WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Pride is infused into West Hollywood and that isn’t about to change.
“We’re doing pride every day of the year," Councilman John Duran laughed.
Councilman Duran has lived in West Hollywood for decades and served as mayor of the city four times. He says L.A.’s very first Pride parade was on Hollywood Blvd. in 1970, a year after the Stonewall Riots. The following year, the annual event moved to WeHo.
“49 out of their 50 years they’ve had a parade down Santa Monica Blvd. here," he said.
But no longer.
In a letter this week, the nonprofit Christopher Street West which produces LA Pride, informed the West Hollywood City Council that they would be moving the parade and festival out of the city. The letter cites “several reasons” including construction in West Hollywood Park.
When asked about the decision, the group issued a statement saying, “This has been an ongoing conversation within our organization for the past year given how large the celebrations have become.”
But Duran says in recent years, the relationship between organizers and the city no longer felt like a “comfortable fit.” With the city putting up about $3 million for the weekend long event, another councilmember recently introduced an agenda item to discuss opening it up for bidding.
“I think that’s what pushed them to then write their letter that they decided to pull out of West Hollywood," Duran said. "It’s a shame because we did encourage them to go ahead and bid as well.”
There’s also been issues with diversity. Last month, after LA Pride was canceled due to COVID-19, Christopher Street West announced it would hold a solidarity march with Black Lives Matter. That organization however, criticized the announcement saying LA Pride had not consulted with BLM officials or organizers in the Black LGBTQ community. Community Activist Jasmyne Cannick says she’s not looking for a venue change. She’s looking for a leadership change "from the top all the way down."
She pointed out that even though more than 65 percent of event attendees are people of color, "when you look at the makeup of the Board of Directors and the people who they hire, that is not reflected."
As for finding a new location, she added, "You can move it to Timbuktu. It doesn’t really matter if the leadership of the organization is still anti-Black. If the leadership of the organization is still tone deaf to issues that are relevant to People of Color, specifically Black people, it doesn't matter where they hold LA Pride."
Councilman Duran says he wishes Christopher Street West the best wherever they end up, but he adds, the history is here, regardless of where the parade takes place.
“We have the history of having been an LGBT sanctuary for four decades," he said, standing at the rainbow-colored crosswalk that marks the corner of Santa Monica and N. San Vincente Boulevards. "We have that turf.”
Outside of the weekend long festival and parade, he says the city has long organized 40 days of Pride-related events and that will continue. And he stressed the parade in West Hollywood will go on.
“The name may change instead of LA Pride to WeHo Pride but I think everything is going to remain the same and be better," Duran said.
The city council will discuss plans for the bidding process and a new name next Monday. He sees this as an opportunity to re-conceive and reboot Pride in West Hollywood and maybe return a bit to its historical roots.