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Torie Osborn’s grassroots activists helping Mark Kelly in Arizona

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High tech tricks and apps may delight digital campaign groupies but longtime lesbian organizer Torie Osborn is just as certain that the tried-and-true tools of fundraising and personal voter contact through door-knocking are the key to a grassroots campaign strategy. As founder and leader of the Los Angeles-based Team T.O. Resist and Rise!, her campaign tactics are being put to use in the existential 2020 elections.

Concern is growing now, for instance, about how the Democratic nominee for president will impact down-ballot races. Some vulnerable Republicans have already started to link presumptive frontrunner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a staunch democratic socialist, to their Democratic opponent.

Arizona Republican Martha McSally – who received President Trump’s endorsement in her August primary – recently put out an ad featuring Sanders and her Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly.

“Kelly and Sanders, too liberal for Arizona,” says the narrator in an ad entitled “Bernie Bro.” McSally campaign manager Dylan Lefler underscored the point: “[A] vote for Kelly is a vote for the Bernie Sanders socialist policies of government takeover of healthcare, open borders, and massive tax hikes on the middle class.”

Kelly – a retired NASA astronaut and husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a victim of gun violence – has so far only said he would vote for the inevitable Democratic nominee.

“Mark is an engineer, combat pilot, and astronaut running to be an independent voice in the Senate, and he will stand up to anyone in either party when it’s right for Arizona,” Kelly spokesperson Jacob Peters said in a statement making Kelly sound like the late Arizona Republican maverick Sen. John McCain, whose seat McSally was appointed to fill.

Right now, the Cook Political Report scores the McSally vs Kelly race as a “toss-up” with Kelly ahead in money and the polls. It’s a key race for Osborn’s resistance group.

Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords (Photo from Kelly’s website)

“[Republican Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell is the death trap for any good legislation. We must flip the Senate, even if we lose the White House. If we flip the Senate, we can block the orange fascist,” Osborn tells the Los Angeles Blade.

Osborn is a progressive organizer, a lesbian-feminist, idealistic-pragmatist who has a long history of serving the LGBTQ and AIDS communities through the LA Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Liberty Hill. Her paying gig now is as senior advisor/strategist to longtime friend, LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

“There’s a lot of firepower in our fundraising, but the truth is we’re a small group,” says Osborn, and they’re focused on Kelly’s race in Arizona as their part in flipping the Senate.

Their fifth “Making Waves for Democracy” fundraiser in conjunction with Westside Democratic HQ, is scheduled for Sunday, March 22nd from 3-5pm at the William Turner Gallery at Bergamot,2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, Rep. Ted Lieu, Rep. Katie Porter and LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl will be there. (Find tickets through ActBlue.)

“We’re a well-oiled machine on the fundraising at this point,” says Osborn. “We’ve already raised $150,000, which is phenomenal because this is a $50 fundraiser. I think we’re going to raise a quarter of a million dollars — and at a $50 event.”

Their biggest fundraiser so far was for Blue Wave victors Katie Hill and Harley Rouda in 2018, with a haul of $220,000. In addition to Kelly, Osborn’s team is now also raising money and door-knocking for Rouda’s reelection in the 48th CD and for Assemblymember Christy Smith, who is running to fill the 5th CD seat vacated by Rep. Katie Hill.

“Here’s the thing: I’m more interested in keeping people whole and teaching them skills for the long-term,” says Osborn. “At least half our people have never been active in anything before. They are newly woke, largely college-educated, largely women, many lesbians,” the unrecognized backbone of the 2018 resistance movement. “That’s our people. Half of them have never done anything before. The other half are veterans of the women’s movement and maybe HIV/AIDS.”

The monthly TTRR (Team T.O. Resist and Rise!) Sunday meetings in Mar Vista are a Trump-free zone.

“We do not talk about Donald Trump. We talk about how to sustain. It’s sort of what I’ve learned from AIDS and over 50 years of activism. We don’t focus on the negative. We focus on the positive,” Osborn says.

“It’s like a political community and we sincerely value selfcare. That’s really what I learned from AIDS: When you’re fighting for your lives, when you’re fighting to build a movement, you must sort of lead from love, even if you have political differences,” she says. “And I learned this from fighting AIDS, the only antidote to despair and rage is action.”

TTRR speakers: out LA City Council member Mike Bonin, Rep. Ted Lieu, out LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and Rep. Karen Bass (Photo courtesy Osborn)

A lot of TTRR’s work “is teaching people that it’s the grunt work of politics that wins.”

But there’s also the parable of the choir. “A chorus can sustain a note for a really long time because people stop and take a breath when they need to. Well, that’s what we do,” Osborn says. “You do not have to watch Rachel every night. You do not have to know what’s going on. You get to take a break.”

TTRR members support different Democratic candidates for president – Osborn, for instance, supports Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Some have been angered by the online attacks of the “Bernie Bros” such as the mass snake attack against Warren.

But Osborn is willing to keep an open mind. “I’m not saying there aren’t angry young men who are participating, but for the most part that’s the Russians,” she says. “So, number one, you have to educate people about how they’re been manipulated. But number two, we have to keep in mind what’s happening. Our country has been stolen by the radical right and this minority of ultra-right, racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic people.

“I mean, this is evil. We are up against fascism,” Osborn says. “So do you want Donald Trump or do you want whoever the Democrats end up putting forward?”

Osborn has been “on the receiving end of the ugliness of some of the Bernie Bros and it’s really scary and it’s really awful and it’s really misogynist,” she says. “But I think there’s something going on that we haven’t yet identified or articulated or clarified, including myself. So I don’t really have words for it. But it is an undercurrent of rage at this system that Bernie [speaks to]. It’s kind of similar to what Trump tapped into on the right, but it’s getting people.

“Remember 63 million people voted for Trump; 66 million people voted for Hillary and something like 100 million people didn’t vote at all,” Osborn says. “And it’s the nonvoters we’ll have to go after. It is the nonvoters that the people who maybe they voted for Obama. It’s young people; it’s immigrants; it’s people of color; it’s poor people; it’s people who are disaffected,” noting that 50% of Latinos who voted for Sanders in Nevada identified as moderate-to-conservative.

“This is something way beyond the Democratic Party and what the Democratic Party has been able to tap into. This is really an undercurrent of disengagement and disaffection with politics as usual.”

So picking a candidate should be less like falling in love and more like riding public transportation.

“If the best bus doesn’t take you right to your destination, you take the second best bus. That’s the way politics should work,” Osborn says. “And right now the thing is to stop Trump and to take the Senate. And there are people who don’t think that a Bernie candidacy can flip the Senate. And I just disagree with that. I think it’s all about the non-voter.”

That’s how bisexual Katie Hill won her conservative district by nine points. “How did she do it? She got nonvoters to vote. She had the passion of young people and queer people and women. And she put together a coalition of excited people, many of whom were new to politics and she got them door knocking.”

Osborn says TTRR’s 6th and final Making Waves for Democracy $50 event will held in the summer after the Democratic nominating convention and TTRR will support the Presidential ticket.

LGBTQ voters need to remember what it was like being a nonvoter. “Think about what excited you,” Osborn says, “and then figure out how to get people out to vote. Because the future of our Republic is at stake. This is the most important election of our lifetime.”

All photos by Linda Garnets courtesy Osborn. 

PLEASE NOTE: This article has been corrected to clarify that TTRR has not specifically discussed presidential candidates and that unity is a key principle. My apologies for any misunderstanding. 

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Los Angeles

Fed up, LA moves to require proof of vax for indoor dining, bars, gyms

“Enough is enough already. Hospital workers are exhausted, moms are tired, and our kids cannot afford the loss of another school year”

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell (D-13) on Wednesday introduced a motion to the council that will require vaccine proof indoors at restaurants, bars, gyms, stores, spas, movie theaters, concert venues and sporting events.

“Enough is enough already,” Martinez said in a statement. “Hospital workers are exhausted, moms who have put aside their careers are tired, and our kids cannot afford the loss of another school year. We have three vaccines that work and are readily available, so what’s it going to take?”

There has already been over a dozen LA eateries that have enacted Vax-Proof required for entry including several in West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Downtown, and across the city.

The motion calls for the L.A. City Attorney to prepare and present an ordinance and to report back on how businesses can comply with the measure.

City Attorney Mike Feuer, a mayoral candidate, on Tuesday also sent a letter urging the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to require proof of vaccination for certain indoor activities, including those listed by the LA City Council members in Wednesday’s motion.

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Los Angeles

Delivering justice and equity, Jasmyne Cannick has ‘the receipts’

This fight is about getting justice for Ed Buck’s victims & also calling out all of the people along the way who failed them & enabled him

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Jasmyne Cannick (Photo Credit: JayBeez)

LOS ANGELES – In the world of popular culture the use of the slang phrase ‘has the receipts‘ translates to bringing proof that someone was/is lying. Conversely it also is used to define that a person is being genuine.

Over the past several years as the crimes committed by West Hollywood resident and political activist Ed Buck, as he preyed on Black men were made public, the person holding the receipts was journalist turned advocate Jasmyne Cannick.

Frustrated and angered by what she perceived as lack of serious engagement by local law enforcement in the initial stages of the investigation into the death of  26-year-old Gemmel Moore, Cannick rallied the community and publicly called out law enforcement to take more aggressive action.

She orchestrated and led a grass-roots effort to get the criminal justice system of Los Angeles to listen to Gemmel’s mother LaTisha Nixon’s plea for justice. She used Gemmel’s own words, written in his journal to alert authorities to the depths of the debauchery occurring inside that second floor flat in West Hollywood. She pleaded with law enforcement including the District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles Jackie Lacey to take action.

Her activism and fueling the rage of the greater community finally received the attention of Federal law enforcement and action that culminated in Buck’s arrest and the trial.

She stood by the families even as to the horror of many, another Black man died nearly two years after Gemmel (2017) in January of 2019 and like that young life snuffed out too early, Timothy Dean, 55, was found deceased on the trash strewn floor of Buck’s flat.

“The lives of Black gay men matter — no matter if they’re homeless, survival sex workers or escorts — this is a case that transcends race, class, wealth. Our lives matter, our community matters, and just because someone is unhoused, an addict, may be a survival sex worker, or an escort, or HIV positive does not mean their lives don’t matter and we should look the other way when they show up dead in a white Democratic donor’s home.” ~ Jasmyne Cannick.

In her owns words Cannick writes after the jury delivered guilty verdicts on nine separate federal counts; “It’s been a long four years on this road for justice–justice that a guilty verdict would be but one small part off.  Real justice is making sure that this never ever happens again.  We can’t do that with the enabling parties still acting like Ed Buck didn’t happen”

She adds, “Ed Buck only got away with it for so long because he was white and because we still don’t believe Black victims–even when they tell us what happened to them.

Gemmel Moore told us in his diary, “Ed Buck is the one to thank, he gave me my first injection of chrystal [sic] meth. It was very painful.”

Buck was not all that he was portrayed as in the media, but he parlayed his influence, funneled through donations from others, and did ingratiate himself into the Democratic party in California over the years. There is plenty of photographic evidence to substantiate those claims to fame showing Buck rubbing elbows with politicians from all quarters.

Worse though was that rumours of Buck’s fetishes were well known and yet even after the death of Gemmel Moore there seemed to be a collective shrugging of shoulders and zero calls for accountability. Cannick however, wasn’t having it.

“Former district attorney Jackie Lacey was sitting on a mountain of evidence and still did nothing to prosecute Ed Buck for the deaths of Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean,” she said.

Appearing on BNC’s Black News Tonight anchored by journalist Marc Lamont Hill last week,  Cannick told Hill that the case intersected race and sexual orientation.

“As much as this case is about Ed Buck, it’s also about our housing crisis, and what it makes people feel they have to do — play Russian roulette with their lives just to have a roof over their heads,” she stressed.

Cannick is not just a gadfly community activist, in fact far from it. She is a powerful voice for those who have had no voice reminding people that Buck happened because the community allowed him to happen.

In her own words she points out, “Paul Koretz, a candidate for Controller in 2022, who is backed by the Black Democratic establishment and has taken thousands from Ed Buck, told a group that Buck’s victims were all “disadvantaged Black hustlers.”

“So while this fight is as much about getting justice for Ed Buck’s victims it’s also about calling out all of the people and entities along the way who failed them and enabled Ed Buck. Not doing so ensures a repeat of this situation because Ed Buck isn’t the only Ed Buck,” she pointed out. “Entities like the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department who many of Ed Buck’s victims said didn’t take their complaints about Ed Buck seriously.”

“But even though Ed Buck’s crimes have been made public throughout his trial, not much has changed.  The silence in Los Angeles’ is deafening.  If I wasn’t sitting in the courtroom myself, I probably wouldn’t know the trial was happening.  

There’s been no mention of the trial or justice for Ed Buck’s victims from the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, California Democratic Party, Stonewall Democratic Club, or any of the dozens of elected officials he gave his money to,” she noted.

In a conversation with the Blade on Monday Cannick said that the next phase for her advocacy is to seek financial compensation for Buck’s victims. But beyond that is challenging community leaders and elected officials to address the very causes of what gave Buck ready access to the disadvantaged Black men in the first place; homelessness and helping the unhoused is her top priority.

She also serves now as an elected “At-Large” member of the leadership team of the Stonewall Democratic Club, the very place where Buck donated sums of money and rubbed elbows with Democratic Party leadership who gave Buck credibility and status.

For now there are some community leaders who are stepping up to acknowledge Cannick’s holding the receipts including the City Council and Mayor of West Hollywood who honoured her community work during a regularly scheduled Council meeting Monday.

West Hollywood Mayor Linsey Horvath tweeted afterwards, “Thank YOU for your fearless leadership in pursuit of truth and justice, @Jasmyne Our community is safer, and survivors have more confidence that they will be heard & believed, because of you.”

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Los Angeles

BNT: Buck case highlights intersection of race & sexual orientation

Journalist Jasmyne Cannick, said that the case “intersected race.” She joins “Black News Tonight” to discuss the case and its impact.

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Screen shot via Black News Tonight

PHILADELPHIA – Appearing on BNC’s Black News Tonight anchored by journalist Marc Lamont Hill Wednesday, Los Angeles based political strategist and journalist Jasmyne Cannick, who has covered the Ed Buck case, told Hill that the case intersected race and sexual orientation.

“As much as this case is about Ed Buck, it’s also about our housing crisis, and what it makes people feel they have to do — play Russian roulette with their lives just to have a roof over their heads,” Cannick stressed.

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