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LA Lakers’ new player Reggie Bullock is a big LGBT ally

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In a homecoming of sorts, 27-year old Reggie Bullock returns to the basketball court at the Staples Center to play for the LA Lakers. Four years ago the Kinston, North Carolina native was a rookie player for the LA Clippers.

The Lakers traded Svi Mykhailiuk and a second-round draft pick to the Detroit Pistons for Bullock. The trade is seen as improving the Laker’s defense as Bullock is considered a capable wing defender who, at 6’7’’ can switch to multiple positions. And there’s his standing as the 12th ranked (currently) in the NBA in made 3-pointers (2.6 per game). He’s 3rd in the league scoring on handoffs, 4th in catch-and-shoot scoring, in the 93rd percentile coming off screens and the 83rd percentile on spot ups.

But the most tangible impact of the trade, on and off court, is Bullock’s activism for LGBT equality, especially for the trans community. A new documentary film from Vice Sports  follows his journey into LGBT activism after his sister Mia Henderson’s 2014 murder in Baltimore, Maryland. The murder was the second of a trans woman of color in the city that summer.

The now-former Police Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department, Anthony W. Batts, vowed that Henderson’s death, as well as another victim’s would be fully investigated. “I will not slow down. I will not allow us to not stay on top of these. We will push extremely hard,” he said at the time.

A suspect, Shawn Oliver, 46, was acquitted of all charges on Jan. 12, 2017 in Henderson’s death. Oliver was arrested in August 2015 after police discovered DNA evidence on Henderson’s fingernails that matched Oliver. He had been charged with first-degree murder as well as second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

Bullock told LA Times Sport Writer Arash Markazi that his sister never got to see him play college basketball at North Carolina. Bullock didn’t know what his teammates and other people would think and she didn’t want to make things uncomfortable for him. It was a situation he regrets to this day.

Bullock loved his sister. He said his last text to her was, “I love you.”

The loss of his sister set Bullock on a path to not only advocate and defend LGBT rights but also educate others about the day-to-day realities, especially for trans women of color and the dangers they face. Two years ago, the media network Mic initiated a project called “Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives” which revealed the sobering statistic that that one in 2,600 transgender women of color between 14 and 34 years old is a homicide victim compared to one in 12,000 in the general population.

These days, when he is not on a basketball court either in game-play or practice, Bullock lends his name and his status to the cause of equality as an NBA player.

Last month, Bullock sat down to speak about his activism with Advocates for Youth’s  YouTube series ‘Kikis With Louie’ host Louie Ortiz-Fonseca.

Bullock has a tattoo of his sister’s name over a rainbow heart with “LGBTQ” written at the top on his left leg. As he related to Ortiz-Fonseca, that tattoo became a teachable moment as he educated himself on trans issues.

Shortly after Henderson’s death, he got a tattoo in her honor, but used the name his sister had used prior to her transition. It wasn’t until after the tattoo had been completed, he said, that he understood he’d made a grievous error.

“I wasn’t educated enough ― that’s pretty much dead-naming her,” Bullock said, noting that he rectified the mistake with a second tattoo.

“She loved dance, she loved fashion and she was very loud when she’d get in arguments, but she was a backbone of support,” he said. “She was just a power source to the community.”

On the court he wears sneakers with “Equality” written all over them and with his sister’s name etched on the sole. He has spoken about his desire to have the NBA to adopt rainbow-colored uniforms, even for just one game, as a way to recognize the LGBTQ community.

Bullock, who was at the time playing for the Detroit Pistons, was the first active player to ride on the NBA Pride’s float during last year’s New York City Pride March. He rode on the float to honor the life of his sister.

The LA Lakers are scheduled to play the LA Clippers on Monday, March 4 at the Staples Center.

PHOTO: Reggie Bullock during practice Feb 9 2019 in Philadelphia. Photograph by Ty Nowell courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers

Reporting by the staff of the Los Angeles Blade with Vice Sports, The Los Angeles Times, WBAL-11 CBS for Baltimore, Mic Media, and the Washington Blade.

 

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California

Newsom signs bill making Vote-by-Mail permanent for registered voters

“The bill will permanently expand access & increase participation in our elections by making voting more convenient”

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Governor Gavin Newsom (Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom signed a package of legislation on Monday to increase voter access and strengthen integrity in elections, including a bill to send all registered voters a vote-by-mail ballot. 

In a move to increase access to democracy and enfranchise more voters, the Governor signed AB 37 authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), permanently requiring a vote-by-mail ballot be mailed to every active registered voter in the state.

The practice of sending vote-by-mail ballots to every registered voter first began in California in 2020, and was extended through 2021, as a safety measure to counteract pandemic-related disruptions and resulted in record voter participation.

“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” said Newsom. “Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election. I extend my thanks to Assembly Elections Committee Chair Assemblymember Marc Berman for his leadership on this issue.”

“The bill will permanently expand access and increase participation in our elections by making voting more convenient and meeting people where they are,” said California’s Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber. “Vote-by-mail has significantly increased participation of eligible voters. Voters like having options for returning their ballot whether by mail, at a secure drop box, a voting center or at a traditional polling station. And the more people who participate in elections, the stronger our democracy and the more we have assurance that elections reflect the will of the people of California.”

“When voters get a ballot in the mail, they vote,” said Assemblymember Berman. “We saw this in the 2020 General Election when, in the middle of a global health pandemic, we had the highest voter turnout in California since Harry Truman was president. I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing AB 37, ensuring that every active registered voter in California will receive a ballot in the mail before every future election. As other states actively look for ways to make it harder for people to vote, California is expanding access to an already safe and secure ballot.”

Newsom also signed SB 35 authored by Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) making changes to the distance within which electioneering and specified political activities near a voting site are prohibited; AB 1367 by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) increasing penalties for the egregious personal use of campaign funds to up to two times the amount of the unlawful expenditure; and SB 686 by Senator Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa) requiring a limited liability company (LLC) that is engaged in campaign activity to provide additional information regarding the members and capital contributors to the LLC.

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Southern-Central Asia

Columbia University researcher helps evacuate LGBTQ people from Afghanistan

Taylor Hirschberg working with Belgian lawmaker

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Taylor Hirschberg (Photo courtesy of Taylor Hirschberg)

NEW YORK — Some of the 50 human rights activists that a Columbia University researcher has helped evacuate from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control of the country are LGBTQ.

A press release the Los Angeles Blade received notes Taylor Hirschberg — a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar — has worked with Belgian Sen. Orry Vandewauwer to help 50 Afghan “activists leave the country.”

“The refugees included those who identify as LGBTQI+ or gender non-conforming and their families,” notes the press release.

The Blade has seen the list of names of the more than 100 people that Hirschberg and Vandewauwer are trying to evacuate from Afghanistan. These include the country’s first female police officer, the independent U.N. expert on Afghanistan and a number of LGBTQ activists.

“There are many more human rights advocates we are still trying to get out of the country,” said Hirschberg.

Hirschberg has previously worked in Afghanistan.

He and Vandewauwer were also once affiliated with Skateistan, an NGO that works with children in the Middle East and Africa. The documentary “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone” features it.

Two men in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2021 (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ahmad Qais Munzahim)

The Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital on Aug. 15 and toppled then-President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

A Taliban judge over the summer said the group would once again execute gay men if it were to return to power in Afghanistan.

The U.S. evacuated more than 100,000 people from the country before American troops completed their withdrawal from the country on Aug. 30. It remains unclear whether the U.S. was able to successfully evacuate LGBTQ Afghans from Kabul International Airport, but Immigration Equality earlier this month said it spoke “directly” with 50 LGBTQ Afghans before the U.S. withdrawal ended.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sept. 13 during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing expressed concern over the fate of LGBTQ Afghans who remain in the country.

The Human Rights Campaign; Immigration Equality; the Council for Global Equality; Rainbow Railroad; the International Refugee Assistance Project and the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration have called upon the Biden administration to develop a 10-point plan to protect LGBTQ Afghans that includes prioritizing “the evacuation and resettlement of vulnerable refugee populations, including LGBTQI people.” Canada is thus far the only country that has specifically said it would offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans.

Hirschberg on Monday told the Blade that he and Vandewauwer have charted an airplane to evacuate Afghans, but they have not secured a “third country” to which they can bring them.

“Currently, we are working towards a multi-country collaboration for resettlement,” he said. “Our work has now expanded to include election officials and women activists, including those from the LGBTQI+ community.”

Hirschberg also urged the U.S. and humanitarian organizations to do more to help evacuate LGBTQ people, human rights activists and others from Afghanistan 

“I understand that this is complicated and that I do not have all the working pieces but why does the United States ignore those who helped in building their agenda in Afghanistan. The same goes for multilateral organizations,” he told the Blade. “Why are neither funding charters and creating agreement with partnering states? If they are why have the not contacted the countries that we are creating collaborations with?” 

Editor’s note: Hirschberg is a Blade contributor.

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California Politics

It’s official- Rep. Karen Bass enters race to become the next mayor of LA

If elected she would be the first Black woman & second Black mayor after legendary Tom Bradley who served as 38th Mayor from 1973 to 1993

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Rep. Karen Bass (D-37CA) (Photo Credit: Bass campaign provided0

LOS ANGELES – Congresswoman Karen Bass officially announced her entrance Monday as a candidate to replace her fellow Democrat outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“Our city is facing a public health, safety and economic crisis in homelessness that has evolved into a humanitarian emergency,” she said in a statement announcing her candidacy. “Los Angeles is my home. With my whole heart, I’m ready. Let’s do this — together.”

If Bass were to win election she would be the first Black woman mayor and the second Black mayor after Thomas Bradley, the legendary politician and former police officer who served as the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993.

KABC 7 noted that she would be the first sitting House member to be elected mayor of Los Angeles since 1953, when Rep. Norris Poulson was elected. Then-Reps. James Roosevelt, Alphonzo Bell and Xavier Becerra lost campaigns for mayor in 1965, 1969 and 2001.

The 67-year-old member of Congress currently represents the 37th Congressional District, which encompasses Los Angeles neighborhoods west and southwest of downtown including Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills, Miracle Mile, Pico-Robertson, Century City, Cheviot Hills, West Los Angeles, Mar Vista and parts of Westwood, as well as Culver City and Inglewood. Bass was a member of the California Assembly from 2004-10, serving as that body’s speaker from 2008 to 2010.

Bass is entering an already crowded field of candidates including Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and two members of the City Council – Kevin de León and Joe Buscaino – who have already announced their campaigns for mayor.

When speculation as to her running surfaced last week, Bass spokesman Zach Seidl told the Los Angeles Times that her running was due to the fact that “Los Angeles is facing a humanitarian crisis in homelessness and a public health crisis in the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on Angelenos,” Seidl said in a statement. “She does not want to see these two issues tear the city apart. Los Angeles has to come together. That’s why the Congresswoman is considering a run for mayor,” he added.

That seems to be the focal point and whoever is elected will face the city’s massive homelessness crisis.

Bass acknowledged this in her candidacy announcement statement this morning, writing “I’ve spent my entire life bringing groups of people together in coalitions to solve complex problems and produce concrete change — especially in times of crisis.”

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