A Prominent Black Resident Describes Her Discomfort Campaigning in WeHo

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Marquita Thomas, a Black woman who was a candidate in the 2019 race for a seat on the West Hollywood City Council, yesterday described her discomfort in campaigning door to door in the West Hollywood West neighborhood.

Thomas discussed her campaign during a virtual panel discussion introduced by Mayor Lindsey Horvath that focused on racial injustice. It took place on Friday in recognition of “Juneteenth,” the date that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

The panel was moderated by Barbara Arnwine, president and founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition. Others on the panel, all of whom are Black, were Jasmyne Cannick, a political strategist; Sinbad, an actor, comedian, and activist, and Marcus Smith, a senior producer for KTLA5 News. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also spoke.

Thomas, was unsuccessful in her 2019 City Council campaign, noted that she was the first Black person to run for a seat on the City Council in West Hollywood, where only four percent of residents are Black.

“I was really proud to create a platform to advocate for aging in place and for mandatory AC in housing units, which I hope the city will pursue,” Thomas said, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic is requiring elderly people to stay in their homes in the heat of the summer.

“All in all, my experience running here for office here in West Hollywood was rather pleasant,” Thomas said, noting that one challenge was that there were only 364 Black Democrats registered to vote in West Hollywood.

But, Thomas said, “I’m not going to say that it was without challenges. One of the first things that was said to me when I said I was running — someone said to me: ‘Be careful in West Hollywood West.’

“Not that anything was going to happen to me physically, but that I might get called something, that I might expect to see a cruiser or something because I am walking through the neighborhood.

“I know that I had two black volunteers. … But then you have to think: ‘there are three black people walking through this affluent neighborhood, going to door to door…’ My volunteers actually said to me ‘Do they usually patrol this often’?”

“…You don’t want to have that conversation with people who are willing to volunteer, come out in the heat, and go door to door, and now they have to deal with increased patrolling because of the color of their skin…. ,” Thomas said.

“People aren’t used to seeing … three black people walking up and down the street and again going door to door. You think Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin was going door to door the wrong way,” Thomas said, referring to the 17-year-old Black man who was shot and killed in a white neighborhood in Sanford, Fla., after visiting his father’s fiancé. Martin was killed by a white community watch volunteer who found the presence in the neighborhood of a young Black man suspicious.

Thomas said she had looked to see if she would be mentioned on the NextDoor app, which connects people with their neighbors so that they can discuss neighborhood issues and call out missing dogs or cats. The app is very popular in Los Angeles neighborhoods. Its content is not moderated, and NextDoor has been criticized for the racist comments on it.

Thomas noted that there are postings on the NextDoor app announcing that there’s “a Black man in the neighborhood. Not there’s a Black man wielding a knife. Not there’s a Black man breaking into cars. Just there’s a Black man in the neighborhood.”

Thomas is executive director of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the city’s Human Services Commission. She is rumored to be a candidate in the Nov. 3, 2020, City Council election.

Her comments about campaigning in West Hollywood West, the city’s most affluent neighborhood, follow other remarks by Black residents about their occasional discomfort in WeHo. LAist.com, a website that is part of Southern California Public Radio, published a story about the All Black Lives Matter march that referred to “WeHo’s Whiteness Problem.” And Tod Hallman, a Black man who is a long-time resident, wrote an op-ed published by WEHOville that called out the gay community for not acknowledging its race issues.

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John Daniel Harrington Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington Tyrell
2 months ago

Everyone has the right to feel discomfort

Robert Zabb
Robert Zabb
2 months ago

I agree that marquita Thomas is being extremely self serving in casting herself as a victim. As far as I can tell she doesn’t recount a single second where her fears were borne out. I hope she will focus on the positive in the future, we all must do so rather than act out of fear.

Vigilant
Vigilant
2 months ago

How discouraging that one would appoint themselves as a victim.
It is not WHAT you are.
It is WHO you are.

Larry Block
Larry Block
2 months ago

Hi – i was disappointed in Marquita’s statements towards West Hollywood West. It is not fair to indict the whole neighborhood. I met Marquita for the first time at the West Hollywood West Residents Association Ice Cream Social. Over 30 residents came to hear all the candidates in the backyard of one resident. During that nice Sunday afternoon Marquita spoke eloquently and she had a chance to meet and greet a host of locals including myself. I’m sure some even voted for her. I walked over to Marquita and introduced myself, and asked.. how come your on the LA Gay… Read more »

Detail Sleuth
3 months ago

While Marquita Thomas might be the first African-American candidate to successfully complete a candidacy in West Hollywood, she was not the first African-American to submit their name to the public and run for City Council – that would be Tim Williams, who ran and then dropped out of contention before the election was held.(https://www.wehoville.com/2017/12/18/timothy-williams-says-hell-run-for-city-council-the-first-black-candidate-in-weho-history/)

JF1
JF1
3 months ago

I sincerely doubt that a resident in West Hollywood would post to the NextDoor app to just announce “a black man in the neighborhood.” I’d like to see screenshots. If it did happen it was a lone nut job. When someone describes someone who is doing something wrong on a NextDoor app, you describe them as best you can, otherwise how is anyone supposed to know who to be on the lookout for? Man/woman. White/African-American/Latino, tall/short, weight, hair color, clothing. These are the type of descriptive words used to help identify the person doing something wrong for the sake of… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by JF1
Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
3 months ago
Reply to  JF1

JF1, you had the courage to do what I did not, so I applaud you for it. I, too, have my doubts about this story. There can be “currency” in victimhood, especially with claims of racism. White guilt is so great that people fall all over themselves to prove they are not racist and I think it is used as an advantage by those who have something to gain by playing the victim card. It is, in fact, a form of racism to show the extreme deference to black people that I see all the time, including in West Hollywood.… Read more »

Tom
Tom
2 months ago
Reply to  JF1

I do not have or use the nextdoor app, but If I had had any input into Thomas’ campaign I would have suggested that she use it as a tool to let people know her walking schedule and that she would like to meet residents, whether on the East or West side of town, since unlike, say, Citizen, Nextdoor bills itself as “your local hub to connect and share with the neighborhood.”