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One City One Pride, LGBTQ Arts Festival Continues through June 30

All festival events are being presented on an online virtual platform to respond to the City’s efforts to prioritize health & public safety

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OUT on Robertson painting honoring Lady Gaga's Born This Way Album 10th anniversary (Photo Credit: City of West Hollywood)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The 2021 theme for One City One Pride is ‘For the Record LGBTQ Stories’ of the past that have often been hidden or undocumented. One must read between the lines to find stories hidden behind “beard” marriages, coded language, and erased or destroyed evidence. This year, One City One Pride looks at some of these previously hidden stories.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, all festival events are being presented on an online virtual platform to respond to the City of West Hollywood’s efforts to prioritize health and public safety. A select few programs can also be experienced as self-guided solo walking tours or outdoor exhibitions.

More detailed information about the following City of West Hollywood One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival events is available at www.weho.org/pride.

Forthcoming events of the 40-day festival include:

  • Pride Poets Poetry Hotline presented by West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace & the Pride Poets from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, June 11, 2021 to Sunday, June 13, 2021. Free. Call in to get a custom poem for you or a loved one based on the topic of your choice, written by one of the team of LGBTQ+ Pride Poets standing by at the remote Poetry Hotline from June 11-13, marathon-style from 10 a.m. to 10 a.m. Poems will be written on-the-spot and callers can choose to have copies of the poems emailed or mailed to them. Poetry hotline: call (202) 998-3510 to speak to a poet.
  • LGBTQ History in Comics — A virtual panel with readings from creators presented by Prism Comics. Launches Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at 6 p.m. Free. View the panel at: http://www.youtube.com/wehoarts and www.prismcomics.org. Join Prism Comics, moderator Justin Hall (No Straight Lines; Associate Professor of Comics, California College of The Arts) and a diverse, talented group of creators as they explore our queer past through comics. The panel and readings will remain online for viewing after the premiere date. More information is available at www.prismcomics.org.
  • Secret Lives, stories, music, and original writings by LGBTQ seniors watch party presented by NewStages, a program of Oasis Theater Company at 7 p.m. on the first four Tuesdays in June. Free. RSVP by calling (323) 860-5830 or by email at [email protected]Secret Lives will explore the stories of remarkable seniors as well as many historical figures who had to keep secrets to maintain their careers, their families, and their place in society. Archived events available at www.weho.org/pride.
  • WeHo Reads: Legacy and Lineage and the Lost Generation at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Free. RSVP to get a reminder: https://wehoreadsrajivjubidare2021.eventbrite.com. As part of the City’s WeHo Reads series and One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, poets read and discuss works by mentors they’ve never met alongside their own work. Streaming at www.weho.org/wehoreads.
  • Shaped By Sylvester: Tiki Spills the Tea podcast organized by Steven Reigns. Free stream at https://www.stevenreigns.com/appearances from Wednesday, June 23, 2021 to Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Listen to tales of growing up black and trans in 1960s LA with a good friend that soon became a disco superstar.
  • West Hollywood Pride Play Reading Festival presented by The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 26, 2021, and Sunday,  June 27, 2021. Free. https://www.facebook.com/groups/laplaywrights. The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights (ALAP) annual West Hollywood ALAP Pride Reading Festival features staged readings of six one-act plays on Saturday, June 26, 2021 and one featured full length play on Sunday, June 27, 2021.
  • QueerWise presents Queer/Women+ Discussion at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 26, 2021. Free. Join the woman-identified people of Queerwise for an exploration of gender where it gets tricky – where gender touches race and class and desire. Livestreamed at https://www.facebook.com/queer.wise.
  • Stuart Timmons West Hollywood LGBTQ History Tour — A collection of short films to be released on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 9 a.m. Free. Originally written by acclaimed author/historian Stuart Timmons and produced/directed by Jason Jenn, the tour first dazzled audiences in 2015 as part of the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the City of West Hollywood’s incorporation in November 1984. The project is both a self-guided walking tour and a special in-person performance event. For 2021, the tour is being recorded as a collection of short films hosted indefinitely in the City of West Hollywood’s WeHoArts YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/wehoarts.

Additionally, these programs are available to view through June 30, 2021:

  • Dear Harvey: Stories of Harvey Milk byPatricia Loughrey. Extensively researched and beautifully constructed, this documentary-style ensemble play recounts the life and lasting impact of groundbreaking LGBTQ activist and politician Harvey Milk, as told by the people who knew him best … the real-world figures whose lives were forever altered by Milk’s too-short career. This performance will be available to watch for the duration of One City One Pride through June 30, 2021 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShX27kXqwBg and there is a special welcome from Stuart Milk, the nephew of Harvey Milk.
  • John Elgin Woolf: Master of the Hollywood Regency (Trail and Short Film) presented by Friends of Residential Treasures: LA. Free. Experience online or as a self-guided walking tour. Take this self-guided architectural trail curated by filmmaker and journalist Matt Tyrnauer, or watch a short film exploring the interior of the Seiter House — an important early work that John Elgin Woolf designed for himself and his same-sex partner.
  • Love Note presented by Rogue Artists Ensemble. Free. No RSVP Needed. Experience online or as a self-guided experience at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Rogue Artists Ensemble’s Love Note is a free, interactive, solo audio expedition of your heart, taking place in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, where audience members can activate sonic narrative experiences at eight unique stops throughout the park. Using only a cell phone and headphones, participants will discover and listen to stories about romance, compassion, and connection, leading to a secret phone line, where participants are invited to share their own love story that will become part of the project’s archive. The community-contributed stories recorded during the run will be then woven back into the experience to create an ever-evolving tapestry of voices calling out for love and belonging. This experience is free and open to the public during park operating hours. The experience contains some mature themes and is not recommended for children. A travel map is available for download at the Rogue Artists Ensemble website for audience members to use for their story expedition in the park. Can’t make it to Plummer Park? Visit the Rogue Artists Ensemble website at www.rogueartists.org/lovenote to create your own experience from the comfort of your home.
  • Meringue, a public art exhibition. Free. Outdoor exhibition on traffic median at Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Doheny Drive. Meringue is a temporary public art exhibition by LGBTQ artist Kim Kiduck. The translucency of Meringue lets sunlight in to glow naturally during the daytime, and at night transforms Meringue into a mixing chamber of various light combinations. The exhibition will be lit up in rainbow colors for the duration of the City’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival.
  • The City of West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speakers Series presents: Breaking Fast. Free.

The City of West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speaker Series and One City One Pride LBGTQ Arts Festival present Breaking Fast: Exploring the Intersection of Faith and Sexual Identity, an open panel discussion of the feature film, Breaking Fast, and its themes related to navigating the difficult conversations and real-life impacts of faith, sexual identity, and community. Archived event video available to view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmSvpTBPzkI.

  • Walking Amongst the Rubble: Undocuqueer Pride Queer Poetry Reading Series presented by Influx Collectiv. Free. More information and the online podcast is available at https://www.influxcollectiv.org/podcast.
  • Pride Publics: Words and Actions presented by ONE Archives Foundation. Free. ONE Archives Foundation presents “Pride Publics: Words and Actions,” a multi-site outdoor exhibition that examines the intersection between pride and publicness and examines themes central to queer public life while highlighting trailblazers and their visions. With free and accessible outdoor installations plus a digital guide, this exhibition aims to give visibility to LGBTQ life in the public through the lens of history, community, and activism. More information is available at https://www.onearchives.org/pridepublics. This exhibition is organized by ONE Archives Foundation.
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West Hollywood

Goodbye Big Gay Starbucks WeHo- Thank You for the Memories

Moments after store manager told customers they had to go, ladders went up in front of the store & the Starbucks letters were promptly removed

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Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The beloved Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood, located on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Westmount Drive, officially closed its doors forever at exactly 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 31, 2022—“Thank you for joining us today, but today is our final day of operations. We are officially done” store manager, Acacia Blenchard, told a group of loyal customers inside the store.

“Thank you for allowing us to serve you for 27 years. It’s been wonderful. We’ve appreciated being a part of this community, but on that note guys, I have to ask you all to go.”

Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo

I worked the front desk at the Sports Connection when Starbucks Coffee West Hollywood first opened its doors across the street in the year 1995. I was young and too self-possessed to pay attention to the opening ceremony of a coffee shop back in those days. I had no idea the space at 8595 Santa Monica Boulevard would become such huge a part of my West Hollywood experience. Truth is, that Starbucks always existed in mind’s eye, and I figured it would continue to live on way past my own existence, so being asked to go for good on a Sunday afternoon was beyond surreal to me. I still need some time to process that I can no longer walk through those double doors and reminisce about the good old days.

And good old days they were.

The West Hollywood Starbucks was my jam. I kept it simple with a Venti Drip. I hung out there almost every day for its first two decades of operations. It was never really about the coffee, or the pastries fresh off the fridge, but more about the social setting on a corner where there was always something happening and something to see while you sipped on some coffee or tea.

Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo
Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo

Memories take me back to a time when LGBTQ+ meant you were gay, and guys sat behind a glass wall to gawk at the men passing by in spandex short shorts and spaghetti tank tops on their way to the gym (we called it bird watching, IF you know what I mean). It was common to see shirtless guys stretched out on the patio chairs, posing for cameras that weren’t there, way back before God invented selfies. Men made a spectacle on Santa Monica Boulevard while they sunned themselves, giving the Big Gay Starbucks more notoriety with a spot that was dubbed “The WeHo Beach.”

Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo

It was a place for cruising before hookup apps like SCRUFF and Grindr ruined our social sexual skills. Guys would do their seductive dances while nursing a cup of joe. Then one guy would get up and the other guy would follow him to the restroom by the pool area of the Ramada Inn a few doors down (or so I’ve been told…cough).

However, the Gay Bux wasn’t always about looking at boys, or hooking up, or being surrounded by friends for hours on end. Many times we’d embrace our inner nerd, and crack open a book and have what I’d call Super Quiet Reading Time, which is telling of how much we loved being inside the Gay Bux.

There are so many memories on that corner. I fell in love with random strangers, I laughed my ass off with the employees at the counter, and no matter how I practically lived there, the baristas always found a new way to jack-up my name.

Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo

I also went THROUGH IT inside that place. This is the spot where I nursed my fair share of hangovers the morning after; it was my reliable go-to when I needed a pick-me-up after crashing and burning from a bumpy night of drugs and debauchery during my party and play days; it’s also where I lost some major cool points after I got sober and made it a place to fellowship with local sobers (the full circle of WeHo life).

Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo

I’m not sure when my perception of that space changed and the energy didn’t seem the same. I think it dates back to when they decided to fix what was not broken in 2010. They remodeled inside, removed the tables and chairs on the Westmount Drive side, and they added a patio railing that separated sunbathers from Santa Monica Boulevard. It was goodbye WeHo Beach; hello WeHo Corral. It just wasn’t the same.

I can’t pinpoint why I stopped making that space my usual hangout for the past five or six years. Maybe I got tired of seeing the same faces setting up shop and taking up office space day-in and day-out; maybe it was the homeless issues with the screaming man making it impossible to have my Super Quiet Reading Time; maybe it was the closure of 24-Hour Hour Fitness (former home to the Sports Connectiom) and the lack of endorphins that depressed the living hell out of me.

Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo
Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo

It stopped being my jam, but I always took comfort in knowing that the Big Gay Starbucks in West Hollywood would always be there for me, should I ever want to visit and relive the good old days of WeHo.

And now the place is gone.

“I haven’t been in a room so solemn since Rock Hudson’s memorial,” said local WeHo personality Bobby Trendy while he waited for the place to officially close.

“It’s a sad, sad day,” said store manager Blenchard right before announcing the closing time, “It’s been a day full of heartbreak. We’ve been saying goodbye to the entire community. So now we’re asking everyone to leave so our partners can have a moment of decompression. We want to say our own goodbyes to this space and console each other privately.”

Whether you believe the place shut down because of safety reasons, because Starbucks corp was making a political statement about defunding the police, or because it was a union bust, none of that really matters in the end. We lost yet another West Hollywood gem.

Adding insult to injury, they didn’t waste any time erasing 27 years of community history. Moments after store manager Acacia Blenchard told customers they had to go, ladders went up in front of the store and the Starbucks letters were promptly removed and the WeHo Corral vanished on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Closing time at Big Gay Starbucks West Hollywood – Photo by Paulo Murillo
Photo by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES

Goodbye Big Gay Starbucks Coffee West Hollywood. Thank you so much for the memories. You join the French Market, Yukon Mining Company, Silver Spoon Restaurant, Coffee Bean WeHo, The Athletic Club, 24-Hour Fitness Sport, and a long list of LGBTQ+ spaces that have been erased from our GPS apps, but will never ever forgotten.

The end.

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

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West Hollywood

Tail O the Pup sells out of pups – will be closed till Monday

“WOAH! You loved our pups so much, you sold us out. “We’ll be back Monday, see you then! Thank for all the overwhelming love and support”

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Tail O' the Pup (Photo by Mike Pigel for WEHO TIMES)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The newly reopened Tail O the Pup closed for this weekend shortly after its grand re-opening ceremony this past Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

According to the owner’s social media, they are fresh out of pups—“WOAH! You loved our pups so much, you sold us out,” reads a post on their Instagram account. “We’ll be back Monday, see you then! Thank for all the overwhelming love and support.”

It is not yet clear how many “pups” were in stock and sold in less than a week. What is clear is that those planning to drive from afar to taste a pup this weekend, will need to wait just a few days longer.

The historic hot dog stand celebrated its grand re-opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister joined co-owner Bobby Green and his business associates at the celebration for the ribbon-cutting.

Tail O the Pup was officially acquired by the 1933 Group in 2018. The new owners spent the past three years searching for a location in West Hollywood—positioned on a corner along a major street and near its original location 75 years ago on La Cienega Blvd. near Beverly Blvd. They chose 8512 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood as its new home. Positioned along a walkable corridor of Route 66, the 2,700 square foot property offers a can’t-miss facade for the walk-up food stand and will include al fresco dining areas complete with a beer garden.

The West Hollywood building itself offers additional historical backstory for the new Pup. Dating back to 1958, it once operated as a music studio where The Doors recorded “L.A. Woman” in 1971.

Screenshot/YouTube The Doors

The original hotdog stand first opened in 1946. Dennis and his Father Eddie Blake owned the hotdog stand since 1976. It originally stood on the northwest corner of Beverly and La Cienega boulevards.

The opening of Sofitel Hotel in the 80s moved it down the street to the northwest corner of Beverly and San Vicente boulevards. It would move further north to a Cedars Sinai parking lot on San Vicente, before vanishing in 2005. It’s been in storage since and rumored that it was reopening at various locations dating back as far as 2016.

A roster of Hollywood stars became longstanding fans, often photographed in front of the Pup, including actresses Sigourney Weaver and Betty White as well as band members of Devo and The Go-Go’s.

It has made several television cameos—showcased by Jim Henson in a 1987 episode of The Muppet Show, featured in George Benson’s music video for his 1980 Billboard hit “Give me the Night,” and lured culinary legend Anthony Bourdain during a 2002 episode of his travel and food series “A Cook’s Tour.”

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The preceding piece was previously published by the WeHo Times and is republished by permission.

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West Hollywood

WeHo Black leadership in solidarity with Block by Block ops manager

“Ask yourself: would you want to be defined in life by the worst mistakes of your life? Would you want society to throw you away?”

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(L-R) Tod Hallman, Alana Roshay, and Jonathan Wilson (Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – West Hollywood Black community leaders, including present and former West Hollywood Public Safety Commissioners, and a West Hollywood task force and Advisor Board member, released statements in solitary with Shea Gibson, the Operations Manager of Block by Block this week.

The support comes on the heels of an ongoing recent controversy after a local blog dug up Gibson’s criminal record from 27 years ago and published articles about his voluntary manslaughter conviction in Georgia, in 1995. The context published by the blog according to Black community leaders and others was the appearance of questioning Gibson’s personal integrity and effectiveness because of his status as a convicted felon.

The Block by Block security ambassador program was first established in 2013 to provide a highly visible uniformed presence at the street level in West Hollywood. Block by Block security ambassadors are deployed on bicycles along major streets, alleys, City parking lots, and residential neighborhoods, which has a direct positive impact on safety and neighborhood livability.

The controversy over the program escalated after a City Council vote June 6, 2022 that approved a two-year agreement for services with Block by Block, which includes a regular deployment of approximately 36 full-time security ambassadors, plus 6 additional ambassadors at kiosks and on foot patrols, and approximately 13 full time ambassadors as fixed-post security guards at the City’s facilities.

The approved council motion on Monday, June 27, 2022 expands upon this by 30 full-time security ambassadors and an updated agreement for services is anticipated to go to the City Council for approval in August 2022.

This came after the city council voted 3 to 2 in a late month June session in favor of eliminating four Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies over the next nine months. One deputy on average costs the city $330,000 a year.

“Prioritizing people’s safety doesn’t just mean people with guns and badges on the streets,” councilmember Lindsey Horvath said at the time of the vote.

The Block by Block program costs the city roughly $70,000 a person. The council set a goal of adding 30 Block by Block members, using most of the money they’ll save from eliminating the four sheriff’s deputies.

This move has angered some in West Hollywood’s business community which has accused the city council of pandering to a far-left “wokeism” agenda. Crime however remains a principal concern.

But some residents don’t believe now is the right time to be eliminating armed sheriff’s deputies telling KABC News 7 reporter Josh Haskell,

“I think in light of our current situation across the country, it seems like a curious time to be taking police officers off the street. I would definitely feel safer having more,” said Josh Forte, who works in West Hollywood.

“I do hear from residents every single day that they are very scared in their communities, and I know we all do, and I take that very serious,” said John Erickson, a West Hollywood City Councilman. “And I don’t know if the Block by Block team will help alleviate that fear.”

According to crime data from the sheriff’s department, the city of West Hollywood has seen a 59% increase in average monthly crimes from 2021 through May of 2022 — a 28% increase from the average between 2015 and 2019.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says that it is his belief that the majority of West Hollywood residents are against the cuts.

“They want to experiment with your public safety,” Villanueva said about the three councilmembers who voted in favor of removing the deputies. “So, they might want to start re-imagining another line of work than being elected officials if they’re not going to represent the wishes of their own constituents.”

Not all hold the views expressed by Villanueva. Nika Soon-Shiong, a public safety commissioner with the city of West Hollywood told KABC;

“Police and law enforcement agencies are asked to do so many functions in society that they aren’t trained to do, and that real public safety means further investments in affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, mental health, alternative response teams. “These are solutions that we know work. That we know keep people safe.”

The Black West Hollywood community members made their statements supporting Gibson for having paid his debt to society and having served his time in prison after the local blog pressed the issue over the elimination of the four sheriff’s deputies contrasting his past and other staff of the Block by Block program to the uptick in crime in the city.

The support was expressed via the following statements submitted to the WeHo Times for publication:

Statement by Tod Hallman (Safety Commission Chair)

Tod Hallman Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

I am Tod Hallman, and I have lived on the Eastside of the City of West Hollywood for over 30 years. I have been the WEHO East Neighborhood watch captain since 2015, and I currently serve as Chair of our city’s Public Safety Commission.

I was first introduced to Shea Gibson by David Aguliar, who was the Block by Block (BBB) Operations Manager prior to Shea’s tenure in that position. From our very first encounter, I felt completely confident that as David was moving into a new position, we were in very capable hands with Shea Gibson. Since 2019, Shea has served West Hollywood’s residents, visitors, and businesses with passion, devotion and professionalism. Many of you might not be aware that BBB was originally deployed on the Eastside in a limited capacity; however, since the program was so successful, its hours of operations increased, as well as its city-wide presence. Since day one I’ve had a wonderful working relationship with Shea. He’s thorough and has a full understanding of the public safety issues in West Hollywood. With City Council’s recent vote to reallocate Sheriff’s funding to increase our BBB Security Ambassadors, all hell has broken loose. Our once beloved BBB team has found itself in the crosshairs, especially Shea, as his past arrest record was brought to light. I personally find this infuriating as a Black man, for I question: would this be happening if Shea were White? Would we not find more compassion for a man who has already served his sentence? Would we not have asked more questions about the circumstances surrounding his case? With very little information about his past, there were some in our community who seemed to take pleasure in destroying a man’s career and name.

I’m tired of the racist undertones in our current climate, and yes, that includes West Hollywood. Shea Gibson paid his debt to society. Like anyone else, he deserves the opportunity to find redemption and a second chance at life. It’s insulting that his past is being used as a pawn in the current city debate. Shea’s tireless service to our community and a blossoming career are so easily destroyed for some with a political statement to make. A Black man remains too easy a scapegoat, even in this woke, liberal city.

I ask my fellow West Hollywood residents: do not condemn this man or anyone so easily. Accept that there may be a reality in which this man is a different person today than he was many years ago. Ask yourself: would you want to be defined in life by the worst mistakes of your life? Would you want society to throw you away without even thinking twice?

Tod Hallman

Statement by Alana Roshay (former West Hollywood Safety Commissioner Vice Chair)

Alana Roshay Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

I stand with Shea Gibson. As former Vice Chair of the Public Safety Commission I have worked closely with Mr. Gibson during my term and he has been consistently professional and respectful. Mr. Gibson’s commitment to the City of West Hollywood has been proven repeatedly since 2013. It is incredibly disappointing and hypocritical that the same individuals who are now using him as collateral damage to instill fear and panic–not to mention during an election year–are the same individuals who supported him and the entire Block by Block team to handle unmanageable and reoccurring issues the city was facing at Plummer Park, as well as the intersection of La Brea and Santa Monica Blvd. When the city approved to re-allocate ambassadors to these “problematic” areas, the number of incidents were dramatically reduced. This impact was due to Block by Block’s ongoing presence and immediate action. It is unclear as to why Mr. Gibson’s personal history after all these years has been dug up by local media when he has been nothing but an excellent contributor to West Hollywood.

According to Vice President of Operations Derrick Hughes, “Block by Block is in compliance with the City of West Hollywood’s procurement and vendor policies in that we conduct employment prescreening, including criminal background checks, on all job applicants after an applicant has been made a conditional offer of employment. In California, employment screening laws state that employers cannot ask about, or take into consideration, criminal convictions older than seven years. Based on the guidance of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if a background check reveals a criminal conviction, Block by Block considers the nature and gravity of the offense; the time that has passed since the offense, or the employee’s completion of any sentence given as a result of the offense; and the nature of the job held or sought.”

It is crucial that we recognize that the action taken by local media failed to acknowledge how Mr. Gibson history complies with EEOC and to further publish Mr. Gibson’s history without provocation perpetuates the ongoing violence towards black men in this country. It ultimately becomes a distraction and divisive during a time where we should be working together.

Alana Roshay

Statement by Jonathan Wilson (Social Justice Task Force Chair)

Jonathan Wilson Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

As a Black man in society, I have to acknowledge my own privilege among the Black race.  While I am a native Angeleno and grew up in Pacific Palisades, among my male cousins, I was among the lucky few who didn’t end up getting caught in the system.  It’s very common for young Black boys to be arrested for something very minor where they may have been innocent or just at the wrong place and wrong time.  Whatever the story is for each person, I have witnessed first-hand how black boys / young men in particular are coerced into making a plead that hurts their record and chances of getting a well-paying job as they grow further into adulthood.  As they get rejected over and over again while trying to find a great job or do the right thing, they become discouraged and often fall back into a cycle that welcomes them with open arms, the prison system.

With that said, while I don’t know Shea personally, I can guarantee you that I know 70% of his story and I recognize that he was hired by Block By Block 18 years after he committed his crime.  He served his time and was able to demonstrate a straight and arrow path.  As a society, we love to place the Scarlett Letter on Black men, driving them back into the prison system, which is the only one welcoming them with open arms.  Let’s give rehabilitated members of society a chance to excel.  They too have families, dreams, and a desire to add value.  The hateful rhetoric targeting Shea Gibson is strictly counter to the focus within the City of West Hollywood. Social justice means equal opportunity for all.  If we applaud actors like Tim Allen, Robert Downey, Jr, and Christian Slater, who are all ex-cons and have turned their life around, I’m sure that we can find it in our hearts to give Shea Gibson a chance to excel in an area where he has demonstrated success and fortitude.

As President Obama once said, “we are the change we seek.”

Jonathan Wilson

Statement by Mallery Jenna Robinson (Transgender Advisory Board Member)

Courtesy of Mallery Jenna Robinson

I am in solitary with Shea Gibson as an AfraCaribbean Transwoman and board member for The City of West Hollywood’s Transgender Advisory Board and believes in their capabilities as a leader.

Letter of appreciation from an LAPD investigator

Los Angeles Blade file photo

On the 25th of November (Editor’s note: date unspecified), Shea Gibson and Cesar Barrios were at an Auto Zone in LAPD’s Hollywood Division when they walked into an armed robbery in progress. Without a second’s worth of hesitation, your folks began efficiently de-escalating the situation. Mr. Gibson stayed inside of the store and began leading citizen bystanders to safety while Mr. Barrios stepped outside and called 911.

Once the suspect fled, Mr. Gibson and Mr. Barrios followed him, from a safe distance, and directed responding officers upon their arrival. After sufficient amounts of officers were at scene, Mr. Barrios and Mr. Gibson began diverting traffic so as to prevent unknowing citizens from wandering into a potentially life endangering situation.

Please pass along my sincere thanks to Mr. Barrios and Mr. Gibson for their valiant actions last November. Their conduct was instrumental in safeguarding the lives of many vulnerable community members and was well in keeping with the level of performance I’d expect from one of our officers here at the LAPD.

With much respect and admiration,
Detective II Douglas M. Johnson
Serial No. 37738
LAPD/Force Investigation Division

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

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