September 09, 2021

By Cora Jackson-Fossett

Contributing Writer

 

Archbishop Carl Bean, a pioneering AIDS activist, trailblazer in the LGBTQ church movement, and an international advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons, passed away on September 7. He was 77-years-old.

A charismatic figure who attracted legions of gay and straight supporters, Bean was well-known in Los Angeles for establishing Unity Fellowship Church of Christ (UFC) in 1982 and implementing the Minority AIDS Project (MAP) in 1985, which was the first organization of its kind started during a period when the disease was relatively new.

Unity Fellowship, often noted as the first Black church for the LGBTQ community, has grown to more than 17 affiliates in the U.S. and the Caribbean. MAP, which still operates in South L.A. serving more 1,500 people a year, offers prevention, care and treatment services for low-income African American and Latino individuals at a high- risk or living with the HIV/AIDS virus.

Bean initially launched MAP with a group of volunteers meeting at a friend’s house and visiting local pantries to secure food for suffering individuals and families.  Thanks to his winning personality, many influential Angelenos were persuaded to assist Bean, such as Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., former president and current chairman of the board of the Brotherhood Crusade, and Brenda Marsh-Mitchell, his executive assistant.

 

“I will never forget going to the Brotherhood Crusade’s offices on Slauson and asking for a meeting with Mr. Bakewell,” recalled Bean in his later years. “Mr. Bakewell’s door was open a little and he heard me mention the words HIV and AIDS and he came out and told Brenda to let me in. Brenda told me then and there, it must have divine intervention and God’s will because it’s not everyday people walk in off the street and get a meeting with Mr. Bakewell.”

Sharing his recollection of the encounter, Bakewell said, “Archbishop Carl Bean came into my office and was the first person to explain to me that AIDS was not a White gay man’s disease and that Black people were dying every day from this dreaded disease. 

“He told me how we needed to open a Black AIDS clinic to serve our community and our people and the Brotherhood Crusade was one of the first contributors to Dr. Bean and the Minority AIDS Project. 

“Many years later, we now understand how right he was and how his leadership saved thousands, if not millions of lives, within our community.  Dr. Bean was a pioneer in bringing to light the devastation of this disease in our community and I am proud that early on The Brotherhood Crusade was able to play a significant role in bringing Dr. Bean’s vision to our community,” stated Bakewell.

Bean’s visionary leadership deeply affected journalist and social justice activist Jasmyne Cannick, who described the archbishop as a “hero” and  “a living legend” in her comments about his legacy.

“Carl Bean used his life to save the lives of others. He did that through his music, through the words in the books he wrote, through his preaching, and through the founding of an organization intent on making the world value the lives of Black men and women living with HIV and AIDS,” she noted.

“The world is a better place for us all because of the work and love of Carl Bean but it is especially better for Black same-gender-loving and LGBTQ people. So many of us have benefited from the activism Bean and elders in his generation engaged in on our behalf so that we could be who we are today.

“He was a living legend and he was one of our heroes. I am grateful to have been lucky enough and more importantly smart enough to know and learn from him through the years. I am because of people like him. ‘Pops’ was always supportive of me and always sending me messages of encouragement. He will be missed, but not forgotten,” insisted Cannick.

Retired Congresswoman Diane Watson was another ally of Bean and aided him with obtaining HIV/AIDS services.  Remembering their relationship, she said two years ago, “I worked with Carl Bean and I knew that he could put together a program that would make people knowledgeable and avoid shunning against people who were diagnosed. Carl Bean was the coordinator, the inspiration and the person who could bring the community together regardless of the presumption in the street.  I thank the Lord for Carl Bean,” she said. Bean made such an impression on L.A. City Council President Emeritus Herb J. Wesson, that the councilmember designated the intersection of Jefferson Blvd. and Sycamore Ave. in South Los Angeles as Archbishop Carl Bean Square.  During the street ceremony in 2019, Wesson said he knew Bean since 1982 and the minister was “a determined man” who developed MAP into a national movement.

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Bean was born in May, 1944. Raised in the church, he had a special affinity for music and sang in a melodious voice throughout his life.  Bean was also involved with the NAACP youth program and learned about civil rights activism as a teen.

While Bean had accepted his sexuality as a youngster, his family and friends were not so understanding, leading Bean to hide his desires until he was outed by an acquaintance at 14-years-old.  The episode led to his intense depression and forced hospitalization before he began to heal and was released.

At the age of 16, he relocated to New York City to pursue a gospel singing career.  Over the next decade or so, Bean sang with several ensembles, acted in religious theatrical plays, and performed in several musical productions including Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity” and Vinette Carroll’s “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope.”

Bean moved to Los Angeles in 1972 and formed a gospel group called Carl Bean and Universal Love. After some Motown producers heard him singing, Bean was signed up to sing “I Was Born This Way” by Bunny Jones.  

 

In a biography, author Mark Bowman wrote about Bean, “The experience of recording this gay anthem in 1977 affirmed and illumined his call to ministry. The song received widespread play–moving up to #14 on the Billboard charts. He was finally able to publicly affirm being gay as a God-given gift.”

Later, Bean began his ministerial studies at Samaritan College and was ordained in 1982 by Archbishop William Morris O’Neill of the Christian Tabernacle Church. He founded Unity Fellowship of Christ Church and advertised his ministry in the L.A. Sentinel as a Bible study for gays and lesbians.

The fellowship grew in size and eventually the congregation bought a warehouse on West Jefferson Blvd., which became the mother church of Unity Fellowship.  The church continues to minister to the LGBTQ community and also operates MAP on the campus.

In 2010, Bean published his autobiography, “I Was Born This Way: A Gay Preacher’s Journey Through Gospel Music, Disco Stardom and a Ministry in Christ.”  In a chapter titled “Grace and Mercy,” Bean wrote, “As I look back over this journey starting with my innocent days as a little boy running the streets of Baltimore, I see how love sustained me.  Love from my biological mother, my grandmother, my godparents, friends, preachers … love born of a need for connection … to feel worth and wanted.”

His celebration of life services is pending as of press time.

Category: News

September 09, 2021

LAWT News Service

 

This week, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn celebrated the California State Assembly voting unanimously to pass SB 796. The legislation, sponsored by State Senator Steven Bradford, would remove state restrictions from Los Angeles County’s beachfront property once owned by Black entrepreneurs, Willa and Charles Bruce. The existing state restrictions currently limit Hahn’s ability to transfer the County property. SB 796's passage would allow Hahn to move forward with her effort to return the property to the surviving descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce.

“I am determined to return this land to the Bruce family, but I can’t do it without this legislation,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn.  “I have been so moved by the unanimous support that we have gotten for this effort from our State leaders.  When this bill hits the Governor’s desk, I urge him to sign it and I think it would mean so much if he signed it at Bruce’s Beach.”

SB 796 must now go back to the California State Senate for a reconciliation vote by this Friday, September 10, 2021.  If it passes, it then goes to Governor Newsom’s desk for his consideration and signature. 

 

 

Background

In 1912, a Black couple named Willa and Charles Bruce purchased beachfront property in Manhattan Beach and built a resort that became known as Bruce's Beach. It was one of the few places where Black residents could go to enjoy a day at the beach because so many other local beaches did not permit Black beachgoers. The Bruces and their customers were harassed and threatened by white neighbors including the KKK.  Eventually, the Manhattan Beach City Council moved to seize the Bruce's property as well as surrounding property using eminent domain in 1924, purportedly to build a park.  The City of Manhattan Beach took possession of the property in 1929 and it remained vacant for decades.  

The section of the seized property closest to the beach, including the lots owned by Willa and Charles Bruce, was years later transferred to the State and in 1995 transferred to Los Angeles County.  The lots that the Bruces owned are now the site of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Training Headquarters.

In April, Supervisor Hahn announced her intention to return the Bruce's Beach property to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce and that she had asked State Senator Steven Bradford to introduce legislation (now known as SB 796) to remove state restrictions on the property and allow her to do just that.

Category: News

September 09, 2021

LAWT News Service

 

This week, the Legislature overwhelmingly approved Assembly Bill 958, authored by Chair of the Select Committee on Police Reform, Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson). AB 958 seeks to ban police gangs in every law enforcement agency in California and will make an officer’s participation in a police gang grounds for termination.

“These are groups who celebrate excessive force, resist reforms, and discriminate and retaliate against other officers,” said Assemblymember Gipson. “How can we expect an officer to uphold the public safety of our communities when that officer is pressured within their own department to join a police gang? It doesn’t matter whether you are a Crip, Blood, Executioner, or Bandito – we must ensure that any individuals participating in criminal activities are held accountable to the full extent of the law.”

AB 958 aims to get to the root of an issue that has existed for nearly five decades. In 2018, a grieving mother lost her son to an attack that was initiated by a member of “The Banditos” police gang based in East Los Angeles as a requirement to join such groups. Last year, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department endured five years of bullying and intimidation by members of a gang of deputies from the Compton Sheriff's station known as “The Executioners.”

“This bill is about proactively rooting out bad apples and takes the necessary steps to reform police culture within a department,” said Assemblymember Gipson. “AB 958 will put forth reform that has been needed, to get rid of a pervasive culture of those who abuse their power when they should be finding better ways to protect our communities.”

After receiving unanimous bipartisan support in the Legislature, AB 958 now heads to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

Category: News

September 09, 2021

City News Service

 

The Los Angeles Police Department gives broad authorization to its officers to collect social media data from people they interact with on patrol, the nonprofit Brennan Center For Justice reported this week.

According to the law and public policy institute based at the NYU School of Law, the LAPD's Social Media User Guide encourages officers to monitor social media and allows them to create a “fictitious online persona to engage in investigative activity.” The guide includes little guidance and oversight of the surveillance, and the Brennan Center reported that officers don't have to document the searches, their purpose or justifications.

In a letter responding to a record request from the Brennan Center, the LAPD said it does not track what its employees monitor on social media and has not conducted audits on the department's use of social media.

The Brennan Center obtained 6,000 pages in 10 sets of documents from the department. The documents revealed that the department instructs officers to use field interview cards to collect social media information from people they interact with during patrol.

“When completing a FI Report, officers should ask for a person's social media and e-mail account information and include it in the ‘Additional Info’ box,” the document said. The Brennan Center said that it reviewed 40 other cities' field interview cards and, while details were sparse, it did not find that any other department uses them to collect social media accounts.

The LAPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the report.

At the LAPD, the cards are loaded into the data analytics and surveillance system Palantir. According to the Brennan Center, officers are able to search the system to see a person of interest's movements, personal relationships, DMV records, employment data, arrest records, field interview card data, and data from license plate readers.

The LAPD is set to begin using a new social media surveillance tool, Media Sonar, this year, the Brennan Center reported. The web intelligence technology identifies connections between people and builds individual profiles. According to a document obtained by the Brennan Center, the platform will give officers “a full digital snapshot of an individual's online presence including all related personas and connections.'' It uses data from more than 300 sources with 2 billion records.

The Brennan Center for Justice is a think tank and advocacy organization. Its goals include ending mass incarceration, protecting citizens' privacy and promoting voting rights and democracy. The organization was founded in 1995 and named after Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan for his “commitment to a fair and inclusive democracy, support for the disadvantaged and respect for individual rights and liberties.”

 

Category: News

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