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In a first, LA Pride producer names Black transgender woman as president

Sharon-Franklin Brown is the new president of the board for Christopher Street West, the event producer for LA Pride.
Sharon-Franklin Brown, the new president of the board for Christopher Street West, the event producer for LA Pride.
(Christopher Street West)

For the first time in its 50-year history, Christopher Street West, the nonprofit organization that produces LA Pride, has named a Black transgender woman as president of its board.

Sharon-Franklin Brown will take the helm as the organization, which produces one of the nation’s oldest and largest LGBTQ celebrations, prepares to move annual events from its longtime West Hollywood home and places a renewed emphasis on diversity and social justice.

“It’s never been a more important moment for the LGBTQ-plus community and its allies to continue fighting for all of us,” Brown said in a statement. “As a robust community across Los Angeles, we value inclusiveness and diversity.”

Brown, a previous board member whose new role began last week, said she is “so humbled to have been appointed ... as the first Black trans woman to lead CSW/Los Angeles Pride and our community efforts forward, beyond the pandemic and election, and into the future.”

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In July, Christopher Street West announced that it was leaving West Hollywood after more than four decades in the iconic LGBTQ-friendly city. The nonprofit, in a letter to the West Hollywood City Council, said it would move the parade and festival in 2021. A new location has not been announced.

Christopher Street West, producer of LA Pride, says the annual parade and festival will be moved from West Hollywood in 2021. A new location hasn’t been announced.

“The board of directors decided to take this approach for several reasons,” the letter said. “These include construction in West Hollywood Park, the changing demographics of Greater Los Angeles, our commitment to being responsive to the LGBTQIA-plus community’s needs, and our allyship and collaboration with other movements for social change.”

The event, which has taken place in West Hollywood every summer since 1979, draws hundreds of thousands of people each year and is a major economic driver for local bars, nightclubs, restaurants and other businesses that have been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

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As president, Brown will work with a newly formed Christopher Street West executive committee that will meet weekly “to execute the organization’s diversity initiatives and planned community engagement,” the organization said in a statement.

An activist for transgender rights and a former U.S. Navy sailor, Brown also is the current director of human resources at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Brown “is an exceptional leader, and I could not be more proud to pass the baton to her,” outgoing Christopher Street West board president Estevan Montemayor said in a statement. “I have no doubt she will lead with inclusiveness and passion for our entire LGBTQ+ community.”

In recent years, Christopher Street West — named after the New York City street on which the Stonewall Inn stands — has been criticized as too white, too corporate and dismissive of transgender people.

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In 2017, the annual LA Pride parade morphed into the #ResistMarch to protest the election of President Trump. This year, the parade — which started in 1970 and was celebrating its 50th anniversary — was canceled because of COVID-19.

The L.A. Pride parade, which would have marked its 50th year, joins the list of events canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

After the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, Christopher Street West announced what initially was called a solidarity march with Black Lives Matter, to be held on the same day that the LA Pride parade would have taken place.

But the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles group never endorsed the event, and numerous leaders within the Black LGBTQ community said Christopher Street West did not communicate with them before announcing its plans. Critics said organizers had appropriated the Black Lives Matter cause in order to hold a “mini Pride” and denounced Christopher Street West for trying to organize the march collaboratively with the Los Angeles Police Department.

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On June 14, tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Hollywood and West Hollywood for the All Black Lives Matter march, which was organized by a newly formed group named Black LGBTQ+ Activists for Change (or BLAC), whose board is composed entirely of Black LGBTQ people.

In interviews with The Times, many Black people marching that day said that they had experienced racism within the LGBTQ community and that they had felt excluded both from LA Pride and from West Hollywood, which is 76% white.

Walking down Sunset Boulevard that day with her girlfriend, Ammie Robinson, 37, of Huntington Park, said that as a Black and queer person and as a woman, she had a “triple whammy” when it came to fighting for her rights. Her girlfriend, Kimiko McCarthy, 31, carried a cardboard sign that read, “Hey WeHo Black Queers Exist!!! #MakeSpace.”

A permanent street mural reading “All Black Lives Matter” was painted by crews on Hollywood Boulevard last week, replacing temporary art painted before the June march.


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