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Karen Ocamb leaves LGBTQ press for Public Justice advocacy

I hope to come up with creative thinking to keep bending that arc towards justice for all

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Karen Ocamb covering the 25th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots
(Photo Credit: Collection of Karen Ocamb)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – After three decades of reporting about the LGBTQ community, veteran journalist Karen Ocamb announced Tuesday, March 9, that she is joining Public Justice, a national nonprofit progressive legal advocacy organization that has been fighting for civil rights, environmental protection and consumer and workers’ rights for more than 35 years.

Public Justice is now expanding the depth and breath of its impact litigation to specifically include fighting injustices hindering full LGBTQ equality.

“I’m very excited to explicitly serve the cause of justice in this next stage of my life,” Ocamb, who starts her new job at the end of March, tells the Los Angeles Blade. “My favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ It’s promise of hope for progress has always buoyed me when I have feared for this country. I never thought it could apply to me personally, as an individual, as well.”

After spending the 1960s as a student against the war in Vietnam, fighting for civil rights and exploring the counter-cultural movement, Ocamb joined CBS News in New York and learned to be a journalist under the mentorship of such icons as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Bob Schiefer. Her final job for the network was producing the 1984 Olympic coverage for CBS News affiliates at TV City in Los Angeles.

Free to pursue her social justice passions and discuss her opinions, Ocamb volunteered on the ballot campaign for West Hollywood cityhood. It was during this time that her friends started dying of AIDS. By the late 1980s, serving as a quasi-healthcare worker was not enough and Ocamb returned to journalism, this time freelancing for Frontiers News Magazine and other gay press publications.

The AIDS crisis was her entry into the movement for LGBTQ liberation and equality. She has worked in LGBTQ and independent media since then, culminating in her position as news editor and reporter for the Los Angeles Blade.

Ocamb says she was recruited to the Media Relations position by Steve Ralls, with whom she worked when he served as communications director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Immigration Equality.

“I was shocked when Steve reached out to me. Usually, reporters are remembered for the stories or products they produce, not the relationships with their counterparts. I think it’s so cool that Steve not only remembered me but suggested that I could assist these progressive attorneys in highlighting intersectionality and helping too-often forgotten people and communities better understand how Public Justice cases will help them,” says Ocamb.

“Public Justice’s litigation and advocacy impacts a diverse array of communities, and we increasingly see our work as being at the intersection with other movements for justice,” Steve Ralls, Director of External Affairs for Public Justice, tells the LA Blade. “Our Title IX litigation and advocacy, for example, also helps to advance LGBTQ equality, especially for transgender students.

I hope to come up with creative thinking to keep bending that arc towards justice for all

The Public Justice Food Project, which advocates for a more sustainable and just food system, partners with rural community advocates to battle the scourge of industrial agriculture. And our advocacy on behalf of workers, including and especially essential frontline workers, helps to build and maximize the political and organizing power of Black, Indigenous, people of color and immigrant communities. And of course, there is significant overlap and meaningful engagement within and across each of those constituencies, too.” 

As Public Justice’s case docket expands, the organization recognizes that their engagement with allied communities must also deepen and expand in meaningful ways, as well.

“Karen’s incredible career and her connections at the intersection of so many vibrant movements made her the perfect choice for helping Public Justice introduce our work within the communities we are serving, and hope to serve, and to use the media to help advance our shared goals,” Ralls says. “When I began working on the campaign to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ Gallup reported that 48% of Americans favored lifting the ban. By the time the law was gone, that number had grown to 89%.

That change in public opinion and subsequent change in the law was, in part, due to the power of storytelling. Few people in our community know how to shape and tell the stories of those battling injustice more eloquently or powerfully than Karen.  We’re extraordinarily excited to add her talents to the Public Justice team.”

With the volatile and changing nature of media in today’s environment, there’s a possibility that Ocamb may not disappear completely from the LGBTQ press. “I still have to learn the ropes of my new job,” says Ocamb. “But given the economic difficulties faced by minority media in producing stories impacting their communities, perhaps I can write about the work these incredible progressive Public Justice lawyers are doing and provide that content to regional outlets as a free public service. I hope to come up with creative thinking to keep bending that arc towards justice for all.”   

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Los Angeles County

New on the LA County Channel

You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

New on the County Channel

The Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder-County Clerk is prepared for Tuesday’s presidential primary election with a brand-new facility to process ballots.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

In Case You Missed It

Early Voting Now Open!

119 Vote Centers are now open for you to vote early ahead of the March 5, 2024 Presidential Primary Election. Vote Centers will be open daily from 10 AM to 7 PM to vote in person.

A full list and map of Vote Center locations is available online at LOCATOR.LAVOTE.GOV.
Voters can visit any location to vote or drop off their ballot.

First-time voters who missed the registration deadline can visit any Vote Center, complete a Conditional Voter Registration, and cast a ballot in this election. Voters can also update their registration information, including their party affiliation, to receive their preferred party’s ballot or request a crossover ballot.

The ballot in this election is extensive and includes contests and candidates from the neighborhood and local levels through state offices, measures, and federal representatives. Voters are encouraged to review their ballot carefully and vote early.

Learn more at plan.lavote.gov.

At Your Service

Free Tax Prep LA

Tax season is here! Start preparing to file your taxes with the help of Free Tax Prep LA. The program aims to educate and provide money-saving tax services, supported by various organizations including the Community Investment for Families Department – City of Los Angeles, Consumer & Business Affairs – Los Angeles County, Koreatown Youth and Community Center, and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. Eligible participants can access cashback tax credits and stimulus payments, potentially totaling up to $10,000, including Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, CalEITC, and federal stimulus payments.

Visit Free Tax Prep LA for more information.

Out and About

Find Arts and Culture Near You!

As the creative capital of the world, Los Angeles County is home to amazing art and cultural treasures! To help LA County community members get involved in local arts and culture experiences, the LA County Department of Arts and Culture created the Arts and Culture Near You Map. In it, you’ll find amazing arts and culture spots all over the County to explore, and you can also add your own favorites—a theater, museum, dance studio, music venue, or an organization where you engage in the arts.

Photo Finish

Photo: Los Angeles County / Mayra Beltran Vasquez

LA County Library’s Laptop & Hotspot Loan program.


Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

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West Hollywood

WeHo hosts V-Day & One Billion Rising anti-violence outreach

Vice-Mayor Chelsea Byers joined members of the LA Sheriff’s Department, Block by Block Security Ambassadors & LA LGBT Center’s WeHo Life

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V-Day and One Billion Rising Anti-Violence Outreach. (Photo Credit: WEHO TIMES)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood hosted a community outreach event as part of its annual recognition of V -Day, the global activist movement to end violence against all women (cisgender, transgender, and those who hold fluid identities that are subject to gender-based violence), girls and the planet.

Community members distributed materials to help to promote a message of consent with its “Only Yes Means Yes” public awareness campaign, distribute drink-spiking test strips, share domestic violence awareness information and human trafficking prevention and awareness information as well as general safety information and resources.

V-Day and One Billion Rising Anti-Violence Outreach – WEHO TIMES

West Hollywood Vice Mayor Chelsea Lee Byers joined members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood Station, Block by Block Security Ambassadors, members of the LA LGBT Center’s WeHo Life group, members of the City of West Hollywood’s Women’s Advisory Board, Public Safety, and City staff members in WeHo’s Rainbow district, to pass out awareness and prevention materials at various nightlife locations in the city. Members of the public are invited to stop by and pick up materials at a table on Santa Monica Boulevard.

V-Day and One Billion Rising Anti-Violence Outreach – WEHO TIMES

“Today we’re passing out drink test strips,” Vice-Mayor Byers told WEHO TIMES. “It’s an initiative that the city’s been really proud to partner with the LA LGBT Center and APLA Health. We’ve been out here passing out test strips to the community, and people at the bars on the Saturday afternoon. We’re having a conversation with them about the risks that are inherent in that activity and the ways that they can better protect themselves. We’re really excited to be engaging in that way as a community.”

V-Day and One Billion Rising Anti-Violence Outreach – WEHO TIMES

Drink-spiking test strips are designed to detect the possible presence of “date rape” drugs, such as GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) or ketamine. Outreach staff from the WeHo Life program began test-strip distribution efforts in October 2022 to inform and educate community members and businesses that drink-spiking test strips are a tool for personal safety that can be used anywhere at any time.

First launched in 2016, the #onlyYes campaign is a public-awareness campaign to encourage people in the community to be more aware of sexual assault and to promote a message of consent.

For over 20 years the City has participated in V-Day.  V-Day was founded on the belief that when art and activism come together, they have the power to transform systems and change culture. Founded by V (formerly Eve Ensler), activist and author of the The Vagina Monologues, V-Day has inspired women all over the world and raised collective consciousness about how violence and gender intersect. V-Day is a movement and an example of how the power of art can be used as a liberating tool for transformational holistic education and social justice. www.vday.org

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Riverside County

Riverside judge refuses to block trans outing & CRT policies

Forced disclosure requires schools to inform parents if a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from their birth certificate

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Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education admin offices (Screenshot/YouTube KTLA)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A Riverside County Superior Court judge denied a motion on Friday morning, Feb. 23, to issue an injunction seeking to stop the Temecula Valley Unified School District from enforcement of two controversial polices on transgender notification to parents or guardians and a ban on teaching of critical race theory.

Superior Court Judge Eric Keen denied plaintiffs’ motions to issue the injunctions without clarification or elaboration. The Daily Bulletin media outlet reported Public Counsel, which sought the injunction, will appeal Keen’s ruling Public Counsel attorney Amanda Mangaser Savage said after the hearing.

“We always knew that this case was going to go up on appeal, whether we prevailed or not,” she said. “This is a question that the California appellate courts really need to decide to set a precedent for superior courts across the state of California.”

She added: “While yes, we are disappointed in today’s ruling, we are excited about the possibility of taking this up on appeal and having a court rule on the merits of our claims in a way that will impact courts across California.”

“Despite the small but vocal opponents that seek to rewrite history and indoctrinate students, I am very optimistic for our school district,” Dr. Joseph Komrosky, President of the school board said in a statement issued Friday after the ruling. “I believe that the diversity that exists among the District’s community of students, staff, parents, and guardians is an asset to be honored and valued. These policies were enacted by the school board to ensure our district puts the needs of students and their parents above all else. Our district remains focused on providing a holistic education for all of our students, free from both discrimination and indoctrination.”

According to the Daily Bulletin last week Keen ruled that the lawsuit, described as a groundbreaking challenge of a critical race theory ban, could move forward.

The battle over parental notification of trans and non-binary students policies at school board levels across California, which opponents say are plainly dangerous forced outings, resulted in another court fight, which in that case San Bernardino California Superior Court Judge Michael Sachs issued a preliminary oral injunction last Fall against the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education’s mandatory gender identity disclosure policy, further halting the enforcement of the policy.

The Superior Court’s ruling came after California Attorney General Bonta in August announced a lawsuit challenging the enforcement of the Board’s forced outing policy. Prior to filing a lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta announced opening a civil rights investigation into the legality of the Board’s adoption of the policy.

Bonta in January issued a legal alert addressed to all California county, school district, and charter school boards and superintendents, warning them against forced gender identity disclosure policies detrimental to the privacy, safety, and well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

Forced disclosure policies require schools to inform parents whenever a student requests to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission or when doing so would put them at risk of physical, emotional, or psychological harm.

Such policies also require notification if a student requests to use facilities or participates in programs that do not align with their sex on official records. In today’s alert, Attorney General Bonta reminds all school boards that these forced gender identity disclosure policies violate the California Constitution and state laws safeguarding students’ civil rights.

According to City News Service, Yi Li, a fellow at Public Counsel said: “Unfortunately, Temecula is just one example of school districts and states around the country that are putting culture war politics before the needs of the students and communities. Temecula students are now in classrooms where they cannot learn material required by state standards, or have open and honest discussion about current events. And Temecula teachers are at risk of facing sever and arbitrary penalties just by doing their jobs.”

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Los Angeles County

LA County sues Grubhub alleging deceptive business practices

Lawsuit seeks to hold Grubhub accountable for business practices that deceive & overcharge consumers, exploit drivers & restaurants

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App food delivery driver picks up an order. (Screenshot/YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County filed a lawsuit yesterday against food delivery company Grubhub alleging false and deceptive advertising, misrepresentation and unfair business practices that financially harm consumers, delivery drivers and restaurants.

“This lawsuit sends a clear message: Los Angeles County will not tolerate businesses that deceive consumers, take advantage of restaurants, and exploit the drivers who work hard to provide a valued service,” said Los Angeles County Board Chair Lindsey P. Horvath. “Our County Counsel and Department of Consumer and Business Affairs are standing up for consumers and businesses by fighting these unfair practices.”

The lawsuit alleges that Grubhub engages in the following unfair and deceptive business practices and seeks statewide relief to stop these violations:

Harm to Consumers

  • Deceptively advertises that consumers can place delivery orders online “for free” but then charges consumers fees on those orders at check-out.
  • Uses bait-and-switch tactics to lure consumers with a flat, unqualified price for delivery upfront while adding deceptively labeled “service,” “small order” and “driver benefits” fees at checkout. In some cases, the costs of the fees exceed the cost of the food item ordered.
  • Misrepresents restaurant search results on its apps and websites, telling consumers that the search results are based on relevance to the consumer’s query (e.g., “Chinese food near me”), when in fact, the results and rankings are based in part on how much restaurants have paid Grubhub for placement.

Harm to Drivers

Grubhub misrepresents the qualities, characteristics and scope of the “Driver Benefits Fee,” which Grubhub charges consumers in connection with Proposition 22. Grubhub deceptively implies that the fee provides healthcare benefits to drivers and that consumers no longer need to tip their drivers because “they don’t have to depend on tips.”

Harm to Restaurants

Grubhub deceptively and unilaterally charges restaurants for customer refunds, which Grubhub issues without restaurants’ consent, and without verifying whether the customer or the restaurant was responsible.

“The deceptive and excessive fees charged by Grubhub at checkout blatantly undermine our goal of promoting a fair marketplace where businesses, employees and consumers can thrive,” said Rafael Carbajal, Director of the LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. “These practices inflict financial harm on LA County’s residents, restaurants and workers and are unacceptable while so many of them struggle to make ends meet.”

Consumers, drivers and restaurants who believe they have been harmed by Grubhub’s actions are invited to share their experiences with DCBA by emailing: [email protected], filing online at https://iddweb.isd.lacounty.gov/dca_ecomplaint/ or calling 800-593-8222.

The lawsuit, filed by Los Angeles County Counsel Dawyn R. Harrison on behalf of the people of the State of California in response to complaints from consumers and restaurant owners, seeks injunctive relief to stop the unfair and deceptive business practices, and civil penalties. County Counsel’s Affirmative Litigation and Consumer Protection Division has retained the law firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC to assist on this case.

“Our lawsuit seeks to hold Grubhub accountable for their unfair and deceptive business practices that deceive and overcharge consumers, exploit drivers, and unfairly short-change restaurants on order refunds,” Harrison said. “My office is committed to protecting County workers and residents and holding businesses accountable for violations of consumer and worker protection laws.”

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, and a copy of the complaint is available here: LA County Grubhub Complaint-Redacted.pdf.

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Southern California

Triple A: SoCal Gas Prices Pause

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in Southern California is $4.64, which is the same as a week ago

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Triple A Auto Club/Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Local gas prices in most areas remained unchanged for the week after three straight weeks of price increases, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $4.64, which is the same as a week ago. The average national price is $3.27, which is one cent lower than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $4.80 per gallon, which is the same as last week, 14 cents higher than last month, and three cents lower than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $4.81, which is one cent more than last week, 23 cents higher than last month, and two cents lower than this time last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $4.77, which is two cents higher than last week, 19 cents higher than last month, and two cents more than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $4.68, which is the same as last week, 30 cents higher than last month and four cents lower than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $4.58 average price is unchanged from last week, four cents lower than last month, and 14 cents lower than a year ago today.

“Although refinery maintenance continues to cause some production outages in Southern California, indications are that the regular unleaded gasoline supply is sufficient for now,” said Auto Club Spokesperson Doug Shupe.

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on Feb. 22, averages are:

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Los Angeles County

New on the LA County Channel

You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

New on the County Channel

Lights, camera, nostalgia! The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in the heart of Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile is the perfect destination for movie buffs with special exhibitions and a permanent collection taking viewers behind the scenes into how cinema magic is made.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

In Case You Missed It

Calling All Property Owners and Managers

If you have a vacant residential building or apartment units available, there is a fast and simple way to find qualified renters. LeaseUp is the go-to service for people leasing properties across LA County. LeaseUp is an initiative from the PATH non-profit organization that partners with service providers and property owners, developers, and managers in order to quickly fill vacancies and help those at risk of homelessness find and maintain housing.

At Your Service

Grants Available for First-time Homebuyers

The Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and LA County Center for Financial Empowerment has launched the County of Los Angeles Greenline Home Program which aims to tackle the legacy of redlining. The goal is to empower and uplift economically marginalized communities. $35,000 grants will be available for first-time homebuyers living in LA County.

To learn more about eligibility requirements visit dcba.lacounty.gov/greenline.

Out and About

Rise, Reclaim, Restore

Teens are invited to join the LA County Department of Public Health at the Rise, Reclaim, Restore Youth Mental Health Summit. Through engaging workshops and interactive activities, these summits will equip young people with the tools to navigate their mental well-being, support their friends, and become leaders in their schools. Together, we will explore strategies for self-care, coping mechanisms, and building resilience.

Youth who attend will be eligible for raffle prizes, freebies, and community service hours! Click here to learn more.

Photo Finish

A look inside LA County’s new ballot processing center ahead of the March 5 Primary election. Make your plan to vote today!
(Photo: Los Angeles County / Mayra Beltran Vasquez)

Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

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West Hollywood

WeHo trans activist Annie Jump Vicente arrested for felony assault

Jump facing a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge for allegedly striking a Block by Block Ambassador on the head with a flashlight

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West Hollywood resident and trans activist, Annie Jump Vicente, shown here in this file photo, speaking before the WeHo City Council.

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – West Hollywood resident and trans activist, Annie Jump Vicente (also uses the alias Annie Vicente Jump) was arrested on Thursday, February 15, 2024 and is facing a felony assault with a deadly weapon (245 PC) for allegedly striking a Block by Block Ambassador on the head with a flashlight.

Captain William (Bill) Moulder the commanding officer of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station stated that a second suspect is outstanding as of the publishing of this piece. Detectives are continuing to actively investigate this case.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Inmate Information Center, booking number 6762311 states that Jump was arrested on February 15, 2024, at 2:00 a.m. by West Hollywood Sheriff Deputies and booked at 2:45 a.m. She was released the following day.

A source familiar with the incident tells WEHO TIMES that Ms. Jump (who was booked as male) assaulted the Block by Block ambassador near Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Vista Avenue.

Full details on the incident are not yet available, however Jump has a court date scheduled for March 7, 2024.

Jump_Booking Record Details – Inmate Information Center

Ms. Jump spoke during public comment Tuesday night at a regular city council meeting to tell her own version of what happened that night.

“As I’m sure you heard by now, one of your security ambassadors, or goons as they are, crossed paths with me,” she said tearfully. “He’s actually, he then sexually assaulted me and battered me. He beat the shit out of me. And then he had me arrested and charged with a felony. I was asked about my genitalia by the deputies. I was assigned male, though my identification states I’m female. They put me with the men. Imagine what it’s like to be a trans woman incarcerated with men. Unfortunately, you can’t.”

She alleged that this is not the first time Block by Block assaulted her. “Security ambassadors touch me. They violate me and they punch me and if you recall from your inauguration [Mayor] Erickson, I played a video where one of your city paid goons threatened to kill my dog. She was unfortunately there that night on Valentine’s Day and she had she was an absolute angel. She was so scared and helpless to get around. I had to get her out of there before they killed my dog.”

Twitter account @TransinWeho believed to belong to Ms. Jump posted an edited video she had with a Block by Block Security ambassador. In the video, she is shown aggressively confronting and following a security ambassador as he tries to flee the scene.

Jump was also arrested by West Hollywood sheriffs on December 7, 2022, and charged with a misdemeanor for blocking deputies from entering her building responding to a domestic violence call. Jump was arrested and charged for violation Penal Code § 148(a)(1) PC which makes it a crime to willfully resist, delay or obstruct peace officers or EMTs who are performing their official duties—however, a Los Angeles County District Attorney Charge Evaluation Sheet dated December 21, 2022, concluded that “the defendant’s total conduct cannot be characterized other than a refusal to consent to a request to enter her apartment. Such conduct cannot constitute grounds for a lawful arrest or subsequent search and seizure… Refusal to stand aside and permit a requested entry, even when officers… had a right to force an entry… cannot constitute a violation of section 148.”

She has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), ten individual West Hollywood Station LASD deputies (referred to as Doe LASD Deputies in the lawsuit), as well as the County of Los Angeles.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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San Francisco

13th annual Bay Area First Nations Two Spirit Society powwow

The Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirit powwow was held at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center from February 5 to February 10, 2024

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Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) exists to restore and recover the role of Two-Spirit people within the American Indian/First Nations community by creating a forum for the spiritual, cultural and artistic expression of Two-Spirit people in Northern California. (Photo by Mishaa Degraw/ProBonoPhoto.org)

SAN FRANCISCO – The Bay Area American Indian Two Spirit Society held their 13th annual powwow on February 10th 2024, Commemorating the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits 25th Year Anniversary.

The 13th Annual Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirit powwow, held at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. (BAAITS) exists to restore and recover the role of Two-Spirit people within the American Indian/First Nations community by creating a forum for the spiritual, cultural and artistic expression of Two-Spirit people.

For the past 25 years, Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) has been creating sober gathering spaces and events for the Two-Spirit & IndigeQueer community in the Bay Area and  beyond. Originally founded in 1999 by Two Spirit community members organizing the International Two Spirit Gathering in the Bay Area, BAAITS proudly continues to grow and expand to welcome Two-Spirits, IndigeQueer, and TG/GNC LGBQIA+ people as they/we learn and reconnect with their/our Indigenous roots.  

BAAITS was excited to continue this legacy with a successful week of events from February 5, 2024 to February 10, 2024 culminating with the 13th Annual BAAITS Two-Spirit powwow.

BAAITS is a community-based volunteer organization offering culturally relevant activities for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Native Americans, their families and friends. Two-Spirit refers to the commonly shared notion among many Native American tribes that some individuals naturally possessed and manifested both a masculine and feminine spiritual qualities.  American society commonly identifies Two-Spirit People as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender.

Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits comes together to socialize, share and network in an alcohol and drug-free environment. BAAITS sees itself as an organization for Two-Spirit people to explore their rich heritage in a safe environment.  To that end, BAAITS is committed to offering culturally relevant activities for LGBTQ individuals of Native American ancestry and their families and friends.

Photos:

(Photo by Mishaa Degraw)
(Photo by Mishaa Degraw)

(Photo by Mishaa Degraw/ProBonoPhoto.org)

(Photo by Mishaa Degraw)
(Photo by Mishaa Degraw)
(Photo by Mishaa Degraw/ProBonoPhoto.org)

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California

California is surveying its older LGBTQ+ residents on aging issues

Residents asked about myriad concerns, from health issues & insurance coverage to living arrangements, social activities, & relationships

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Photo courtesy of the California Department of Aging/California government

By Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor | SACRAMENTO -For the first time California is surveying its older LGBTQ residents to find out what issues they are dealing with as they age. The response to it has already surpassed expectations.

The UCSF researchers conducting the survey, Annesa Flentje, Ph.D., and Carol Dawson-Rose, Ph.D., on behalf of the California Department of Aging noted on its introductory page they expected about 2,000 people to participate by the time it concludes on March 31. They had reached that amount a little over a month after the survey went live online in early January.

As of February 14, the number of people surveyed had surpassed 2,640.

“We had an inkling there would be great interest in this because it really hasn’t been done,” said Susan DeMarois, a straight ally who is director of the state agency. “We are so happy there is this response. It really shows there is a need for this survey on this population statewide.”

There is no cap to how many people can take the survey before it concludes next month.

“There is no baseline for data on this population, so the survey will be all the more richer from having more people who participate. There is no limit,” said DeMarois, 58, who was appointed director of her agency on November 1, 2021. “Absolutely, this is the first time our department has done this.”

The state agency budgeted $899,304 toward the survey and expects to begin reporting out its findings later this year. Respondents are asked about myriad concerns, from their health issues and insurance coverage to living arrangements, social activities, and relationships.

The questions also inquire about such varied topics as HIV status and transportation to employment and end-of-life matters. Anyone age 50 and older who identifies under the LGBTQIA+ acronym and lives in California can fill out the survey, which should take about 20 minutes to complete.

The age range is purposefully broad, noted DeMarois, due to the agency wanting to gather information from people at different stages of their older adult lives, whether in their 50s approaching retirement age or well into their golden years.

“We are sort of straddling meeting current needs and projecting future needs. It is a wide age swath,” she said. “Part of it is we want to know what you and your husband might need down the road. At the same time we really want to hear from people in their 70s and 80s today.”

The agency is also striving to reach a geographically diverse set of respondents to the survey. In addition to partnering with LGBTQ senior service providers in urban centers, such as San Francisco-based Openhouse, it is also working with its network of 33 Area Agencies on Aging to spread the word about the survey.

“We have come at it from lots of angles so people hear about it through whatever channels they rely on,” said DeMarois. “We also hope people in their 40s and 50s share this information about the survey with someone in their 60s, 70s, or 80s.”

In his last email as the LGBT+ senior program manager for the Spahr Center in Marin County, Bill Blackburn encouraged people to take the survey.

“If you live in California, are over 50-yo (ahem) and identify as LGBTQI or A, I encourage you to participate,” wrote Blackburn, who was laid off in early February as the nonprofit service provider is facing a financial crisis. “Completely confidential, with no way of tracking you, the survey aims to shed light on our unique challenges, hopes and contributions. Your engagement will directly improve resources, services and policies available to us.”

Identifying gaps

The intent of the survey is to identify gaps in the needs of the state’s LGBTQ older population and highlight priorities for both the state aging department and lawmakers in Sacramento. It also ties into the state’s Master Plan for Aging, a 10-year blueprint mapping out numerous initiatives and steps policymakers can take to assist people as they age in the Golden State.

It is used as a basis for what goals the aging department sets during each two-year session in the Legislature. The plan does take into account the needs of the LGBTQ community, and the survey findings will further bolster the initiatives the state agency undertakes in the years to come.

“I fully expect something notable relative to the LGBTQ community as a result of this survey we will focus on in the next two years,” said DeMarois, who noted she and her staff met with the 12-member Legislative LGBTQ Caucus to apprise them about the survey. “We briefed the LGBTQ caucus, which is larger than it has ever been in the history of the state. They are very interested in this and very interested in legislation that includes the older adult population.”

Because the U.S. census doesn’t ask about people’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) on the forms used for the decennial count of the country’s population, there is no exact picture of how many Californians over the age of 50 are LGBTQ.

UCLA School of Law think tank the Williams Institute released a report last year estimating the number of LGBTQ adults age 18 and older living in California was 1,459,600. Throughout the U.S. it estimated the LGBTQ adult population to be a little more than 13.9 million, with people age 50 and older accounting for 4.5%.

“I don’t know what the population of LGBTQ seniors is in California,” acknowledged DeMarois, who added that her agency does ask about SOGI on various forms it uses, though answering the questions is voluntary. “We are interested in collecting more accurate data.”

One of the first government entities to survey LGBTQ older adults was San Francisco, which released its report in 2014, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported. Santa Clara County released the findings of its own survey in 2021.

The state of Oregon published the findings of a survey on its LGBTQ senior population in 2021. California’s survey was initially to be rolled out last year, but it got pushed back to 2024 due to a desire to translate it into multiple languages.

It is offered in English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Chinese. In producing the survey, the state’s aging department partnered with Openhouse and UCSF’s Sexual and Gender Minority Health Equity Lab. Also assisting on it were two centers based at UC Berkeley, the Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.

“We are really hungry to learn more and put it into action,” said DeMarois. “We hope as early as this summer to share some of the preliminary findings.”

Survey participants will be eligible to win one of 40 $25 gift cards chosen by random drawing. The winners are to be notified by June 1.

To access the survey online, visit aging.ca.gov/Survey_of_LGBTQIA/

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The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

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Southern California

Heavy rain at times with flash flooding, landslides & mudflows

The storm will affect the area through Wednesday, bringing periods of moderate to heavy rain- potential for flooding, rock slides & mudslides

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NWS/KTLA 5 Live Radar screenshot February 19 at 11:00 AM

LOS ANGELES – As heavy rainfall hampered the President’s Day commuting traffic, around the Southern California region the latest storm system is bringing heavier precipitation and a more likely threat of flooding to Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

A Flash Flood Warning has been issued for West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Calabasas until 6:00 PM.

“Radar and automated rain gauges indicated light to moderate showers overspreading the warned area,” NWS said Monday morning. “Heavier showers will overspread the warned area throughout the day.”

The storm is expected to dump 2 to 5 inches of rain along the coastal areas and valleys of metro Los Angeles through Wednesday morning with higher totals in the foothills and mountains

The Los Angeles Times noted that compared with the historic storm that pummeled the region earlier this month, forecasters expect “much less rain” for Los Angeles County this time but warned that there are still concerns about the prospect for flooding, landslides and mudflows — particularly in the Santa Monica Mountains and Hollywood Hills — because of the soaking Southern California received from the previous storm.

KTLA 5 News is bringing current conditions up-to-date in its live updating here: (KTLA)

From KTLA:

The Emergency Operations Center in Los Angeles has activated “Level 2” preparedness to respond to the storm.

” Emergency crews remain ready to respond to the effects of the storm and potential of mud and debris flows, power outages and roadway obstructions,” city officials said.

Latest:

105 FREEWAY ON-RAMP CLOSURE

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A SigAlert has been issued for the Hawthorne Boulevard on-ramp to the eastbound 105 Freeway due to roadway flooding.

The closure will last for an unknown duration, CHP officials said on X, formerly Twitter.

L.A. COUNTY EVACUATION WARNING

An evacuation warning has been issued along Santa Maria Road north of Topanga Canyon Boulevard near Woodland Hills, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Lost Hills Station.

The warning, issued due to possible mud and debris flows in the area, began at 9 a.m. Monday and lasts through 9 a.m. Wednesday.

NWS Forecast: A strong storm will affect the area through Wednesday, bringing periods of moderate to heavy rain (2-5 inches of rain, except 4-8 inches in favored mountains and foothills), mountain snow (1-3 feet above 7500 feet), strong south to SE winds, potential for flooding, rock slides and mudslides, and possible power outages. The heaviest rain and most significant impacts will be tonight through Tuesday Stay safe: avoid low-lying areas and large waves at the coast, be prepared for coastal flood impacts Monday and Tuesday mornings. Monitor the latest weather forecast.

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