Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Los Angeles Black Gay Beach Party Cancelled

My email and phone have been buzzing with messages from my Southern California friends about this blog entry since the weekend. I waited until I got input from reliable sources before posting this item.

On what would have been the 20th anniversary of the ATB a.k.a "AT The Beach" the organizers have announced that the center piece of the LA Black LGBT Pride event has been cancelled.

For years ATB (held at Point Dume in Malibu) was the place to be, California's largest Black LGBT Pride event and one of the largest Black "gay pride" events in the world. But in recent years, attendance has been down (particularly among men) which some attribute to the growth of all male focused events targeting African American men like Miami Sizzle, San Juan Brothas, Blatino Oasis and the growing number of new travel options for men. Also, last year rumors swirled that the ATB pride event wouldn't happen because of financial troubles.

So what was the cause of this year's cancellation? Violence, this according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the City of Malibu and a few people who were in attendance last year. Kevin Davenport of Long Beach told Cuppa Joe that he was there when a fight broke out between two or three women. "I saw the fight between the lesbians and I promptly left." said Davenport. There have also been reports that a gun may have been involved.

According to sources, the City of Malibu at the last minute issued a new “special condition” that dramatically raised fees and shortened the time by which the event could take place.

Although some in L.A. are scrambling to find other beaches, the last minute notice given to the nation about this change has many wondering if this will be the proverbial nail in the coffin for this legendary beach event or just a hiccup that will clear up next year. Only time will tell.

Joe






6 comments:

WAYTA said...

Having attended the beach party for the past 4-5 years straight, I can say with the utmost certainty that attendance has not been down among men and if attenance was down, I doubt it is for any of the events you cited since they each occur MONTHS prior to the July 4th event.

Further, Mr. Davenport did not leave because the lesbians were fighting. Seeing as how the "fight" which saw no real blows but rather a few shoves coincided with the end of the staged entertainment, it's much more likely that Mr. Davenport left because the beach party was simply over at that point.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about this event being cancelled. You guys are always welcome to come to Chi-Town for thier pride festival during the 4th weekend.

Carl Deeley said...

I want to thank you for mentioning another side of this issue.

I am very disappointed in what I have read elsewhere. People have been forming an opinion and going as far as to accuse Sheriff's Department personnel of racism and bigotry, based on partial and faulty information. Does it truly make sense to you that after nearly two decades of the same event, the Sheriff’s Department has suddenly developed a bias and cancelled the “At the Beach” event?

The Sheriff’s Department did not cancel the event. As part of the permit process, which is controlled by Beaches and Harbors, we did ask for increased security and additional conditions to ensure the safety of all participants and everyone using the public beach area. These came as a result of actions which occurred at last year’s event, which placed the safety of participants and the general public in jeopardy. I personally worked with the organizer of this event to explain the conditions and try and make them easier to implement. I also told him we would try and hire as many reserve deputies, at a reduced cost, as possible to ease the additional costs. I even extended our deadline for the organizer to make a decision and told him if the participants avoided the problems from last year, at this year’s event, we would work with him and see if we could reduce the security costs and conditions for 2009.

As part of the permit process, the requested money would be placed as a deposit, with the potential for a substantial refund if the event ended on time and the conditions were followed.

Due to the disturbances last year and a failure to have shuttle buses, as agreed, to take the participants to the off-site parking, the costs went substantially over the budget. Those additional costs have yet to be paid.

These conditions were not last minute. The organizer missed a meeting with the involved government agencies in May and did not take advantage of an offered make-up meeting with Beaches and Harbors. As a result, the negitiations were handled by phone conversations and e-mails.

The organizer chose not to accept the new costs and conditions, thus choosing to cancel the event. As of last Friday, I thought a series of contacts between the organizer and me had ensured the event would continue this year. I believe those contacts were open and we had achieved mutual understanding, if not total agreement. I regret I was unable to solve the concerns to his satisfaction.

Carl Deeley
Commander
Sheriff's Department

Wendell C.Carmicheal said...

As, The Presdident of ATB Los Angeles Black Pride I stand firmly behind all that is written in the Press Release Below. Commander Deely hasn't sat at the table for the past 17 years I have. I hope that after this weekend we will be able to have a town meeting with Sheriff Baca so the truth can really be told.

Is this the end of an era? Failed negotiations force At the Beach (ATB)/ Los Angeles Black Pride to cancel July 2008 celebration

Malibu, California, July 5, 2008

After a 20-year history, and what has been referred to as a “Model Event” by the City of Malibu, Wendell Carmichael, President of Los Angeles Black Pride, announced today that At the Beach / Los Angeles Black Pride, which was scheduled to be held at Point Dume Beach in Malibu, has been cancelled. The cancellation is due to the failure of negotiations to come up with a collective agreement with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department.

Part of the presented agreement included “Special Conditions” that the Sheriff’s Department has imposed, which included a 200% increase in fees and a reduction in the hours of celebratory operation of Pride this year. Further complicating matters was the fact that ATB was not informed of the exorbitant increase and ‘Special Conditions’ until June 06, 2008. “These failed negotiations demonstrate the relentless inequity this organization has had to endure over the past 17 years”, stated Carmichael.

At The Beach / Los Angeles Black Pride has served over one million people in areas of social justice, economic empowerment, health and wellness while bringing people together from all over the world for the annual event at Point Dume Beach – Malibu, CA. ATB was born out of a need to stem the tide of harassment and racism endured from the Sheriff’s Department in 1989 wherein cars were towed, people ticketed, and many suffered unwarranted and illegal searches. Clearly the Sheriff’s Department fails to remember those incidents any more than they acknowledge that this organization has gone the extra mile to comply with all requests from the Counties Beaches and Harbor and Sheriff Department’s, as well as those of the City of Malibu. “We have consistently and unwaveringly complied even though many of their requests appeared unreasonably, targeted and wholly unjust”, stated Carmichael.

While there was a serious altercation last year that resulted in not only several arrests but convictions as well, it would not reasonably, given ATB longstanding history, promote the increases and restrictions to the level demanded by the Sheriff’s Department. This is a sad day for our efforts, community and a well established nurturing event. While we will celebrate at all the other events that are scheduled, let us all remember our behavior and acknowledge that what one of us does can affect a whole community.

Anonymous said...

Wow I am sorry to hear that there is no place for young Black LGBTQ folks to go and be in the sun having fun. I do want to commend thank the ATB board, if there is one. on keeping it going thus far
I must say I am also saddenend that ATB has not had a working wedsite and the contacting them by telephone was/is impossible. At one point it was disconnected. I finally went on my space and got plugged into someone who was on the committee or volunteering. where I got some information.
I have not put together an event so large and I know connections have to be made for lots of things and yes of coarse money. Which I think with a little work could come from sponsors. Smirnoff, I think, is featured at a montly party where 20 bucks gets you drinks all night. They could be a place to start for sponsorship.
I think that in the future planning is very important. Keeping the community informed is a must. People should have to seach around in the sand to get information about all the events.
I think we should start planning for next year now all of us. If there is no board let help WC so he doesn't feel he is doing it alone. We all have expertise in areas and we all have a connection somewhere. We can make our 21st ATB a blast. we can let the club promoters do there thing and ATB can focus on the Hotel events and the Beach party. Iam a local and can go shake my ass 7 nites a week here in LA. I don't get a day with black gay men and women from all over in one space to network and party with.
Again if thre is a ATB board i hope they consider some additions/adjustments and I truely hope they allow the community in on whats going on....Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Dear Los Angeles Black LGBT Family and Allies:

It pains me to have to write a letter like this, but I’m sure you’ll agree with the cancellation of this year’s pride, it is long over due. It seems far too many of us have sat idle and watched as others have dictated for us what they think we should have. As a young black, gay male I find it is my duty to speak on behalf of myself and others who remain silent. I strongly believe that even one person can spark change.

Over 20 years ago in the summer of 1988, Duane Bremond and a group of friends decided to come together to organize and enjoy a day "At the Beach" over the 4th of July weekend. Every year since, At the Beach (ATB) aka Black Pride LA has grown in participants and in scope. It was to become the nation's largest recognized Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride celebration, instead it has become a yearly on again off again, meager celebration which hasn’t made any inroads towards becoming a permanent fixture in our community, let alone nationally. This has happened for several reasons, far too many to list, including but not limited to past corruption from former event organizers. Two of the top reasons however are much more simplistic. Lack of communication between pride committee members, Los Angeles County personnel, and the public, and the lack of infrastructure have resulted in the cancellation of yet another year’s pride. And I feel that the excuse for this year’s cancellation is in poor taste, and condescending to our community because I have direct knowledge confirming that the reason given isn’t one hundred percent factual!

To honor Duane’s vision I think we should reassess what the ATB has become, think about how we can reverse the downward spiral it has caused, and craft a strategic plan for future success.

Our black family is experiencing a great shift in its thinking, and fresh new minds are being recognized. This is evident in politics with the election of Barak Obama as the Democratic presidential nominee, and with newly elected Benjamin Jealous, the Executive Director of the NAACP, who at 35 is the organizations youngest leader in history. In order for our voices to be heard more in LA, we need to take away the assumed power of few and hand over the encouragement to empower many.

Looking at the model of Washington D.C.’s Black Pride, it is very impressive to see that they have a governing body in the form of a volunteer committee that plans pride a year in advance. It is also impressive to see their attendance numbers, and that their mobility in the community continues to increase. Although LA’s black gay population statistically isn’t as high as D.C.’s we should still be able to adopt some of their processes and mirror some of their successes. Just from taking a look at their website it is clear that they are an asset to their community, and should be applauded for their efforts.

In conclusion, this letter isn’t meant to negate all of the work from past and current members of the ATB committee, but it is meant to spark dialogue and move towards creating positive change. I think the current ATB committee should chalk its organizational structure up as a failure and we as the Los Angeles Black LGBT Community should start from scratch. I think having some new blood on the committee along with a new name, I suggest Black Pride LA, an operational website, partnerships with service providers, a pool of volunteers and similar progressive steps to move forward would be a good starting point. We should spend some time speaking with other successful black pride organizations like D.C. or Atlanta. This shouldn’t just be a day “At The Beach” it should be a day to honor the past, celebrate the present, and ignite enthusiasm for the future.

My name is Milton Smith and I was moved to write this letter as a community minded HIV prevention researcher, and a member of this community. The cancellation of “At The Beach” 2008 has not only proved ATB unsuccessful, but has also harmed the chances for service providers like myself to reach our all to underserved population.

For me as an individual I feel disgraced that our family couldn’t unite and “get it together,” and that I too waited so long to voice my concerns. I would feel privileged to be an integral part of a teamed rebuilding process. I can be contacted at blackpridela@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

Milton Smith