Donna Aceto, who over three decades of photographic work for LGBTQ and AIDS groups and media has left an indelible documentary history of New York queer life, began her career as did many who came of age in the ‘80s — a part of the community but closeted on the job, in her case on Wall Street.
Still, the gravity of the HIV crisis drew her early into the fray, shooting the earliest AIDS Walks produced by Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Aceto was quickly enlisted for The Volunteer, GMHC’s widely circulated monthly newsletter, where in center photo spreads she chronicled everything from agency programs to the earliest Dyke Marches. The AIDS Walk recognized her work with an Outstanding Volunteer Award in 1991, and in 2004 she was inducted into the AIDS Walk Hall of Fame.
At her day job, meanwhile, the hiding and the homophobia took their toll, and when she left she came out fully as a lesbian and entered the world of photojournalism, finding her true métier. In addition to her freelance work, she assumed posts as picture editor at prestigious titles such as LIFE and TIME.
Her work for The Volunteer at GMHC led her to its Lesbian AIDS Project, an early response to the epidemic’s spread among women. Recalling that work, Aceto said, “To this day, I remain touched by how those women allowed my camera into their lives.” In 1998, Aceto was honored with the Lesbian AIDS Project Appreciation Award.
Aceto has also done special event photography for a host of other community organizations, including the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York Women’s Foundation, SAGE, Iris House, and Marriage Equality New York. She developed one of her proudest bonds with the late Edie Windsor. In the last year of Windsor’s life, Aceto presented her with a bound volume of gorgeous photos she shot of that extraordinary woman’s tireless activism.
For well over a decade, Aceto has been Gay City News’ most prolific photo contributor, never turning down a chance to chronicle a community still pushing for our just place in society. Whether it’s the Center’s annual Women’s Event, the Trans Day of Action, the Dyke March, the Pride Parade, a Gays Against Guns demo, or a rally against Donald Trump, you will find Donna Aceto there, camera in hand and passion in her heart.
A native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, who attended college in North Carolina, Jerry Allred began his career managing a retail card and gift shop in Raleigh. After moving to New York to take on more responsibilities for the national retailer, he in time became the owner of his own retail shop on Manhattan’s East Side.
When the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus was launched in the early 1980s, Allred was a charter member and served as treasurer, earning the nickname Treasurella. While in the chorus, he met a man who was his partner for 13 years until his death from AIDS. In his memory, Allred started an HIV/ AIDS support group at the Bay Ridge church where he was a member of the vestry, and he volunteered to help out patients with HIV/ AIDS at Lutheran Medical Center. He also rented out his garden apartment to people living with AIDS who experienced difficulties finding landlords willing to consider them as tenants.
In 1996, Allred co-chaired the inaugural Brooklyn Pride March and Festival, working with then-State Senator Marty Markowitz and a large crew of volunteers to stage 32 fundraisers needed to make the event possible. In 2010, he was honored for his long service to Brooklyn Pride by being named a grand marshal. The following year, Allred rejoined the event’s board as secretary, a post in which he led the effort to move the festival from Prospect Park to Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue and create two performance stages for the daylong street fair.
When Markowitz became borough president in 2002, Allred joined his staff as deputy director for the public events department, where he organized many popular annual heritage and holiday events while also serving as liaison to the LGBTQ community.
In that role, Allred was active in the effort to create an LGBTQ community center in the borough, which today is known as the Brooklyn Community Pride Center and is located on Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Among Allred’s other contributions to the community is his role as vendor coordinator for the annual Brooklyn Book Festival, where he juggles 300 vendors and oversees ad sales for the event journal.
Reflecting on his years of volunteerism, Allred said, “There are so many good people out there that you meet while volunteering and getting involved. Try it — you might like it!”
MOHAMED Q. AMIN
A pioneering Indo-Caribbean Muslim gay rights activist, Mohamed Q. Amin was born in Guyana and currently lives in Richmond Hill, Queens. On the eve of the 2013 New York City Pride Parade, he and his siblings were viciously attacked for being members of the LGBTQ community in their Southeast Queens neighborhood. In response to the violence facing his community, in 2015 he founded the Caribbean Equality Project (CEP) a non-profit LGBTQ group based in Queens.
Through CEP, Amin works to end gender-based and anti-LGBTQ hate violence — especially against transgender New Yorkers — to combat racism, and to dismantle systems of oppression. The organization does community outreach and engagement with allied organizations to uplift and empower Caribbean LGBTQ voices across the city.
The group’s programs include a cultural-specific support group and intersectional services that emphasize immigration, family acceptance, healthy relationships, education, faith, HIV/ AIDS prevention and care, visibility, and storytelling. To break the silence on Caribbean LGBTQ issues, Amin has organized educational community engagement forums at schools and civic organizations. To date, CEP is the only educational-based agency in New York serving the Caribbean-American LGBTQ community.
Amin has been able to amplify his group’s mission and work through profiles in Caribbean Life, the Times Ledger of Queens, The Advocate, The Village Voice, Voices of NY, masha
Following the shooting of 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, Amin worked relentlessly to amplify queer Muslim voices at a time of finger-pointing against their community, and his work there was recognized by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at the Council’s 2016 Eid ul-Fitr Celebration. He has also been honored by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, gay City Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, and State Senator James Sanders.
In 2015, Amin became the first Indo-Caribbean LGBTQ activist to be featured on BRIC TV, the cable TV network based in Brooklyn. Last year, he co-organized “Breaking Silences,” the first International Caribbean LGBTQ conference, held in Toronto.
Amin is a graduate of the New York City Anti-Violence Project’s Community Leadership Institute and Speaker’s Bureau, and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Queens College. He has worked for more than 13 years in the retail banking industry, where he has managed customer relations and office operations and provided financial services. He is currently pursuing a master’s in mental health counseling at Queens College.
For more than a decade, Robert Atterbury has worked in government to strengthen the voice of the LGBTQ community in New York politics. He currently serves as a senior assistant to veteran West Side Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, responsible for LGBTQ concerns and community affairs.
Atterbury is also the recent executive vice president of the Stonewall Democrats of New York City, where he has long been an actively contributing leader.
Working in Nadler’s office, Atterbury spearheaded the campaign to designate the Stonewall National Monument in 2016, working to build support from local civic groups to the White House — including moving authorizing legislation through both the New York City Council and the New York State Legislature. On June 24 of that year, President Barack Obama, drawing on the 1906 Antiquities Act, designated Christopher Park, across the street from the Stonewall, as a national monument, and three days later Nadler was joined by the secretary of the Interior, the National Park Service director, and top White House aide Valerie Jarrett in dedicating the site.
Prior to joining Nadler’s office, Atterbury was deputy chief of staff to State Senator Brad Hoylman, the only out LGBTQ member of the Senate. There, he launched the successful 2015 effort to nearly double state funding for runaway and homeless youth, the first increase in more than seven years. Other major victories included securing insurance coverage for transition-related care under both private insurance and Medicaid in 2014, and legislation to expand access to meningitis vaccines in the midst of an alarming outbreak of the disease among gay and bisexual men in 2013.
Through his work with Stonewall Democrats of New York City, Atterbury has made it his priority to publicize candidates’ records on the community’s top issues through questionnaires published on the club’s website. He has also played a key role in putting together major candidate debates, including the historic 2013 event that brought together the Democratic mayoral field at Baruch College. Atterbury also helped organize community responses to major events, including the 13,000-person vigil for the victims of the Pulse massacre and the snap-vigil for Edie Windsor at the time of her death.
Atterbury holds a bachelor of arts from New York University and a master’s degree in public administration from Baruch College. His passion for local empowerment extends to his work founding a community garden near his home in Brooklyn.
ROSCOE BOYD II
Roscoe Boyd has lived with HIV since 2001. “For many of those years,” he wrote in a 2017 essay in POZ magazine, “I felt insecurity, fear, helplessness… like death was near. I was so deep into drugs that they became a ‘safe place’ for me.”
But since 2016, Boyd has been open about his HIV status — initially going public on social media platforms — and he works to help others living with the virus understand they can find hope and purpose in their lives, in part by educating them and the wider world that with treatment adherence their virus will become undetectable and so untransmissible to sexual partners.
He pursued this advocacy as a founding steering committee member of U=U, a global push on the part of the Prevention Access Campaign to disseminate what was long viewed as a revolutionary notion. By 2017, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publicly acknowledged that achieving an undetectable viral load means that an HIV-positive person is not at risk for passing on the virus. That is a central tenet of New York State’s push to eradicate HIV as an epidemic.
For Boyd, his journey has been as much personal as public. In his POZ essay, he talked about ending up in a homeless shelter at age 30, working at a burger joint, and “not really knowing what to do with my life.”
In a 2017 New York Times article, he credited a speech he heard the year before at a Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement event from another person facing a life-challenging illness with giving him insight that a traumatic experience can become empowering. “As a young black man with huge financial burdens and no job,” he wrote in POZ, he was relieved to find support from community-based organizations that were “affirming and ‘got me,’ without judgment.”
In turn, he was eager to share that support — and the message that U=U is “empowering for me and for my ability to choose healthy outcomes for my life” — with other HIV-positive people, particularly black gay and bisexual men.
“My journey has convinced me to keep my heart open to love, and to stand in the gap for those who cannot,” Boyd wrote. “Everyone living with HIV regardless of viral load is worthy of love. I am not ashamed. I am not afraid.”
Marcy Carr, MSW, is the operations director for the Pride Center of Staten Island, where she first began volunteering in 2014 and joined the staff the following year.
As Carr likes to say, she has been an advocate for others since the age of four. Growing up with an exceptionally shy brother, she would introduce him and herself by saying, “Hi, I’m Marcy, and this is my brother Keith. He’s three, likes naps, and loves chocolate pudding.”
Working at a Police Athletic League camp as a teenager, she taught arts and volunteered to be interpreter and liaison between camp staff and counselors from the Lexington School for the Deaf, helping everyone understand that with a bit of patience they can learn to speak the same language.
Raising five children — she’s now the Bubbe, or grandmother, to two — Carr was active with the PTA at several Staten Island public schools and headed a safety committee at one in raising that school’s concerns about its interactions with the NYPD.
Having started her bachelor’s degree in 1982, Carr returned to get her degree after her children were grown, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of Staten Island in 2012 and a master’s in social work from New York University in 2015.
During her time at the College of Staten Island, she got involved with the Gay-Straight Alliance, in time serving on its executive committee, and became involved in social justice efforts there and with the Pride Center, as well.
While still a volunteer at the Pride Center, she co-chaired the 2014 5k Pride Run held as part of the PrideFest celebration that the Center produces each summer in the borough. The following year, she joined the planning committee for the PrideFest and was instrumental in putting together the year’s biggest fundraiser, “One Island, One Pride,” to support the event. Carr now chairs the PrideFest.
Carr joined the Pride Center staff using her expertise as an MSW to work with its mental health program.
In addition to her responsibilities as operations director there, she is also the Pride Center’s delegate to InterPride, the international association of Pride celebrations. In that capacity, Carr is the district vice president for the Northeast US region and chairs the InterPride Fund development committee.
Brian Downey has been president of the Gay Officers Action League of New York since January 2016. Committed to the group since his rookie days in 2008, he also served as recording secretary, treasurer, and vice president.
Downey’s priority as GOAL’s president has been to re-establish ties with community advocacy groups, service providers, and activists to ensure LGBTQ New Yorkers have a voice inside the criminal justice system. He expanded GOAL’s training beyond new police recruits — at both the New York Police Academy and the Jersey City Police Department — to include executive staff and supervisors.
“We’ve been training recruits for years,” Downey told Gay City News last year. “I’ve seen reactions to that training improve.”
He also talked about the group’s upcoming appearance before NYPD senior brass later in 2018.
“This October, GOAL is going to present to everyone ranked captain and above with the police commissioner standing next to us,” he said. “It’s his conference.”
An example of the ways GOAL serves as a bridge between the NYPD and the LGBTQ community came in June 2016, when Queer Nation called for a vigil outside the Stonewall Inn less than 48 hours after a gunman killed 49 people in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Though organizers sought no permit and did not consult with police, the NYPD closed Christopher Street and several hundred participants gathered for more than two hours. Afterward, organizers — veterans of ACT UP, Queer Nation, and other activist groups — could be seen thanking police.
“I quarterbacked that,” Downey said, explaining that in the wake of Orlando, “The department leaned on GOAL more than any other time in history.”
Downey began his criminal justice career in 2005 with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey, and since joining the NYPD has served in the Transit Bureau, the Special Victims Division, the Hate Crime Task Force, and the Office of the Chief of Department. He is currently assigned to the Office of the Police Commissioner. Downey was promoted to detective in 2015 and was elected a union delegate in the Police Benevolent Association.
Downey earned his bachelor’s degree from Ramapo College of New Jersey, is a founding board member of the Brooklyn Irish LGBTQ Organization, and was recognized by the Research Foundation to Cure AIDS. A resident of Bay Ridge, he is a lector at Saint Athanasius Catholic Church.
THE RICHARD C. FAILLA LGBTQ COMMISSION
Hon. Marcy L. Kahn and Hon. Joanne Winslow, both associate justices of the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, are co-chairs and Matthew Skinner is executive director of the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission of the New York State Courts.
The Failla Commission was established by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks in December 2016 “to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues and foster a more equitable, supportive environment for LGBTQ members within the justice system.” It has developed and presented extensive training and educational programs and materials for judges, non-judicial personnel, and court partners throughout the state and organized or participated in LGBTQ Pride Month events in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Central Islip, Ithaca, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Albany, Batavia, Delhi, White Plains, and Kingston.
On the policy front, the Failla Commission proposed amendments to the court system antidiscrimination rules and policies to expressly prohibit discrimination based on “gender identity” and “gender expression” — amendments approved by the Judicial Departments, the Administrative Board of the Courts, and the Court of Appeals in 2018. It has begun working to ensure full access by transgender and gender nonconforming employees, attorneys, and members of the public to court system facilities, including bathrooms.
Justice Kahn sits on the Appellate Division’s First Department bench in Manhattan. She was elected to the Supreme Court in New York County in 1994, having been the first out lesbian appointed as a judge of the New York City Criminal Court in 1987. Prior to that, Kahn spent nearly a decade as a civil litigation attorney at major New York law firms, after serving as a special assistant attorney general investigating corruption in the city’s criminal justice system.
The founding chair of the LGBT Community Center’s board, Kahn led the negotiations with the city to purchase the Center’s West 13th Street home in 1983. She was also a founding member of the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Judges and has served on the boards of Lambda Legal, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Among many honors, Kahn has been recognized by LeGaL, the LGBT Law Association and Foundation of Greater New York, and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
Kahn received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and her J.D. from New York University School of Law. She and her spouse, Diane Churchill, are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in 2019.
Justice Winslow sits on the Appellate Division’s Fourth Department bench in Rochester, to which she was named in 2017. She was elected to the State Supreme Court in 2008, after spending more than two decades as an assistant district attorney with Monroe County. In 1993, she was named deputy chief of the Local Courts Bureau, and later served as chief of the Elder Abuse Bureau, deputy chief of the Major Felony Bureau, and finally chief of the Major Felony Bureau. In some instances, she was the first woman to hold the position.
Winslow is a graduate of Springfield College in Massachusetts and Albany Law School.
Matthew Skinner became executive director of the Failla Commission this past fall after serving for four years as executive director of LeGaL, the LGBT Bar Association and Foundation of Greater New York. As leader of the Failla Commission, Skinner works closely with senior court system leadership in efforts to promote equal participation in and access to the courts and the legal profession by everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. He earlier worked as a litigator at Proskauer Rose LLP, and clerked for the Honorable Richard K. Eaton at the US Court of International Trade.
Skinner graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame and Albany Law School.
The late Richard C. Failla, a graduate of the University of Florida and Columbia Law School and a Navy veteran, was an assistant district attorney in Manhattan before Mayor Ed Koch named him as an administrative law judge in 1978. Seven years later, Koch appointed him as the first out gay judge in the city Criminal Court, and in 1988, Failla became the first gay person elected to the New York State Supreme Court. Failla, who served on the board at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, died in 1993 at the age of 53.
Steven Garibell is a TD Bank vice president who is the business development officer for its LGBTQ initiatives, with responsibilities not only for bringing the bank’s services to enterprises owned by members of the community but also working to ensure that TD is the top employer of LGBTQ professionals in the industry.
He has spent 12 years fostering banking relationships with the LGBTQ community in New Jersey and New York, most recently as TD Bank’s small business relationship manager in the Bronx.
Garibell, who attended Montclair State University in New Jersey, began his career in retail banking with Wachovia/ Wells Fargo, where he helped build its Pride Business Resource Group throughout the Garden State. When he joined TD Bank in 2012, he became a financial educator and involved himself with both its Volunteer and its Pride Business Resource Group Networks.
Over time, Garibell joined the commercial banking group as a relationship manager, having completed the Risk Management Association’s credit training for commercial lenders program.
As part of his community outreach, Garibell continues his work as a financial educator through TD Bank’s Five Boro Chamber Alliance and in monthly classes he facilitates that are sponsored by the New York City Department of Small Business Services. He takes a particular interest in delivering business and community development into LGBTQ markets and neighborhoods, and leverages his skills and experience in professional networking through both Out Professionals and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. At NGLCC, he is a member of the Certification Committee, headquartered in Washington, DC, that verifies that participating enterprises are LGBTQ-owned and operated. That certification, in turn, helps business owners gain access to vendor diversity initiatives at larger corporations looking to purchase the goods and services they offer.
Animating Garibell’s career is the belief that everyone should have a chance to be successful, no matter what their background is. Based on that view, he works to drive positive change through working collaborations that enrich the lives of the LGBTQ community and its talented entrepreneurs and small business owners.
A past board member of the YMCA, Garibell lent his insight and experience to that organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
He has done volunteer work with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, SAGE, Destination Tomorrow, and Project Eats.
A senior attorney in Lambda Legal’s national headquarters in Manhattan, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan’s work spans all aspects of the LGBTQ civil rights legal firm’s impact litigation, policy advocacy, and public education efforts.
As a member of the legal team in the historic 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case, he was active in winning the final victory for marriage equality in the US. He earlier had been lead counsel in the successful challenge to Puerto Rico’s marriage ban and co-lead counsel in the winning fight against Louisiana’s ban.
More recently, Gonzalez-Pagan was Lambda’s co-counsel in the first two appeals court victories holding that sexual orientation employment discrimination is covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII. He was the lead counsel in the first court victory finding that the Federal Housing Act’s sex discrimination prohibition covers anti-LGBTQ discrimination and in a court ruling holding that the US Constitution’s equal protection guarantee protects transgender students in schools, including access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Gonzalez-Pagan also represents a transgender man denied a hysterectomy by a Catholic hospital.
An emerging and passionate advocate for the LGBTQ civil rights, Gonzalez-Pagan has spoken at many leading bar associations and law schools, including Columbia, Cornell, Penn, and Stanford. In 2018, the Hispanic National Bar Association recognized him as one of the Top Lawyers Under 40, and the National LGBT Bar Association named him one of 2016’s Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40. Gonzalez-Pagan was also recognized as a Public Interest Leader by the Boston Bar Association and with the Young Alumni Award from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Prior to joining Lambda Legal, Gonzalez-Pagan served as an assistant attorney general of Massachusetts, a special assistant district attorney, and an associate general counsel to the Massachusetts inspector general. As assistant attorney general, he was part of the team that successfully represented Massachusetts in its challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act before the First Circuit Court of Appeals, a preliminary win on the road to DOMA being struck down in 2013.
Gonzalez-Pagan, who was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was an editor of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, and also earned a master’s in environmental studies from Penn. His bachelor’s degree is in biology from Cornell University.
Cristina Herrera, who identifies as a Translatina, immigrated to the US from El Salvador in 1980. By the mid-‘80s, she had come to New York to “find herself” and begin her gender transition.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Queens College, Herrera became deeply involved in New York’s transgender community and emerged as a leader among Translatinx folks.
In an overview of her experience as an activist in New York, Herrera has written that she has “witnessed many good things that the transgender community has accomplished,” but also seen how her community “has been targeted, discriminated against, and abused.” And she has “witnessed firsthand” the fact that for many in her community “opportunities don’t come very easy.”
In 2007, Herrera convened a group of friends and they established what is now known as the Translatinx Network. The group aims to organize and empower the transgender immigrant community through leadership development and education. Transgender individuals engaged in the Network work locally as well as nationally to promote the healthy development of transgender Latinx communities.
The Network delivers a wide range of information about services and events, educational outreach, and capacity building resources, and in that way supports individuals in maintaining personal wellness and developing leadership skills. That work allows the Network to create safe and productive spaces for transgender women free of transphobia and other forms of discrimination.
The Translatinx Network aims to be a collective voice for the concerns of Latina transgender women, focused on issues including the recognition of their rights and the advocacy for change through promoting a direct connection to policy makers here and across the nation.
Through active and consistent engagement, the Network aims to implement sustainable programs to serve the community for years to come.
Over 11 years of work at the LGBT Community Center, from 2007 until 2018, Herrera also worked on behalf of New York’s transgender community. For the first nine years, she served as community prevention coordinator at the Gender Identity Project.
From there, she went on to become the Transgender/ Gender Non-Conforming services coordinator, reponsible for the planning, implementation, and delivery of the Center’s full range of services to TGNC people. Among the programs she oversaw were ones focused on access to education, jobs, and housing, all focused on closing the socioeconomic gap that continues to hobble trans communities.
DR. ROSS G. HEWITT
Dr. Ross G. Hewitt, associate medical director for Partnership In Care at MetroPlus Health Plan since June 2015, oversees the quality of care delivered to more than 7,000 HIV-positive MetroPlus members.
Since joining MetroPlus, Hewitt has overseen the redesign of the organization’s HIV care coordination program, extending it into hospital and community clinics as well as directing its contribution to the State’s End the Epidemic campaign through peer outreach, creative arts workshops, and text reminders to improve medication adherence.
MetroPlus Health Plan is a subsidiary of NYC Health + Hospitals that offers low to no-cost insurance to city residents eligible under Medicaid and Medicare programs.
The mandate Hewitt had coming to MetroPlus was to take “a fresh look” at how the organization served its HIV-positive members.
“We were primarily a telephone-based care delivery service,” he explained to Gay City News. That approach enabled the organization to serve about 40 percent of its HIV-positive members, but left a majority unengaged.
“We had to get out into the community,” Hewitt explained, noting that a telephone-based approach is “limiting.” Some income-limited members don’t have phones or are on minute-based plans. More importantly, “HIV is a very private matter,” he said. Establishing initial rapport over the phone is difficult, and might even seem intrusive or intimidating.
The approach, Hewitt explained, was to send MetroPlus “health and wellness advisors” into city clinics and hospitals where its HIV-positive members typically access care.
“Traditionally, managed care is looked at by consumers as a way to avoid providing care. That’s not our philosophy,” Hewitt said. “We believe more contact means better health outcomes.”
Hewitt arrived at MetroPlus with a strong background in HIV care. A Brooklyn native, raised in the Bronx, he was a 1983 graduate of NYU’s Medical School and, at Bellevue Hospital, worked with some of the city’s earliest AIDS patients. Later, in Buffalo, he spent nearly two decades running the AIDS Designated Center he created at Erie County Medical Center. There he was a principal investigator in AIDS clinical trial groups that studied the first 15 antiretrovirals that came to market.
Hewitt moved back to the city in 2004 and has since worked in Harlem with the HIV programs at Heritage Health Care, North General Hospital, and the Institute for Family Health — Family Health Center of Harlem, where he still practices today.
Born in North Carolina, raised in California, and a Navy veteran, Regnarian Jenkins is the community ambassador of growth and initiative at Amida Care, a non-profit health plan providing eomprehensive coordinated care to New York Medicaid members living with chronic conditions. Drawing on his experience living with HIV and considerable professional skills in health care interventions, Jenkins works to expand the capacity across the five boroughs for appropriate care for gay and bisexual men and transgender individuals.
Coming from a military family, Jenkins joined the Navy and was stationed aboard the USS Kinkaid in San Diego. At 25, he was diagnosed with HIV and later moved to New York. Here, he enrolled in primary care through Housing Works and within six months achieved an undetectable viral load. Through a Housing Works job training program, Jenkins earned certificaiton in youth outreach services.
Working at Many Men, Many Voices, Jenkins developed an in-your-face style of connecting with members of the community who seemed to get lost to care or had come to feel ostracized. He also played an instrumental role in developing and implementing data collection and engagement strategies for high risk young men of color sexually active with other men. Jenkins offered particular insight about men of color who had relocated to New York from Southern states, as he had.
Jenkins quickly became known in the community as the go-to guy for people who felt lost and needed assistance with getting primary care, permanent housing placement, mental health assistance, dental care, and, for those in the transgender community, hormone therapy. He led retreats providing a safe space for those newly diagnosed to ask questions about proper insurance enrollment, potential side effects of HIV medications, and the phenomenon of pill fatigue.
Jenkins has also been active politically in New York and Albany, consistently lobbying for key advances such as HASA for All — which provides anyone with an HIV diagnosis with the specialized services that were long only available to people with an AIDS diagnosis — and the 30 percent rent cap that limits the portion of income HIV-positive people eligible for public assistance are required to pay for housing. He was also an advocate for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which became law this year.
Jenkins has been recognized for his work by POZ magazine and EBONY.
Jeremiah Johnson is HIV project director at the Treatment Action Group (TAG) and a founding member of Rise and Resist. Like so many working in HIV/ AIDS, Johnson’s advocacy has grown from his personal experiences with the virus. He was 25 when he was diagnosed with HIV — part of a young gay male demographic especially vulnerable to infection in the US.
Serving as a Peace Corps volunteer at the time, Johnson immediately found himself dealing with discrimination when the agency dismissed him from service based solely on his HIV status. He took action, and with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union he soon had the Peace Corps’ policy overturned. The experience fueled his passion for advocacy and, ever since, he has been determined to combat other laws and policies that discriminate against people living with HIV/ AIDS or those who are most at risk for it.
Prior to joining TAG in 2013, first as HIV prevention research and policy coordinator, Johnson sought out experiences and education to better understand where the system failed him and continues to fail others regarding HIV prevention and treatment. His drive took him to Peru to work with an AIDS service organization; to rural Colorado, where he was a case manager and prevention specialist for two years; to an internship with the United Nations Programme on HIV/ AIDS; and to Columbia University to study public health. Along the way, he witnessed a great deal of confusion around HIV and encountered misconceptions about those living with the virus or those most at risk for it.
As part of TAG, Johnson works to counteract this by promoting universal access to all existing treatment and HIV prevention options, better and more ethical research, and prevention strategies that take into account the true complexity of HIV in the US. In 2010, he was honored by POZ magazine as one of the top 100 HIV/ AIDS activists in the nation.
In the wake of the 2016 election, Johnson was among five individuals who called for the first community convening of a group that eventually became known as Rise and Resist. For more than two years, he and hundreds of other fierce advocates have organized countless actions generating millions of social media hits and shutting down Trump Tower to call attention to every injustice perpetuated by the White House’s current occupant.
Growing out of his work in ACT UP, Charles King was one of the founders, in 1990, of Housing Works, a group that recognized early on the critical link between housing stability and survivability of people living with the virus. Today, Housing Works, where King serves as CEO, is a community-based, not-for-profit providing the full range of services for people with HIV/ AIDS and other chronic conditions, including housing, health and mental health care, harm reduction and chemical dependency services, and legal, advocacy, job training, and employment services.
Housing Works’ efforts are animated by the view that any effective plan to address AIDS requires shared commitment: the government’s political will, coordination between health agencies at all levels, and the energy and dedication of activists, doctors, researchers, service providers, and affected communities.
In 2014, King served as community co-chair of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Ending the HIV/ AIDS Epidemic Task Force and he currently co-chairs the State AIDS Advisory Council’s Ending the Epidemic Subcommittee. In the five years since Housing Works first convened community groups and providers to discuss a plan to end the epidemic, new HIV infections have decreased by 36 percent in New York City, but there has been less progress upstate and on Long Island due to lack of housing support for homeless and unstably housed people with HIV. King has been a vocal proponent of expanding HIV rental assistance statewide.
Nationally, King currently co-chairs the ACT Now: End AIDS Coalition aimed at ending the epidemic by working alongside 16 states and localities to create plans to end their epidemics. He is also on the Visioning Committee of the National AIDS Housing Coalition, which has produced eight research and policy summits to demonstrate the efficacy of housing as an HIV intervention and to turn those findings into policy. King has also served on the governing body of UNAIDS.
King, this past November, was appointed to the first-ever State Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force and he has been a vocal proponent of expanding access to its cure. He also served on the Value Based Payment Workgroup charged with reforming the state’s health care system to improve outcomes for patients and decrease avoidable emergency room visits.
King holds both a law degree and a master of divinity from Yale University, and is an ordained Baptist minister.
Anne Maguire, born and raised in Dublin, left Ireland for New York at age 25 in 1987, but was active in feminist and civil rights struggles before leaving her home country. As a teenager during “The Troubles” that ripped apart Northern Ireland, Maguire worked on several election campaigns with Bernadette Devlin McAliskey — a member of the British Parliament from Northern Ireland and civil rights leader who survived an assassination attempt carried out by Ulstermen loyal to London
As a young woman, Maguire joined the push to defeat an Irish constitutional amendment — motivated by a pro-abortion court ruling — outlawing abortion. In 1982, Maguire’s pro-choice side was soundly defeated by a more than two to one margin. Only last year was that measure finally repealed in a vote nearly the reverse of the ’82 tally. Maguire also worked to curb abuses of women in prisons, especially the use of strip searches.
Maguire says that part of her motivation for leaving Ireland was the “rampant homophobia” that existed 30 years ago, with same-sex relationships still outlawed. Even though Ireland has changed dramatically in the decades since — with marriage equality approved by voters there overwhelmingly in 2015 — both of Maguire’s sisters also left, leaving only their brother in Dublin.
In New York, Maguire was a founding member of the Irish Lesbian & Gay Organization, the first group to press for the inclusion of Irish LGBTQ contingents in Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The battle, marked by many arrests for civil disobedience, took a quarter century to win, and she chronicled its critical early years in her book “Rock the Sham!”
Maguire was also a founding member in 1992 of the Lesbian Avengers, a direct action group founded to raise the visibility of lesbians and battle homophobic violence. The annual Dyke March, founded the following year, was one of the group’s signature creations.
In the past several years, Maguire has helped lead another direct action group, Revolting Lesbians, which lobbies to remove Rebekah Mercer — whose family foundation has given tens of millions of dollars to leading climate change deniers, as well as Breitbart News — from the American Museum of Natural History’s board. The group has staged numerous actions at the museum dressed in black cloaks and carrying large cut-outs of Mercer’s face to dramatize the role a climate change denier enjoys at a leading scientific institution.
Transgender boxer Patricio Manuel was on the verge of making history when he stepped into the ring on a Saturday night this past December, and it didn’t even faze him. The 33-year-old felt right at home when he made his debut as the US’ first trans male professional boxer, defeating Mexican super-featherweight Hugo Aguilar in Indio, California.
“I am both happy and relieved to finally start this next chapter in my life,” Manuel told Gay City News one day after his victory party.
Manuel endured a mixed big of disappointment and joy during the time leading up to his monumental victory, which capped a six-year journey during which he transitioned to living as a man. He not only dealt with the macro- and micro-aggressions faced by so many transgender people, but also had to navigate the sports world’s wildly gendered expectations. Still, Manuel’s dedication to the sport he has enjoyed for 15 years remained as strong as it was when he turned to boxing to overcome gender dysphoria as a teenager.
“Boxing has shown me the world and given me a sense of pride in my accomplishments,” he explained. “I knew I was far from done with my career once I decided to medically transition.”
A five-time national amateur champion, Manuel is no stranger to success. After competing in the 2012 Olympic trials, however, he was sidelined by a shoulder injury — and he used the time away to focus on his transition.
His new challenge is how many boxers will be willing to face a transgender opponent. Aguilar had no problem with it.
“I have struggled to remain active in boxing since medically transitioning, and I hope the days of not finding willing opponents is behind me,” Manuel said.
His December win undoubtedly gives him a major boost in proving he can compete — and beat cisgender opponents. He never doubted it, but said the victory felt “very satisfying to prove to those who claimed there was no chance I’d win.”
Manuel is now back in training, and he hopes others can look to him and realize their dreams are possible.
“I hope my story can serve as an example to all people, both cisgender and transgender, that we are not limited by the labels society assigns us,” he said. “We all have the ability to make our dreams a reality.”
Andrea “Andy” Hong Marra became executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) in December after spending five years managing external communications for the Arcus Foundation and helping launch that group’s multi-million dollar Global Trans Initiative.
A transgender Korean-American woman, Marra has worked with LGBTQ and social justice organizations for 15 years — including at GLSEN, GLAAD, and Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, a New York-based empowerment group. She is a board member at Freedom for All Americans, which seeks comprehensive nationwide LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, and Just Detention International, which works to end sexual violence in prisons.
Her work has won recognition from groups serving the community — such as the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and GLSEN — and beyond, including her being named one of the White House’s Next Generation of LGBT Leaders during the Obama administration and as one of 2017’s 100 Most Influential Asian Americans.
TLDEF engages in impact legislation, in a lead capacity or by filing friend of the court briefs, to advance the rights of transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary Americans; provides public education and trainings; and created a highly regarded Name Change Project, which partners with leading law firms providing pro bono assistance to members of the community taking a critical step in their gender transition — securing foundational personal identification so they can navigate the world with dignity and in safety.
In taking on her new role, Marra pointed to several key challenges: the Trump administration’s reported plan to implement a definition of gender based on genital traits observed at birth, aimed essentially at erasing trans identity in federal policy and even law; the possibility of the Supreme Court taking up a case in the near future determining whether gender identity discrimination is covered by sex discrimination prohibitions already in federal law; and the ongoing epidemic of violence aimed at transgender people, especially women of color.
“We live in a reality where our community faces increasing hostility and our very lives are being defined out of existence,” Marra told Gay City News. “We can’t do this work alone and I look forward to collaborating with our legal partners and movement allies to protect hard-fought gains and advance equality, especially for those who have faced the brunt of violence and discrimination.”
Community activist Kaz Mitchell is co-executive director of Circle of Voices Inc., a Brooklyn non-profit arts organization that serves women of color by providing a creative environment where information, stories, knowledge, and skills can be shared through performances, workshops, music festivals, and seminars.
The organization’s ethos aims at utilizing art to express community concerns on vital issues such HIV/ AIDS, cancer awareness, green environment initiatives, and more.
For six years, Mitchell was on the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center’s Community Advisory Board, serving as chair in 2016 and 2017. That year, she was recognized by the agency — which provides sensitive, quality health care and related services to New York’s LGBTQ communities regardless of ability to pay — with a Health Award. The following year, she joined Callen-Lorde as a patient advocate in meeting with state legislators in Albany about the importance of funding community health providers across the state.
Mitchell has also testified before the City Council and the LGBTQ Advisory Panel of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on health care issues related to lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women of color. She has worked with the LGBT Community Center’s Lesbian Cancer Initiative on care and pre-screening opportunities and with SAGE USA on its plans for LGBTQ-friendly housing in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Circle of Voices hosts a bi-monthly meeting at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, “Lez Keep It Real,” a safe, non-judgmental space for lesbian, bisexual, queer, and questioning women to meet and network with activists from the community.
Mitchell is currently planning activities geared to women of color from the LGBTQ community for the WorldPride celebration in June.
In 2017, Mitchell served as campaign manager for Marc Fliedner, the out gay former chief of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Major Narcotics Investigation Unit who was seeking the Democratic nomination for district attorney in that September’s primary.
She is also a member of the New York City Police Department’s LGBT Advisory Board.
This year, Mitchell was the recipient of an UnSung Award from Ebony Pyramid Entertainment, a Washington-based production company that serves African-American and LGBTQ communities and raises charitable funds for HIV/ AIDS, female health, and social welfare programs.
DARNELL L. MOORE
Darnell L. Moore, whose writing and advocacy center on marginal identity, youth development, and other social justice issues, is the author of “No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America.” The former editor-at-large at Cassius, an online platform focused on urban and Black culture enthusiasts, he now heads up strategy and programs at Breakthrough US, a unit of the global human rights organization that works to end gender-based violence and discrimination. Moore is also an editor at Mic, The Feminist Wire, and “The Feminist Wire Books” series, and a writer-in-residence at Columbia University’s Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice.
Moore participated in critical dialogues including the 58th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington National Panel on Race, Discrimination and Poverty, and the 2012 Seminar on Debates on Religion and Sexuality at Harvard Divinity School, and he was part of the first US delegation of LGBTQ leaders to Palestine in 2012.
A prolific writer, Moore has been published in The Guardian, Huffington Post, EBONY, The Root, The Advocate, Out Magazine, Gawker, Truth Out, VICE, Guernica, The Good Men Project, and numerous academic journals.
Moore has been a visiting fellow and scholar at Yale Divinity School, NYU’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, and Columbia Univeristy’s Institute for Research in African American Studies, and has taught women and gender studies and public administration at Rutgers University, Fordham University, City College, and Vassar College.
In 2012, Moore received the American Conference on Diversity’ Humanitarian Award for his work as chair of the LGBTQ Concerns Advisory Commission in Newark. The same year, he was awarded the Rutgers LGBTQ and Diversity Resource Center’s Outstanding Academic Leadership Award for his work in developing the Queer Newark Oral History Project. Moore was a 2013 Angel Award recipient from Gay Men of African Descent, one of Planned Parenthood’s Top 99 Dream Keepers in 2015, and among EBONY Magazines’s 2015 Power 100, Time Out New York’s Eight LGBT Influencers, and The Root 100 in 2016 and 2018.
Moore was an organizer of the Black Lives Matters Ride to Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of Mike Brown’s tragic murder, and along with Alicia Garza, Patrisee Cullors, and Opal Tometti, #BlackLivesMatter co-founders, he helped develop the BLM Network’ infrastucture.
With a passion for aesthetics as well as a love for humanity, Michael Narain found his truest calling as founder, in 2013, of Out My Closet. The organization’s multi-pronged approach to helping displaced and under-resourced youth includes delivering new and lightly-worn clothing to providers serving this population; offering counseling on topics ranging from art and music therapy to physical and mental health and educational, vocational, and career training; creating a safe social media platform for engaging and supporting LGBTQ youth; and helping educators foster LGBTQ groups in schools.
Dignity is key to Out My Closet’s ethos, with the group’s website emphasizing, “We NEVER deliver items in garbage bags or boxes but rather create shopping-like experiences where clients may sample our selection and take as many articles that they desire.”
Coming from an under-resourced immigrant family himself, Narain worked full-time while earning degrees in media and marketing communications at Hunter College and the Fashion Institute of Technology. For 10 years, he did cosmetics research and development for major fragrance houses creating high end products.
Taking a break in 2009 to recover from shoulder surgery, Narain volunteered at Bellevue Hospital, where he got in touch with his love for working with people facing life-challenging illnesses and adversity. After earning professional credentials serving victims of sex assault and people with mental illness and substance abuse problems, he served as creative media director for a fashion philanthropy agency supporting youth orphaned by AIDS in Soweto, South Africa, and as program director for a domestic violence program. He currently manages a homeless transitional site serving clients with severe mental illnesses.
At Out My Closet, Narain works with most LGBTQ organizations in New York, and has since extended the group’s reach to South Florida, Los Angeles, and South America. The organization has donated more than 16,000 articles of clothing, shoes, accessories, and toiletries, and touches even more lives through social media campaigns such as “Heeling Words,” where Narain enlisted the support of renowned “RuPaul Drag Race” stars Bianca Del Rio, Bob The Drag Queen, and Ginger Minj to share encouraging messages with displaced youth. Kerry Washington, Perez Hilton, and Dascha Polanco have also pitched in.
“As a gay youth, I didn’t have any mentors,” Narain said. I battled with issues of self-esteem, religious and cultural conflicts… This is why I am fueled today.”
HON. W. FRANC PERRY
Franc Perry, a Brooklyn native raised in Ridgewood, Queens, was elected as a New York City Civil Court judge in 2011, the first out gay African American to earn that distinction. Six years later, he was appointed as an acting Supreme Court justice in New York City, and in November 2017 was elected to the city’s Supreme Court bench, again as the first out gay African American.
A graduate of New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, and the George Washington University National Law Center in the nation’s capital, Perry began his career doing medical malpractice law. In 1990, he was appointed as a principal court attorney to the State Appellate Division’s First Department in Manhattan, and he later served as court attorney to Justice Peter Moulton.
In 2001, Perry took a sabbatical from the law and earned his master’s of divinity from Union Theological Seminary. Ordained in the Metropolitan Community Church, he worked alongside the Reverend Pat Bumgardner as associate pastor, helping to coordinate the opening of the Sylvia Rivera LGBTQ youth homeless shelter and food pantry.
Perry has been a community activist throughout his life, appointed to the New York City Youth Board by Mayor David Dinkins. He served as vice chair of the National Board of Mothers’ Voices, the country’s first organization dedicated to AIDS education and awareness among parents. With Judy Peabody and John Tatarakis, he was a co-facilitator of the Caregiver’s Support Group at Gay Men’s Health Crisis for six years.
Perry, a former chair of Harlem’s Community Board 10, is an executive board member of the NAACP’s Mid-Manhattan branch, where serves as co-chair of the LGBTQ committee. He is a member of LeGaL, the LGBT Bar Association of New York, and an inaugural member of the Richard C. Failla LGBTQ Commission within the state court system, and also a member of the Coalition of 100 Black Men, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, and the New York State Supreme Court Board of Justices.
A 2016 honorary doctorate recipient from New England College, Perry has also been honored by Harlem Pride, the Go Africa Network, the New York Borough Academies, and the Harlem Cultural Archives.
Perry, a member of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, is a single dad and the proud father of Jackson and Ruby-Lee.
A native of Minnesota who grew up in Upstate New York, Chynna Pitlock has been director of the Queens Center for Gay Seniors since 2015, having joined the Center — part of the Queens Community House — the year before as assistant director. As director, she has been instrumental in expanding outreach, community awareness, and advocacy for LGBTQ older adults in the borough. The Queens Center for Gay Seniors provides a culturally-rich environment where LGBTQ older adults engage with peers, enjoy a hot meal, take classes, explore new interests, and give back through volunteer and advocacy opportunities.
The same year she assumed leadership at the Center, Pitlock began work on her master’s degree at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work. Working full time and attending school full time at night, she also managed to find the time to complete a social work internship at Generation Q, Queens Community House’s LGBTQ youth drop-in center. In her thesis to complete her social work degree, Pitlock created an intergenerational LGBTQ program curriculum for integrating a senior center with a youth center in order to create a mentoring program. She completed her master’s, with honors, last year, with a concentration in aging and clinical work.
Pitlock moved to New York City from upstate in 2010 and was recrutied to play goalkeeper on the women’s soccer team at SUNY College at Old Westbury. Joining the campus LGBTQ group PRIDE, she became president, supervising a four-member exeuctive board serving a 50-member club. She led PRIDE in presenting educational forums on LGBTQ issues and rights for the Old Westbury undergraduate community and the college’s staff. When she graduated with high honors with a degree in psychology and a minor in social work, Pitlock was named Student Leader of the Year and one of the 50 most influential student leaders of the previous decade.
In her first job out of Old Westbury, she served as a youth specialist working with LGBTQ incarcerated youth in Brooklyn, helping them adapt back into their communities and families upon their release.
Pitlock is a member of the board of the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens and also serves on the events committee for Queens Pride. Her leadership has been recognized with awards from the Queens borough president and gay City Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer.
Monica Prata, a Chicago native who runs her Nouveau She business out of Greenwich Village, is an internationally recognized feminine image consultant for clients who are transgender, transitioning, or exploring gender fluidity. Her services include instruction in feminine comportment, wardrobe styling, feminizing makeup, and emotional coaching and support.
Prata learned early about the unmet need for the services she now provides. In her late teens, she worked as a make-up artist at Nordstrom’s and encountered men who said they were shopping for their wives but she came to learn were in fact beginning to live as women themselves.
As she began her business, Prata had the opportunity to work under the tutelage of a San Francisco surgeon, from whom she learned about the differences between male and female bone structures — and that what may seem like slight variations create significant changes in facial expression and body movement.
Prata now works one-on-one with private clients teaching them how to professionally transition, while loving every bit about themselves. From her perspective, it boils down to the fact many trans women who transition later in life don’t have decades of experience understanding the types of dress and appearance that are appropriate for different settings. Many of her clients are able to tell her everything about how they want to look, but don’t know the techniques for getting there.
One of Prata’s best known clients is Kristen Browde, a former CBS journalist and attorney who ran for mayor of upstate Chappaqua and recently became the first out transgender chair of LeGaL, the LGBT Bar of New York.
Browde, in a testimonial about Prata’s work, wrote, “In addition to remarkable skill as a make-up artist and perfect pitch when it comes to fashion, Monica also brings to the table a genuine understanding of the fears that face all transgender women. It took just a few short hours for her to completely reconstruct my look. With that came an incredible elevation in confidence.”
Browde took Prata as her middle name in tribute to her coach and friend.
The “genuine understanding” of the community that Prata — cisgender herself — serves has propelled her to becoming a transgender rights activist. In her advocacy and love for her transgender clients, she brings the message of their dignity and contributions to doctors, high schools and colleges, corporations, and the media.
Joining the Brooklyn Pride Community Center as its CEO at the end of 2015 after more than two decades in nonprofit arts and HIV education management and consulting, Floyd Rumohr steered the Center’s move from its original MetroTech home downtown to a 3,100-square-foot space in Bedford-Stuyvesant. In August 2017, 20 months after he came on board, the Center was in its new home.
“We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re just getting started in Brooklyn,” he said in opening remarks at its dedication several months later.
At the time the new facility was launched, an estimated 80 percent of the Center’s clients were people of color, with a comparable number coming from low-income backgrounds, making Central Brooklyn an ideal location for its permanent home.
Rumohr has forged strategic partnerships with other service providers to expand the range of programming by tapping existing resources, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
“Collaboration comes naturally to me,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing when it works.”
Brooklyn Pride currently partners with CAMBA Young Men’s Health Project, which has an HIV program for 13- to 24-year-olds; Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE); and the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone. Some of these groups use space at the Center, giving them 24/ 7 access to quality facilities that would be difficult to duplicate elsewhere.
The Center’s Pride Path program offers paid career training and internships to LGBTQ young people 18 to 24 who have lived with poverty and homelessness, offering experience in retail, media, arts and entertainment, health, and real estate in partnership with participating businesses.
“When your basic needs aren’t being fulfilled, it’s very difficult to compete for and sustain a job,” Rumohr said of the program.
Prior to joining the Center, Rumohr served as interim executive director at Love Heals: the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education and at Apple Arts-NYC, for which he facilitated a merger with another nonprofit organization. From 1994 to 2010, he was the founding CEO of the citywide arts education organization Stages of Learning, which former Mayor Michael Bloomberg termed “one of the most effective arts education programs” in the city.
Last year, Rumohr was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Excel Pride Award by the My True Colors Festival, an annual arts event that promotes social justice and cultural diversity.
A native New Yorker, Lee Soulja-Simmons grew up in the Bronx. He first stepped onto the public scene in a big way in the 1990s as a popular visual performance artist and dancer, though already at the age of nine he had won a dance contest on the kid’s TV show “Wonderama.” As an adult, he quickly became active in producing and promoting nightlife events around the city.
Soulja-Simmons has appeared in films and TV, including Damon Cardasis’ 2017 “Saturday Church,” about a young teen struggling with his gender identity who finds refuge in the ballroom scene, the soon-to-be-released “Werk,” and on FX’s “Pose.” He has also appeared at the Apollo Theater and Lincoln Center as well as in several Off-Broadway productions. Soulja-Simmons was featured in the December 2018 edition of W magazine and is currently featured, as well, in the March edition of Vogue Spain.
He credits the late Willi Ninja, often dubbed the godfather of voguing, as his most important influence in developing his performance style and fashion sense.
As a community activist, Soulja-Simmons, over the past 19 years, served on community advisory boards for Harlem United, Gay Men of African Descent, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He’s also worked as a mentor for Black and Latino LGBTQ young adults coming out of high school and out of the foster care system.
As executive director of the New York City Center for Black Pride, he is responsible for creating the annual NYC Black Pride celebration, which is the second largest LGBTQ event in the state. Working with the city and state departments of health, Soulja-Simmons oversees HIV/ AIDS prevention outreach during the Pride weekend. Other events he produces annually include a film festival, a community picnic, a Thanksgiving dinner, a World AIDS Day event, and a Youth Pride Social on Long Island.
As a founding member of the New York City Black & Latino Coalition, Soulja-Simmons is currently working to launch Harlem’s first ever LGBTQ Center. In building support for the effort, he draws on his networking as a member of the LGBT Task Forces established by the Manhattan borough president and the city public advocate. Soulja-Simmons looks forward to the day when Harlem will host a much needed Black & Latino historical archives, including an archive to preserve the traditions of the House and Ball Community.
The Queen of Comedy, Harmonica Sunbeam has delighted audiences at nightclubs, cabarets, fundraising events, and — yes — supermarket openings in the United States and abroad for more than 27 years. And she’s got the cult following — of all ages, races, and backgrounds — to show for it.
With a unique though classic style and razor-sharp wit, Harmonica brings everything she needs for mainstream stardom to the table and to the stage.
“The sky’s the limit!,” she has said. “In the entertainment field, if people feel you are marketable, they will use you in any capacity.”
A member of the Screen Actors Guild, Harmonica has been featured on television shows from “The Deuce” to “Law and Order SVU,” “Third Watch,” “The Breaks,” “The Jack and Triumph Show,” “Johnny Zero,” and “100 Center Street. On Logo TV, she appeared in “Dragtastic NYC : A Standup Comedy Event.” Her film credits include “Honey,” which starred Jessica Alba, “Uptown Girls,” starring Brittany Murphy, Nicole Holofcener’s “Please Give,” and the Oliver Stone drama “World Trade Center.”
Musically, Harmonica has released three pumping club singles — “Ready to Pump,” “I’m Here To Work,” and her latest, “This Is The Beat,” and has sung back-up with the likes of Beyoncé, Mary J.Blige, Jennifer Holliday, and, in a “Saturday Night Live” season finale, Katy Perry.
Harmonica’s latest project showcases her unique ability to uplift, encourage, and engage children. As part of “Drag Queen Story Hour,” she joins other queens at libraries, bookstores, festivals, and other events to read to kids of all ages. “Drag Queen Story Hour” audaciously encourages the creativity and boundless energy of child’s play, creating a safe space for gender neutrality and non-conformity while promoting positive LGTBQ role models. Since the program’s inception in the New York area, Harmonica has been featured in the New York Times and interviewed in a video on Buzzfeed that quickly went viral.
Harmonica also finds time in her busy schedule to give back to the community. She has done work with Project LOL, an outreach organization helping LGBTQ youth in Hudson County, New Jersey; Gay Men of African Descent; Newark’s African American Office of Gay Concerns; and Jersey City Pride.
It can often be a selfish world. Harmonica Sunbeam brings the light of a positive role model everywhere she can.
DANIEL W. TIETZ
Daniel W. Tietz, in October 2017, became CEO of Bailey House, a community-based organization with a 35-year history of providing housing and supportive services to individuals and families affected by HIV/ AIDS and other chronic conditions. The organization, with a $21 million annual operating budget, licensed mental health and substance use treatment programs, and supportive/ affordable housing services, serves 5,000 low-income New Yorkers with a proven record of improving the health and independent living outcomes for people struggling with homelessness, substance use, mental illness, and the health challenges accompanying chronic conditions such as HIV.
Between 2017 and February of this year, when Tietz concluded his tenure, he negotiated the merger of Bailey House with Housing Works, creating a new supportive/ affordable housing enterprise retaining the Bailey House name and establishing new primary care at the organization’s East Harlem site operated under Housing Works’ Federally Qualified Health Center. Despite these significant organizational challenges, he obtained $3.2 million in new state capital funding to develop primary care and more than $1 million in existing and new government funding to expand behavioral health and HIV services.
Prior to joining Bailey House, Tietz served as chief special services officer for the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) beginning in 2014, overseeing programs focused on the most vulnerable New Yorkers, including the HIV/ AIDS Services Administration, Adult Protective Services, emergency food assistance, domestic violence shelters and services, and the Home Care Services Program, among others. For his final 18 months with the city, Tietz oversaw shelter and intake operations for the Department of Homeless Services as it was merged with HRA to form the Department of Social Services.
Tietz had previously served as executive director of ACRIA, a national HIV research, education, and advocacy organization. There, he more than doubled the budget, vastly expanding its research activities, as well as its training, capacity building, and consulting services. Following the 2006 release of its groundbreaking Research on Older Adults with HIV study, ACRIA collaborated with researchers globally to deliver much-needed HIV prevention, education, and services to people over age 50, including training and capacity building to other providers.
A registered nurse and an attorney, Tietz, a longtime Brooklyn-based LGBTQ advocate, previously served as deputy executive director at the Coalition for the Homeless and deputy executive director for day treatment and residential services at Housing Works.
JEFFREY S. TRACHTMAN
Jeffrey S. Trachtman, a partner at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, has been a prominent pro bono leader in the legal field for more than 30 years — much of that time immersing himself in work on behalf of the LGBTQ community.
In the 1990s, he submitted amicus briefs in James Dale’s challenge to the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members and adult leaders — this at a time when many leading law firms steered clear of LGBTQ advocacy. In the wake of 9/11, Trachtman represented a lesbian survivor in a lawsuit to ensure she won her fair share of the Victims’ Compensation Fund award made on behalf of her late partner. As the Lawrence v. Texas case — which struck down the nation’s remaining sodomy laws — made its way to the Supreme Court, he authored an amicus brief on behalf of public health organizations supporting the plaintiff couple.
In the marriage equality battle, Trachtman was co-counsel with Lambda Legal’s Susan Sommer in the suit that sought marriage rights under the New York Consitution — an effort that prevailed in Manhattan Supreme Court but was turned back by the Court of Appeals. Working with same-sex couples who married out of state — including Impact Awardees Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorheis — he led the effort that secured New York’s recognition of such unions by 2008, three years before couples were able to marry here. And Trachtman authored amicus briefs on behalf of religious groups and clergy supporting Edie Windsor’s 2013 challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act and the 2015 suit that secured marriage rights nationwide.
Trachtman also authored amicus briefs in key cases involving co-parent rights in New York State, transgender students’ rights, and spurious claims of religious exemption from nondiscrimination laws.
Beyond his courtroom work, Trachtman has supported LGBTQ non-profits in other ways — managing Kramer Levin’s pro bono relationships with Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the LGBT Community Center; fostering pro bono work for vulnerable clients at the Urban Justice Center’s Peter Cicchino Youth Project, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Immigration Equality; and helping raise funds for numerous groups.
Trachtman has written about LGBTQ issues in the Huffington Post and for Lambda Legal’s anthology chronicling the marriage equality fight, “Love Unites Us,” where among other matters he discussed his own coming out in 2013.
An interior designer by training, Robert Voorheis is a committed activist who played a critical role in New York’s fight for marriage equality and is now a public service employee working to ensure fair treatment of all in Yonkers, where he and his husband, Michael Sabatino, live.
Voorheis and Sabatino, who will celebrate their 40th anniversary this coming December, joined the fight for equal marriage rights in the 1990s — years before leading LGBTQ groups embraced the idea. Married in Canada in 2003, their wedding announcement was published in The New York Times while their exile from the Catholic Church received worldwide attention.
When Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano ordered that the county government recognize their marriage and those of other same-sex couples, a group of anti-gay Westchester taxpayers filed a legal challenge. Voorheis and Sabatino got involved in the case, which in 2009 was resolved when the state’s highest bench, the Court of Appeals, upheld Spano’s action. The state’s recognition of legal out-of-state marriage even before it adopted the Marriage Equality Act in 2011 was a critical factor in Edie Windsor’s 2013 victory over the Defense of Marriage Act. Windsor’s spouse, Thea Spyer, whose estate was at issue in the case, died in 2009 but the Supreme Court recognized the marriage as valid in New York.
Voorheis served as co-executive director and treasurer of Marriage Equality New York and later as a board member of Marriage Equality USA. Voorheis and his husband were featured in the 2010 documentary “March On — The Movie,” which told the story of the marriage movement through the lives of five families. The couple co-authored “The People’s Victory; Stories from the Front Lines in the Fight for Marriage Equality.”
The same year that marriage triumphed in New York, 2011, Voorheis served as campaign manager for Sabatino’s successful run for the Yonkers City Council. Sabatino is now the Council majority leader.
Voorheis worked for five years as district office director for State Senator Shelley Mayer when she served in the Assembly, and he is now the equal employment opportunity and training administrator for the city of Yonkers. In that post, he is entrusted with protecting the civil rights of city residents. As liaison to Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, Voorheis worked to create Westchester County’s first Pride Street Festival in 2018.