This Latina Lesbian Has A Secret Weapon To Overcome Hate

628x471Across the bay from San Francisco, where alternative lifestyles are about as shocking as chilly August days, is the city of Richmond. And its Vice Mayor, Jovanka Beckles, may as well live in rural Alabama. Because despite being in the Bay Area, she encounters an unbelievable amount of unchecked hate — from her constituents, and more inexcusably, her colleagues.

Beckles self describes as a black Latina lesbian; she was born in Panama to Caribbean parents who traveled there to work on the Panama Canal. She is married to her partner of 14 years and has a grown son. If all of this sound like the stuff of a great story of diversity and overcoming challenges, you’d only be half right. All the elements are there, and yet she endures vitriolic taunting and harassment at every city counsel meeting she attends.

One constituent, Mark Wassberg, recently stepped up to the podium and told her:

“I’m going to keep coming up here and tell you how gays have no morality. … You’re filth. You’re dirt. Because I have the constitutional right to say it.”

And as if that weren’t enough, Beckles is also being attacked by City Councilman Corky Booze, who goes after her not only for her sexuality but because he takes issue with her “Latina black” identity.

He told SF Gate:

“Some people don’t care for her lifestyle. I don’t care for it myself, but she takes that in a homophobic way. I’m not homophobic – my ex-wife is a lesbian. She says she’s a black Latina. Well, you’re either African American or you’re not.”


With all this nastiness constantly focused on her, you’d think she would totally break down. And she is only human — after one recent homophobic encounter with a heckler, she told him to, “Get the fuck out of my face.” Seems like an entirely natural request to us, but then of course she got attacked for using “inappropriate language.”

It would seem she can’t win. But Beckles’ secret weapon to combat the hate is a surprisingly simple concept — stay the course.

She’s committed to improving her community, even when some of it is equally committed to tearing her down. “We’re making big strides,” she told SF Gate. 

Her other ways of coping?

She drinks a lot of chamomile tea and warm almond milk. She meditates. She lifts weights. She rides her motorcycle, a Suzuki Boulevard 650, and mixes music, mostly funk and old-school hip-hop.

Sounds like our kind of politician.

via SF Gate

Update: A previous version of this story reported that Councilman Tom Butt opposes Jovanka Beckles. Councilman Butt is a supporter, and it is Councilman Corky Booze who made the negative comments towards her.