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Editor's Letter

The Los Angeles Blade welcomes diversity reporter Simha Haddad

Haddad joins the Blade as a Diversity Reporter under the State of California Ethnic Media Outreach Grant for queer AAPI writers

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Courtesy of Simha Haddad

LOS ANGELES – The publisher, editor and staff of the Los Angeles Blade welcomes author and journalist, Simha Haddad, to the Blade as its new Diversity Reporter.

Haddad, an Out pansexual writer of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) heritage has deep roots in the LGBTQIA+ community. She currently writes for several blogs and publications and contributes to various podcasts, all centered around queer and feminist topics. She is also the author of a YA queer fiction novel called, Somewhere on This Rainbow.

Haddad joins the Blade staff as a Diversity Reporter under the State of California Ethnic Media Outreach Grant for queer AAPI writers. The grant supports public awareness of the efforts of the California state Stop the Hate Program administered by the Calif. Dept. of Social Services (CDSS), which provides support and services to victims and survivors of hate incidents and hate crimes and facilitates hate incidents or hate crime prevention measures.

Haddad’s reporting will include coverage of the following issues and areas:

  • LGBTQIA Arts and cultural work
  • LGBTQIA Youth development
  • LGBTQIA Senior safety programs,
  • Safety planning training; and cross-racial alliance work
  • Stories on outreach, activism, education and training
  • Coverage of restorative justice
  • Spotlights on local government and community non-profit Stop the Hate programming
  • History of the Asian community in Los Angeles and California
  • Politics
  • HIV/STD Prevention efforts, programs and activities

Haddad, under the guidance of the Blade’s editorial team, will research and write long-form articles on compelling stories centered around queer AAPI subjects. The goal of these articles is to culturally educate, increase exposure, and create empathy around queer AAPI struggles, including prejudice, disease, and hate crimes. 

Haddad will also be working closely with the Blade’s publisher to create diverse and inclusive events to continue to spread the message and accomplish the goal of the Stop the Hate Initiative. 

Once a week Haddad will be also produce a video roundup of each week’s top headlines to be shared on various social media pages and platforms. This roundup will include all news from the Blade and will help spread its outreach even further. 

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Author and journalist, Simha Haddad, links:

Website

Instagram

LinkedIn

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Troy Masters is the publisher of the Los Angeles Blade and Brody Levesque is editor.

Editor's Letter

Supporting the community, Transgender Awareness Week 2022

This week, let us rededicate ourselves to committing to supporting our trans siblings making sure their voices are heard & shared

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Underlying images of Trans activists Landon Richie and Rosalynn Montoya courtesy of Richie/Montoya

LOS ANGELES – Transgender Awareness Week, observed November 13 to November 19, is a one-week celebration leading up to the annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), November 20, which memorializes victims of transphobic violence.

It must, however, represent more than just a journalistic or even an activist/advocacy organization’s effort to support and sustain the trans, queer, gender non-binary or gender non-conforming global community. This week needs to be so much more than perfunctory acknowledgement of this misaligned and persecuted segment of humanity.

This week, this publication and others in queer and mainstream media must tell the stories outlining the very humanity of trans people and urge others to celebrate the diversity and the impact of the significant contributions that trans people make for the betterment of all globally.

Trans people are human- period, or “full stop.” Look at the incredible contributions that trans people make to enhance the lives of humanity on this planet that we all share. Just a short list of a few examples:

Dr. Rachel Levine, Admiral, U.S. Public Health Service and the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Levin has spent her entire career as a physician focused on the opioid crisis, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBTQ medicine.

Laverne Cox, actress, model, and LGBTQ+ equality rights activist. One of the most well-known trans actors and Black transgender celebrities, Cox has ‘kept it real’ as demonstrated by her words and public advocacy serving as a role model for youth.

Patricio Manuel, boxer and champion athlete. Manuel long struggled with his gender identity, rejecting the many ways society and his family forced him to live as a girl and in the end he overcame his gender dysphoria.

Elle Hearns, a transgender rights activist and the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. Elle serves as a visible reminder of the power of advocacy at a grass-roots level.

Abel Liu, an accomplished student at the University of Virginia who is an Echols Scholar as well as a Truman Scholar. Abel is the first openly transgender and first Chinese-American student to be elected as Student Council president at a major institution of higher education.

Sarah McBride, Sarah was just reelected as Delaware’s Senator from the First State Senate District. She’s spent her life fighting for dignity, equality, and a level playing field for everyone as human beings.

These are just but a few limited choices of the literal tens of thousands of noteworthy Trans people whose lives and talents enrich this nation and globally making a difference every single day. Trans people are sheriffs, EMTs, firefighters, pilots, teachers, comedians; they are parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, sons and daughters. Every single one a vital part of the whole.

Here on the staff of the Los Angeles Blade, journalist Dawn Ennis and LA Blade columnist and political analyst Brynn Tannehill lend their voices reporting and commenting on issues that impact all of us.

The bottom line is that without the contributions of transgender people, there would be a gap, a virtual emptiness in the rich diversity of humanity if you will. This week we need to celebrate, uplift, and yes, also mourn the lives of trans people lost to murder or suicide because of the promise that might have been.

We must fight against those who work to strip trans people of their dignity and their very right to exist. These last few years has seen a litany, a plethora of legislative efforts to erase trans rights from healthcare, sports, and even banning books that dare to mention trans people.

This week, let us rededicate ourselves to committing to supporting our trans siblings, making sure their voices are heard and shared. Trans rights ARE human rights.

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Troy Masters is publisher and Brody Levesque is editor of the Los Angeles Blade

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Editor's Letter

Hate on full display in Los Angeles. This is NOT acceptable period!

The ‘Goyim Defense League’ headed by Minadeo dropped vile banners over the busy 405 freeway in Los Angeles Saturday

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Hate group displays vile messaging over the 405 freeway Saturday, Oct 22, 2022 (Photo Credit: StopAntisemitism/Twitter)

LOS ANGELES – Yesterday a group of white neo-Nazi white supremacists led by the hate speech purveyor Jon Minadeo II, a person who was arrested for vile displays of antisemitism at the Auschwitz concentration camp museum memorial in Oświęcim, Poland just this past summer, has now brought his hate and racism to LA.

The ‘Goyim Defense League’ headed by Minadeo dropped vile banners over the busy 405 freeway in Los Angeles Saturday.

Minadeo and his band of hate mongers were acting in “support” of Rapper Kanye West, also known as Ye.

West has engaged in several hateful intolerant rants on podcasts and social media posts in which he has made comments about supposed Jewish people’s collective power and control.

In West’s recent appearance on the Drink Champs Podcast, he blamed “Jewish Zionists” for the reports that his ex-wife Kim Kardashian and her then-boyfriend Pete Davidson had sexual intercourse next to a fireplace, claimed that “Jewish people have owned the black voice,” and described Disney as a Jewish platform.

In the same Drink Champs podcast, which was removed from Youtube, West also claimed that Jewish people “came into money through the lawyers” divorcing Christians because Catholics refused to do so.

This newspaper strongly condemns Minadeo’s actions along with members of his white supremacist group ‘Goyim Defense League.’ As is with transphobia, homophobia and xenophobia, racist hate has no place in a civil society and most assuredly cannot be tolerated. Angelenos and their elected officials must work harder to stop this incessant flow of absolute garbage that infects out Southern California home.

Like the most recent examples of West’s remarks coupled with the horrible racism and scandal on the City Council of Los Angeles, which this newspaper has also strongly condemned, this yet another reason this type of hate must be condemned, countered, and answered with messages of tolerance and acceptance celebrating the diversity among the human species- not attacking the differences.

The Los Angeles Times on Sunday published: More antisemitic hate seen in L.A. after Kanye West’s remarks– Fears that antisemitic remarks by Kanye West would spur additional bigotry came to fruition in Los Angeles on Saturday when a well-known hate group held a demonstration in support of the rapper on a 405 Freeway overpass.

Demonstrators gave Nazi salutes as they stood behind a large banner that read, “Kanye is right about the Jews,” according to images collected by antidiscrimination organizations and Jewish residents appalled by the group’s message.

The following thread documents this display of ignorance and depravity:

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Troy Masters is publisher and Brody Levesque is editor of the Los Angeles Blade

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Editor's Letter

The Washington Blade names its new White House correspondent

Kane, an experienced Capitol Hill reporter has freelanced for the Los Angeles Blade and the Washington Blade since 2018

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Chris Kane chats with Vice President Kamala Harris at a recent reception. (Courtesy of Chris Kane)

WASHINGTON – The Washington Blade this week announced it has hired a new White House reporter, following the resignation of longtime staffer Chris Johnson.

Christopher Kane, an experienced Capitol Hill reporter who has freelanced for the Los Angeles Blade and the Washington Blade since 2018, has been named the new White House correspondent for the D.C. Blade.

“We thank Chris Johnson for his nearly 15 years of service in the White House briefing room,” said Blade editor Kevin Naff. “And we’re thrilled to announce our new staff member, Chris Kane, who will ably fill those shoes and take our important coverage to the next level.”

In addition to covering the White House and attending the press briefings, the Blade reporter has served in the president’s pool rotation and as the Blade’s representative to the White House Correspondents’ Association. The Blade is the only LGBTQ media outlet in those roles.

“Our coverage of presidential administrations — friendly and otherwise — is a critical and unique tool in holding our elected officials accountable to their LGBTQ constituents,” Naff added.

Kane expressed enthusiasm for his new role.

“It is an honor and a privilege to represent the Washington Blade in this role covering the White House and Congress,” Kane said. “I look forward to serving our readers with hard-hitting, responsible, and impactful stories about what’s happening here in Washington and beyond.” 

Kane graduated from the University of North Carolina, Asheville, with a degree in communications. He has worked as a reporter for Modern Healthcare covering the Hill and issues of health equity and at Acuris covering the Justice Department and FTC. As a Blade freelancer for four years, Kane covered national elections and policy issues related to immigration, education, housing, and criminal justice.

He starts his new position on Nov. 7.  

Follow Chris Kane on Twitter: @chris_kane_

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Editor's Letter

Editorial: Nury Martinez, Kevin de León, & Gil Cedillo need to resign

This has damaged the very dignity of serving the public by cheapening it to a hypocritical and frankly jaded political ploy

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LOS ANGELES – Although Nury Martinez has resigned as the president of the Los Angeles City Council and councilmembers de León and Cedillo have expressed regret and apologized for the vulgar, crass, and frankly racist-tinged homophobic comments made last year, in the audio reported on Sunday by the Los Angeles Times, the reality is that all three of them need to resign and leave city government completely.

In this era of hyper-charged often hate filled political rhetoric, notably by many associated with former President Donald Trump and his followers, the last thing that a progressive city like Los Angeles needs is that type of backbiting-stabbing snark from alleged progressive leadership.

This is about more than just shared values- no, it is also about trust and commitment to constituents that crosses party and ideological lines. Attacking a child is simply unacceptable and inexcusable period but, when you couple that with implied homophobic slurring of that Black child’s parents, questioning their ability to be parents because their child is simply being a child?

Beyond the racist defining of that child, which in and of itself is inexcusable, how can these so called elected officials expect to engender the trust of their constituents going forward? There will always remain the looming “elephant-in-the-room” as to whether there are elements of insincerity that will always be present in everyone’s mind when dealing with these officials or taking any of their statements on face value in the future.

This has damaged the very dignity of serving the public by cheapening it to a hypocritical and frankly jaded political ploy in their naked self-interests and maintaining their political power and base.

On this day, Indigenous Peoples Day in California, it is especially shocking to be forced to call for this action. However, it is the opinion of this newspaper that to best serve the interests of the diversity of the communities of Angelenos who call this city home, especially the Black community and the LGBTQ+ community who are also parents, that these three politicos depart immediately.

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Editor's Letter

Emergency without Urgency, the Monkeypox outbreak fiasco

We need Monkeypox vaccine TODAY, not next week. We need our community clinics to be covered fully and IMMEDIATELY be reimbursed by Medi-Cal

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DHCS Director Michelle Baass (Photo Credit: State of California)

LOS ANGELES – One of the most significant legacies of the HIV and AIDS crisis is the establishment of robust LGBTQ+ community based health organizations that not only advocate for our community but which also provide care.

These clinics are indeed the legacy of generations of community members lost to AIDS and have become the healthcare backbone of our LGBTQ+ community. They play a substantial role in promoting successful HIV and STD prevention and during the vaccination efforts against Covid played a crucial role in ensuring our community was safer. 

Los Angeles is particularly blessed with a large number of them.  Between the LA LGBT Center, APLA, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, St. John’s Wellness and other AIDS healthcare service providers, there are literally dozens of clinics throughout the County. As the AIDS pandemic evolved, these clinics repurposed, maintaining their role in providing both basic and specialty healthcare for the LGBTQ community. They are comparable in quality to more mainstream community healthcare providers.

For a new scourge faced by our community, Monkeypox, one would think the expertise of these clinics would be immediately called upon and activated as an inoculation center for the vaccine. However, the fact they weren’t being engaged was evident early on. 

The LA County Department of Public Health, (LACDPH) rightly or wrongly, responded as soon as vaccine was made available to them by opening its own clinics to the community and putting shots into arms.  Demand was strong.

It seemed reasonable at first that their locations, though remote from the traditional centers of our community, should begin immediately but, it was hoped, with a plan to engage more partners.  That did not happen quickly enough for a variety of reasons and concerns immediately emerged.

On July 27, as publisher of this newspaper, alarmed by a then seemingly nascent health crisis on the precipice of exploding virally in the MSM community, I hosted a Town Hall bringing together the LA County Department of Public Health, representatives of the three largest networks of LGBTQ+ healthcare providers, a former Monkeypox patient, researchers and advocates. 

One of the objectives of that town hall was to highlight to our government’s healthcare leadership the importance of involving the world’s most robust networks of LGBTQ+ clinics in the dispensing of monkeypox vaccines.

Cases since that Town Hall have more than doubled in Los Angeles and also nationally.

And frustration has grown exponentially, largely due to the supply’s rapid depletion..

While many excellent strategies were deployed by LACDPH to engage other partners, precious little vaccines were ever provided to the community clinics represented at the Town Hall. The LA LGBT Center’s clinic received less than 2000 doses; AIDS Health Foundation received approximately 1000 doses and others like APLA also received similar scant inventory.

While the outrage can be answered in part by a lack of available vaccines, it’s an issue that can be squarely blamed on President Biden’s CDC and FDA-  it’s simply outrageous that the vaccine rollout has been so badly handled by the Federal government. But on a local level there are indications that even if federal distribution and supply chain issues got fixed, our community clinics would still be underutilized or perhaps unable to be utilized at all.

Michelle Baass, Director of the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to oversee the health of about 14 million Californians on Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, has decided that the LGBTQ+ Clinics do not qualify for reimbursement if they administer Monkeypox vaccine without pass-through funding from the federal government which potentially could take many months to even occur.

You heard that right.

The institutions we built, the conveniently located clinics we are familiar with are being defunded.

You might ask, “how is that defunding?”

Without Medi Cal reimbursement, the financial strain on our clinics is enormous- the Los Angeles LGBT Center has already warned they are experiencing significant financial stress as a and have turned to the community for donations so they can continue inoculations when vaccines become available again.

It’s not clear when that will be.

Aaron Fox at the LA LGBT Center put it best when he told the Blade’s Brody Levesque “Our community cannot wait for DHCS and CMS to continue talking. We must take action on this yesterday and we are in a Public Health crisis and government bureaucracy and inaction is unacceptable and will only result in increased suffering in our community.” 

Fox added that his perception of the government response is that while the Biden-Administration and California have declared a Public Health Emergency, in terms of immediate action taken thus far it is little more than saying, “oh look there’s a house on fire,” but neglecting to dial 911 and get the fire dept rolling.

It’s a sleight we do not deserve, particularly not from administrations like Gavin Newsom and Joe Biden whom we view as reliable allies.

On behalf of the Blade and our LGBTQ+ community,  I call on all involved parties to correct this situation immediately.

Major East Coast cities such as New York have had robust and successful vaccination efforts that have reached many times more arms than in Los Angeles. Why should a city the size of Boston or Washington DC have been prioritized over Los Angeles or California? 

We need a supply of Monkeypox vaccine TODAY, not next week. We need our community clinics to be covered fully and IMMEDIATELY be reimbursed by Medi-Cal.

Most of our community clinics are also still hyper-stressed financially because the State of California has failed to reimburse them for their work inoculating people against Covid.

Our community needs our allies to prove again why we can trust them:  it’s very disconcerting to be treated so shodily after 40 years of AIDS and 3 years of Covid. 

It’s also extremely disconcerting that after our leaders and this newspaper fought so hard to get California’s Department of Health to include LGBTQ+ data in healthcare collection around Covid-19 that it came to nothing when a new epidemic emerged.

Get it together, Michelle Baass, or leave.

Monkeypox must be treated as an emergency that DOES requires a great deal of urgency

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Editor's Letter

Tell Newsom: Helping addicts is good for public safety and will save lives

Detractors claim safe consumption sites encourage drug abuse — which is emphatically false- a position even liberal-minded politicians take

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The addiction crisis in California is getting worse. The American Medical Association recently called the nation’s increasing drug-related overdose and death rate an “epidemic.” And with heightened public safety concerns from visible drug consumption on our own sidewalks, we’re faced with this undeniable fact: something needs to be done. We need to think creatively about how to help people struggling with addiction.

That’s exactly what Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 57 aims to do. This legislation, which sits on Governor Newsom’s desk awaiting a signature or veto, allows the City and County of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland to open pilot Overdose Prevention Programs (OPP), also known as safe consumption sites.

Healthcare and harm reduction professionals are clamoring for these facilities, which would be safe places where, under trained professional supervision, people can use drugs, access clean supplies and fentanyl testing strips, receive information about and referrals to treatment, and get fast medical help in the event of an overdose. 

“This is incredibly long overdue. In 2021 alone, California lost over 10,000 residents to the overdose crisis, and we are continuing to see it disproportionately claim the lives of people of color throughout the state. By passing SB 57 and embracing this cost-effective evidence-based public health intervention, the Legislature is making it abundantly clear that saving lives is its top priority,” Jeannette Zanipatin, California State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said after the bill passed the Legislature. “With countless lives hanging in the balance, we urge Governor Newsom to sign the bill without delay, so that we can adequately confront this crisis through the implementation of Overdose Prevention Programs and begin providing people the support they need.”

“Overdose Prevention Centers have a long-proven history of working to save people’s lives. In 35 years, there has not been one reported overdose death in these spaces. Yet, our people are dying, and OPCs are the solution to negate this public health emergency. Today we are one step closer to helping our participants stay alive,” said Elham Jalayer, Harm Reduction Program Manager for the East Los Angeles-based Bienestar.  

Detractors claim that safe consumption sites encourage drug abuse — which is emphatically not true. Nonetheless, it’s a position publicly embraced by even liberal-minded politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed a similar Wiener bill in 2018. In his veto letter, Brown said that “enabling illegal and destructive drug use will never work.” He also cited threats from the Trump administration saying anyone associated with an OPP could be vulnerable to federal prosecution for facilitating drug use.

Then-former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, campaigning for governor, had a different stance, telling Chronicle columnist Phil Matier in August, “I’m open to it. I think it’s a novel strategy.

Ironically, during the height of the AIDS crisis, novel thinking about helping injection drug users came from Republicans. 

In May 1992, after Democratic presidential nominee and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton addressed a rally of gay and AIDS activists at a fundraiser at the Palace in Hollywood, Clinton’s gay campaign aide Bob Hattoy enabled LGBTQ reporter Karen Ocamb and ACT UP/LA’s Danny Levy to talk with Clinton.

Clinton and Levy agreed on everything except lifting the ban on federal funding for needle exchange – a critical issue as Clean Needle NOW exchanges were beginning to illegally pop up around Los Angeles. The issue exploded when President Clinton refused to heed recommendations to lift the ban from Health and Human Service Sec. Donna Shalala. Years later, in 1998 when Clinton still refused, most of his AIDS Commission resigned in protest.   

And yet, in Sept. 1994, Republican LA Mayor Richard Riordan declared a state of emergency, authorizing the city AIDS coordinator and other city officials to “immediately take steps permitted by law” to allow privately run needle exchange programs to stem the spread of HIV, according to the New York Times. LAPD Chief Bernie Parks and (Republican) LA County Sheriff Sherman Block issued orders not to interfere with these operations — though Human Rights Watch subsequently reported that not all law enforcement followed those orders.  

Meanwhile, controlled substances and drug paraphernalia are still illegal in California, a point SB 57 addresses directly. Wiener also notes that, as of 2021, 165 safe consumption sites exist in 10 countries. In New York City, the nation’s first two consumption sites have served 1,540 people over the last eight months, reversing 399 overdoses that likely would have led to death. 

In the two years after Brown’s veto in 2018, Los Angeles County reported over 4,000 overdose deaths. 2021 marked the seventh consecutive year that L.A. saw preventable, accidental overdose deaths rise, with a staggering 2,442 deaths last year – more than double the number of lives lost to drug overdoses in 2015. 

How many are our LGBTQ people, who struggle with addiction and overdoses at higher rates than the general population? We cannot continue to fail our people — all people — who struggle with addiction. That’s why I’m urging Governor Newsom to sign SB 57 into law. 

It quite literally is a matter of life or death. 

Brody Levesque is a veteran journalist and the editor of the Los Angeles Blade.

Former LA Blade news editor Karen Ocamb, who now works at Public Justice, contributed to this editorial. 

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