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    HomeNewsChris Baldwin on the Genesis of Women's Freedom Festival and Why Representation...

    Chris Baldwin on the Genesis of Women’s Freedom Festival and Why Representation Matters at WeHo Pride

    When I moved to Los Angeles back in 2004, I never dreamed I would be producing Queer women’s programming for the inaugural pride celebration for the City of West Hollywood some 20 years later…

    I fell in love with the vibe of this City in 2004 while commuting into WeHo for the first time. As I stood on the corner of Fairfax and Santa Monica Blvd, I could hear the pulsating rhythms of a familiar old school dance track pumping loudly from a car a couple of blocks away. As the car cruised to the stop light on Fairfax, “it’s raining men, hallelujah!” was blaring loudly from the speakers of a drop-top purple glitter Rolls Royce driven by a big beautiful bald gay man dressed in sequins with a huge purple boa feathers wrapped around his neck. I knew at that moment that WeHo was the place for me! Or so I thought.

    I quickly learned that this Black butch woman was not welcomed in most of the clubs along Santa Monica Blvd. The only spot for women at the time was The Palms bar and a few girl parties hosted by promoters like Michelle XXX -(RIP Michelle Levy) and Girl Bar. None of these bars are around today and spaces for LGBTQ+BIPOC within WeHo city limits barely exist. 

    After The Palms closed, our Founder, Elisabeth Sandberg, wanted to bring women together outside of the bar scene, so we produced our first of many art & music events called Frida Fest, which was co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood and held at Fiesta Hall, in Plummer Park in 2016.

    When the City decided to host its inaugural Pride event in 2022 – The L-Project was the only vendor to respond to their Request For Proposal (RFP) with a submission that specifically focused on programming for Queer women by Queer women because most pride events tend to be geared towards the Gay male audience.

    We wanted to be sure that LGBTQ+BIPOC representation was included in WeHo’s inaugural pride because representation matters. Cities invest in cultural events like Women’s Freedom Festival and the Dyke March, not only to foster the arts that bring our communities together, but also because it’s good business. Along with tourism, large festivals like WeHo Pride stimulate the local economy, increasing revenues for the city and business owners.

    Our partnership with the City has provided us with the incredible opportunity to hire and support local talent, women and LGBTQ+owned businesses and organizations in a society where income inequality is the primary driver of food and housing insecurities in our community. Based on the latest report from The Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement and Research (CLEAR), LGBTQ-owned businesses were denied financing and pandemic relief at a higher rate than non-LGBTQ businesses. Despite women having a better success rate at crowdfunding than men, only 7% of venture capital goes to women- but for Black women that percentage drops to .34%. That’s right – .034%! These numbers are depressing, but illustrates the disparities and the challenges Black women and women in general face as business owners. 

    So much has changed in WeHo since I arrived back in 2004. I’ve watched this city grow and evolve from the uber White Gay male hot spot it has always been to the beautifully progressive and diverse community it has become today. There is still much work to be done, however. But it is worthy to note that the changes I’ve witnessed in WeHo society would have NEVER happened had it not been for the tireless work done by community leaders like Jackie Steele, Alana Roshay, Zekiah Wright and other LGBTQ+ activists advocating for inclusivity and restorative social justice policies along with the election of progressive leaders to City Council that actually listened to community leaders to effect those changes – it’s the reason we no longer have to pay $60 to get into the WeHo Pride festival, have a reduced police presence at LGBTQ+ events and have gender neutral bathrooms in WeHo.

    The L-Project continues our mission to promote emerging LGBTQ+BIPOC artists and we’re extremely proud to work with WeHo Pride producer, JJLA and the City of West Hollywood again to present Women’s Freedom Festival, the Dyke March and the Rainbow Family Day picnic for West Hollywood Pride beginning Saturday, June 1, 2024. Until last year, the turnout and participation in the Dyke March was never more than a few hundred women because the event was held on a Friday evening during rush hour traffic in a town with extremely limited parking. Many of us in the community petitioned the City to move the Dyke March and Women’s Freedom Festival to Saturday resulting in the biggest turnout of attendees for the Dyke March in West Hollywood history! I’m extremely proud to work alongside our Board President, Madonna Cacciatore, and all of the board members who volunteer their time and energy to help make our pride programming happen every year.

    This year, Women’s Freedom Festival will feature guest speakers, DJs, dancers and live performances by LA’s hottest Queer artists like; KingQueen Band, Gattison, Mila Miranda and emerging pop rock artist from New Zealand,Theia! The show will take place at the WeHo Pride Community Stage on Santa Monica Blvd from 12pm – 6pm with the Dyke March kicking off at 6p, led by the Pride Riders Motorcycle Contingent. The Pride celebration continues on June 15, 2024 from 12p-4p, as we celebrate our annual Rainbow Family Day Picnic for all LGBTQ+ families with pets and kids of all ages. All of these events are free! For more information about Rainbow Family Day or Women’s Freedom Festival, contact [email protected] Bikers interested in riding in the Dyke March can email: [email protected]. 

    For sponsorship opportunities, contact: [email protected]

    The L-Project invites the residents of West Hollywood to join us in our mission to uplift and unite our community by celebrating the power of the feminine spirit in all its forms. 

    This Black History month, I honor and share the powerful words of Angela Davis, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” and I salute the champions of change that have made and continue to make West Hollywood one of the better LGBTQ+ centered cities to live, work and play.

    To learn more about the L-Project, visit: https://thelproject.org/.

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    Chris Baldwin
    Chris Baldwin
    Chris Baldwin currently serves as the VP and COO of the L-Project and is VP of Financial Development at Stonewall Democratic Club in West Hollywood.

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    Catherine Eng
    Catherine Eng
    Offline
    2 months ago

    I saw first hand how hard this team worked to create women’s programming for Pride and I am honored to have participated. I know WFF for 2024 will be bigger and evolved –

    Happy Pride 2024

    Alan Strasburg
    Alan Strasburg
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    Reply to  Catherine Eng
    1 month ago

    Is this sycophantic comment a product of the $1000 you were paid for “press relations”?

    P.S. I applaud you for commenting with your real name.

    Last edited 1 month ago by Alan Strasburg
    Paulo Murillo
    Paulo Murillo
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    Admin
    Active Member
    Reply to  Alan Strasburg
    1 month ago

    Not understanding the snark towards Cat Eng. She was paid for services rendered. Why does that make her some sort of boot licker? And she’s not even making any reference to you, so why are you coming for her? Very odd.

    Catherine Eng
    Catherine Eng
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    Reply to  Paulo Murillo
    1 month ago

    LOL! Indeed I was paid $1000 for the 5 weeks of work on the project. It’s a low project fee, but there you go…. I took it because I wanted to support L Project.

    I appreciate you speaking up on my behalf, Paulo. I don’t know this man, but am aware of the many negative comments and views that he expresses. And now we know he’s focused on me and I’m used to that.

    fyi
    fyi
    Offline
    2 months ago

    Cherry Bomb at beaches WeHo is still a great queer femme space… The parties have changed and its very sad a full lesbian bar may never be welcome in WeHo but there are still /some/ options

    Alan Strasburg
    Alan Strasburg
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    Reply to  fyi
    2 months ago

    Any capitalist in the world can open an establishment in these 1.9 square miles. See Fan Girl Cafe. Build it and they will come! Brava on them!

    Last edited 2 months ago by Alan Strasburg
    Cy Husain
    Cy Husain
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    Reply to  Alan Strasburg
    2 months ago

    That’s the problem given that a Socialist☭ would do a much better job❗

    Alan Strasburg
    Alan Strasburg
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    2 months ago

    I guess we can only do in these 1.9 square miles what can’t be done in Oceanside and Santa Clarita. Awaiting the toxic ideological intolerance that will surely flow….

    Obsoletely
    Obsoletely
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    Reply to  Alan Strasburg
    2 months ago

    awaiting relevant and credible opinions, Mister 68

    Alan Strasburg
    Alan Strasburg
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    Reply to  Obsoletely
    2 months ago

    Oh John!

    Obsoletely
    Obsoletely
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    Reply to  Alan Strasburg
    2 months ago

    you are unaware of just how many people use this title for you

    Alan Strasburg
    Alan Strasburg
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    Reply to  Obsoletely
    2 months ago

    I’m honored to have the influence among the sycophantic minority.

    Obsoletely
    Obsoletely
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    Reply to  Alan Strasburg
    2 months ago

    obsolete /ŏb″sə-lēt′, ŏb′sə-lēt″/

    adjective

    1. No longer in use.
    2. Outmoded in design, style, or construction.
    3. Vestigial or rudimentary, especially in comparison with related or ancestral species, as the tailbone of an ape. Used of an organ or other part of an organism.
    ConcernedAF
    ConcernedAF
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    Reply to  Alan Strasburg
    2 months ago

    Oh Alan Strasburg. The leader of the 68 movement. The spearhead of the “Recall Sepi Shyne” action group.” And now the caller of “Defund Women’s Programing at WeHo Pride.” Forever in dire need of attention. Begging for “toxic ideological intolerance” to flow. Sadly, nobody cares. We see the bold faced hatred and prejudice you have against women and we just don’t care.

    Alan Strasburg
    Alan Strasburg
    Offline
    Reply to  ConcernedAF
    2 months ago

    And yet, it flowed. Glad people are paying attention and you care enough to misrepresent, albeit ensconced in anonymity as is so often the case. Unmask and engage me in an honest debate about how funds are spent. Nothing in my commentary suggests defunding, absolutely nothing. I do note one current commissioner who was paid $1000 for press relations and it seems the comment on here might well be construed as press relations. Bring it on. Engage. Have an honest debate. Don’t hide behind vulgar handles. Show up and “represent” yourselves in the big glorious melting pot. Patricias are especially… Read more »

    ConcernedAF
    ConcernedAF
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    Reply to  Alan Strasburg
    1 month ago

    The wehotimes should give you the Golden Mooncalf award. What a body of work. Some of us pay attention, but we don’t have the time or energy to court drama into our lives like you do, hence the concerned af handle. I don’t need to give you my name to point out what you think is not obvious. You say you’re not leading a defund movement? Bullshit. Let me guess. You’re just asking questions? Many people are saying? Based on a photo you saw, no one attended this event? It’s a pathetic tactic mastered by “concerned” citizens like Tucker Carlson.… Read more »

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