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Breaking: CSW board chair Chris Classen steps down

Move follows revelations of potentially unethical practice

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Estevan Montemayor is the new President of Christopher Street West’s board. (Photo courtesy Christopher Street West)

Today (05/10/18), the Board of Directors of Christopher Street West (CSW) announced Chris Classen will step down from his role as board president. By unanimous vote and effective immediately, the unpaid position will be filled by CSW Board Member Estevan Montemayor.

The leadership change comes amid revelations from Wehoville.com this week regarding a commissioned fundraising contract between CSW and Classen’s longtime business partner Craig Bowers that appears to violate California state law.

The three-year contract entitles Bowers, a CSW Emeritus Board member, to collect 20 percent commission from all sponsorship revenue he raises to support the annual LA Pride parade and festival, which is produced by CSW. Bowers and Classen are partners in an event and marketing firm called Incluence, which is the sole contractor used by CSW to procure sponsors and talent for the event.

Craig Bowers and Christopher Classen. (Photo WeHo Times 2017)

State law prohibits self-dealing transactions, or those in which nonprofit director(s) have a vested financial interest. And all commission-based charity fundraising is considered unethical per the standards set by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Council of Nonprofits.

It is not clear if the board changes confirm the organization’s belief that a legal and ethical violation has occurred or if an intervention was taken to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

A source told the Los Angeles Blade the city’s manager confirmed that no money from the city is used for commission payments to people enlisted in fundraising activities for the LA Pride parade/festival.

On the reasons behind Classen’s replacement by Montemayor as board president, the Board’s statement explained only that “Chris felt it was the right time to transition out of the President role, allowing a fresh start for both the Executive Director and CSW as a whole.” It is unclear whether and to what extent the stories this week concerning CSW’s contract with Bowers influenced the organization’s change in leadership.

Also a mystery is whether the contract between CSW and Bowers will continue.

The website for Incluence, the company owned by Bowers and Classen that retains the exclusive contract to fundraise for CSW, is now password-protected. The Wayback Machine Internet archive, however, reveals the site was publicly accessible as recently as April 24, 2018.

Classen will remain on the Board, CSW says, at least until his term ends in Oct. 2018. He will “transition his duties and share institutional knowledge” with Montemayor and incoming CSW Executive Director Madonna Cacciatore, whose tenure will begin July 1, 2018. The Board has not indicated whether Bowers will remain an Emeritus Board Member, but did praise, in a statement, his performance raising money to support this year’s event.

New CSW Board President Estevan Montemayor first joined CSW’s Board in Oct. 2017.

In his ‘day job,’ he is Director of Communications and External Affairs for Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu.

Montemayor has served in senior management positions for numerous political and advocacy campaigns and started his political career as a legislative asstant to LA Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. From 2015-2017, he served as a member of the Public Safety Commission in the City of West Hollywood, where he’s lived over the past six years. He also managed the most reelection campaigns for West Hollywood City Council members Lindsey Horvath (November 2014 to April 2015)  and John Heilman (April to June, 2015).

The Los Angles Blade is a media sponsor of LA Pride

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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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LA Pride Celebration

LA Pride 2021 looks to be virtual with limited in-person events- maybe?

There have not been any announcements for plans for Pride month events in June

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Screenshot as of April 13, 2021 of LA Pride Homepage

LOS ANGELES – The months April and May are usually crunch time in planning for Pride events in any year, however the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has shut down larger scale in-person gatherings as well as restricted smaller events in both outdoor and indoor venues.

This year, however, remains a question mark and so far there’s been no concrete planning announcements.

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that as the state has surpassed a major milestone in the fight against COVID- administering more than 20 million vaccine doses, including 4 million in the state’s hardest-hit communities, officials intend to fully reopen on June 15.

However, common-sense health measures such as masking will remain across the state. Testing or vaccination verification requirements will remain in relevant settings.

All sectors listed in the current Blueprint for a Safer Economy grid may return to usual operations in compliance with Cal/OSHA requirements and with common-sense public health policies in place, such as required masking, testing and with vaccinations encouraged. 

Large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed to occur with testing or vaccination verification requirements.

Pride would fall into the latter category.

A spokesperson for The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health echoed the governor’s announcement but stressed there were science and data driven caveats to modification of the Public Health Order allowing large-scale events and that systems would be required in place to protect the public’s health.

A majority of Pride events in 2020 were either cancelled outright or moved online as California was under strict ‘Stay-At-Home’ orders.

This year, even with the governor’s announcement there have not been any announcements for plans for Pride month events in June. The Blade reached out to the both the City of West Hollywood and Christopher Street West which runs LA Pride seeking information.

In an email, a spokesperson for the City of West Hollywood said that it is anticipated that the West Hollywood City Council will receive an update on programming for the celebration of LGBTQ Pride 2021 at its regular City Council meeting on April 19, 2021.

‘At this time, the City of West Hollywood remains in a declared local emergency in order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite extraordinary progress in vaccinations and in opening certain sectors of the economy, COVID-19 community transmission remains a top concern to the City and to local health officials; this year there will be no large in-person gatherings, including the events we typically see in West Hollywood during Pride festivities,” Sheri A. Lunn, the Public Information Officer for City of West Hollywood told the Blade.

“Gov. Newsom’s announcement to fully open its economy is conditioned on the state meeting two criteria: 1) sufficient vaccine supply for Californians 16 years and older who wish to be inoculated, and 2) stable and low hospitalization rates. In planning ahead, the City must anticipate shifts in the timing of these policy changes and plan accordingly to ensure the health and safety of residents, business community members, and visitors,” she added.

For Pride 2021, the City of West Hollywood will host its annual One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, which will take place with a series of virtual events that will run from Harvey Milk Day (May 22) through the end of June Pride month (June 30). The City plans to work with the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to encourage and promote the efforts of West Hollywood’s business community during Pride season this year to celebrate in accordance to regularly revised guidelines established by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

So far there has been no comment nor statements from LA Pride/Christopher Street West nor has the organization returned phone calls from the Blade regarding plans for Pride.

On its website the organization simply says “Stay Tuned.”

The Blade also reached out to several businesses and a couple of LGBTQ organizations, all of which said that there had been no news or announcements for Pride planning as of this week.

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