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Los Angeles LGBT Center making more history visually

The new Anita May Rosenstein Campus is scheduled to open on the Center’s 50th anniversary

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The LGBT Center of Los Angeles continues to evolve from its first home in a rambling Victorian building on Wilshire Boulevard to it’s futuristic new home on Santa Monica Boulevard. (Photos provided by the LGBT Center of Los Angeles)

You can’t raise the roof over LGBT equality without first having a firm foundation. There is perhaps no greater visual symbol for that than the progress the Los Angeles LGBT Center has made from it’s first headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in 1973 to the wide city block it has taken over in Hollywood today.

On May 24, the Center took a moment for a sort of secular blessing as the final steel beam was positioned in the grand building of the Anita May Rosenstein Campus, a first-of-its-kind complex with comprehensive multi-generational services, including 100 beds for homeless youth and 99 units of affordable housing for low-income seniors, for whom there are already several programs, including an oral history project. The new two-acre Campus across the street from the Center’s arts, cultural and educational facility—The Village at Ed Gould Plaza—is expected to open in early 2019.

Anita May Rosenstein Campus.

The audacious project is a prime example of how oppressed and stigmatized minorities must often take care of themselves when shunned, ignored or diminished by the more powerful majority. That’s especially true for LGBT people, who have only recognized themselves as a distinct minority since Harry Hay’s “third gender” theories in the 1950s.

“One of the interesting things about our LGBTQ minority is that where many minorities grow up with people who look like them, who sound like them, who have the same experience and life experience as they do, for the most part, we don’t. It’s very isolating. A lot of us are runaways, many more are throwaways,” out LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told The Chronicle of Social Change last January after the Board voted unanimously to direct the county’s child welfare, probation, and health agencies to better serve LGBT youth.

A  2014 report from the Williams Institute found that LGBT youth are “overrepresented” in the county’s child welfare system and experience significantly worse harm than straight foster care youth.

But homelessness for LGBT youth can be overshadowed by the massive homeless problem daunting LA. “A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in plain sight in virtually every corner of Los Angeles County: Nearly 58,000 men, women and children are homeless on any given night. Homelessness knows no boundaries and affects people of all walks of life,” says an LA County website devoted to the Homeless Initiative.

The Center’s Campus is expected to better serve an estimated 6,000 youth experiencing homelessness—of which 40% in LA County identify as LGBTQ. And on the other end of the age spectrum, while Gov. Jerry Brown signed a “bill of rights” for LGBT seniors in long-term care, many seniors still face the indignity of possibly having to go back in the closet if they move into a homophobic low-income complex.

While the Center cannot serve all LGBT youth and seniors in need, its new Campus is at least offering some respite from the cold reality of the Trump era. Additionally, when the new facility is completed, the Center intends to officially move its administrative headquarters to the new complex, turning the McDonald/Wright Building into a health and medical center. Over all, the Center expects to serve about 65,000 LGBT people in LA County.

The original Gay Community Center. (Photo courtesy LGBT Center Los Angeles)

The timing is ironic. The new modern complex is due to open on the Center’s 50th anniversary—and it’s providing services and fighting now as it did then.

The Gay Community Services Center (GCSC) was founded in 1969 by Don Kilhefner and Morris Kight and other lesbian and gay activists, some of whom were also part of the LA Chapter of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). They rented a rambling Victorian building on Wilshire Boulevard where they espoused a post-Stonewall resistance movement and provided legal help for anti-Vietnam War protesters. They also provided peer rap groups, and testing and shots at the STD clinic.

At a time when homosexuality was a crime, the founders posted a huge sign announcing the facility as a “Gay” community services center.  And according to co-founder Don Kilhefner, it was precisely the word “gay” that allowed them to incorporate as a non-profit in 1971. Government officials asked if their mission was to promote homosexuality. Tongue firmly in cheek, Kilhefner said they eschewed homosexuality (a government definition) and instead intended to raise gay awareness.

The GCSC social service mission also extended to housing gay homeless in four bungalows they called “Liberation” houses, and in 1973, they facilitated the founding of the Van Ness Recovery House and the Alcoholism Center for Women.

The Center moved to 1220 North Highland Avenue in Hollywood and in 1979, became one of the first organizations to recognize what became the AIDS crisis when regular visitors to the STD Clinic appeared with strange Kaposi Sarcoma spots or lingering flu, then disappeared, then died. Rep. Henry Waxman held the first federal hearing on AIDS in that building.  Just as the Highland building became synonymous with the painful and hard fight against AIDS, the building at 1625 N. Schrader Boulevard—ironically, a former IRS headquarters—signaled new political and financial power, as did the cultural complex at The Village at Ed Gould Plaza.

The significance of the arc of history is not lost on LA LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.

“As I stood in the midst of the construction site, surrounded by towering steel girders and watching donors sign the beam with such excitement, I realized that a number of us were on the verge of tears,” Jean tells the Los Angeles Blade. “We knew our Center was achieving another pioneering ‘first’ for our worldwide movement.  It was as if the span of nearly 50 years of organizational history was condensed into that moment.  For centuries, our people hid in the shadows.  Then in 1971, the Center founders rented the first headquarters–an old clapboard house on Wilshire. They refused to hide, boldly putting our uncloseted name on the front for all to see (which some LGBTQ centers today are still afraid to do!). Now we’re in the final stretch of constructing the Anita May Rosenstein Campus which, combined with the Village, will occupy more than a city block.  Moreover, it sits visibly and proudly along of our nation’s most iconic boulevards: the famed Route 66. We were teary-eyed because we knew not only that we were witnessing history being made, but that we were a part of it making it possible.”

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California

Proud Boys disrupting a California Pride drag show get pepper sprayed

“There was an altercation, obviously people are here & are upset about the bar having their Pride event,” said the deputy police chief

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Woodland police officers after Proud Boys disrupt drag show (Screenshot KCRA 3 News)

WOODLAND, Ca. – An end of Pride month drag show in this suburban city Northwest of Sacramento was disrupted by Proud Boys at the The Mojo Lounge bar and restaurant in the downtown business district.

As the group attempted to gain access to the establishment a now viral video by local ABC10 television reporter Luke Cleary showed them and near-by police officers getting pepper-sprayed by an unseen person inside the bar.

Screams of pain erupted along with one Proud Boy who can be shouting “fuck you podophile motherfuckers,” after being sprayed. Woodland officers can also be seen retreating wiping their eyes from the effects of the irritant self-defensive spray weapon.

Another reporter, Lee Anne Denyer from NBC News Sacramento affiliate KCRA 3 noted that the event, which was initially advertised as an an all-ages Drag Show by the bar was at first postponed and then scaled back.

Denyer posted video that showed the heavy law enforcement presence after the Proud Boys attempted to storm the restaurant demanding to know how many children were in attendance at the show.

“There was kind of rumors that things were brewing on main street but there was obviously a presence by the Woodland Police Department so that made us feel more comfortable. Then it escalated, it escalated pretty quickly,” Julie Ramos, who attended the event, told KCRA. “This really was a positive event and everyone was having a great time. So I think most people were angry but I would say resilient.”

Woodland Police Department, Woodland, California

“There was an altercation, obviously people are here and are upset about the bar having their Pride event,” Anthony Cucchi, the deputy chief of the Woodland Police Department told KCRA. “We tried to intervene as quickly as we could, it was a pretty chaotic scene. Our main priority was to get a safe scene and then make sure anybody that needed help got the help that they needed. We will work on the investigation.”

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The White House

White House announces 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be presented to those named at the White House on July 7, 2022

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President Joe Biden (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON – The White House today released President Joe Biden’s selection of recipients for bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor,  the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7, 2022.

Included among the seventeen honorees are Megan Rapinoe, the Out Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Also selected by the president for a posthumous recognition was Richard Trumka, the powerful labor leader and longtime Democratic ally of the LGBTQ+ community who passed away last August. Trumka had led the AFL-CIO since 2009 and who throughout his career, was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ Americans, social and economic justice.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

Presidential Medal of Freedom (The White House)

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Simone Biles
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell is a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is also a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare policy.

Julieta García
Dr. Julieta García is the former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she was named one of Time magazine’s best college presidents. Dr. García was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.

Gabrielle Giffords
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, serving first in the Arizona legislature and later in the U.S. Congress. A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.

Fred Gray
Fred Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama State legislature since Reconstruction. As an attorney, he represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, who called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.”

Steve Jobs (posthumous)
Steve Jobs (d. 2011) was the co-founder, chief executive, and chair of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar and held a leading role at the Walt Disney Company. His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.

Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos is the former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After over 50 years as a priest, providing counsel to several U.S. presidents, he was named by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan is a Gold Star father and founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. He is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.

Sandra Lindsay
Sandra Lindsay is a New York critical care nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. She was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.

John McCain (posthumous)
John McCain (d. 2018) was a public servant who was awarded a Purple Heart with one gold star for his service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. He also served the people of Arizona for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century. Nash worked closely with Martin Luther King, who described her as the “driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters.”

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Alan Simpson
Alan Simpson served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming for 18 years. During his public service, he has been a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance, and marriage equality.

Richard Trumka (posthumous)
Richard Trumka (d. 2021) was president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade, president of the United Mine Workers, and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.

Wilma Vaught
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military, repeatedly breaking gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.

Raúl Yzaguirre
Raúl Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.

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California

Gun industry advertising to kids & restricting ghost guns Calif. laws signed

Latest nation-leading action to protect Californians from gun violence adds to decades of California leadership on gun safety

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California Governor Gavin Newsom on gun adverts targeting minors (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed legislation to take on the gun industry and get more guns off California streets. Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. 

“From our schools to our parks to our homes, our kids deserve to be safe – in California, we’re making that a reality. As the Supreme Court rolls back important gun safety protections and states across the country treat gun violence as inevitable, California is doubling down on commonsense gun safety measures that save lives,” said Newsom. “The lives of our kids are at stake and we’re putting everything on the table to respond to this crisis.”

The legislation signed Thursday directly targets the gun lobby and manufacturers.

Governor Newsom signs gun safety legislation June 30, 2022 (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

Governor Newsom signed AB 2571, prohibiting marketing of firearms to minors following recent efforts by the gun industry to appeal to minors, like Wee 1 Tactical advertising the sale of a JR-15, an AR-15 meant for kids, complete with cartoon child skulls with pacifiers. 

“Guns are not toys – they are deadly weapons,” said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda). “California has some of the strongest gun laws in the country and it is unconscionable that we still allow advertising weapons of war to our children. Our kids have a right to live long, happy lives, free of gun violence.”

Also Thursday, the Governor signed AB 1621, which further restricts ghost guns – firearms that are intentionally made untraceable – as well as the parts used to build them. Ghost guns have been called an “epidemic” by the Los Angeles Police Department, contributing to more than 100 violent crimes in the City of Los Angeles last year alone.

“Alarmingly, we are finding that more and more, no region or demographic is exempt from gun violence – our hospitals, grocery stores, schools, and even places of worship, are no longer safe. The proliferation of ghost guns, which are intentionally untraceable weapons to evade law enforcement, has only worsened the issue,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson). “Following the signing of AB 1621 into law, I applaud Governor Gavin Newsom for his leadership and unwavering commitment to eradicate the rampant wildfire of gun violence currently ravaging our streets and safe-havens.”

Earlier this month, Newsom announced a record $156 million in gun violence prevention grants provided as part of the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program (CalVIP). The funding will support 79 cities and nonprofit organizations that are implementing anti-violence programs suited to the unique needs of their local communities.

California’s gun safety policies save lives and provide a national model for other states to follow. According to the Giffords Law Center, in 2021, California was ranked as the top state in the nation for gun safety. As California strengthened its gun laws, the state saw a gun death rate 37 percent lower than the national average. Meanwhile, other states such as Florida and Texas, with lax gun regulations, saw double-digit increases in the rate of gun deaths. As a result of the actions taken by California, the state has cut its gun death rate in half and Californians are 25 percent less likely to die in a mass shooting compared to people in other states.  

A recent study from the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis found that California’s red flag law was used to stop 58 threatened mass shootings.

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