I will be bringing forward a proposal requesting that the city manager arrange several team-building workshops for council, designed to help foster communications among council members, to clarify council’s role, and to identify priorities and common goals. The objective of the workshops will be to transform our new council and our new city manager into an effective, problem-solving team.

Now, I come full circle to why I asked my former colleague, John Heilman, to swear me in today as Mayor.  As many of you know, John and I did not agree on every issue, and in fact, before I was on Council, I was probably one of Council’s most vocal critics. But, once we were colleagues, we learned to work together, respect each other, and most importantly, acknowledge that we both cared about the best interests of the city, even when we didn’t agree. 

So, I appreciate that John was a part of my swearing in today because, to me, it symbolizes hope… that there’s hope that people with different perspectives can work together effectively for the city they love. And, as your mayor, I’m confident this is something that we – Council, residents, businesses, and other community members – can achieve in the months to come

Then mayor pro tempore Shyne spoke;

Sepi, her wife Ashlei-Shyne and also Chloe ‘the Queen of Weho’ (Photo Credit: courtesy of Sepy Shyne0

Thank you to my colleagues for electing me to serve as Mayor Pro Tem. Thank you to all of our residents, community members, colleagues and staff and my wife, family and friends who have been so supportive over the past 9 months that I have served in office. Thank you to my dear friend Melahat Rafiei for swearing me in and for your support. Thank you to outgoing Mayor Horvath for your leadership and taking up the reigns when we asked you to serve a much longer term during the pandemic as Mayor and thank you to our new Mayor Meister for your leadership. I am honored to serve in this new leadership position with you.

Serving on this Council these past 9 months has been the honor of my life and serving as your Mayor Pro Tem is a responsibility I take very seriously. West Hollywood has always been on the forefront of making history and we did it once again this evening. 

When my parents and I fled Iran when I was 5 to escape the oppressive Islamic regime and the war between Iran and Iraq, I never imagined that one day I would be sworn in as the first Iranian, first woman of color and first Lesbian to serve as Mayor Pro Tem of West Hollywood. 

When kids in kindergarten bullied me throwing things and using anti-middle eastern slurs, I never ever imagined that one day, I would be sworn in as Mayor Pro tem of West Hollywood.

When fellow high school students verbally gay bashed and stalked me for being a lesbian, I never imagined that one day, I would be sworn in as Mayor Pro Tem of West Hollywood. 

In college, when my girlfriend and I were thrown out of a coffee shop by a police officer and the coffee shop manager for holding hands, I made up my mind to go to law school, learn the law and stop that from ever happening to others and that is what I did. But, even then, I never imagined that one day, I would be sworn in as Mayor Pro Tem of West Hollywood. 

The reason I never imagined serving in elected office is because growing up, I truly did not see anyone that looked like me, grew up like me and loved like me in elected office. But since November 2020 and especially now, I know that another little Middle Eastern, Brown, immigrant girl who may be queer can now imagine herself in elected office because now she does see herself. And that is one of the most powerful reasons why representation truly matters. 

I wanted to serve on the City Council to represent the people of our amazing city and to bring your voices and more equity to City Hall. The people wanted progressive change. 

In the past 9 months, I have delivered on that mandate. I have had countless conversations and virtual and in person meetings with residents, workers and stakeholders to discuss how we can make West Hollywood better. I have had the honor to serve on our Laurel House, Homelessness, Event and Pride Subcommittees with my colleagues as well as now representing West Hollywood as the Chair on the Westside Cities Council of Governments. 

I have initiated, co-sponsored and passed 34 council items which I am so proud to say have nearly all had unanimous council support. Some of the ones I want to highlight tonight are: 

  1. The creation of the Social Justice Task Force that is now successfully appointed and working on policy recommendation for us to help address systemic racism; 
  2. The creation of business roundtables, grants for the most vulnerable small businesses, and the creation of the Business Recovery Task Force; 
  3. Incentives for LGBTQ people, BIPOC, women and local residents to start small businesses in our city; 
  4. An ordinance strengthening our Tenant Harassment Ordinance and providing further protections for our renters;
  5. The Multi Stall Gender Neutral Bathroom Ordinance which will ensure our Transgender and Non-Binary family, same sex parents of opposite sex children and people with disabilities that have an opposite sex caretaker have equal and safe access to bathrooms;
  6. The development of a Citywide Behavioral Health Crisis Response Unit that will reduce law enforcement response to homelessness and in other areas the unit serves in order to provide solutions from experts that work;
  7. Several items that direct staff to study or update our zoning code related to affordable housing and capacity, bring our codes up to date with newer type housing developments being proposed so there are standards in place rather than loopholes; 
  8. An Initiative to highlight Pet-Friendly businesses and develop “Pet Week” in West Hollywood, which includes a special day dedicated to our beloved Felines; and
  9. Making sure that Recovery includes Everyone by expanding Protections and Wage Equity for Hotel Workers, including panic buttons, the Right of Recall and Retention, overtime consent, Public Housekeeping training and excessive workload compensation. 

For the next year and four months, I look forward to working with Mayor Meister to ensure efficiency and continued good leadership. I look forward to continue being accessible to constituents. I am excited about the Business Recovery Task Force, which will soon be formed to ensure we have a 5 year blueprint for business success, recovery and diversification. I look forward to continuing to pass items that help our residents, small businesses and workers. Items that create more affordable housing, bring more equity to all, bring more transparency and ethics to our government, create a more healthy environment to combat our climate crisis, have more community-based solutions to strengthen our community safety, help get our unhoused neighbors the housing and services they need as well as focusing on our City’s recovery. 

West Hollywood is truly one of the best cities to live, work and play in and I am so grateful to be your new Mayor Pro Tem.

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Los Angeles

LGBTQ+ ally City Councilman Kevin de León announces run for mayor

De León currently represents Council District 14 that takes in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and El Sereno

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Kevin de León from campaign advert (Screenshot via YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – Standing in front of a group of enthusiastic supporters Tuesday at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León announced that he was joining the mayor’s race for next year’s city elections.

Councilman de León, a Democrat, is the third city elected official to announce his intention to seek the mayor’s chair after current Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was elected for a four-year term in 2013 and again in 2017- who’s limited to serving no more than two terms, was picked by President Joe Biden to serve as the U.S. ambassador to India on July 9, 2021.

Born in Los Angeles of Guatemalan and Mexican descent, raised by a loving, hard-working single mother, de León, 51, got an education and spent 12 years in Sacramento, rising to become the President Pro Tem of the California Senate, authoring and passing legislation and making history. It was his bill that then Governor jerry Brown signed into law making California a “sanctuary state”—a law that was upheld by a federal appeals court.

In an August 2018 interview with former Los Angeles Blade Editor Karen Ocamb, he reflected on his relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve always been very close to the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) community even before I even knew all the initials that keep growing,” de León says with a laugh during an extensive phone interview with the Los Angeles Blade. “It’s always been my core set of values that every human being deserves a real opportunity to succeed, regardless of who they love and regardless of the hue of their skin and regardless of their legal status. That is embedded in my DNA.”

De León learned to care about LGBT people as a child from his mother and aunt around the kitchen table.

“My mother got a third grade education and my aunt even less,” he says. “I was very young and they were talking about a gay friend, a colleague of theirs. I didn’t understand. Obviously, they didn’t understand themselves. But they spoke with such affection, such tenderness. And here were two immigrant women with limited formal education and the way they spoke so lovingly, tenderly, beautifully about their gay friend. I could deduce the person they were talking about was gay—they kind of spoke in code around me when I was just sitting there listening to them at the kitchen table. And it transcended ethnicity and legal status and poverty—that we’re all human beings and we deserve dignity and respect. That had an ‘Ah Ha’ impact.”

De León’s LGBT education continued as he picked his mother up from her work as a housekeeper at convalescent homes. “She had quite a few gay colleagues with her and I just remember they were just so beautifully nice with my mother and my mother with them and that had a huge impression on me of the universal values of treating everybody with dignity and with respect. So when there is a discriminatory blow against anyone in the LGBTQIA community, I feel that blow equally.” 

De León, 54, is by far the most prominent Latino running. Fluent in Spanish, he represents a district that takes in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and El Sereno, as well as much of downtown, where a development boom has fueled huge growth over the past decade, KTLA reported.

Two other candidates — Councilman Joe Buscaino and City Atty. Mike Feuer — have been campaigning for several months. The race also features two business leaders: Jessica Lall, who heads the downtown-based Central City Assn., and real estate broker Mel Wilson, who has been involved with several San Fernando Valley business groups.

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Los Angeles

Hermosa Beach Pride Lifeguard Tower is here to stay

“The rainbow tower is beautiful and has become a symbol of this community’s love and support for LGBTQ rights,” said Supervisor Hahn

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

Hermosa Beach — Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn is announcing that the Pride Tower in Hermosa Beach is here to stay.  The 13th street Los Angeles County Lifeguard Tower, which was painted rainbow in June, was originally meant to be repainted its original blue color at the end of summer.  The rainbow paintjob will now be permanent. 

“The rainbow tower is beautiful and has become a symbol of this community’s love and support for LGBTQ rights,” said Supervisor Hahn, whose support paved the way for the project. “None of us wanted to see it painted over and I am proud to announce that the Pride Tower is here to stay.”

The idea to paint the tower originally came from lzzy Bacallao, a local non-binary teen. Izzy, who uses the pronouns they and them, was responding to the burning of rainbow-painted Pride lifeguard tower in Long Beach in March. The rainbow-painted tower was unveiled at the Hermosa Beach Pride event June 26, 2021.

The new Pride Tower’s rainbow paintjob will be maintained by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors which maintains all LA County Lifeguard Towers.   The Department of Beaches and Harbors also maintains another permanent Pride tower in Venice. 

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles
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