Marquita Thomas, a Black woman who was a candidate in the 2019 race for a seat on the West Hollywood City Council, yesterday described her discomfort in campaigning door to door in the West Hollywood West neighborhood.
Thomas discussed her campaign during a virtual panel discussion introduced by Mayor Lindsey Horvath that focused on racial injustice. It took place on Friday in recognition of “Juneteenth,” the date that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
The panel was moderated by Barbara Arnwine, president and founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition. Others on the panel, all of whom are Black, were Jasmyne Cannick, a political strategist; Sinbad, an actor, comedian, and activist, and Marcus Smith, a senior producer for KTLA5 News. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also spoke.
Thomas, was unsuccessful in her 2019 City Council campaign, noted that she was the first Black person to run for a seat on the City Council in West Hollywood, where only four percent of residents are Black.
“I was really proud to create a platform to advocate for aging in place and for mandatory AC in housing units, which I hope the city will pursue,” Thomas said, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic is requiring elderly people to stay in their homes in the heat of the summer.
“All in all, my experience running here for office here in West Hollywood was rather pleasant,” Thomas said, noting that one challenge was that there were only 364 Black Democrats registered to vote in West Hollywood.
But, Thomas said, “I’m not going to say that it was without challenges. One of the first things that was said to me when I said I was running — someone said to me: ‘Be careful in West Hollywood West.’
“Not that anything was going to happen to me physically, but that I might get called something, that I might expect to see a cruiser or something because I am walking through the neighborhood.
“I know that I had two black volunteers. … But then you have to think: ‘there are three black people walking through this affluent neighborhood, going to door to door…’ My volunteers actually said to me ‘Do they usually patrol this often’?”
“…You don’t want to have that conversation with people who are willing to volunteer, come out in the heat, and go door to door, and now they have to deal with increased patrolling because of the color of their skin…. ,” Thomas said.
“People aren’t used to seeing … three black people walking up and down the street and again going door to door. You think Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin was going door to door the wrong way,” Thomas said, referring to the 17-year-old Black man who was shot and killed in a white neighborhood in Sanford, Fla., after visiting his father’s fiancé. Martin was killed by a white community watch volunteer who found the presence in the neighborhood of a young Black man suspicious.
Thomas said she had looked to see if she would be mentioned on the NextDoor app, which connects people with their neighbors so that they can discuss neighborhood issues and call out missing dogs or cats. The app is very popular in Los Angeles neighborhoods. Its content is not moderated, and NextDoor has been criticized for the racist comments on it.
Thomas noted that there are postings on the NextDoor app announcing that there’s “a Black man in the neighborhood. Not there’s a Black man wielding a knife. Not there’s a Black man breaking into cars. Just there’s a Black man in the neighborhood.”
Thomas is executive director of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the city’s Human Services Commission. She is rumored to be a candidate in the Nov. 3, 2020, City Council election.
Her comments about campaigning in West Hollywood West, the city’s most affluent neighborhood, follow other remarks by Black residents about their occasional discomfort in WeHo. LAist.com, a website that is part of Southern California Public Radio, published a story about the All Black Lives Matter march that referred to “WeHo’s Whiteness Problem.” And Tod Hallman, a Black man who is a long-time resident, wrote an op-ed published by WEHOville that called out the gay community for not acknowledging its race issues.