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Helping to End HIV in the U.S. starts in the Southern States

5 Years of Impact from the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®




By Shanell McGoy | ATLANTA  – It’s 2023, and HIV is still a public health crisis in the United States. Despite being preventable due to PrEP medicines, the disease continues to impact communities across the country, disproportionately affecting vulnerable individuals in the Southern states. Home to just more than one-third of the population, the Southern states account for 51% of new HIV diagnoses.

Of the 1,055,603 people living with HIV in the U.S. in 2020, 46% (481,815) were in the U.S. South, a number higher than the entire population of Atlanta. More than 65% of them are people of color. As the epidemic continues to affect Southern communities despite medical advances in prevention and treatment, it is clear that the factors perpetuating the epidemic are no longer medicinal but structural and social.

Launched in 2017, the Gilead COMPASS Initiative® – a 10-year, more than $100 million commitment to support organizations working to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States – is trying to address these factors.

COMPASS was born out of a listening and learning tour that Gilead conducted throughout the South to meet with those most directly affected by HIV and determine the most effective approach to addressing the vast health inequities barring access to care. The commitment’s ethos is rooted in the belief that the best ideas to end the epidemic come from the creativity and resilience of people on the frontlines – those who are daily tackling the social and cultural complexities that have permitted HIV to endure for far too long.

By collaborating with regional groups and community members, COMPASS empowers local organizations to directly address the systemic barriers that contribute to regional and cultural HIV disparities and stigma. COMPASS provides local organizations with the resources they need to tackle the structural and social barriers that stand in the way of one day making the end of this epidemic a reality.

Five years later, the initiative has awarded approximately 400 local organizations providing HIV care and services and built partnerships with nationally recognized groups such as GLAAD and the Southern HIV Impact Fund to combat stigma through capacity-building training and targeted public relations campaigns. With the help of coordinating centers Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Southern AIDS Coalition, University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and Wake Forest University School of Divinity, COMPASS has reached nearly 300,000 people through funded capacity building training and direct service provision in the Southern US region. Through this work, Gilead remains committed to ending the HIV epidemic in the South and worldwide.

To celebrate the COMPASS fifth anniversary, Gilead is launching 5 Years, 5 Voices, a five-part video series that will feature the stories of COMPASS grantee organizations across the U.S. South and the work they do to remove structural barriers to HIV care and treatment and improve overall health outcomes for underserved populations in their local communities.

The first video highlights COMPASS grantee Central Alabama Alliance Resource and Advocacy Center (CAARAC), a local Alabama organization providing HIV prevention programs and healthcare services to seven of the most vulnerable counties in the state.

Gilead: More than Medicine is part of a paid year-long collaboration between Gilead Sciences and the Los Angeles Blade



Community Services - PSA

Measure H Funding Recommendations Process Now Under Way

Your Voice Matters!



Photo Montage Credit: Los Angeles County

LOS ANGELES – Approved by almost 70 percent of Los Angeles County voters, Measure H provides funding for proven strategies to prevent and combat homelessness.

Since its passage in March 2017, Measure H has dramatically expanded and enhanced our homeless services system, bringing many of our most vulnerable neighbors indoors and preventing many more from becoming homeless in the first place.

Share Your Ideas for Addressing Homelessness in Los Angeles County!

Over the next three weeks, the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative is collecting Public Comment as part of the process to develop Measure H Funding Recommendations for Fiscal Year 2021-2022, which starts on July 1st. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic compounding Los Angeles County’s homeless crisis, Measure H has never been more important

Click Here to Submit Public Comment

Click on the link above to learn more about Measure H and the 19 Homeless Initiative strategies it funds. Watch the videos on that website and get to know the people whose lives have been changed for the better, thanks to this investment.

Finally, share your ideas for tackling homelessness in your community and countywide. In doing so, you’ll become part of a growing movement dedicated to making sure every resident of Los Angeles County has a place to call home.

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OUTAthletics Announces “Love is Love” Virtual Competition

Those interested can learn more and register to participate at



NEW YORK – After successful “Love is Love” Competitions in Austin and Boston last February, OUTAthletics will host an individual virtual competition beginning February 4, 2021.

Each registered athlete will compete in multiple workouts and an online fundraising competition. Scores from the 4 workouts and the fundraising totals will be used to calculate scores for top finishers.

There will be 3 divisions – RX’d, Intermediate, and Adaptive – and standards for each division and the workouts are available on the competition’s registration page at

“We’re proud to announce registration for this year’s Love is Love Individual Virtual Competition and Fundraiser,” said Eddie Plata, Executive Director of The OUT Foundation. “In a normal year, this would be an in-person partner competition, however, due to COVID-19 and restrictions across the country, we’ve moved this year’s fun online for more participants to enjoy!” 

Beginning on February 4th, each registered athlete will compete in 4 workouts and an online fundraising competition. Workouts will be things participants can do safely from home with NO EQUIPMENT needed (think pushups, burpees, air squats, running, etc.).

This competition will last for 3 weeks, with 1 workout released each week plus a floater workout that can be completed at any time. Scores from the 4 workouts and the fundraising totals will be used to calculate scores for top finishers.

Workouts will be released every Thursday at 6:00 p.m. EST and athletes will have until Monday night at 11:59 p.m. EST to input their scores. Those who believe their scores may place them in the top 10 in their division must record their workouts with We Time. The video submission is not required but top athletes will be asked for video verification. Those unable to provide video verification will have their scores nullified.

As part of our dedication to the LGBTQ+ community, participants will be asked to set up a fundraising page. In order to be eligible to receive an exclusive 2020 Love is Love t-shirt, participants must raise at least $50 on their fundraising page.

The top 3 athletes in each division will receive a prize pack from our partners, and all participants who raise $50 or more on their fundraising page will receive an exclusive 2021 Love is Love t-shirt.

Those interested can learn more and register to participate at before scores are due for the first workout on Monday, February 8 at midnight.

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It’s not too late to give

We can’t be together this year, so send something!



Holiday shopping for your friend or family member can be a tough task, which is why people often put off buying until the last minute!  Lucky for you, Los Angeles Blade has crafted the perfect gift guide for all your loved ones! Given that everyone is struggling right now, please consider these purchases from these wonderful businesses all year round!

For That Fun Friend


If there is one thing we learned in 2020, it’s how much we miss having fun. As many of us work from home, work responsibilities seem to be creeping outside of the typical 9 to 5 office hours and into our daily life. It’s time to change all of that. As adults, we don’t get Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. We get Dick. Thankfully, Dick is pretty cool. And he comes with a classic storybook tale about the joys of dicking around that will undoubtedly influence generations of sad adults. Life is for living, not just for working. Reclaim your humanity with Dick on a Desk.

Barefoot’s Pride Packaging Collection features four unique and colorful designs that celebrate the strength and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community, and each design pays tribute to those who have made a significant impact on the community during Barefoot’s 30+ year history of allyship. Barefoot’s Pride Packaging Collection designs are featured on Barefoot Brut Rosé Bubbly bottles and Barefoot Rosé Spritzer cans. These bottles are great for host/hostess gifts for very small holiday gatherings or as a gift for your bubbly loving friend. Additionally, a portion of proceeds from Barefoot’s Pride Packaging Collection, up to $60,000, will benefit Free Mom Hugs – a non-profit supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

For Him/Her/Gender Fluid

There are some great gifts available at Out & About Supply, which has a collection of luxurious and stylish masks, blankets, totes, hip bags, and duffel bags, encouraging people to safely enjoy the outdoors for a walk, hike, picnic, small gathering or a weekend away.  Based in Silverlake and founded by Kathryn Hampton, owner of local interior design firm K2S Studio, and Dickey DeBiase, this is a great example of how local companies are applying their experience and resources in new ways to help during these unprecedented times.  A portion of each sale will go toward building recreational space in underserved communities through The Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

Santa isn’t going to need any help with this two-piece Santa bra set from – the online purveyor of all things sexy. This lovely set includes a stretch satin and net half cup bra with marabou trim, adjustable straps, a matching garter belt and a g-string. Whether you’re the one wearing or admiring, this is a unique ensemble for all who have been naughty or nice. Or choose from one of their many sexy lingerie ensembles.

Robbins Bros has some wonderful sales if you are ready to pop the question! According to their research, nearly 90% millennial gay female couples have purchased traditional diamond engagement/wedding rings. About 65% of millennial gay male couples buy a diamond wedding ring for at least one partner in the relationship. Lab-grown diamonds offer an option that allows couples to get a bigger and more brilliant diamond than they may have expected. 

SOUNDOFF is a black and LGBTQ-owned, gender-neutral streetwear brand. Their new collegiate-inspired Varsity collection includes a new collection of hoodies and crewnecks that offer premium comfort without sacrifice. 

The “S” hoodie pullover  and SOUNDOFF crewneck are both made of an ultra-comfortable fleece sponge that you’ll never want to take off. 

For the Home

Copper Cups

If you are looking for a beautiful gift for the home chef, check out accomplished coppersmith Sara Dahmen, who makes incredible artisanal items for the kitchen. Her 1.7 lb. solid copper cups retail for $90 and makes a great present! She also creates copper pots and straws, and re-tins, buffs and polishes old copper pots for clients. Her latest book is called Copper, Iron and Clay, a beautifully photographed book that shows you how copper cookware is made, cooking with copper and fantastic recipes.

Shop Now: Look for her work at!

Flights in Stilettos

FlightsinStilettos makes a terrific soft, makeup towel that is a perfect stocking stuffer! The company is owned by Kinyatta E. Gray, and is based on her real-life glamorous travel style. These face cloths are ideal for traveling and can be washed and reused hundreds of times! The company also makes a fantastic  “Love Wins” Towel, which is perfect for lgbtq couples on their exotic beach getaway.

For The Foodie

Los Angeles’ only shop featuring solely female-made wines is Vinovore–their wine bundles are perfect for any price point on your gift list – they are filled with a fantastic rotating selection of available wines and accoutrement. The “you can’t go wrong” gift, these bundles can include cheese, chocolate, or a variety of wines based on buyer preference. All the customer needs to do is pick the price point, and Vinovore will handle the rest. I am sure owner Coly Den Haan, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, would appreciate your support! 

Tiato Kitchen & Garden, sister restaurant to Crustacean Beverly Hills, has some amazing gourmet holiday takeout and delivery offerings for Christmas that are available to order. With exclusive menu options,  get your traditional favorites with An Family’s Cal-Asian flair. Tiato’s holiday meal packages and a la carte menu options offer the best fare from one of California’s most revered restaurant families in the comfort of your own home. And yes, the An family’s world-famous garlic noodles are being offered!

Weed Cellars brings you the Pride edition of a special white wine blend comprising 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Viognier wine. Honor love with each sip as you enjoy rich notes of pear, ginger, jasmine, and honey. Dry and fruity, this wine has been meticulously crafted for perfect finish. Celebrate life. Celebrate you!

 Barebells Functional Foods™ was launched in Sweden in 2016 to offer products high-in-protein that never compromise on flavor. Since the launch, the functional food brand has revolutionized the industry with its bestselling protein bars delivering 20g protein and no added sugar* – a real treat for everyone who wants to feed their cravings.

KÖE is the only kombucha that’s fruit-forward, USDA Organic and packed with probiotics. KÖE was created for non-kombucha drinkers – people seeking a delicious, functional, sparkling beverage without the vinegary taste. KÖE is available in five flavors that are vegan, gluten-free, and certified Kosher. Made with black tea, natural fruit flavors, no artificial ingredients, and 100% organic cane sugar, each contains billions of live probiotic cultures and 15mg of caffeine. Formulated with just 9g sugar and 35 calories in a shelf-stable can, KÖE is the perfect on-the-go companion.

For Those Missing NYC: 

Magnolia Bakery is your one stop shop for sweet treats and gifts for everyone on your holiday list this year. From holiday cookie + brownie sampler boxes for your family to festive cakes + cupcakes for your Secret Santa; DIY Banana Pudding Kits for a virtual holiday party giveaway + Magnolia Bakery’s newest cookbook, The Magnolia Handbook for the aspiring home baker. The Magnolia Bakery Holiday Gift Guide has the perfect token for everyone and at every price point. No matter what the holidays look like this year, Magnolia Bakery will make sure that there is something delicious to celebrate!  Each holiday treat is available for nationwide shipping via Goldbelly and directly from Magnolia Bakery’s Holiday Gift Guide.

Katz’s Deli offers various packages via its nationwide shipping platform along with the option to ship individual items. The iconic deli has been serving traditional Jewish deli fare in the LES for over 132  years, and this year has been no different, offering a constant place of comfort, quality and family at a time where New York needs it the most. Their pastrami and corned beef sandwiches are the gold standard for an ‘authentic’ NYC deli experience, thanks to Katz’s emphasis on traditional slow-curing processes and hand-cut slicing techniques. Today, Katz’s  ships their deli classics nationwide, with free shipping for orders over $100. 

Some great holiday gifts include: 

Katz’s Classic Subscription Package which provides the true taste of New York every month. It includes hand-carved pastrami and corned beef, plus all the fixings to make the classic Reuben and legendary pastrami on rye sandwiches. Each monthly package contains the most popular hand-carved meats & deli specialties. Subscriptions are available in 3-month increments. Subscribers will receive their package on the third Thursday of each month.  

For those unable to get to NYC right now, the Taste of NY Package provides the perfect alternative. The package includes 1 lb. pastrami, 1 lb. corned beef, 1 small hard salami, ½ loaf seedless rye bread, 1 qt full sour pickles, 6 classic Katz’s frankfurters, 6 frankfurter buns, 1 lb mustard, 1 lb sauerkraut, and 6 classic NY bagels.

Katz’s Complete 3-Course Dinner for 4 is the perfect special meal for the holiday season. The package includes 1lb each of hand-sliced pastrami and corned beef (2 lb total), New York deli rye and mustard, housemade matzoh ball soup, tangy full sour pickles, and rich old-world cinnamon babka. The dinner can also be ordered via Amazon.  

Seeing as it is the season of giving, Katz’s will continue its neighborhood and feed the frontlines charitable initiatives throughout the holiday season and New Year, always being a reliable and comforting mainstay.

Soothing Lips

If you want your person to have soft lips, consider gifting Miage Skincare’s new lip treatment product, Bloom La Milpa. This item does so much more than hydrate your lips – it’s a healing treatment, too. Miage is the first skincare line to entirely forgo water and bring into play, the effectiveness of isotonic La Milpa cactus juice and micro-molecule nutrient formulas. This works in osmosis with your skin to heal, nourish, and pamper your skin.

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Tend to your mental health over the holidays

Remember, you can’t be a support to your family and loved ones until you first attend to your own mental health



St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee (Photo Credit: St Jude’s.)

St. Jude psychologists: The emotional pain of coping with isolation, loneliness and grief can be as distressing as thoughts of contracting COVID-19

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – With the holiday season in full swing and many Americans bracing for a long winter of increased isolation, loneliness and grief, the team of psychologists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are asking Americans to take a few moments out of their busy schedules today to tend to mental health.

The team of psychologists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have years of experience helping families deal with unthinkable grief and anxiety either around the death of a child or a recent diagnosis of a catastrophic illness.  For the over 80% of children who survive childhood cancer, many face chronic illnesses for the rest of their lives. This creates challenges for families having to navigate tough conversations about health requirements, and other relevant experiences many Americans are facing this year. 

“‘Pandemic fatigue’ has set in, and the holidays are already a time of year where many people experience increased mental and emotional challenges such as depression, anxiety and grief,” said St. Jude psychologist Megan Wilkins, PhD. “The additive effects of these stressors make it critical to attend to our own mental health now more than ever.  Remember, you can’t be a support to your family and loved ones until you first attend to your own mental health.”

Important Mental Health Tips for the Pandemic Holiday Season

  1. Tend to mental health – It is critically important, especially given mounting “pandemic fatigue,” that we attend to our own mental health.  We must first take stock of our own mental health and assure we are not trying to “pour from an empty cup.”  It is imperative that parents take time for care of themselves, including spending time outside, seeking social support and engaging in relaxing activities. Give yourself grace to feel disappointment and upset about this highly anxious and uncertain time.
  2. Feel empowered to do what feels comfortable – In our work with families of children with cancer, we stress the importance of facing the upcoming holidays feeling empowered to do what feels most comfortable given the risks and restrictions of their child’s diagnosis.  This is a time for all of us to take this lesson to heart and work to adjust our expectations and prepare for things to be different this year, and in many cases, difficult as well.  It can help to talk about these losses, sharing what we are missing most this holiday season.
  3. Take time to consider what is meaningful to you around the holidays – Take time to consider what is meaningful to you around the holidays. Is it the special recipe for a dish your grandmother used to make? Is it playing games with family members? Watching a game with friends? What parts of these meaningful pieces of the holidays can still happen in a way you feel comfortable with?  Rather than looking forward to our typical parties and family meals, we might choose to focus on the gift of health we give when we make the sacrifice of honoring our families’ and loved ones’ health and safety by staying home. 
  4. Make the holidays special from afar – Planning surprises such as cards or gifts delivered in the mail lets your loved ones know you’re with them in spirit, if not in body.  Recognizing that many of us are tired of looking at screens, virtual games and activities such as scavenger hunts or singing favorite holiday songs may be more engaging than simply video chatting. Families who remain distanced this season may enjoy developing new traditions, such as trying new recipes or playing new games with those they share a household with that might be incorporated into future holidays when they can safely be together again.  Families may choose to reflect on what they are thankful for by coming together to make donations to charities and causes that are meaningful to them. 
  5. Protect your elderly loved ones from loneliness and isolation – In many cases, seniors experience a heightened sense of loss related to pandemic restrictions. These elderly individuals express the feeling that their time is short, and that time is being stolen from them.  Some express a willingness to accept the risk of potential virus infection to spend time with family because they are more fearful of dying of old age than they are of dying of COVID-19.  Reaching out to those at highest risk for loneliness is more important than ever.  Phone calls, video chats, cards, drive-by parades and even socially distanced outdoor visits can help them feel connected and reassure them that you are thinking of them.
  6. For the families of the more than 300,000 Americans grieving the loss of a loved one from COVID-19, make the decision about the holidays that feels right for you – Celebrating holidays for the first time without a loved one is unspeakably difficult. For these families, not only has this pandemic taken the life of a loved one, the threat remains.  That is, not only are they grieving, they are continuing to face the virus and its ongoing impact on a daily basis.  These families should not feel obligated to engage in holiday traditions as they have in the past.  In fact, it might feel better for some to not celebrate at all this year.  Conversely, some families may choose to find special ways to honor and include the memory of their lost loved one. As with all family decisions, this one is highly personal.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. St. Jude is ranked the No. 1 pediatric cancer hospital by U.S. News & World Report. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago.

St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, visit or follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.

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We couldn’t be more grateful for our advertisers



We need you. Help Us Out
Become a member of the Blade for less than $1.25/week

The past year has been incredibly challenging for everyone — and at the end of the year we couldn’t be more thankful for all of the support we have received to keep bringing you a weekly print newspaper and 24/7 online news. 

This would not have been possible without the continued support of all of our advertisers that include both small and large businesses. We also launched our new membership program with tremendous support from readers like you. Will you please help with a dependable monthly membership gift today?

As we head into a new year, I wanted to thank everyone for their continued support of the Blade. We couldn’t be more grateful and ask that you support these businesses day in and day out that support LGBTQ media.Start your monthly gift today, and be the allies the LGBTQ community needs, today and tomorrow.

With gratitude,

Stephen Rutgers
Director of Sales & Marketing
Washington Blade & Los Angeles Blade
America’s LGBTQ News Source

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a&e features

DIVAS Simply Singing!

DIVAS Simply Singing! is the longest consecutive running musical AIDS benefit in the United States and supports Project Angel Food.



Sharon Stone & Patti LaBelle are set to be honored as Project Angel Food trustee Sheryl Lee Ralph and The D.I.V.A. Foundation present the 30th Annual DIVAS Simply Singing! Concert & Telethon broadcasting live on Saturday, December 5th at 7PM PST / 10PM EST on KTLA 5 Los Angeles.

And virtually on and

DIVAS Simply Singing! is the longest consecutive running musical AIDS benefit in the United States and supports Project Angel Food. Full of song, humor and heart, the two-hour extravaganza will feature performances by Jenifer Lewis from BlackishHamilton Tony-winner Leslie Odom, Jr., Mj Rodriguez of Pose, Grammy-winner Oleta Adams and other show-stopping suprises.

D.I.V.A. (acronym for Divinely Inspired, Victoriously Aware) describes Sheryl Lee Ralph and all the amazing artists involved. The foundation was born from Sheryl’s deep concern for the lack of attention given to AIDS in the early years, and continues to this day, especially as COVID-19 has exposed the huge health disparities that exist for people of color.

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a&e features

PHOTO20 Art Auction is officially open for bidding

Over 30 works of art and photography have been donated by artists, galleries, and collectors



Courtesy of PHOTO20 Art Auction & The Aids Monument Foundation

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The Foundation for the AIDS Monument, is pleased to announce that the PHOTO20 Art Auction is officially open for bidding now through November 24. 100% of the proceeds will enable the Foundation to fund the Digital Monument, which extends ‘Stories’; The AIDS Monument beyond West Hollywood Park across the internet to a global audience. The goal is to have a better informed and educated public about the AIDS pandemic. The Monument itself will have an official ground breaking in January of 2021.

Over 30 works of art and photography have been donated by artists, galleries, and collectors including Diane Arbus, John Baldessari, Sylvie Blum, Michael Childers, Greg Gorman, Dennis Hopper, Julian Lennon, Leonard Nimoy, Neal Preston, Herb Ritts, Ed Ruscha, Norman Seeff, Julius Shulman, Nick Ut, Firooz Zahedi and more.

The Foundation has seen tremendous support from the artistic and photography community. Over $600,000 has been raised through annual photo events hosted at Milk Studios Hollywood – and many of the artists have provided photographs with images reminiscent of the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Herb Ritts Foundation has provided a leadership grant to the Foundation. The Ritts Family had a design store on Santa Monica Boulevard for many years, and Herb’s iconic fashion photography was noted and collected around the world. Major support has also been provided by Cedars Sinai Medical Center Foundation and Visit West Hollywood.

“We are so grateful to all of the photographers and galleries that have participated this year.  It’s a remarkable collection –diverse and beautiful – and every purchase will help us with the important work memorializing and telling the stories about the AIDS pandemic,” said Paris Chong, Director of Leica Gallery Los Angeles and event Co Chair.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s auction is completely virtual. All photographs are available for viewing by visiting:

Information and Naming Opportunities for the Monument can be obtained by calling John Gile at 323 691 4453. The full Monument site can be seen at

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Arts & Entertainment

A Queer Latino Creates a Delicious Fusion Space with ‘Chicano Eats’

As you peruse this book which makes for that perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season, you notice the fusion in every recipe.



Chef Esteban Castillo (Photograph courtesy of Chef Esteban Castillo)

Esteban Castillo grew up in the kitchen that was very much a traditional Mexican kitchen in Colima, Mexico where he spent a lot of his childhood. He helped his grandmother and mother with dishes like pozole, sopes and tacos de papa (potato tacos for all of you gringos) and also obtained a love for creating dishes with marinated pork or carnitas as we Angelenos know it all well especially in places east of Silverlake.

The young, Gay Latino chef, soon realized he wasn’t married to traditional aspects of a recipe and could improvise as he saw fit to put a modern twist on an old-time favorite. After creating a food blog called “Chicano Eats” and using social media to promote his fresh take on popular staple dishes, his popularity and following grew and he landed a book deal with a big publisher – Harper Design, an imprint from Harper Collins.

The name of his book? The same name as his inaugural blog -Chicano Eats– a name that not only can describe the Mexican-American chef but also give way to an overall group of dishes for a community that lives each day as part of two cultures – Mexican and American – giving validity to the notion that why wouldn’t you cross the Mexican-Rajas with something as American as Mac and Cheese?

Courtesy of Chef Esteban Castillo

As you peruse this book which no doubt makes for that perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season, you notice the fusion in every recipe. As Los Angeles is truly a melting pot, there is something for everyone in this beautiful collection of Chicano Cuisine.

“The book is just so versatile, not only does it showcase many traditional recipes for Mexican dishes like, Pozole, Birria, Sopes, Pickled Jalapeños, Carnitas and Al Pastor, but it also offers so many fusions that incorporate many different ingredients that we in the U.S. are already familiar with, like my Cilantro pesto, Hibiscus BBQ Sauce, Chorizo Meatballs or my Michelada Ribs. Half of the recipes in the book are Vegetarian friendly, so there’s definitely something for everyone,” he explains.

Courtesy of Chef Esteban Castillo

Castillo is quick to mention his favorite recipe. What more piece of Americana could you match up with Mexican flan than the ever-popular chocolate cake, in his “Dulce de Leche Chocoflan” creation?

“This recipe is one that was an immediate hit with the readers. It’s deceivingly easy to make and is incredibly stunning,” he gushes. “It’s a dessert cake comprised of a fudgy chocolate cake and a creamy dulce de leche flan that is often referred to as the ‘impossible cake’ because when you assemble it, the cake batter goes into the pan first, and then the flan mixture goes over it and while the Chocoflan bakes, the batters swap places so you end up with the flan on top and the cake on the bottom.”

Courtesy of Chef Esteban Castillo

Castillo knows this LA melting pot first-hand as he himself spent time in Los Angeles when he was growing up and its obvious there are influences from his youth that inspired him to create this work of art.

“I wrote this book for anyone who loves Mexican food, for those who are part of my culture who were perhaps assimilated into this country and did not grow up with these recipes, and I also wrote this book for my younger self, a queer brown boy who never saw himself represented in this landscape,” he explains.

Castillo is taking his passion and love for food a step further with his fall online virtual classes where he can teach you how to make those holiday tamales or your favorite salsa, which he strongly feels is a staple in any kitchen. With salsa out-selling ketchup in grocery stores across America, he’s absolutely correct.

“The response to the book has been amazing,” he expressed. “I’ve had the privilege of seeing my work be praised in the New York Times and LA Times, and with the digital cooking classes, I’ve created a way to be able to cook along with readers. Watching folks who live in the Midwest be introduced to challenging recipes like pozole, chocoflan, and mole and make them with such ease has been really gratifying.”

To order your copy of “Chicano Eats” for you or your favorite Cook in your life, as well as sign up for a virtual cooking lesson, visit here: (LINK)

Courtesy of Chef Esteban Castillo
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Perez Hilton seeks forgiveness

New biography chronicles shift from gossip to fatherhood



TMI, gay news, Washington Blade
(Image courtesy of Chicago Review Press)

‘TMI: My Life in Scandal’
By Perez Hilton
c.2020, Chicago Review Press
$26.99/229 pages

You’re allowed to change your mind.

You grow, get a few experiences under your belt, and things might look a bit different. You can have a change of heart then, and pivot your life in a different direction. You can take do-overs and take-backs, but carefully. And as in the new book “TMI” by Perez Hilton (with Leif Eriksson and Martin Svensson), you can ask for forgiveness, too.

If you knew Mario Armando Lavandiera Jr. when he was a child, you’d be surprised at the man he is today. He says he had a good childhood but he was a “different” kid then, and was often bullied: among other indignities, his classmates called him “the Fat Kid” because he loved to eat.

That last part hasn’t changed. What has is that Lavandiera is now thinner, famous, and known by a nicer name: Perez Hilton. And no, if you’re wondering, Paris Hilton “never bothered” to sue him over the lookalike name, “though she definitely could have.”

This transformation didn’t happen overnight.

By the time he moved to New York to attend college, Hilton knew for sure that he was gay; while there, he gained friends, a pile of debt, and a mitt full of credit cards. Down but not out, he started a series of jobs and launched a series of websites that both spanned time in New York and L.A., and that got him into trouble in one way or another. Then a photogra-friend leaked a few celeb pictures his way, Perez posted them on his website, and he was famous, literally overnight.

And that was good – for a while. Hilton partied near-constantly, busted into celebrity events, became “wifey” with Gaga, clubbed with Jessica Simpson, and hung with Paris Hilton. And then he made a video for a national cause that caused him to see the hurt he’d left.

Could it be that the infamous author and gossip blogger Perez Hilton has softened?

Yes, mostly. There’s a whole lot less venom inside “TMI” than you might expect from Hilton, but fans won’t be entirely bereft. There’s still a little spark of gossip here, names dropped, and stories propped up and left on the roadside for embarrassment or for examination. Those are accompanied in this memoir by a glint-in-his-eye tone, and the sneakiest of snark hidden here and there, but that’s often tendered by tenderness.

The surprise – or the shock, depending on your level of fandom – is that Hilton apologizes to several people he feels he hurt; and he expresses a degree of regret for having lost good, close friends because he reported gossip about them despite the friendship. It’s contrition that feels like it came from a battered schoolyard bully, only genuine.

Hilton is a father now and he writes with unabashed love for his kids, from a refreshing, seemingly happier place in his life. “TMI” still includes plenty of Hiltonized Too Much Information, some snickers, and a hint of tattle-tale, but if you’ve never been much of a fan, here’s a chance to change your mind.

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2020 Election

LGBTQ Political Groups Endorse Prop 21, Fearing Loss of Rights, Shelter

LGBTQ access to shelter is no theoretical policy point. That’s why numerous LGBTQ political groups, organizations and individuals have endorsed Proposition 21.



Sammie Ablaza Wills, Director of APIENC  (Photo courtesy Wills)

LOS ANGELES – This year LGBTQ people faced a difficult dilemma on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day: come out, be authentic, and jump into the progressive fight for full equality – or stay closeted, silent, and sheltered from the gathering storm of anti-LGBTQ animus threatening to blow down LGBTQ rights like a house of cards. Since his first day in office, the Trump administration has been rendering invisible or rolling back LGBTQ rights and is now working hard to put Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court to replace iconic Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The Human Rights Campaign released a 9-page report detailing Barrett’s “troubling judicial approach and philosophy.” Additionally, HRC President Alphonso David penned a Washington Post op-ed with marriage plaintiff Jim Obergefell saying Barrett’s confirmation “would be an LGBTQ rights emergency” with two justices already expressing interest in overturning marriage equality and other progressive laws. “Taxpayer-funded emergency shelters could refuse to place married same-sex couples in family housing, and adoption and foster care agencies could turn their backs on youths in need rather than certify the homes of same-sex couples. And they could gut access to affordable health care for a community that already faces disproportionate obstacles to care,” they wrote.

LGBTQ access to shelter is no theoretical policy point. As Congress continues to dicker over emergency relief from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of working and unemployed Americans face an eviction tsunami early next year when the CDC moratorium is lifted and renters are required to pay all back rent and fees due to landlords as soon as Jan. 1.

That’s why numerous LGBTQ political groups, organizations and individuals have endorsed Proposition 21, the California Rental Affordability Act. In fact, Prop 21 is so important right now, APLA Health, once a policy rival of major Prop 21 backer AIDS Healthcare Foundation, announced their endorsement of the measure, choosing housing rights over ancient history.

Prop 21 is the statewide ballot measure that puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases, reins in corporate landlord greed, and prevents homelessness. Top experts at USC, UCLA, and UC Berkeley agree that sensible rent limits are key for stabilizing California’s housing affordability crisis. That’s why the California Democratic Party, the ACLU, the California Nurses Association, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Los Angeles Times, among many others, have thrown their full support behind Prop 21.

Fear is reasonable right now. James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project, points out that his religious liberties case will be heard by the Supreme Court on Nov. 4, the day after the election. “In Fulton v. Philadelphia, the court could create a precedent that allows discrimination against LGBTQ families. More specifically, private agencies that receive taxpayer funding to provide government services — such as foster care agencies, food banks and homeless shelters — could be given a constitutional right to deny services not just to people who are LGBTQ, but even to religious groups, such as Jews, Muslims or Mormons,” he wrote.

Transgender individuals are at an even greater risk. On Oct. 7, Brooklyn DeShauna Smith, 20, a Black transgender woman was killed in Shreveport, Louisiana – the 32nd violent trans death in America this year. Lambda Legal’s Graciela González notes that as judge, Barrett mischaracterized trans women as “physiological males.”

Additionally, a new Morning Consult poll for The Trevor Project  indicates that more than 40% of LGBTQ youth reported that “the Covid-19 pandemic had affected their ability to express their LGBTQ identity” and “nearly a third of transgender and nonbinary youth reported not feeling safe in their living situation since the start of the pandemic.”

Last April, the Williams Institute issued a 41-page report on “LGBT People and Housing Affordability, Discrimination, and Homelessness.” In a Preface noting that the coronavirus would most likely change the data but not the circumstances, the authors wrote: “LGBT people are more likely than non-LGBT people to be poor, to be renters, to have unstable housing, and to be homeless. Furthermore, LGBT elders are more likely to live alone than non-LGBT elders; LGBTQ youth have high rates of homelessness related, for many, to rejection from their families; and discrimination against LGBT adults in housing and homeless shelters is widespread.”

Last month, the Williams Institute issued another report: “Pathways Into Poverty: Lived experiences among LGBTQ people.” It showed that LGBT Americans experience poverty at higher rates than cisgender heterosexuals. “Research has also shown that transgender people and cisgender bisexual women experience the highest rates of economic insecurity,” the authors wrote, noting that numerous advocacy organizations have tried to “address the high rates of poverty among sexual and gender minority people.”

But, while trying to meet the increasing need created by COVID, nonprofits have been struggling. “An analysis of more than 233 nonprofits found that 73% reported a drop in revenue, with many organizations finding the uncertainty of the current moment making it difficult to plan for the short and long term, while another survey of nearly 300 organizations found that 64% cut program services as a result of the pandemic,” the Movement Advancement Project reported in September.

In California, Prop 21 is viewed by many as a key tool to finding a solution to help protect renters from the coming housing apocalypse.

“In a recent needs assessment of trans and gender-nonconforming Asians and Pacific Islanders (TGNC APIs) in the Bay Area, APIENC found that 93% of people are renters or live with their families,” says Sammie Ablaza Wills, Director of APIENC (pictured above). “Nearly a quarter of our people have been homeless at some time in their life. TGNC API people are vulnerable to rising rents and corporate greed, especially in the age of COVID-19 unemployment and uncertainty. Housing is a right, and stable housing is the foundation of creating meaningful relationships and healing for our communities. Prop 21 is a crucial measure that can help protect our people from being displaced and pushed onto the streets. In order to survive and thrive, we need real legislation that protects renters, provides affordable housing, and improves rent control for ALL Californians.” 

“The Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club supports Proposition 21 because housing affordability and rent control are LGBTQ rights,” says Kevin Bard, Co-President, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club. “In the past decade, San Francisco has seen the cost of rent increase dramatically, alongside the ongoing gentrification of many of our most beloved neighborhoods and communities. Allowing jurisdictions to enact and expand rent control (and to limit rent increases when there is a change in the master tenancy) will ensure that renters can stay in San Francisco, particularly those who rely on affordable housing. As a city that has been a refuge for LGBTQ peoples for decades, it is imperative that we do as much as we can to protect renters and keep greedy landlords in check because LGBTQ people (especially Trans and LGBTQ youth) are much more likely to be vulnerable tenants than the general population. For these reasons, please vote Yes on Proposition 21.”

In Los Angeles County, Stonewall Democratic Club President Lester Aponte notes the neglected impact on people with HIV/AIDS.  

“Rent prices in California, particularly in our biggest cities, are out of control and rising much faster than incomes,” says Aponte. “As millions of Californians face unprecedented economic hardship, there is no relief in sight and many are facing the prospect of eviction or being unable to afford their rent and forced to leave their homes of many years. And among those worst affected are LGBTQ seniors and those living with HIV and AIDS. Prop 21 would allow local governments to adopt rent control on morehousing units. It is a long-overdue measure that will bring some humanity to the landlord-tenant relationship at long last. The Stonewall Democratic Club urges a YES vote.” 

Dolores Huerta (Photo courtesy Yes on 21) 

Noticeably absent from the Yes on 21 endorsement list is Equality California. Despite pro-Prop 21 board member Dolores Huerta’s nudge to endorse, the statewide lobbying group decided to officially remain neutral on this proposition early on. Later, however, Equality California’s candidate-endorsing political action committee accepted $17,500 in August and $100,000 in September from Prop 21 opponent, the California Apartment Association Independent Expenditure Committee, according to records of financial contributions on the Sec. of State’s website

Though Equality California is missing in action, both the Bay Area Reporter and the Los Angeles Blade did endorse Prop 21, tied to an acknowledgement of the price of coming out and living an authentic LGBTQ life.  

“The current generation of LGBTQ seniors are at particular risk of COVID-19 while also being unable to age in place. They are survivors of the most intense years of the AIDS crisis, many of whom gave up financial opportunity in order to engage in the fight against AIDS. They survived that epidemic but were hobbled by homophobia, alienation and isolation during what should have been the most financially productive years of their lives. They’re counting on their hometowns to protect them,” says LA Blade publisher Troy Masters.

“The Los Angeles Blade is breaking its policy of remaining neutral in electoral races because Proposition 21 helps address the severe consequences of the COVID-19 economic collapse,” Masters says. “Kicking the can down the road TO FORESTALL evictions is not a strategy. But without Prop 21, landlords could jack up rents just when the back rent bill comes due, with interest. Prop 21 seeks to avert a humanitarian crisis.” 

This article originally appeared on the Yes on 21 website.

Karen Ocamb is an award-winning journalist and staff writer for the Yes on 21 campaign.

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