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Pride Special

Karen Ocamb: A Proud Eyewitness to LA AIDS/LGBTQ History

“Nobody can say we aren’t brave. We do courage with a proud, colorful flare! Happy Pride!”

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Jewel Thais-Williams, journalist Karen Ocamb & Bamby Salcedo at an LA Blade party at Pump

WEST HOLLYWOOD – Karen Ocamb has been an eyewitness to AIDS and LGBTQ history since the late 1980s. Born Jan. 24, 1950, her father was one of the first Americans to join the Royal Air Force before the U.S. joined World War II. He met her mother in Egypt where she worked for British Intelligence, defeating the Nazis at El Alamein.

After the war, her father became a “lifer” in the U.S. Air Force. Karen was born at Maxwell Air Force base in Montgomery, Alabama; her brother was born four years later at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. The family moved around until her father retired and went to work for the Avco-Lycoming, settling in Westport, Connecticut where her mother became a real estate broker.

During the 1960s, Karen embraced the counterculture movement, protesting the war in Vietnam and fighting for civil rights and women’s liberation.

She attended Skidmore College in 1968, enjoyed “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll,” dropped out for a year, landed in a mental hospital after a failed suicide attempt, experimented with the occult, lived on a commune and a Maoist collective.

After finally graduating from college, she joined CBS News in New York as a desk assistant, clerking for Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, and Bob Schieffer, among others. In 1980, CBS got her clean and sober under the Employee Assistance Program. 

In late 1983, she left CBS for Los Angeles to become an equity waiver playwright. In 1984, she produced the Olympic coverage for CBS News affiliates, after which she took acting classes with Salome Jens and volunteered for the West Hollywood cityhood movement.

She became a volunteer caregiver after her friends started dying from AIDS and in 1988, joined the gay press to “do more.” Karen still lives in West Hollywood where she works remotely for Public Justice, a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization. She is also working on a project to share her memories online to counter the erasure of AIDS/LGBTQ history.

Author Paul Monette lived on N. Kings Road with his partner Winston Wilde. Shortly before he died, Paul spoke about AIDS at St. Thomas Episcopal Church Hollywood  (Photos by Karen Ocamb)

LA Blade: Lesbians were the first really dedicated caregivers to gay man dying of AIDS, right?

Ocamb: I don’t know — but certainly we stepped up. A good part of my world were the 12 Step meetings where we all learned to be compassionate. People would come in with KS lesions on their face and big strapping vain guys were withering away. And they’d suddenly throw up or lose control of their bowels. There was such shame and self-loathing — but we all forgave each other everything to be there for each other. It was just incredibly moving. I joke that I saw more penises and balls at that time than when I pretended to be straight. 

LA Blade: Tell me about your experience of Pride celebrations.

Ocamb: The first Pride celebration I saw was in New York City in the 1970s. I ran alongside during my lunch hour from CBS News. I was not out. I called myself ‘androgynous’ and the practice of androgyny was bisexuality. I was gawking. It was kind of like, ‘Oh my God! Look at all these gay people.’ Everybody seemed so happy — like they didn’t want to kill themselves. During the anti-war movement, I met some gay people. But it was more of an intellectual thing. So, Pride didn’t actually happen for me until I started covering it in WeHo in the late 1980s.

Dave Johnson, Executive Director of Being Alive and LA City’s first AIDS Coordinator (1989); Phill Wilson, LA City AIDS Coordinator (1990-1993) and co-founder of the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum.  (Photos by Karen Ocamb)

LA Blade: Have you seen Pride evolve? Do you see it as more corporate now?

Ocamb: In the beginning, it was considered a good thing to have corporate representation. It’s like, ‘They like us. They’re saying our name.’ Because it was just us, dying. Some of us wanted to be recognized as ‘good gays,’ just like the straights. There was a huge fight to allow gay and lesbian LAPD officers to recruit in uniform while Transgender Menace Shirley Bushnell marched for visibility and dignity. Others protested, which was controversial during the Pride parade. Organizers held their breath when ACT UP/LA stopped the parade with a die-in. For some, Pride was bigger than them. For others, it was just a big party. There were people handing out condoms and other people with kids. I remember the Pop Luck Club – co-founded by Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa. They died with their young son David when their United Flight 175 flew into the second tower of the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Transgender Menace Shirley Bushnell (right) in early 1990s; then-closeted LA City Councilmember Joel Wachs and Mark Haskins, co-chair of the LA Gay and Lesbian Police Advisory Task Force after winning visibility battle over LAPD Chief Daryl Gates in 1991. (Photos by Karen Ocamb)

LA Blade: Why do you think it’s still necessary to celebrate Pride?

Ocamb: Because we’re still hated — and because we’re still hated, we internalize that hatred and that shame.  There needs to be a way to be in a diverse community of people where you can just be yourself.  That’s a starting point. From there, you can start talking to other people, make new friends, form a support group and hug a lot. And then you say, ‘Wait a second. What they say about me is not true. I have pride in who I am. Who I am is a wonderful person. And that I am LGBTQ is a remarkable characteristic about me. And I’m proud of that.’ 

LA Blade: Are there any memories of Pride that stand out to you?

Photos: Longtime LGBTQ allies and Pride attendees Judith Light (with then-Assemblymember Sheila Kuehl and Torie Osborn) and Rep. Adam Schiff. (Photos by Karen Ocamb) 

Ocamb: Several. I was honored in 2004 so I’m appreciative of that. But one I think we should remember — especially given these times, was the June 12, 2016 Pride that happened the day after the gay Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida. People started gathering at Crescent Heights and Santa Monica Boulevard – I live just up the street. It was a usual dreary June morning. But this was heavy. A pall hung over everything. People were asking, ‘Should we call this off?  Is it disrespectful to the dead? Will there be copycats? Will the same thing happen here, in the gay Camelot?’ Rep. Adam Schiff’s staff begged him to leave. And it turned out there was a guy who drove from Indiana with a cache of weapons and bomb-making materials in his car who’d been arrested in Santa Monica. He said he was headed for the Pride parade in West Hollywood. Given Orlando, we didn’t know whether the guy was a solo actor or whether it was a terrorist thing or a white supremacist thing or a religious evangelical thing since they’ve had it out for us for so long.  CSW decided we’re not going to run in fear in the face of these threats against us. And Adam decided to march, too. I mean, here’s a guy who knowingly is putting his life on the line to march with us, as a straight ally, in a Pride parade where everybody’s scared shitless of a sniper or a surprise assault. But nonetheless, we needed to do this. And we did — with joy! 

Photos: CSW co-founder Morris Kight (in pink shirt) with AHF’s Michael Weinstein, Miki Jackson, Patricia Nell Warren; CSW co-founder Rev. Troy Perry and husband Phillip Ray De Blieck at Pride (Photos by Karen Ocamb) 

Nobody can say we aren’t brave. We do courage with a proud, colorful flare! Happy Pride!

  

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Pride Special

Pride in London celebrates 50, Heartstopper cast members troll protestors

“People in this community have been able to be open & successful, thriving – but also recognise that we can’t be complacent” ~ London’s Mayor

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Heartstopper actors troll anti-LGBTQ protestors at Pride in London 2022 (Screenshot/Twitter)

LONDON – Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of Pride in London, the first was led by the Gay Liberation Front in 1972. According to the BBC more than a million people thronged the streets of the UK’s capital city ranking it as one of the largest LGBTQ+ events in Europe.

In a Sunday interview with BBC Radio, London’s Pride director Chris Joell-Deshields said it was important as it provided a great level of visibility for LGBTQ+ rights. 

“We’re able to provide that form of visibility, unity, quality, that the world can see and it sends a message of solidarity to those persons who may be thinking ‘I can’t be open’, ‘I can’t be visible or I’ll be prosecuted in my country,” he said.

“The battles have not all been won. Yes we’ve had some magnificent achievements, whether or not that’s equal marriage, the repeal of section 28, the lifting of the ban of homosexuals and lesbians in the military, but we’ve still got a journey to go,” he told BBC Radio.

“Every day we’re continuing to have to fight for our trans people and making it a fair life for them. We’re still having to fight for those around the world who live in countries where they can’t be themselves,” Joell-Deshields added.

Reflecting on the masses gathered at Traflagar Square Joell-Deshields noted:

“Yesterday when we were in Trafalgar Square, and we were chanting ‘trans rights are human rights’, we were pushing that so that volume of noise was heard at Downing Street and beyond, to the millions or people on the footprint and thousands on the parade.

“That sends a powerful message to politicians and others that we’re here, we’re proud and loud, and we’re going to continue to fight.

“And there’s the next generation coming along that we need to pass the mantel to. We want them to understand that the fight is not won, we have to continue and the pride platform is a great platform to do that.”

Screenshot/YouTube Pride in London live-stream

Echoing Joell-Deshields, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who was in attendance Saturday told PinkNewsUK the LGBTQ+ community and allies “can’t be complacent” in the fight for equality.

The Mayor stressed that it was important to celebrate the hard won rights that the UK’s LGBTQ+ community has fought for over the last 50 years including the “end of Section 28”, the introduction of same sex marriage and the approval of “laws to protect this community.”

He then pivoted and warned there is still a “lot of campaigning” to be done in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ venue in Oslo, Norway as well as attacks against the trans community in the UK. 

“People in this community have been able to be open and successful, thriving – but also recognise that we can’t be complacent,” Khan said. “There is still a lot of campaigning to be done.”

He continued: “This time last week we saw in Oslo members of this community being attacked – two being killed, many others being injured. 

“We’ve seen trans people in this country being used as pawns by politicians and others in a culture war. 

“So of course, we’ve got to continue protesting, continue campaigning, continue trying to make progress but also celebrate the progress we’ve made,” the mayor said.

Screenshot/YouTube Pride in London live-stream

Joining in to march in parade were cast members of the Netflix hit LGBTQ+ drama series ‘Heartstopper’ including lead actors Kit Connor and Joe Locke, and castmates Jenny Walser, Sebastian Croft, Tobie Donovan, Corinna Brown and Kizzy Edgell.

Alice Oseman the author, illustrator, screenwriter, and executive producer of Heartstopper tweeted:

At one point in the parade the cast stopped and trolled some anti-LGBTQ+ street pastors spouting inflammatory hate speech. Actors Joe Locke, who plays Charlie Spring and Sebastian Croft who plays Ben, can be seen jumping up and down dancing as they displayed their non-verbal disapproval of the protestors bullhorn-delivered messaging. Kit Connor who plays Nick Nelson noted in a Twitter post:

 

A video, shared on Twitter by Sky News journalist Scott Beasley, showed the actors waving the middle finger and loudly singing along to Whitney Houston’s hit “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” in front of the street preachers.

PinkNewsUK reported that elsewhere in the parade, Connor carried Locke on his back as they walked along the parade route behind a giant Pride flag. The scene was very reminiscent of a Heartstopper doodle that Alice Oseman created for Pride in 2019 that depicted Nick carrying Charlie, who was wearing a colourful flag, on his back.

Locke told the BBC that this was his first Pride ever and said it was “such an honour” to be celebrating “being queer when the world might not be so accepting”. 

“It’s very, very surreal for me,” he said.

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Pride Special

South LA Pride is back! Queer BIPOC artists to headline celebration

LA Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson & Herb Wesson set to host 4th annual celebration. Congresswoman Karen Bass scheduled to speak

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Courtesy of South LA Pride

LOS ANGELES – South LA Pride is back after a two-year break due to the Coronavirus pandemic. For its 4th celebration, South LA Pride will host a free community picnic at Norman O. Houston Park (4800 La Brea Ave.) on Friday, July 1 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The event will be headlined by local queer Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists including the Angela Davis of hip hop MEDUSA, the TRANS CHORUS OF LOS ANGELES, and the winner of HBO Max’s season one voguing reality competition television series “Legendary” JAMARI AMOUR JACOBS with the House of Marc Jacobs.

A full list of performers can be found at southlapride.com.

Free park & ride lots will be available for the public at The Stocker Building (3731-3761 Stocker Blvd.), Park Hills Community Church (5247 Overdale Dr.), and Windsor Elementary School (5215 Overdale Dr.). 

In addition to the live performances, special guests, including Congressmember KAREN BASS, will be in attendance.

Co-hosted by Los Angeles Councilmembers MARQUEECE HARRIS-DAWSON and HERB WESSON, South LA Pride will host a free outdoor community picnic featuring a live DJ, games, drag performances, food vendors, and live performances from popular LA-based BIPOC queer entertainers. A free family-friendly event, South LA Pride, is scheduled to kick off the Independence Day weekend on Friday, July 1, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Norman O. Houston Park, 4800 South La Brea. More information at 

Journalist, political strategist, and advocate JASMYNE CANNICK has been announced as the 2022 Chair of South LA Pride. 

South LA Pride 2022 HONOREES include:  Bienestar, Black Lesbians United (BLU), Community Coalition, Compton Pride, Independent Development Programs, Invisible Men, LA Black LGBTQ Movement, Los Angeles Legends Football, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Minority AIDS Project, Pride and Promote, So Cal’s Men’s Club and the Unique Women’s Coalition.

Attendees are welcome to bring their own food and drink or can opt to purchase food and drink from the onsite food truck vendors. A limited number of barbecue pits are available in the park and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Onsite parking is limited, so public transportation and ride-sharing are encouraged. Shuttles will be available between local parking lots and the event site.  More information will be available online and on social media.

The 2022 South LA Pride Community Picnic is sponsored in part by Community Coalition, Providence, FOX, and AEG.

Additional details about South LA Pride will be made available on social media. Follow the hashtag #SouthLAPride on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram, or visit southlapride.com for the latest updates.

WHAT:

South LA Pride

A free, family-friendly community picnic hosted by Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Herb Wesson to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride in South LA.

WHEN:

Friday, July 1, 2022

3 p.m.–10 p.m.

WHERE:

Norman O. Houston Park

4800 S. La Brea Avenue

Los Angeles 90008

COST:

Free 

Attendees are encouraged to pack their picnic baskets, blankets, and lawn chairs.

For more information visit:

Southlapride.com

Hashtag to follow #SouthLAPride

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Pride Special

Boys & Girls Club of Malibu encourages youth embrace diversity for Pride

“Pride is an opportunity to encourage youth to celebrate differences in others & themselves, as our differences- make the world so beautiful”

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Photo Credit: Boys & Girls Club of Malibu

MALIBU, Ca. – Throughout the year, the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM) is focused on programs that highlight the importance of inclusion of all people. But, during the month of June, BGCM Pride activities have encouraged Club youth to embrace diversity.

According to staff it is BGCM’s objective to establish safe spaces and ensure that all are not just invited, but belong. Pride is both a joyful celebration and a serious reminder that all people deserve the same rights, regardless of how one identifies.

Photo Credit: Boys & Girls Club of Malibu

“Our youth have been participating in conversations around the importance of allyship. They are identifying and finding ways to rectify systematic disparities for those part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and encouraging others to have Pride in who they are and empowering themselves to be advocates for others,” said Tyler Hawkins, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director of Boys & Girls Club of Malibu. “Pride is an opportunity to encourage youth to celebrate the differences in others and themselves, as our differences are what make the world so beautiful.”

Pride Month Programming at Boys & Girls Club of Malibu includes:

  • “Fireside chats” talking about how to define and discuss what pride is and explain why we celebrate. Children are encouraged to think about who they are as a person and find pride in who they are. The goal is to teach the youth about acceptance and love for all people.
  • Club kids participated in art projects related to Pride, such as creating their own flags which could be in any color or design that resonated with them and they wrote at least one thing on each line that they are proud of themselves about.
  • Club youth also had the opportunity to participate in a reading of “Love Makes the Family” by Sophia Beer. The book talks about how families look different and how we all come from different backgrounds, and we should embrace what makes us unique.
  • Club teens also learned how to advocate for those in the LGBTQIA+ community and researched the different ways that can be done. The students were provided with information about how the LGTBQIA+ community are impacted negatively by limited access to resources, discrimination, stereotypes and more, and then students created posters to advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights and discussed how they can address issues for that community.
  • Pride Month at BGCM wrapped with a celebration for the kids to feel proud about who they are as individuals. They dressed up in whatever makes them feel good about themselves and listened to music, danced and enjoyed some colorful shaved ice.
  • The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu also has a clinician-staffed Wellness Center that has helped many Club youth and their families. Since 2017, the BGCM Wellness Center has served 5,000+ individuals and families, at no cost. The Center provides services such as mental health counseling, trauma-informed case management, social and emotional learning, healthcare assistance, parenting support groups, student workshops and much more. Any member of the Malibu community can access the Wellness Center – from students and teachers to senior citizens and commuters that work in Malibu, but don’t have residency there. The Center’s services are also offered in Spanish, which is crucial considering around 20% of its clients are Spanish speaking.
Photo Credit: Boys & Girls Club of Malibu

Four members of the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu expressed what this type of environment and learning programs meant.

“To me, Pride is celebrating who you are and feeling safe to come out,” said Briana L., 7th grade. A fellow 7th grader, Delilah M. said, “It’s important to uplift people with diverse identities to make them feel safe and included in their community.”

Photo Credit: Boys & Girls Club of Malibu

Older students such as Emily P., a high school junior and high school senior Aiza R. noted the impact on their lives and others. “To me, Pride means being happy that you can express who you are. It’s important to uplift people with diverse identities because many have been oppressed for so long, so it’s important to take time to celebrate uniqueness and recognize precious struggles,” said Aiza.

Emily chimed in saying, “Pride means being proud of who you are. Uplifting people from diverse backgrounds is important because it breaks down barriers and creates opportunities for relationships that can help people grow and be who they are.”

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