• Second-Class Citizenship Continues, But Today, I Celebrate

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    The June 26 Supreme Court ruling that made it legal for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states was a major step forward in the fight for equality.

    I was ecstatic, elated and everything else that comes with this major victory. This euphoria borne from this victory stems from the pride of being an active participant in this long struggle. My name won’t be in history books, but I know that my voting, marching, protesting, blogging, reporting and supervising other reporters on the issue made a difference.

    Why does this ruling matter? California achieved marriage equality two years ago. The ruling matters because beyond the continued presence of discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, there’s the civil right to be equally protected under the law. To me, marriage equality has less to do with love or being gay or bisexual. It’s about civil rights. It’s the same response singer Hozier gave in an interview about his song, “Take Me to Church.” If a group of people contribute to the well-being of a free society they should have equal rights. It’s that simple.

    People within the LGBT community still have a long list of battles that need to be fought. Transgender people are still not being treated fairly and the lives of people of color continue to be treated as if they are without value. Some people believe that marriage equality was simply a struggle championed by and for white gay men. I disagree. The victory for equality and civil rights will pave the way for future victories. It won’t be overnight and it won’t be easy. It took generations to end slavery and segregation, voting rights are still not secure and social discrimination continues to exist. But today we must celebrate because we are one step closer to full equality.

    As a Latino with intersecting identities, I understand that the fight for civil rights has not ended. Tomorrow, another ignorant person (and “ignorance,” we must remember, is not an insult. It is just a lack of knowledge) will ask me: “What’s your nationality?” — A question that most non-people of color rarely get. There will be another who will, because of the color of my skin, assume I’m the valet, the car wash attendant or a part of a cleaning crew.

    But today, I celebrate a milestone in the struggle for civil rights, even as I continue to socially be considered a second-class, hyphenated citizen.

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  • PADRE: The New Long Beach Restaurant That Will Blow The Rest Out of the Water

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine and Restaurant Writer

    Well, that’s it. I’m no longer single. I just fell in love with a restaurant. I know that’s so unlike me. I don’t typically swoon at the promise of being swept off of my feet. But something happened the other night. Padre has essentially changed all of that. So, here’s the deal — Long Beach, brace yourself. It’s about to get real serious in the food and beverage industry. I’ve been ranting for months that I am often underwhelmed by restaurants in general.

    When I walk into a restaurant, I don’t want to order anything safe. I want to take a bite out of something and be transported to another place. Padre, the new Latin gastropub in downtown Long Beach, exceeded my expectations in every way. (more…)

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  • Not Too Proud to Fight

    By Viktor T. Kerney, Guest Columnist

    On June 26, the Supreme Court delivered a historic ruling for Marriage Equality. Same-sex couples now have the freedom to marry in all 50 states. All of the hard work and dedication finally paid off.

    But not everyone felt joyous and liberated. Many queer people of color saw the marriage win as a hollow victory. Placing marriage at the forefront belittled issues pertaining to queer communities of color.

    Of course we are grateful we can marry the ones we love, but how can we truly celebrate when our lives, our experiences are disregarded and disparaged? For many queer people of color, this wasn’t the victory that would change things forever. In fact, many didn’t feel that the fight for marriage equality really included us.

    When you looked at the articles, magazine covers or TV interviews, all you would see is white male faces. You would hear their point of view, their experiences and their struggles. All through the marriage battle, it was clear that white gay males were the brand of the movement. Suddenly, other matters like the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, transgender issues and LGBT youth, got pushed aside. We heard that once the fight for marriage equality was done, the focus would shift on these matters. However, the question is, will the same amount of energy and vigor be there for these battles?

    To be honest with you, I’m not sure. I’m not sure the overall LGBTQ movement understands that this victory was only round one and that the struggle doesn’t end with the freedom to marry. This is just the beginning of an ongoing fight. The overall LGBTQ community has to open its eyes and see what’s going on within. I need for them to see that in 32 states we can still be fired for being gay. Or, how our transgender sisters are being killed in horrific ways and then, misgendered by the media. How more and more LGBTQ youth are rapidly becoming homeless and forced into a life of crime or prostitution just to stay alive. How racism is destroying the very foundation of our community, the deportation of undocumented LGBTQ people, the record numbers of deaths from the police and how black lives are completely disdained in America.

    As a black gay man, it is hard to celebrate our marriage victory, knowing these problems are haunting us every single day. The same streets my gay brothers and sisters are cheering on, are the same streets filled with the blood of my black brothers and my black transgender sisters. As people plan to marry their partners, there are undocumented people being torn apart from their love ones and families. We stood together during this fight for marriage equality, now we need to stand, side by side, to continue the battle.

    As I stated earlier, the marriage victory was just the first round. The fight for job projections, transgender rights and basic human rights is on the docket. If we are going to call this the new civil rights movement, then we all have to be involved. It’s not just a transgender battle, or a people-of-color battle… It’s our battle. So please, don’t think it’s over. We’re just getting started.

    All hands on deck.

    Kerney enjoys writing and discussing LGBTQ issues, pop culture, and social justice. His work has been featured in Bilerico Project, Buzzfeed and Moviepilot.

     

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  • The Future of Marriage Equality:

    The Road Continues

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor           

    Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right to marry for all adults of legal age, questions remain about potential struggles ahead for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

    What are the ramifications, challenges, resistance and future for the equality civil rights movement?

    To help answer these questions, Jenny Pizer, senior counsel and director of law and policy at Lambda Legal, took some time out of her busy schedule. Founded in 1973, Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people living with HIV, through impact litigation, education and public policy work. Pizer has worked with Lambda Legal for 19 of its 42 years.

    Pizer believes the long-term ramifications of the June 26 landmark ruling will mostly be positive, both socially and legally.

    “We and our families will no longer be marked as different and less than other people. Instead, we will have the same opportunities as heterosexual couples to celebrate our love and commitment publicly, and to invite our friends and extended families to join those celebrations if we wish,” Pizer said. “Of course many couples will choose not to marry, or will choose not to do so in a gathering of relatives. But whenever a group is marked as different and lesser, many forms of discrimination and other abuse can follow. The Supreme Court’s lifting of that mark opens a new day for lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans.”

    Pizer pointed out Justice Anthony Kennedy’s repudiation of the prejudice and discrimination of the past and his acknowledgment that gay people deserve equal protection under the law.

    “This confirms what a majority of Americans now understand and it promises greater inclusion and respectful treatment in myriad contexts as a social matter,” Pizer said.

    Of course, as a legal matter, this decision only resolves the question of marriage for same-sex couples. Yet, it could have a great many legal challenges to come.

    “These will include various discrimination issues, including the employment, public accommodations, housing, health care, credit and insurance discrimination issues that remain far too common in the private sector, as well as the discrimination issues that are pervasive in government-controlled settings such as prisons, immigration detention, foster care and juvenile justice systems, public schools and other government services,” Pizer said.

    Nevertheless, the ruling does not necessarily prevent other challenges to marriage equality. It does not prevent resistance to its mandate that same-sex-couples be treated with respect.

    “But its holding and reasoning dictate an ‘equal treatment’ answer to the range of family law questions we see some anti-LGBT public figures defiantly raising,” Pizer said. “Yes, elected officials and candidates with extreme oppositional views are free to express those views. And candidates, anti-LGBT advocates and religious leaders are free to encourage public employees to obstruct and refuse to perform job duties related to same-sex couples marrying. But employees who heed those calls may well find themselves needing new employment. No one is entitled based on religious freedom or other basic rights to demand payment for work not performed. If anyone refuses to do their job according to the law and supervisors’ directions, they put themselves at risk of unemployment. They may also incur personal liability for choosing to discriminate contrary to a now-clear, direct constitutional command.”

    Just days after the Supreme Court made its decision, county clerks and other government agencies defied it. The disobedience of these people invites lawsuits and personal liability for damages and attorneys’ fees, Pizer said.

    “Our rights of worship and conscience have firm, important legal protection in every state and at the federal level,” Pizer said. “But those rights of religious belief and worship do not entitle any of us to harm others, or to demand a salary while not doing the job.”

    She warns that the struggle for equal treatment continues. The LGBT community must work together to enact comprehensive non-discrimination laws at state and federal levels, resisting overly broad religious exemptions.

    “We continue the work to educate the public about who we are and what we need to live full, free, safe, healthy and fulfilling lives. We especially heed the urgency of need of our transgender sisters, brothers and others, particularly those held in violent, abusive institutions that don’t respect individual gender identity and medical needs. We continue to advocate aggressively for the policy changes and resources needed by those most vulnerable in our community, including LGBT youth, seniors, the disproportionate numbers who are living in poverty, and those at risk because they are undocumented. And perhaps most of all, we redouble our commitment to working in the tightest possible collaborations with our sister movements focused on achieving racial justice, an end to ethnic profiling and bias, and reduction of our culture’s still-deeply-rooted sexism – the toxin that continues to impede progress toward full equality for women and LGBT people alike.”

     

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  • Special Election Spawns Dear Recall Attempt

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter and Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    In the latest fallout of Carson’s June 2 race to fill Assemblyman Mike Gipson’s old seat, City Clerk Jim Dear was served with a Notice of Intention to Recall on June 30.

    In his current job as city clerk, he forwarded it the next day to the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters for processing. The city council took action that night to remove Dear from the recall process and appointed city administrative analyst Lisa Berglund in his place.

    Once the registrar processes the notice, recall proponents have 120 days to gather slightly more than 8,000 signatures necessary to force a recall.

    Next, the signatures will be submitted to the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters, who will have 30 days to determine if a sufficient number of signatures have been gathered. If they are determined to be valid, then the city council has 30 days to schedule a recall election, which must take place between 88 and 125 days after the council’s action. By that timeline, a recall election would be possible in early 2016.

    This isn’t the first time Dear has stared down a recall effort. Dear’s political opponents, Carson Citizens for Reform, attempted to unseat him as mayor in 2008, accusing him of being too closely tied to corporate interests and “disrespectful” of residents and fellow council members Lula Davis-Holmes and Mike Gipson at the time. Dear soundly defeated that effort.

    The current recall allegations, however, follow a June 15 confrontation during which former Mayor Vera Dewitt and members of her organization, Carson Citizens for Reform, held a press conference in the city clerk’s office and asked Dear to step down, alleging voting irregularities, including:

    • Endorsing at least one of the special election candidates “during the L.A. County Democratic endorsement proceedings;”

    • Allegedly disenfranchising thousands “in the northern [black majority] part of the city with little or no notification and no effort to find another polling location;”

    • Delaying election results by attending a city clerk certification class that “could have been taken at a different time;”

    • Changing the combination to the clerk’s safe, while it contained uncounted ballots “so that not even the deputy city clerk can access the vault.”

    These charges, plus a few others were listed in the Notice of Intent to Recall, including:

    • “Called the former Elections Officer the “N” word,” but without indicating who that officer was;

    • “Tried to sabotage the NFL Stadium negotiations …”

    • “Ran for city clerk just to spike his pension” and “embarrassed the city” and “unethically endorsed a candidate in the…Special Election.”

    Dear rebutted the charges in an interview with Random Lengths in the days following the June 16 council meeting.

    “Three elementary schools used in the March 3 election informed us they were unavailable because June 2 was the week of [elementary school] graduation,” he argued. “Our job was to secure public facilities in these three consolidated precincts, as close as we can get to the old locations.”

    The schools are at 232 Place in south Carson, which serves predominantly Asian-American and Filipino-American voters; Leapwood, and Annalee. Dear said there were no known complaints from the 232 Place precinct’s voters about the substitute location.

    Dear insists he did not personally endorse any candidate in the June 2 election. He’s a member of the Los Angeles County Democratic Club which endorsed second-place finisher Jesus-Alex Cainglet but “the organization is free to endorse whoever they want.”

    With regard to sabotaging the NFL stadium deal, he replied that DeWitt was throwing everything at him, indicating the city seal on his desk.

    “She’s saying I tried to sabotage NFL stadium efforts by withholding the city seal [on certain documents] … on every document for the NFL, I’ve said yes.”

    In one of the more explosive moments of a chaotic June 16 council meeting, Charles Davis, former Compton city clerk, publicly told the council Dear called him “nigger.” Davis is African American. He previously served as a Carson election official when then-clerk Donesia Gause was seeking re-election.

    On June 16, Davis told the council that Dear served him with court papers, then muttered the expletive as he walked away. Later that night, Dear argued with Mayor Albert Robles and stormed out. He and Davis separately told ABC newscaster Elex Michaelson their stories.

    “I would never, ever call that person the N-word,” Dear said. “People who know me know I don’t even cuss.”

    Davis said he wasn’t calling Dear racist but, “My mama once told me when people are really pissed they say what’s in their heart.”

    Possible Motives Behind

    Vote Delay

    The local activist group believes Dear deliberately delayed the vote count so that the fourth member of this council could not be seated before the council appoints a fifth council member.

    “It is our interpretation that you would like to hold an election in November, at great expense to taxpayers, so that you can run again for mayor of this city in 2017,” DeWitt said during the June 15 press conference.

    The current council majority wanted to have Gipson’s seat filled by June 16 so that Robles’ seat could be filled by appointment on June 20, just in time for the June 23 meeting. Dear said during the council meeting that he would certify the election on June 23. The legal deadline for certifying the election was June 26.

    To affect this outcome, Mayor Robles called for a June 12 emergency meeting with only 24-hour notice to hire Davis as a temporary elections official to complete the ballot count, passing the measure by a 2-1 vote, with Councilman Elito Santarina on speakerphone—though he complained that he was unable to clearly hear the proceedings on his end.

    Longtime council observer and perennial council candidate, Rita Boggs, questioned the council on whether the meeting was properly noticed.

    The day after the meeting, Dear changed the combination to the vault holding the ballots and then filed an injunction against the council the following Monday to retain control of the clerk’s office. Dear was confronted by DeWitt and her organization after this.

    At the June 16 council meeting, to circumvent Dear, Mayor Robles and Councilwoman Lula Davis-Holmes appointed Hilton to Robles’ seat, with Santarina voting against.

    Dear called the action illegal because Santarina broke quorum by leaving just after Robles made the motion and Lula Davis-Holmes seconded it.

    Hilton is now serving on the council. At press time a fifth council seat remains vacant.

    Dear has called the recall effort a “repeat of 2008,” referring to the previous recall attempt. “Same characters, another waste of taxpayer funds.”

    He said that any allegation of voter disenfranchisement is potentially inflammatory in this city with a large African-American population.

    “She’s claiming I somehow disenfranchised disabled and minority voters, by moving three polling places.”

    Dear denies it and the other charges. He suggests DeWitt’s motive for launching the recall is that she wants to be city clerk.

     

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  • The Rule of Seven:

    Developing the Waterfront—Global vs. Local Jobs

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Ask anyone who has ever had to deal with the City of Los Angeles, they will tell you that it takes “forever” to get anything done. Be it building and safety, the Department of Transportation or the Port of Los Angeles. And it doesn’t matter the size of the project, either. I still remember how it took seven years from concept to completion to finish the little parking lot on 6th and Mesa streets. The bigger the bureaucracy, the longer it takes to get it approved.

    This is the obvious problem Mayor Eric Garcetti has in his “back to basics” approach to fixing Los Angeles City Hall. Upgrading the technology only goes so far in solving what’s wrong with Los Angeles. You still have to have people who make the system work and who can make a reasoned decision in something less than seven months or seven years.

    Former Mayor James Hahn once had a cure for this, but it seems to have been forgotten. He called on all department heads to hold monthly meetings in each council district and committed them to group problem-solving. It seems a bit quaint these days to actually get everyone around the table to solve problems, but it still works when the directive is clear.

    The problem is that Los Angeles is a top-down organization, and the top, for most of us, is a distant 20-mile trek up the 110 Freeway that gets more congested with traffic the closer you get to City Hall. It would be far easier if City Hall was open for business on Sundays.

    The one unfulfilled Mayor Hahn promise was to bring City Hall to the people. What an amazing concept—a local office for every department with which a citizen has to conduct business. I personally know people who have had to go to the Van Nuys Building and Safety office for a specific “plan check” because the San Pedro office couldn’t handle it.

    In the sage words of former State Sen. Tom Hayden, “the only problem with fighting City Hall in Los Angeles is finding City Hall!”

    Yes, it’s time to actually bring our city government back to the districts with fully functioning department offices. And it wouldn’t be too much to ask for the entire city council to have at least one meeting annually in each of the 15 council districts.

    If the mayor and the city’s leaders desire to have more civic engagement by its stakeholders, they should be more willing to decamp from City Hall more often, and gain a little perspective on how things look from a distance. Yet, even so, this is only a partial cure for what makes this city so unmanageable.

    The amount of time it takes to get projects of almost any size finished makes Los Angeles the city in which many avoid doing business, because time equals money. Unless, that is, you are the billion-dollar developer who pays for “fast-tracking” and there is a perceived economic imperative to what you do—think L.A. Live, think the film industry and think global trade at the Port of Los Angeles.

    The case in point in the Harbor Area is the contrast between moving forward with the waterfront developments, commonly referred to as “bridge to breakwater,” and the Port of Los Angeles’ current drive to keep pace with the global shipping industry.

    The Ports O’ Call development plan has been in exclusive, closed-door negotiations for I forget how long, and the Yusen terminal expansion contract has just been announced at a cost of $42 million, with an expected total of $64 million, and an uncertain commitment from Yusen on spending a similar amount. The Ports O’ Call deal is dragging its feet over terms and conditions, while Yusen will be built at breakneck speed. But why?

    The Yusen terminal will accommodate larger super-container ships, capable of carrying up to 22,000 TEUs under the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The ships are so big that they may not be able to use the turning basin in the West Basin. This is one of many terminals that are slated for expansion as POLA’s response to the Panama Canal expansion and its fear other ports are siphoning off cargo container traffic from the Pacific Rim.

    Trade that brings $415 billion worth of cargo into this port and provides $400 million in revenues and reportedly creates 1.1 million jobs in California is what I call an “economic imperative.” The twin-port complex is nationally significant, since some 45 percent of all imports are brought to the Los Angeles and Long Beach docks and then transported to Chicago and beyond.

    While these numbers seem impressive, they do little for the local economy as the investments in terminals chase dwindling employment, caused by automation and smaller tax revenues into the city’s general fund. The San Pedro waterfront developments are but a footnote to these much grander enterprises, and yet, as impressed as we are with wealth and jobs created, much of that wealth and the majority of those jobs are not left here.

    The communities surrounding the two ports have for a long time suffered the effects of global expansion of industrial trade, but have seen few of the jobs created by this expansion. In fact, as many as 35,000 of those jobs created evaporated with the NAFTA free trade treaty during the 1980s and 1990s.

    The Ports O’ Call waterfront development, such as it has been presented, is at best a poor trade-off for the loss of those jobs, and in the real world of global capitalism, small change for paying back this area of Los Angeles for this great economic injustice.

    We will be lucky if the Bridge to Breakwater gets built within 7 years.

     

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  • Grand Performances LA Aftershocks Series, Healing Through Music

    ByMelina Paris, Music Columnist, andTerelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Grand Performances has been staging some incredibly relevant shows in the past four years. In 2012, it staged Peace Go with You Gil. In 2013 it presented a tribute to Nina Simone. This year it offered the LA Aftershocks series, centering on the rebellions of 1965 and 1992.

    The Aftershocks series began with the Wattstax Revisited, the Living Word presentation on June 20. The show’s music director, Dexter Story, marshaled together the most cutting-edge artists of jazz, gospel and soul music in Los Angeles to perform the music from the 1972 festival.

    The next two shows in the Aftershocks series include WATTS50 and 65-92: The Rhythm Changes But the Struggle Remains.

    Wattstax Revisited refers to the 1972 Wattstax music festival which commemorated the seventh anniversary of the 1965 Watts rebellion.

    The Wattstax music festival was seen by some as “the African-American answer to Woodstock.” Organized by Memphis’ Stax Records, the festival was memorialized in the 1973 documentary, Wattstax, by Mel Stuart, which focused on the music festival and the black community of Watts.

    Music director Story credits Grand Performances’ director of programming, Leigh Ann Hahn, as the mastermind behind the Aftershock series. In an interview on KPCC, Hahn crystallized the importance of the series.

    “We’re still fraught with racism and hegemony,” Hahn said. “We were not as aware that we are all created equal.

    “The uprising, riot, the rebellion came out of a traffic stop much the same way the ‘92 rebellion uprising and riots came about…. More than the riots themselves, I think it is important for us in how we look at history in Los Angeles and around the world we begin to address the needs of our community and look forward.”

    Though we were not able to catch up with Hahn for this report, Random Lengths was able to catch up with Story about the Aftershock series.

    Random Lengths: Aside from the 50th anniversary, explain why Wattstax Revisited is relevant today?

    Dexter Story: I think that it is relevant because it is a re-telling or re-enactment of a very historic moment for African Americans in our country. This is news. There doesn’t have to necessarily be a valid and timely reason for recounting one’s peaceful and proud history. Hollywood is proof of that. Wattstax Revisited looked back on the August 1972 concert that commemorated the seventh anniversary of the Watts Riots rebellion in front of 100,000 people with live music by Stax artists.

    RL: What’s going on right now culturally that the stories and the work of Gil Scott Heron, Nina Simone, and even NWA needs to be told right now?

    DS: We are seeing race at the forefront of the mainstream media narrative. The stories we are being told by corporate-funded journalism would have us believe that we Americans don’t get along. My life is nothing like the paranoid reality played out on television and other outlets. To the contrary, my close and loving network of friends is as diverse as it gets. We are the true America.

    However, the work of Gil, Nina, Eric Wright is relevant because it addresses the heightened level of cultural awareness in marginalized communities. Whether a police state is eminent or black lives are being sacrificed is very important but not the point here; keep in mind the art created by these groundbreaking individuals dared speak up for what’s possible, dared give a voice to the underdog, to the communities that exist outside the privileged realm.

    Story spoke on contributing to his colleagues and the music community. For the past four years he has worked with the same constellation of Los Angeles-based artists, including Nia Andrews and Jimetta Rose, and have added emerging artists to his roster, including Anderson Paak and Kamasi Washington.

    DS: There is a timeliness that always occurs with the Grand Performances shows. My hat’s off to Leigh Ann Hahn, the programmer, and Michael Alexander, the executive director for that. They are forward-thinking; they have a sense of what the city needs, even what the country needs. I can’t wait to see how Leigh Ann connects the Watts 50 and the ‘65 to ‘92 to what I did because that’s her baby, the whole series.

    WATTS50
    NYC-based Lyricist Lounge curates an evening of socially conscious rap and hip hop. Pacifica Radio’s on-the-ground coverage of the 1965 events will serve as source material for select musical compositions.Featuring performances from:dead prez, The Watts Prophets, iLL CamiLLe, Food4Thot, Jimetta Rose.
    Time: 8p.m., July 10
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://grandperformances.org/hip-hop-musical
    Venue: 350 S. Grand Avenue, Suite A-4,

    Los Angeles
    The Last Jimmy: A Hip Hop Musical with the Roots, Dice Raw
    This poignant musical odyssey explores mass incarceration, the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex through the eyes of young black males. Original music and lyrics by Dice Raw; written by Phillip S. Brown; original choreography by Rennie Harris; direction by Ozzie Jones.
    Time: 8 p.m. July 17

    ‘65-’92: The Rhythm Changes but the Struggle Remains
    Kamasi Washington makes the 1965 and 1992 sociopolitical conversations musical using the potent jazz and hip hop voices of Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Billy Higgins, 2Pac, Snoop and Cypress Hill. These are two bands, two musical eras and one ongoing struggle.
    Time: 8 p.m. July 25

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  • Long Beach Hoists Rainbow Flag

    By Crystal Niebla, Contributing Reporter

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer leaders and allies joined nationwide celebrations following the Supreme Court’s historic ruling making marriage for same-sex couples the law of the land this past June.

    More than 200 members of the LGBTQ community and its allies gathered at a rally outside Long Beach City Hall to hear community leaders speak about the court’s decision. Earlier that day, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who is openly gay, raised a rainbow flag over the Civic Plaza as a symbolic gesture of victory for equality.

    Garcia, who has been with his partner for seven years, said that the same-sex marriage ruling was “uniquely important [and] American.”

    “We know now that we are equal as anyone else, and our opportunities as a hopefully future-married couple, will be accepted no matter where we go, and that’s really special for all of us,” he said.

    At the rally, Long Beach Law founder Audrey “Stephanie” Loftin, with her wife, Rebecca Birmingham, explained the legalities of the Supreme Court ruling. Same-sex marriage fell under the liberties and protections granted by the 14th Amendment, Loftin said. However, she said the ruling “did not describe what marriage is.”

    Following the court’s 5-4 decision, President Barack Obama made a statement on the progress in equality the U.S. has made.

    “Progress on this journey often comes in small increments,” Obama stated. “Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, compelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens. And then sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

    Although marriage for same-sex couples is now legal nationwide, many of the civic leaders said that there are still issues that the LGBTQ community must tackle, such as workforce discrimination and high rates of homelessness. According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, between 20 to 40 percent of the nation’s homeless population consists of LGBTQ youths.

    Shortly after the Supreme Court decision, #NotTooProudToFight trended on Twitter—a hashtag that urged that the discrimination toward the LGBTQ community is heavier for people of color because they experience intersectional forms of prejudice.

    “I think it’s about building a momentum that reminds us of how interrelated these [issues] are,” said supporter Katie Cox, who identifies as queer. Cox held a sign at the rally that read: “Too Proud Not to Keep Fighting: Love, Justice & Freedom from Violence FOR ALL”

    “One of the reasons that I think gay marriage has had so much popularity… is that it doesn’t fundamentally challenge [issues] like systemic racism in this country,” Cox said. “I think that a lot of my friends of color who are LGBT feel alienated because they don’t include an intersectional perspective…”

    Thadeo Kimble, 34, of Long Beach, who identifies as a transgender man and volunteers at the Long Beach LGBTQ Center, said he felt the ruling made the LGBTQ community voice stronger, but other forms of stigma persist.

    “When we have moments like this, yes, we have to celebrate, but there’s still much more to fight for. Everything’s under an umbrella,” Kimble said. “It’s going to take time and every voice will be heard.”

     

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  • Misty Copeland:

    The Unlikely Dream

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    American Ballet Theatre ballerina, Misty Copeland, reached a new milestone this past month when she was named principal dancer at the storied national dance company.

    When Random Lengths interviewed the emerging icon in 2011, she was in the middle of Prince’s “21 Nite Stand” tour at The Forum. She had landed commercial contracts with ProActiv and Blackberry and was making regular rounds at late-night talk shows such as Lopez Tonight and the Tavis Smiley Show.

    Never shy about talking about her humble beginnings being raised by a single mother, Copeland has often said a girl like her isn’t supposed to be where she is today. Care and nurturing by people and institutions made it possible, along with a belief in herself.

    “You have to believe that you’re good enough…that you’re worthy and know that it’s not easy,” Copeland said. “You have to put in the work, but you also have to allow yourself to dream.”

    Copeland’s reply reminded me of a 1995 ABC News clip in which sports correspondent John McKenzie asked tennis legend Venus Williams if she could beat a particular top-ranked player. Without hesitation, Venus said she could. But McKenzie asked again with a degree of doubt. Venus’ father Richard then backed him down, stating “She already told you what it was going to be.”

    Say what you will about Richard, his faith and confidence in his daughters gave them unshakeable faith and confidence in themselves.

    “It’s not me that’s standing up here. I’m constantly saying that…but it’s everyone who came before me and got me to this position, and all the little girls that can see themselves through me,” Venus said at the time.

    Copeland had a constellation of supporters including Dana Middle School drill team coach Elizabeth Cantine, who saw Copeland’s potential as a 13-year-old child when she auditioned for drill team captain, and Cindy Bradley of the San Pedro Ballet, who ultimately gave Copeland the foundation of classical ballet training on the basketball courts of the San Pedro Boys and Girls Club.

    Copeland recalled in 2011 how Bradley sent her home with several letters offering a scholarship to train at her studio.

    “The first couple [of letters] I didn’t give to my mom because I didn’t want to go back,” Copeland recalled.

    The advanced class she tried was intimidating and she didn’t have a means of getting to the studio.

    “Eventually she got to my mom and convinced me to come back,” Copeland said. “I started at a beginner level and it took off from there.”

    Copeland eventually came to live with Bradley five days a week to accommodate her around-the-clock training. The time also allowed for the acculturating needed to navigate the world of ballet.

    Even after she left the comforts of home for the American Ballet Theatre’s Corps de Ballet in New York, Copeland still needed a corps of cheerleaders to reinforce what she already knew. During the press conference on the day of the announcement, Copeland recalled how mentors such as Lauren Anderson, the first African-American principal dancer with the Houston Ballet, and Raven Wilkinson with the Ballet of Monte Cristo in the 1950s, greeted her on the stage with flowers following her debut as the lead of Swan Lake this past year.

    “I think I would have had a completely different path if there had been more before me,” she said. “Maybe I wouldn’t have worked as hard, I don’t know. But I think this would have been a completely different path.”

    She admitted to having moments of self-doubt and wanting to quit, while wondering if there was a future for a black woman in classical ballet.

    Copeland noted that race and racism wasn’t something talked about when she was a child. She didn’t have a concept that she was different until she joined the Corps de Ballet at 19.

    “When I joined the Corps de Ballet…I looked around and saw only one in a company of 80 dancers,” Copeland said. “I think that’s when I stepped back and said ‘Is this really the path for me. Do I really have a future here?’ I considered dancing at Harlem because I’d be surrounded by people who looked like me and I’d probably get every opportunity I wanted.”

    Becoming a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre was the dream. Giving up the dream wasn’t an option.

    In her recently published memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, Copeland describes challenges she faced from both the standpoint of race and class status:

    I was 19 years old and had just been promoted to American Ballet Theatre’s corps de Ballet. The Corps is an integral part of a dance company, the base that helps to weave the balletic tale. But for most ballerinas the goal is to soar beyond it, to stand out enough to get a featured part, and hopefully, one day, become a principal—that small band of stars. For now, though, I was just one of the cattle, and it was intensely competitive. No one in the main company knew that I was a prodigy who had started training 10 years later than most girls, nor did they care to find out. My reputation didn’t precede me; I had to start from scratch. I felt that the other dancers, and even some of the instructors, were constantly judging me, and that many wondered why I was there at all. Perhaps some of it was in my head, but despite my love for ABT, I felt very much alone.

    When my second year in the corps came, I had another obstacle in my way: I was not the same ballerina that ABT had known before. I had finally had my first period and gained 10 pounds. Where there had been buds that could barely fill a bra, my breasts became full and voluptuous. They were so foreign to me that they were uncomfortably heavy, and I was startled when I looked in the mirror. My body had completely changed. Like myself, I soon realized that ABT, too, was searching for the little girl that I had been.

     

    Copeland noted that despite her success, she still has to work hard, mostly because she still has to deliver at the same level or better to push back against any notion that her success stems from anything other than hard work and talent.

    “With everything that’s happening, I go into ballet class every morning; I work my butt off eight hours a day because I know I have to deliver when I get on the stage,” she said. “I have to go out there and perform live every night and prove myself, maybe more so than other dancers because people are assuming ‘Why is she getting this attention?’ or ‘Is it really because of her dancing?’”

    As Copeland’s star has risen on stage, her participation since 2009 in multiple tours with Prince and her racking up of endorsement deals, including Under Armour sports apparel, have led to ever-growing opportunities off the stage.

    This fall, Copeland will be making her Broadway debut in On the Town, a special two-week run from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6. She’ll be taking over for New York City Ballet principal Megan Fairchild as the main love interest, Ivy Smith.

    When she was asked if there were any other dreams on her bucket list, Copeland said she’s already achieved her dream by becoming a principal at Ballet Theatre. The challenge now is to live it.

     

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  • Exhibitions Put Focus on Mexican Cinematography, Chicano Art

    “Dos Mujeres Frente al Mar,” from La Perla. Photo by Gabriel Figueroa. Courtesy of Williams Bookstore

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    Great film is collaboration. A great director works together with a great cinematographer and they point the camera at the most talented actors available. Tradition holds that the director is credited as the genius behind the art of cinema, but the cinematographer is frequently the silent voice hidden within the reel — the director of photography.

    Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa was considered the premier cinematographer of Mexico’s Golden Age of Film. Beginning in the early 1930s and continuing for a quarter-century, Mexico was home to one of the world’s most colorful and diverse film cultures. Not many other countries could claim a comparable range of production, diversity of genres and number of master filmmakers.

    Recently, Santa Monica artist representative Patricia Correia joined her good friend, Alida Post, of Post-Future Art Co. at Williams Book Store in San Pedro, to organize an incandescent exhibition of Figueroa images culled from original 35mm light test strips.

    Revered for his meticulous detail, Figueroa’s collection of photographs is comprised of images taken directly from the final film reel. His photographs are impeccable examples of lighting, composition and chiaroscuro in both landscape and portraits.

    Figueroa’s son, Gabo, approached Correia to revive his father’s striking images and introduce them to a new generation that may not have been aware of his work. The call from the younger Figueroa came at an important moment in Correia’s life. A recent widow, she had closed her gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. The death of her husband and the 2008 recession combined to push her into an early retirement. The project to display Figueroa’s stunning photos inspired her to return to the art world.

    From their inception, movies were predominantly monochromatic—shot in various shades of a single color. Figueroa’s luminous monochromatic cinema defined the golden age of Mexican cinema.

    Figueroa is known for his iconic images that helped forge a Mexican visual cultural identity, including faces swimming in light, figures cast in shadow, and skies so glorious they became known as “Figueroa skies.”

    In the early 20th century, Mexico experienced one of the greatest upheavals in modern history. The Mexican Revolution broke ties with the past and opened the path to a modern nation. Mexican filmmakers were at the front lines of creating this new national character through the art of cinema.

    In this beautiful collection of photographs, you see a nation emerging from rural peasantry, and witness an artist emerging to become a national hero. Diego Rivera called Gabriel Figueroa “the fourth Mexican muralist,” taking his place alongside the greats: José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rivera himself.

    “I have done nothing more than to define the boundaries of reality in the hands of the camera,” Figueroa said in 1971. “To tell stories, to invent stories: my life has been nothing more than an accident in an accident in that universe already populated by timeless beings.”

    Nominated for an Oscar in 1964 and honored for his work on the film Macario at the Cannes Film Festival, Figueroa’s work included many classic films including The Fugitive from director John Ford, Under The Volcano and The Night Of The Iguana from John Houston, La Perla from director and actor Emilio “Indio” Fernández and Los Olvidados, created with the master of Mexican film, Luis Buñuel. Figueroa received a lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Cinematography in 1995.

    An additional bonus to this exhibit is Correia’s connection to the Chicano art that rose out of the United Farmworkers movement in California. Post-Future Art Co. has a massive collection of Chicano art posters on sale to compliment the black and white photos from the Figueroa collection.

    In her Bergamot Station space, Patricia Correia Gallery, she has exclusively displayed emerging Chicano artists during the past five years.

    “I showed all the classics,” Correia said. “I showed Patssi Valdez, John Valdez all of them… I wanted to give them all a platform.”

    The movement has finally come into its own, inspired by impressionism, expressionism, the Mexican muralists, photorealism and retablo paintings (devotional paintings using iconography derived from traditional Catholic church art).

    The most famous patron of this movement is Cheech Marin. Primarily known as an actor, and performer, Marin has developed the finest private collection of Chicano art in the United States. Correia has brought signed copies of his book, Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge. At the core of the book is a portfolio of 96 stunning paintings, largely drawn from Marin’s own collection.

    The Chicano vision has found its own voice and Post-Future Gallery has some of the best examples on view.

    The closing reception for this exhibit is planned for Aug. 6, during the San Pedro first Thursday Art Walk. Post – Future Art Company is open by appointment and every month during the first Thursday Art Walk.

    Cost: Free
    Details: www.post-future.com or email postfutureart@gmail.com
    Venue: Post-Future Art Company, 443 W. 6th St., San Pedro

     

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