Dozens of LGBTQ leaders and allies were honored for making a difference in the community on Nov. 8 during the eighth annual Gay City News Impact Awards, presented by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, at Terrace on the Park in Queens.
Hundreds of attendees cheered on the honorees as they made their way down the red carpet to accept their awards to the tune of their own music. To top it all off, Tonewell, a queer a capella band from the Gay Men’s Chorus, lit up the night with a live performance on stage.
The honorees — representing a range of backgrounds, including advocacy, law, business, and literature — enjoyed networking and learning about fellow leaders throughout the evening.
Bethpage Federal Credit Union graciously supported the 2023 Gay City News Impact Awards as the presenting partner.
“This is such a great evening to acknowledge the diversity, equity and inclusion of so many talents out there from so many industries,” said Robert Suarez, assistant vice president of community development at Bethpage Federal Credit Union. “We are very pleased and proud to be here supporting.”
The awards were also sponsored by TD Bank; Li-Lac Chocolates; Amazon; Vishnick McGovern Milizio, LLP; BDGM, Inc; and Miss Jessie’s.
“I am so honored to meet all of you,” said Rev. Carmen Hernandez, founder of the NYC LGBTQS Chamber of Commerce and one of the honorees. “Let’s just unite to protect the people that live next door to us.”
Nick Wiggins, an honoree who serves as a health educator and coordinator at Alliance for Positive Change, appreciated the community atmosphere throughout the night.
“Just looking around the room and hearing everybody’s story, there are years of leg work, blood, sweat and tears that have been put into this community and everything that we do,” said Nick Wiggins, an honoree and health educator and coordinator at Alliance for Positive Change. “This is just fuel and energy for me to continue to do what I do.”
Past honoree Kenneth Courtney led the evening’s festivities as the emcee, while Schneps Media’s Amanda Tarley — who oversees diversity, equity, and inclusion events — organized the event and delivered opening remarks welcoming honorees.
Gay City News editor-in-chief Matt Tracy also spoke to the crowd about the determination and courage of the honorees, the adversity facing the LGBTQ community, and the gains we have witnessed in the last year.
“Visibility for the LGBTQ+ community is so important, and by sponsoring the impact awards we’re really able to sponsor the people that are on the ground doing the work, really building capacity for all the members of our community,” Steven Garibell, a vice president of community business development strategy at TD Bank, told Gay City News. “Entrepreneurs are the backbone which make the economy happen and when we see an LGBTQ entrepreneur thrive, it means that they’re adding jobs and money back into the LGBTQ community.
Andrew Werner, a New York-based photographer, received the TD Bank Outstanding Entrepreneurship Award.
“Tonight is about community, tonight is about supporting each other, and just being part of the bigger picture,” he said, jokingly referring to his profession. “Tonight we’ve got a party and are celebrating the community as a whole.”
In addition to his photography, which has graced the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times and more, Werner also launched a line of luxury lapel flowers in 2015.
Ethan Geto, an activist in the LGBTQ community since the 1970s, won the lifetime achievement award, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union. He’s currently on the boards of the American LGBTQ+ Museum and the NYC AIDS Memorial. Geto delivered remarks showcasing an old newspaper clip to emphasize the hostile realities of life for LGBTQ people in New York City in decades past.
The healthcare advocate award went to Antoine B. Craigwell, a journalist, mental health advocate, and the founder, president, and CEO of the nonprofit DBGM.
Li-Lac Chocolates, Manhattan’s oldest chocolate house and one of the evening’s generous sponsors, highlighted its close relationship with the LGBTQ community in New York City. Li-Lac is celebrating a 100-year anniversary this year.
“We started on Christopher Street — for the first eight years we were [there] — so I suppose we just naturally grew up in the [LGBTQ] community,” said Li-Lac Chocolates co-owner Christopher Taylor. “Thanks for letting us be a part of the community for the past 100 years, and hopefully another 100 years.”
There was also plenty of support in the room from Gay City News’ past honorees who attended to pay it forward, including Tom Shanahan, Mickey Heller, Melissa Sklarz, Jomil Luna, Sharen Duke, and Lucciano Reberte, among others.
The night ended with a raffle benefiting the Youth Pride Chorus, which galvanizes young LGBTQ people from 13-22 to become agents of change through song.
Gay City News will have a special issue on November 16 dedicated to the Impact Awards, with details about all the honorees.
THE 2023 HONOREES
Equality New York
NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi
Biden-Harris Administration & NYC Gay Men’s Chorus
Staten Island Pride Center
Gustavo A Morales Correa
Latino AIDS Commission
Antoine B. Craigwell
Make Big Happen, Hip Hop Pride
HEAL & Gay Rights Activist
National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC & NGLCC New York)
Geto & de Milly, Inc
McKenzie Keating & Jason Graubard
Rev. Carmen Hernandez
NYC LGBTQS Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
E.C. Pizarro III
Bethpage Federal Credit Union
Office of NY Governor Kathy Hochul
Joseph G. Milizio
Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP
Kramer Levin Naftalis Frankel LLP
Carlos N. Molina
Alice Austen House
National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC & NGLCC New York)
The Publishing Triangle
Ariel Aliza Sanders
America Works of New York, Inc
United Way of New York City
Hai Cao & Matteo Trisolini
South Slope Pediatrics
Andrew Werner Photography + Fleur’d Pins
Alliance For Positive Change