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This is a work in progress.... as of Friday December 4th, 2015
THE ELECTRONIC MUSIC TASK FORCE
How did this start and how did EMA get involved?
We have always known this might happen.... history has a tendency to repeat itself, at least I have noticed in our culture. Due to drug related scrutin related to hyped overdoses and deaths due to a new drug and a new scene, the rave community was cracked down on in the early 2000's with the original Rave Act. Then, in 2010/2011, again, we were hit with a California version initiated by Fiona Ma as well as L.A, after 2010 EDC, forming the first Rave Task Force. Now, in 2015 and after two sad deaths occuring at HARD Summer festival, Los Angeles County decided it might need to crack down again. County Supervisor Nancy Solis called for a temporary ban on "raves" (electronic music events) on County land (which is where most major festivals would take place) and for the creation of a 2015 Rave Task Force to create recommendations on how these events could be made safer OR if they should be banned permanently from County owned land.
When I saw our culture blowing up in 2007-2008, I knew this would be an inevitability and it became ever more apparent to me each year. So in 2009 when I sat at the table with my now husband and friend, Monica Salazar, to talk about creating an organization that serve the community of electronic music, that this would be part of what we did -stand up for the culture if ever need be. It was part of our original mission, and still is. Our programic focus was never to be an industry advocate organization soley and on the defense. We thought we would help raise our community and industry to new levels and (hopefully) from our good works, we might avoid what I worried was an inevitability altogether. So although we have traditionally gone about encouraging our community to take part in partner charity events or do community service, we have always kept an eye out and responded when necessary. To a certain extent, I had been preparing for this all along. I didn't know when it would happen, but I had been aligning and recruting people to be part of our membership and network that would be assets in this potentnial fight.
Before I left for a month to South Korea and India, I found out that a Task Force would be formed. Hours before I left for the airport. I created a petition, something.... and started making phone calls to have different EMA members stay on watch on the news while I was gone in case I did not have connectivity. I needed them to find out when that meeting would be. Upon my return, one of my EMA members (thank you Greg) connected me with Mike Antonovich's office (he is the chair of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors). A week later I would get an email alerting me that the first Task Force meeting would be the next morning. I alerted DanceSafe L.A. as their lead Jen had reached out to me and wanted to be informed and be involved in the process. I was only as ready as I possibly could be and I had no idea what to expect. It's a good thing I know when to put on a uniform (read suit).
That next morning I took the subway downtown (because Metro is eco) and arrived in my suit to meet up with members of DanceSafe L.A, Thomas and Paul. I had mistakenly thought that the Task Force had not actually been formed already. I thought the meeting was to form the Task Force and that we might have a place at the table.... I was wrong. We walked into a room with a rectangular, enclosed structure with name tags assigned.... This was a public meeting (of course) but it was obviously not an open meeting. I sit as a board member on my local North Hollywood neighborhood Council. When we have meetings, we face the public. The Task Force faced each other. The "public" sat around them.
Half of the Task Force is Law Enforcement and Fire. There was one member from Homeland Security. It was an intimidating room to be in initially.
However, as soon as the meeting actually began, the fears began to fade. Wesley Ford the appointed Task Force Chair (Department of Public Health), had not just the Task Force make introductions but every single member of the public that attended. He didn't have to do that, he could have only had "public comment period", traditionally at the end of a meeting. I really appreciated that he allowed time to find out what public stakeholders were in attendance and what our intentions were.
This was the first meeting. This was a very positive meeting. The first thing I felt I heard Wesley say was "maybe zero tolerance policy is not working" and said something along the lines of "perhaps we need to move into a direction of harm reduciton". I was very pleased to hear this. The meeting was short. One hour. Half of it went to introductions so the meeting went quickly. It was mainly about setting rules for the Task Force, where they would meet, our regularly, and how they would proceed. Wesley's idea was to break into subcommittees of Best Practices, Medical, and Law Enforcement and..... he expressed that the electronic community should have their own subcommittee, possibly influenced by us (EMA) showing up. We are after all, an aggregate community organization for our scene. This was again, very positive. He did not have to do that. He could have allowed our community to simply sit on the other subcommittees. Instead, he let us have our own. In my mind that left us able to say things people at the table, under the hats and badges they have to wear, say things they would not feel comfortable saying themselves whether they agreed with it personally or not. So in my mind, I declared a minor Victory. The consensus between myself, Thomas, and Paul was "hey that was positive".
Due to some comments I made, we were told we would be allowed a time to present to the board to reflect the ideas of the subcommittee EMA had been granted to head.
EMA, through me, had been granted the privileage to lead the subcommittee for the Electronic Music Community. We had also been invited to participate on Benedict Lee's Education and Best Practices subcommittee. That didn't mean we were on the Task Force and could sit at the table. Although I technically did that day.
This meeting was mostly Ben's presentation from 2010 about the culture. Ben likes our culture, but it's not really his favorite. That being said, there was no malice or vendetta on his part with the presenation he gave. He was simply presenting on what the Task Force in 2010 did and came up with including materials. The presentation had it's good parts, but it also had some outdated elements that could have been stigmatizing. It was good I was there to help clarify ;) Butterfly wings no longer mean you are a drug dealer, it could of course but most likely it's someone that just wanted to be a butterfly because butterflies are awesome.
This meeting was attended by more members of EMA including Allan Gelbard (1st Amendement rights attorney), David Loomstein (event producer and DJ), and Joseph Petit of DPA.
Due to some of my and Allan's comments concerning MDMA, they wanted a toxicologist to come in and present to the board and BEFORE we (our subcommittee for the electronic music community) would be allowed to present.
This meeting, compared to the two prior was in my mind an Epic Fail. I felt like we went backwards. The toxicologist they brought in, though knowledgable and clearly a good human being, had no idea how stigmatizing his presentation was toward our community. I will have to go into this later....
And the scramble was on to figure out what we would present to the board and who I might want to call in to help... what was becoming clear is that yes, the elephant in the room was drugs.
I called in the head honchos. We had an A Team I would say. We were graced by the presence of Mark Lawrence Director of AFEM (Association for Electronic Music the trade body/ industry organization for our scene), Missi Wooldridge the Executive Director for DanceSafe National, and Dr. Dina Perrone (Ph.D) from CSULB who teaches Criminal Justice.
Here is our presentation. I will expound upon the ideas presented and strategy going into this later.... STAY TUNED.
We had our say in meeting four. The Task Force head what they needed to hear. This meeting being the second to last was about work. Going over the recommendations all subcommittees had been working on the last month and half. I wrote a whole report I will make public later... overall positive. We had a blow but.... if all recommendations were accepted and at the end of the day the events were allowed to continue as 18+, we would "win". What was clear is that the Task Force will not be recommending a ban, they are creating recommendations that will keep the events safer.
However, there was concern about the age limit. Our community is often young so the fight for 18 could be the real concern. So our concern was we don't know what the Board of Supervisors will want. They may not want to bother with these events at all. That is a hard truth to recognize as a possiblity after all this work and especially after so much good work --because I believe that the ideas coming out of this Task Force, if standardized, could actually help save lives.
Remember when I said if the Task Force recommended the age to be 18 we should consider it a win? Well, by that standards I would say we won. You can check out the full recommendations that were approved by the Task Force HERE. However, I would now say we are "winning" but we have not won becasuse.... there is one more meeting. The one with the real decision makers. You see, the Task Force was merely that, a task force. Tasked to make recommendations about safety or if these events should even go on but their recommendations were always going to the powers at be because the Task Force was an advisory body. They advise the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. We are winning becasue they recommended the age of 18 vs. 21 and they are recommending that the recommendations be adopted vs. banning events.....
BUT WHAT NOW???
The next meeting is the big one. The Board of Supervisor meeting. As of today, we still don't know when that will be. I'm hoping not next Tuesday but for January. What is becoming clear to me is that this does not end tomorrow. I think there is much work to do leading up to the Board of Supervisor meeting. I think, our community will still have a lot to prove. If it goes our way, great. However, it may not and we are already thinking of those strategies. What is becoming clear is that we will absolutely need the help of our community, in a capacity that our community has never come together, if it does not go our way. I'm ready to rally the troops and I can only hope they will respond.Here's something we can start to do immediately to get ready.... start signing this petition again....SIGN IT. SHARE IT. Don't Ban EDM Events
Over 20 years ago my husband and his music partner created an anthem track called "Keep Hope Alive" to acknowledge the waning Rave scene (that inspired their music). Waning because it was under attack in L.A. I suppose it has come full circle. Here we are again, fighting for the scene, and trying to Keep Hope Alive.
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