LOS ANGELES – In almost every way, Estevan Jose Montemayor has accomplished a lot during his two and a half year tenure as President of Christopher Street West / LA Pride.
He hired the organization's first full-time executive director (Madonna Cacciatore) and was able to hire experienced staff for fundraising and operations. This team attracted record-breaking corporate donations in 2019. He expanded the board with a view to all aspects of diversity. Changes that, in his opinion, led to 2019 seeing the greatest financial success in the history of the event. Montemayor and Cacciatore worked together to expand the offerings of the festival and the parade and to add a large, free component to the festival with “Pride on the Boulevard”. They launched a huge offering to bring World Pride to Los Angeles in 2025. LA Pride first aired on a major local television station, ABC 7, a show that was so successful that it resulted in a multi-year television deal for CSW / LA Pride, a deal that went on to hit TV as a Virtual Pride Special in 2020 was completed.
And of course there is more. Much more.
The now former President of Christopher Street West / LA Pride spoke to the Blade on the phone this week after leaving the organization. Estevan Montemayor is currently Deputy Chief of Staff to Los Angeles Councilor David Ryu, who represents District 4 of the council.
Montemayor resigned Tuesday, September 1st. His successor is Sharon Franklin-Brown, who is currently also the HR manager of the LGBT center in Los Angeles. Brown took over the presidency of the CSW / LA Pride Board on Wednesday, September 2. She is the first black trans woman to be elected to the top leadership position of LA Pride and the first in the nation to lead a major Pride organization.
CSW / LA Pride, like any event in 2020, faced enormous hurdles – a massive 50th anniversary celebration was planned but was canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions that canceled all in-person live events across the country.
It also faced challenges to show solidarity with the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement and ultimately cede that effort to All Black Lives Matter, an initiative led by an advisory board of black LGBTQI + activists and community leaders. More than a hundred thousand citizens took part in the All Black Lives Matter march, which meandered from Hollywood Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente.
After the All Black Lives Matter March 14, West Hollywood Councilors John Duran and John D & # 39; Amico surprised many when they openly discussed the possibility of asking other promoters to bid on Christopher Street West even though they'd been organizers for nearly half a century.
CSW / LA Pride stunned the community when it responded with a letter to the City of West Hollywood that the organization was moving the event to an unspecified location in Los Angeles. "As our nonprofit continues to evolve and grow, we would like to inform you of our intent to move the LA Pride Parade and Festival out of West Hollywood in 2021."
For its part, the West Hollywood City Council stated that a new event would likely take place, West Hollywood Pride.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Blade in his Exit interview, Montemayor noted, "Well, first of all, I'm very excited to have Sharon Brown become the next president. I can only say great things about her. She is the right leader for this moment." And everyone who knows Sharon knows that she is an exceptional leader. She will lead with compassion, empathy and grace. I have no doubt she will be great at work, "he said.
When asked if the events that played out affected his decision to leave when he left, he told the Blade, “I always intended to step down after the 50th anniversary, but the 50th anniversary was a little different from any of us because of it expected from COVID -19. "
“My goal was to go after the 50th anniversary. I was considering staying another year because of our World Pride offer, which would have been next year. (2021) But I shared at our 2019 summer board retreat that my plan was to leave after the 50th anniversary. I thought it would be a great keystone for my time at CSW, ”he added.
Montemayor considered the job note; "It's both an exciting and a strenuous job. This is a volunteer gig that really is a full time job. All of the people in front of me and everyone involved are volunteers. When it comes to the presidency of the board and the board as a whole, these are incredible People who have full-time jobs and who devote an enormous amount of time to our community. "
When asked if the stress and strife had seriously affected his life in the final months of his tenure, he replied. "Yes, here's what I would say – I was exhausted. There were always ups and downs with this organization. We were working 20, 30, 40 hours a week and it was exhausting. To get a little more personal , March was a very difficult time as I had Covid-19 for a little over a month, stayed at home and didn't work on me in my full time job in the city of Los Angeles. It was very difficult. "
As the coronavirus pandemic worsened and the CSW / LA Pride Board determined that the 50th anniversary celebrations would not go ahead as planned, the restrictions on staying at home also added to his stress.
"It was very difficult. And to be completely honest, I had to deal with a lot of depression and anxiety. I've been dealing with that for many years. But how many people who were locked up, then got sick, couldn't see my loved ones and couldn't work … it really made it worse. I took a lot of time over the summer to deal with my depression and anxiety. I'm not ashamed of this, we should all be more open about this, especially in our community. "
Montemayor came under heavy criticism after some Black Lives Matter activists felt that LA Pride was trying to appropriate the movement. When asked how LA Pride can better cope with situations like failing to get support in intersecting moments, he points out. “CSW has to listen before it acts. Having honorable intent is not good enough. The organization needs to think about what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. "
When asked about the CSW board's decision to leave the city of West Hollywood, Montemayor stated that the decision posed a significant challenge to his successor and the board but was confident that things would work out in the future.
“CSW's relationship with the City of West Hollywood had deteriorated long before my colleagues and I joined the board. The relationship had been strained for a long time. I knew I could go inside. I thought I might help bridge the gap between CSW and the city because I knew and worked with many decision makers in my capacity as public safety officer and in my capacity in the City of Los Angeles. I really thought I could do better. "
Perhaps he made his relationship as chairman of the board more difficult when he took over the helm of LA Pride. Montemayor protested the allegedly inappropriate sexual conduct of Mayor John Duran, over which Duran had been deposed as Mayor of West Hollywood. Montemayor even led a protest during a WeHo city council meeting and spoke to the council to request his removal. When asked if he believed that these measures would exacerbate the existing tensions between CSW and WeHo, he replied.
"No, I don't. In all honesty, I'm shocked that more people haven't spoken out against his actions. The problems that arose with the gay choir were disturbing, but unfortunately just another example of John's inappropriate behavior. We can Remember that the city council officially censored him on charges of sexual misconduct. Ultimately, John Duran is responsible for his own words and actions and voters will have the opportunity to hold him accountable in November. "
He then found that a WeHo city government committee (at the time John Heilman and John D & # 39; Amico) designed to work with CSW had not met in a long time prior to the decision to leave WeHo .
“I think the city has wanted to bring out its own pride for years, and that's its right. However, they have never honestly communicated that wish. My personal philosophy is that sometimes it's best to get out when you're in a toxic relationship. "
Montemayor said that despite the economic impact on the city of West Hollywood, it was time to expand the scope and direction of LA Pride.
"I can no longer speak on behalf of the Board of Directors. But I will say that I have spoken personally about how we can make this event and organization more inclusive. That includes geographically viewing and working in Los Angeles County. This is LA Pride, not West Hollywood Pride. "
"And so," he adds, "it is our job to accept this and embrace the diversity of Los Angeles County not just during Pride Month, but year round."
Montemayor continued, “West Hollywood is undoubtedly an incredible city that has a lot of value in terms of the LGBT community and Pride. And I'm sure they'll do some kind of pride programming. But I encourage them to also learn from the lessons of the past and create a pride that is programmed not by some elected officials, but by the community they represent. "
For his part, Montemayor feels they left LA Pride in good shape.
"Despite Covid-19," he said, "CSW is stronger than ever. I can confidently say that I left CSW better than I found it. Most of all, I believe that Sharon Brown will die at the right time is the right leader to move the organization forward. Are there any challenges? Of course. I hope the entire board will rise to the challenge and support Sharon in these efforts. "
But he insists, "in the end, only time will tell."