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More to the story: LA Pride’s departure from WeHo

WeHo Pride is Pride reimagined

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Rainbow Flag. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

LOS ANGELES – Christopher Street West (CSW), the umbrella organization which for the past 50 years has produced LA Pride — a brand name it owns and which has been held in West Hollywood since 1979  —  last week announced in a letter to the City of West Hollywood that it would relocate the event to an unspecified location in the City of Los Angeles.

LA Pride and its accompanying three day festival is one of the largest annual events in Southern California, attracting hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world and representing tens of millions of dollars for West Hollywood and the surrounding area.

“As our non-profit organization continues to evolve and grow, we want to inform you of our intention to move the LA Pride Parade and Festival out of West Hollywood in 2021,” the letter read.

The surprise move came in response to an equally surprising Pride Celebration “Request For Proposal” item that was added to the July 20 West Hollywood City Council Agenda by Councilmember John D’Amico and supported by Councilmember John Duran, a de facto warning shot to CSW that the City would be open to considering another organizer.

The City of West Hollywood historically has deferred to CSW and has long subsidized expenses for the cost of security, sanitation and ‘permitting’ costs for LA Pride.  For 2020, the event’s 50th Anniversary celebration, organizers had requested more than $3 million in cash and in-kind services, however the event was cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Monday night’s WeHo council agenda item (July 20, 2020) — “Discussion of Future LGBTQ Pride Celebrations in West Hollywood and invitation of RFP Process for 2021 events” sought to ”select an event production company for the LGBTQI+ Pride events in West Hollywood, including issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for qualified applicants to submit proposals.” The agenda item called for more community involvement on what Pride should look like.

According to a source inside the WeHo city government, a three year agreement covering 2017, 2018 and 2019 with CSW to organize and manage the event in West Hollywood had not been revisited, the Los Angeles Blade has learned.

In recent years, a CSW Pride subcommittee of the West Hollywood City Council was formed to have regular communication between CSW and designated representatives from the Council about plans for Pride in the coming year. Councilmembers D’Amico and Duran were elected to the subcommittee to interface with LA Pride.

However, in 2018 and 2019 then Mayor Duran faced a storm of protests and calls that he resign his council seat over his alleged inappropriate behaviors toward younger gay men, Heilman replaced him on the committee and Duran, keeping his Council seat, stepped down as Mayor.

Also in 2018, Estevan Montemayor, 29, was named President of CSW after a myriad of mismanagement controversies engulfed LA Pride under the leadership of its previous President.

Montemayor was notably among the organizers of a protest against Duran in front of the building that houses the City Council Chamber in 2019 and gave an impassioned speech before the Council calling for censure of Duran.


See 2:22:00

“I am speaking as a resident who has considered John Duran a friend, even a mentor. I have known him for several years, 8 years, I think now. He got me involved politically, along with Lauren. I admire him a great deal; I think he has done so much for this community,” Montemayor said while addressing the West Hollywood City Council on March 4, 2019. “I think he has done a remarkable job on behalf of the LGBTQ community, advocating for all of us.”

“But at the end of the day we have to consider the actions that we have all witnessed and that some of us have been recipients of [including myself],” he said as his voice broke. “It is unfathomable to me that we would not move forward with a censure of some kind.”

Montemayor spoke in support of censure after it was revealed Duran, who was hospitalized at the time for chest pains, had resigned his position as Mayor.

“I think it’s really important that the city really consider — with one voice,” he said.  “There is no(t) clarity. I think we need that to heal. I am speaking from my heart.”

He continued: “I thank our Mayor John D’Amico for the idea of removing him from the subcommittee I am involved in because I think that’s important.”

LA Pride, like every Pride celebration organization around the nation, has been a longtime source of community controversy centering around management, corporatization, diversity and inclusion, finances and transparency.

2020 was no different, even without the actual staging of an event.

CSW, allegedly at the urging of some of its board members, surprised many in the community when it decided that although the 2020 event had been cancelled, the group would respond to the urgency of the national ongoing protests resulting from the murder of George Floyd, a Black man at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis and a national epidemic of often murderous violence against trans people by calling for a Solidarity march.

Councilmembers Duran and D’Amico were widely quoted in multiple LA media outlets labeling the plan ‘reckless.’

Duran, who faces a stiff November reelection fight, publicly stated in the June 15  council meeting; “I think that Christopher Street West — Mr. Montemayor — was very reckless in the way this event unfolded.”

“I think at a time when we are trying to do our best to prevent the spread of Covid-19, to have a proposal like this launched without checking with the City was very disrespectful of any partnership that we claim to have,” he added.

CSW had applied for a permit for an LA Pride Solidarity march in West Hollywood but withdrew plans in deference to community organizers who wished to plan a Trans and people of color led All Black Lives Matter non-permitted protest march, a move that importantly would exclude an official police presence.

Discussion at 4:45 seconds.

During Monday July 20’s City Council meeting, D’Amico imagined what a Pride event in West Hollywood without CSW’s influence might look like.

“Now that CSW is no longer engaged or interested and out of the discussion, we can truly reinvent our Pride experiences,” said D’Amico.

Councilmember Lauren Meister concurred, adding “I think all of the money we did contribute and I don’t know that we were an equal partner.”

“There’s certainly been a lot of communication breakdown in all directions,” said Mayor Horvath, emphasizing that the RFP was announced without warning and that no recent subcommittee meetings had been held in consultation with LA Pride.

“When we change things without communication,” she said, “it’s not going to be good for the relationship, either.”

Duran claims it’s really all about WeHo: “This is our Pride. Our Boulevard. Our neighborhood. Our residents.”

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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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