Christopher Street West, the nonprofit organization that produces LA Pride, has named a Black transgender woman as president of its board for the first time in its 50-year history.
Sharon-Franklin Brown, an activist for transgender rights and a former U.S. Navy sailor, will take the reins as previous president of LA Prides board, Estevan Montemayor, leaves Christopher Street West. Something he had planned to do after the 50th anniversary celebration to focus on the 2020 election. Brown, who has been a board member since 2019, will serve the remainder of Montemayor’s term, which will expire October 2021.
Montemayor shares his feelings in a Facebook post stating, “The last 3 years have flown by. I’m so proud of the work we have done and the lessons we have learned. My time with LA Pride has come to an end but my commitment to our fearless and beautiful community will always continue. I’m so proud of my friend Sharon Brown. She is an exceptional and experienced professional who will lead with empathy, inclusiveness, and grace. LA Pride is lucky to have her. I cannot wait to see what she does with the role!”
Madonna Cacciatore, Christopher Street West’s executive director, said she has worked with Brown for more than eight years. The two women have known each other at Christopher Street West and the LA LGBT Center, where Cacciatore previously worked.
“I have known and worked with Sharon for more than eight years of my career at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Christopher Street West,” said CSW executive director Madonna Cacciatore. “She has never failed to inspire me and those around her through her intentional leadership, unwavering dedication, and her openness and honesty. She is the right person to walk our community into the next chapter of our history.”
Christopher Street West produces one of the nation’s oldest and largest LGBTQ celebrations, prepares to move annual events from its longtime West Hollywood home and places a renewed emphasis on diversity and social justice.
“It’s never been a more important moment for the LGBTQ-plus community and its allies to continue fighting for all of us,” Brown said in a statement. “As a robust community across Los Angeles, we value inclusiveness and diversity.” She continues to say she is “so humbled to have been appointed … as the first Black trans woman to lead CSW/Los Angeles Pride and our community efforts forward, beyond the pandemic and election, and into the future.”
In July, Christopher Street West announced that it was leaving West Hollywood after more than four decades in the iconic LGBTQ-friendly city.
The LA Pride Parade and Festival, which have taken place in West Hollywood every summer since 1979, draws hundreds of thousands of people each year and is a major economic driver for local bars, nightclubs, restaurants and other businesses that have been hard-hit by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The nonprofit, in a letter to the West Hollywood City Council, said it would move the parade and festival in 2021. A new location has not been announced.
An activist for transgender rights and a former U.S. Navy sailor, Brown also is the current director of human resources at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.