Celebrate LGBT Pride: Come By and Say “Hi”

uglaOn August 8, Northeast Los Angeles will join many Southern California areas celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride. This free event is co-sponsored by Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance (UGLA) and Eagle Rock Plaza and will run from 3-5 p.m. All are welcomed.

Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) is geographically directly north, but not east, of downtown Los Angeles. It’s bounded on the south by Interstate 5 and on the north by the 134 Freeway. It’s eastern boundary is the 110, Arroyo Seco Freeway (plus the freeway-hugging communities of Montecito Heights and Monterey Hills), and on the west by Glendale #2 Freeway. NELA encompasses, fully, zip codes 90041, 42 and 65, plus a smattering of 31 and 39. From a Los Angeles City standpoint, NELA is represented by City Council Districts 1 (Ed Reyes), 13 (Eric Garcetti) and 14 (Jose Huizar). Population of the area is around 150,000 people residing in about 13 square miles.

NELA has no openly gay or lesbian bars, coffee houses, restaurants, churches or social clubs. Yet, gay and lesbian folk have lived and worked here for generations and have proliferated. In fact, the historic gay name for Mt. Washington, one of the leading communities in NELA, is “Swish Alps.” I think gay men and lesbians appreciate the availability of anonymity, privacy, and Bohemian-style freedom mixed with a sense of American small town neighborhood coupled with a healthy dose of mind your own business. Real estate agencies are g/l friendly, and g/l folk are drawn to the unique homes, narrow streets, spectacular views, property value, unpretentious down-home attitudes and wide assimilation of gay and lesbian people in NELA community life.

Pride highlights include LGBT Short Films courtesy of Outfest, the Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival. They are: “25 Random Things I Did During My Big Fat Lesbian Depression” (2009) video, directed by Chris J. Russo and “Get Happy” directed by Mark Payne, winner of the 2009 Outfest Audience Award for Documentary Short. Both directors will be on hand to discuss their work. LGBT history will be documented in a display curated by Carol Grosvenor of ONE Institute, including the 1969 New York City Stonewall Riots and the screening of Ken Kane and Dan Brodzik’s video production of UGLA’s own “25 Glorious Years.”

In the area of education, Project 10, a program of the Los Angeles Unified School District that offers technical and educational support to lgbt students and Occidental College, Eagle Rock’s top-tier liberal arts school, will be present. Family support and information will come from the Pasadena Branch of PFLAG, Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays, an organization which has more than 500 chapters in all 50 states. Health issues will be covered by AIDS Service Center of Pasadena and AIDS Healthcare Foundation of Hollywood. There will also be a display of paintings by local lgbt artists curated by Sharon Lilly. California Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, and Eric Toro, owner of Uptown Properties Real Estate, will greet event goers.

While there are many g/l-owned businesses in NELA, there’s not, as far as I can detect, an identifiable desire to be known as g/l owned. Like all businesses, g/l folk know that the color of money is green not lavender. But, the business and community atmosphere of NELA allows for acceptance of diversity with demographic differences being greeted more with a yawn than a dropped-jaw .

But, it wasn’t always so.

In 1983, a gay man was shot and killed outside a gay bar in Highland Park. Realtor Gus DiClairo, owner of Uptown Properties, was a friend of the slain man and called his friends together for a meeting to protest the relative inaction of the Los Angeles Police Department in the case. From that meeting, Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance was born.

Since its inception, UGLA, which is a California non-profit corporation, with a IRS 501 (c) (3) listing, has maintained adherence to its mission statement: “UGLA is a charitable and educational non-profit service organization. Primary goals are to provide a support system for lesbians and gay men and education for individuals and the community-at-large on the true nature of homosexuality.” Its main community connections are with Cypress Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills and Mt. Washington.

carl-matthes.jpgIf you have time on Saturday, August 8, 3-5pm, come to Eagle Rock Plaza, 2700 Colorado Blvd., follow the Plaza’s Colorado marquee, the posters and banner to MCMC store and say “Hi” and enjoy NELA Pride.

Carl Matthes

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