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.

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  • masc4masc

    I’m sure Councilman Butt (lol) isn’t the only one who’s been a little thrown by Beckles’. When most people think of Latina, they think of women like JLo, Eva Longoria, Sofia Vergara….not ogresses like Whoopi Goldberg. She’s probably already used to a fair amount of skepticism when she tries to say she’s Latina.

  • dtf2013

    Sorry that Afro- Latinos do not fit into one light skinned, straight haired box. Clearly you have not been out of your little trailer park [email protected]!

  • Dxley

    He’s just mad because his last name is Butt.

  • Pannyx

    So this article has one glaring mistake. Councilman Tom Butt is not the one harassing her. He seems pretty supportive from what I know. The @$$hole councilman is actually Corky Boozé. Sorry to ruin all the fabulous puns that people were thinking about making.

  • DistingueTraces

    Especially as Corky Booze is a way funnier name than just having the last name Butt

  • 1898

    Wow. This is both shocking and sad.

    I live in a small city in Maine. We’ve had black female mayors and lesbian mayors and no one ever said a single hateful word. To read that this kind of racism and homophobia is taking place in the San Francisco area is just bizarre.

  • BBellairs

    I was going to vigorously defend Whoopi Goldberg until I realized it was masc4masc who called her an ogress, and I knew it wouldn’t make any difference. Once a hater, always a hater.

  • Saint Law

    @BBellairs: Yeah, that mascara4mascara is a real stickler for femme realness.

  • james_in_cambridge

    Richmond sounds like it’s the Alabama of California.

  • Black Pegasus

    Not surprised at all. This country tells people of color to educate themselves and be patriotic Americans, yet the goal post keeps getting moved. I say this has more to do with the color of her skin more than her positions on local politics.

  • Tackle

    I cannot believe that in this day and age, that people are still ignorant about a Black/Afro-Latin/Hispanic identity. Confusing race/ethnicity with culture and nationality. Different identities, that can all be mutually inclusive. During the slave trade, the US only received about 4% of all African slaves. The bulk of Africans went to Central & South America and the Carribeian. So in the so-called new world, there are more Black Hispanics/ Latinos, then there are African Americans.

  • MarcoRabbito

    Latino just means from Latin American (first used to distinguished itself from Anglo-America/The English colonies). “Latino” encompasses people of many races. There are black Latinos and White Latinos and Mixed Latinos (Mulatto and Mestizo) and more. Most Dominicans are Black/Mulatto, most Uruguayans/Argentinians are white and most Mexicans are Mestizo….

  • Jacob23

    When you read about an extreme antigay nut like Mark Wassberg, you can be certain that he has a colorful online history. People who are this extreme and this obsessed must act out repeatedly. And sure enough, Wassberg has a long, nutty history. He has been ranting about gays at city council meetings for at least 2 years and prompted a public protest after he said that gay youth suicide was funny. As it turns out Queerty covered this story in 2012 and posted video of Wassberg and the protest. (I guess Dan Tracer doesn’t read Queerty or he would have mentioned this in his post. Well, at least Mr. Tracer has good taste.)

    Here’s the Queerty story w/video, but if you can’t get enough of his hotness, there’s plenty of other videos of him on YT:


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