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Jewel Thais-Williams Square to be Dedicated for Catch One Founder, Human Rights Legend

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LOS ANGELES — Jewel Thais-Williams, the legendary human rights activist and founder of Catch One, the oldest Black owned disco in America, will be honored by the City of Los Angeles with the dedication of a square in her honor at Pico Boulevard and Norton Avenue.

With this designation, Thais-Williams becomes the second Black woman in the history of City of Los Angeles to have a square named after her and the first Black lesbian to receive the honor.

Opened in 1973, Jewel’s Catch One quickly became a safe haven for the Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. It was also a hub for a diverse population of performers, including Sylvester, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, Donna Summer, Whoopi Goldberg, Rick James, and Madonna.

On Saturday, October 5 at 3 p.m., Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson will designate the intersection of Pico Blvd. and Norton Ave. as “JEWEL THAIS-WILLIAMS SQUARE.” Members of the public can RSVP to attend the ceremony online by clicking here.

“Everybody deserves to be able to enjoy a night out where they can feel safe and welcomed, but before Jewel Thais-Williams, that was not the reality for Los Angeles’ Black LGBTQ+ community,” said Wesson. “With Jewel’s Catch One, she built a home for young, Black queer people who were often isolated and shut out at their own homes, and in doing so changed the lives of so many.”

“Jewel is more than deserving to be the first Black lesbian woman with a dedicated square in the City of Los Angeles for this and so many other reasons,” said Wesson.

For over four decades, Thais-Williams helped change the course of our country by breaking down racial, social, and cultural barriers. One of the original safe spaces for the Black LGBT community, The Catch also served as a refuge for many during the AIDS crisis. As Thais-Williams’ club grew to become known as the “unofficial Studio 54 of the West Coast,” Jewel became a national role model for how to fight discrimination and serve the less fortunate. 

Thais-Williams graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in History, and during her college years, she wanted to be self-employed. Her first business was a boutique, but it went out of business, so she bought a bar. She opened the club after she experienced discrimination in different clubs around West Hollywood, because she was Black and female. Women at the time were not allowed to tend bar, but Jewel saved enough money and bought the bar despite the limitations.

While she was still the owner of the nightclub, Jewel went back to school and got her Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from Samra University in 1998. Due to the high rate of preventable diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, in minority populations, Jewel decided to open a non-profit called the Village Health Foundation next door to The Catch. It was created with the purpose of educating lower-income communities on nutrition and living a more healthy lifestyle and continues to serve the community.

As profiled by journalist Karen Ocamb, “Thais-Williams became a mother figure to many, helping her ‘kids’ get clean and sober and providing comfort to Black gay men rejected by their families and church during the AIDS crisis. But Thais-Williams took the extra step, co-founding the Minority AIDS Project and the Imani Unidos Food Pantry in South L.A. and joining the Board of AIDS Project Los Angeles to bring their HIV/AIDS services ‘down to the hood.’” Ocamb continued, “additionally, with her wife Rue, Thais-Williams founded Rue’s House, the nation’s first housing facility for women with AIDS and their children, most of whom were poor and Black.”

Thais-Williams funded Rue’s house from revenue made at The Catch. A number of the women living with AIDS staying at Rue’s House publicly raised the issue of what would happen to their children after they died.  After the women gained access to life-saving HIV medications, Rue’s House transitioned into a sober living facility. 

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Alerts

WeHo Calendar: Changes to City’s Upcoming Scheduled Events

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photo by Kimberly Farmer

WEST HOLLYWOOD– The city has announced that due to safety concerns, a number of events sponsored by WeHo will be cancelled until further notice. The City urges people to practice social distancing as much as possible, keeping exposure to crowds to a minimum.

Sunday, March 15

2:00 PM (Cancelled) NOW- Hollywood Chapter presents ‘The TransVagina Diaries’ by Lindsey Deaton

2:00 PM (Cancelled) REVIVING THE REVOLUTION: Empowered Lesbians and Queer Women of Color Read and Discuss Their Written Works

Monday, March 16

9:00 AM (Cancelled) Helen Albert Certified Farmers’ Market

6:30 PM City Council Meeting

Tuesday, March 17

6:30 PM (Cancelled) 5th Annual Hollywood NOW Herstory Awards & Reception

7:00 PM (Cancelled) Russian Advisory Board

Wednesday, March 18

6:00 PM (Cancelled) Wednesday Night Social Club

6:30 PM (Cancelled) Transportation Commission

Thursday, March 19

2:00 PM (Cancelled) beWellWeHo: UCLA Memory Training

5:00 PM (Cancelled) Urban Art Subcommittee Meeting

5:30 PM (Cancelled) Long Range Planning Projects Subcommittee – Special Meeting

6:30 PM Planning Commission – Special Meeting

Friday, March 20

No events scheduled

Saturday, March 21

9:00 AM (Cancelled) Annual Arbor Day Celebration

11:30 AM (Cancelled) “Play Ball” Skills Clinics and Home Run Derby

For a look at the entire month visit our website calendar.

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City

WeHo JFS Service Changes For Seniors and Others Due to Virus

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WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City of West Hollywood is taking every precaution to prioritize community health and well being to respond to coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The City is getting the word out about updates regarding services for seniors at the West Hollywood Comprehensive Services Center at Plummer Park and services available from Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS)

  • JFS has immediately cancelled all activities at the West Hollywood Comprehensive Services Center at Plummer Park until April 10, 2020 as a precaution to safeguard health and safety and JFS will make assessments as the situation evolves;
  • The JFS meal site will provide a frozen meal for each client coming to its meal sites on Monday, March 16, 2020 and Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and the organization anticipates providing additional meals for clients in order to minimize client contact and support recommendations for social distancing;
  • Additionally, SOVA, the JFS food pantry, located on Pico and Robertson Boulevards, continues to remain open for community members.

The JFS West Hollywood Comprehensive Service Center remains a vital resource for seniors and people with disabilities and it will continue to be operational at this time. Operated by Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS), funded in large part by the City of West Hollywood, and located in the community center at Plummer Park, the Center is a one-stop source of support and assistance.

In response to concerns about coronavirus, JFS requests that community members contact the Center by phone instead of in person. Currently, case managers are reaching out to connect with clients and assess needs. For more information, please call (323) 851-8202.

For additional information about social services in the City of West Hollywood, please call (323) 848-6510.

The City of West Hollywood will post updates on its website at weho.org/coronavirus. The City is updating its calendar and information will be available at weho.org/calendar.

For updates from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health about Coronavirus, please visit publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus.

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Community

Seniors in Action: Community + Connection + Conversation – Mar 24

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WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City of West Hollywood Seniors in Action: Community + Connection + Conversation is an active on-going program for residents.

It offers activities that provide engaging opportunities for participants to learn something new, contribute their talents and experience, and deepen their connection to the West Hollywood community.

Refreshments will be served. Presented by the West Hollywood Comprehensive Services Center in collaboration with the City of West Hollywood and its Senior Advisory Board.

Attendance is free and open to the public; RSVPs are not necessary.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard.

For more information, please contact Corey Roskin at (323) 848-6403 or croskin@weho.org or Valentina Aleksandrova at (323) 876-1717 or aleksandrova@jfsla.org.

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