Black LGBTQ Leaders Call Out LA Pride and WeHo for History of Discrimination

Forum participants, left to right, are Marquita Thomas, Jasmyne Cannick, Cabrini Schnyder, Jazzmun Crayton, Jewel Thais-Williams, Ivan Daniel and Tyesse Jackson.

In an online forum tonight, prominent Black LGBTQ leaders and activists discussed what they saw as a history of discrimination against people of color by L.A. Pride and by the West Hollywood gay community.

That history included allegations of discrimination against Black men by the owner of Studio One, the legendary gay nightclub in what was once the Factory building on Robertson Boulevard. Ivan Daniel, a club event promoter, noted negative comments he heard about Black men attending an event he hosted at the now-closed Here lounge for wearing “baggie” clothes. Daniel said Black men found it difficult to get jobs at bars and clubs in West Hollywood. Another participant in the forum said that she had “been called a n-gger three times in my whole life, and two times were here” in West Hollywood. 

“The People’s History of Black People & L.A. Gay Pride” forum was moderated by Jasmyne Cannick, a Black communications and public affairs strategist. Cannick also is known for having organized a campaign that pushed for the arrest of Ed Buck, a gay white West Hollywood resident known for his campaign donations to local, state and national politicians and in whose apartment two Black men died of methamphetamine overdoses.

In addition to Cannick and Daniel, those participating included Jewel Thais-Williams, founder of the iconic Catch One Disco, one of L.A.’s first clubs for Black LGBT people; Marquita Thomas, executive director of the LA Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; Thea Williams, president of Los Angeles Black Pride, and Cabrini Schnyder, a restaurateur and author. Other participants were Roz Renfro, chief financial officer of L.A. Black Pride who once co-hosted a popular nightclub event in West Hollywood for lesbian and bisexual Black women; performer and activist Jazzmun Crayton, and Tyesse Jackson, producer of the Tyesse Report.

The forum was inspired by the controversial announcement on June 3 by Christopher Street West, producer of the annual L.A. Pride parade and festival in West Hollywood, that it would stage a Pride demonstration march on June 14 in solidarity with protests against police brutality sparked by the death in Minneapolis on May 25 of George Floyd, a Black man who stopped breathing after a police officer who had handcuffed him pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.

CSW said it had formed a Solidarity March Committee whose members included Gerald Garth of Garth Management Group, who is the CSW board treasurer, and Brandon Anthony of B.A.S.H. LA., who has worked with CSW on past LA Pride events. Both are Black men.

CSW had earlier announced that it was cancelling its regular Pride parade and festival because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The City of West Hollywood, which has contributed as much as $2 million to help fund the annual event, had decided to halt all public events through the end of the year because of the pandemic.

Leaders in the Black community complained that CSW hadn’t reached out to them or the Black Lives Matter organization about its proposed march despite the fact that it claimed it was doing it in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

Cannick and Thomas were two of 39 people on a conference call with CSW after it announced its protest march. During tonight’s forum Thomas, a former CSW board member, said it appeared on the call that CSW hadn’t actually been aware that Black Lives Matter was an organization when it cited its unity with BLM.

Thomas said those on the call told CSW that they needed more than nine days to plan such an event. And they said that if CSW wanted the support of Black Lives Matter, it shouldn’t be saying that it had the support of law enforcement to stage the march and that it should say it supported calls by Black activist to defund law enforcement.

On June 5, CSW responded by saying it was withdrawing its request for permits for the parade, which would have begun in Hollywood and continued on Santa Monica Boulevard into West Hollywood.

Soon after CSW backed away from the event, another group called All Black Lives Matter said it would stage the June 14 protest march. The All Black Lives Matter advisory board includes Gerald Garth and Brandon Anthony, who had been on CSW’s Solidarity March Committee.

Thomas served on the CSW board from 2016 through 2018 when she said she was pushed off the CSW board. She criticized CSW for no long having a hip hop stage performance at its annual festival. And she said the board should be more diverse, given that a majority of the people in Los Angeles are people of color. Three-quarters of West Hollywood’s population identifies as non-Hispanic white and four percent as Black or African-American.

Panelists noted that there is an annual DTLA Proud event in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles. Jewel Thais-Williams questioned why there shouldn’t be an LA Pride parade and festival in downtown Los Angeles. “Let’s move it downtown, she said. “West Hollywood is not L.A.”

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Paul Peniscocker
Paul Peniscocker
29 days ago

I got to the Hollywood and highland location yesterday very excited to participate since I had been under quarantine waiting for test results. (im fine) I came from Lancaster to participate and within 15 min of being there I had all the wind taken from my sails. It just felt like a street fair. with the street being closed from traffic and blocked off, no one was there that wasn’t already on the side of BLM. I was like “why did i spend all my time making a sign when no one is reading it. They arent because they are… Read more »

James Francis
James Francis
1 month ago

The CSW committee should not flame rhetoric only to have it backfire on our residents or community for the few photo opportunities and determining what we residents need, only got it to backfire on them. I do not like when people are total opportunists and people in positions of clout or power use their political channels and ability to control narratives all the while residents and the community have to pay the consequence and deal with the insults and slurs about Race v. Gay agenda and have to pay the consequence of living in an epicenter and hotly contested issue… Read more »

Marco Colantonio
1 month ago

This is a long overdue and necessary discussion about apathy on the part of West Hollywood City Council to acknowledge and embrace issues of Social injustice and Racial Inequity in our city. I applaud Marquita Thomas, Jasmyne Cannick, Jewel Thais-Williams and all of the prominent Black LGBTQ leaders and activists involved in this forum.   Mayor Lindsey Horvath has always been willing to walk-the-talk, but other members of our City Council have ignored issues of racial inequity and discrimination in our community. I experienced this first hand when Jasmyne Cannick organized a vigil for the family and friends of Gemmel… Read more »

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
1 month ago

CSW failed again! Their plans were purely for publicity and politics and not about Black Lives Matter.   It was a campaign stunt spearheaded by CSW President Estevan Montemayor who happens to be LA City Councilman David Ryu’s deputy chief of staff, and Ryu is in a tough re-election campaign this fall. See it?   CSW is purely corporate and not about genuine activism.   Thank you Jasmyne Cannick for calling it like it is! We need more people brave enough to speak the truth to our so-called leaders.   And who ran Mayor Lindsey Horvath’s political comeback a few… Read more »

Paul Peniscocker
Paul Peniscocker
29 days ago

I would disagree that it was purely the motivation. I think right now so many people are trying to find a way to support the movement. This being the 50th Anniversary of Pride in LA and not being able to have the event because of covid was a huge disappointment to many. I’m sure that they figured this could bring the gay community of LA to help show their support and also allow the city to still have a pride experience this year. While I personally did not feel it was much more that a big street fair and that,… Read more »

Rudi Logan
Rudi Logan
1 month ago

From the story: “Thomas said those on the call told CSW that they needed more than nine days to plan such an event.” The phone conference in question is undated, which leads to the question: if BLM is still planning to march on June 14, has that group fully planned such an event, including security? How did it manage that in even less time? If the group is unhappy with West Hollywood, why not hold the march somewhere it’d be happier?

Henry (Hank) Scott
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Rudi Logan

BLM is not planning a march in West Hollywood. Another group — All Black Lives Matter — which includes two of those involved in planning the CSW march, is planning the June 14 protest march.

Rudi Logan
Rudi Logan
1 month ago

Thanks for the correction, Hank, but you still haven’t answered my question about the time needed for planning an event. Is one group more capable than another?

Henry (Hank) Scott
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Rudi Logan

I am not an event planner, so I don’t know how long it would take to plan an event like this. An earlier story about the protest in West Hollywood at noon on June 3 pointed out that it was organized by three people beginning at 10 a.m. on June 2.

Paul Peniscocker
Paul Peniscocker
29 days ago

Ahh that makes sense now. I found the All Black Lives Matter statement to be strange. I hadn’t heard it used until this and the All part of the phrase kept triggering the feeling when people would say “All lives matter”” I kept having to say to myself “no i guess that phrase is ok” LOL

Backside Politics
Backside Politics
1 month ago

When Marquita Thomas served alongside the rest of us on LGAB she was silent on all these issues.

Jonathan Hong Dowling
Jonathan Hong Dowling
1 month ago

It’s time for the City of West Hollywood to end its relationship with Christopher Street West.

hifi5000
hifi5000
1 month ago

I have been going to West Hollywood for several years and find it is a safe city.It also is a very white city,as there are few minorities.This has always been the case since the city was founded (1984),so I go knowing what to expect.   As a Latino,I had very few problems visiting the city.You will get the occasional bartender trying to ignore you when you want a drink and the real fast drivers disregarding pedestrians on the crosswalks.People can be hissy at times,but overall I find the residents there to be friendly.   I am sadden but not surprised… Read more »

Todd Swenson
Todd Swenson
1 month ago
Reply to  hifi5000

I am a tall good-looking blue eyed blonde man, and I can tell you with full confidence that sometimes white bartenders ignore everyone. I am also a good tipper, and it usually takes me two solid big tips before a bartender will begin to look for my eye and serve me quickly. Some bartenders in WeHo are just stuck up and very into themselves, it’s part of the whole scene not related to your ethnicity.

Buy Me A Drink
Buy Me A Drink
1 month ago
Reply to  Todd Swenson

Now these “great beauty” bartenders will be doing back flips for tips, since West Hollywood will probably take months or years to recover its title is a gay center. That’s if they can find any actor/waiters still living in LA to work the bar, since most can’t afford West Hollywood. And many have left. The ball game has totally changed!

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