The Gay City News 2020 Impact Award Honorees

Impact awardees featured pic

On September 24, Gay City News hosts its 2020 Virtual Impact Awards, and the newspaper congratulates all of the evening’s honorees, and thanks everyone joining us for the virtual gala to show their support and appreciation for the contributions our awardees are making day in and day out.

You can register to attend free at

I would like to briefly address what this event means to me.

2020 has proven to be an even more challenging year than any of us imaged it would be back in January.

In addition to the crucial importance of the election coming up on November 3, we have been facing down a terrifying virus that has robbed many of us of friends and family we cherished — and has put particularly unfair burdens on our heroic frontline healthcare workers, other essential workers who did not have the luxury of sheltering in their homes during the worst days of the crisis, and communities of color, including LGBTQ folks, across the city where infections and deaths hit hardest.

This year, we have also undergone a long overdue reckoning on the racial — and social and economic — disparities that continue to exist in a society with extraordinary affluence and one that lays claims to the guiding principles of equality, justice, and opportunity for all.

Tonight, we gather to honor a group of New Yorkers whose work every day is aimed at moving our community and our country in a positive direction. So we are here to celebrate:

The diversity in our backgrounds and our approaches to creating change;

The resilience of our honorees in the face of obstacles;

Their passion and commitment to imagine and continue working toward a better tomorrow;

And our collective unity — the recognition that despite our differences and the various paths we have chosen in life, we are working in cooperation and coalition to make 2021 a better year than 2020.

Over the next six weeks as we approach the November election, our greatest challenge will be to keep focused on that last strength — our unity.

If we and our likeminded friends, family, and allies across the America remain united — and we all pitch in, especially in online activism focused on critical swing states — we can move through this uncertain time and arrive on the other side better off for our struggle. Our honorees tonight are critical players in leading us to the other side.

For those of you who join us this evening or catch a replay available online, please enjoy the gala.

And let’s all stay focused on the critical challenge we face over the next six weeks.

Stay safe and strong.

This year’s honorees are:

Katherine Acey.

Director of Strategic Collaborations, GRIOT Circle

Katherine Acey is a highly respected activist, known for her expertise and commitment to social justice feminism. Her creative and inclusive vision of justice movements has been instrumental in setting a standard for a more progressive, diverse, and community-driven philanthropy.

Katherine is a Senior Activist Fellow Emerita at the Barnard Center for Research On Women, where she was a fellow in 2015 and 2016. Currently, she is the director of strategic collaborations at GRIOT Circle, a Brooklyn-based organization serving elder people of color where she was previously the executive director.

From 1987 until 2010, Katherine served as the executive director of Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Under her stewardship, Astraea established the nation’s first Lesbian Writers Fund and Lesbian Visual Artists Fund, created the International Fund for Sexual Minorities in 1996, and launched the US Movement Building Initiative in 2005 to support the leadership of people of color LGBTQ organizations. In 2017, Astraea established an award — Social Justice Feminist — in Katherine’s name to honor movement elders.

Katherine serves as treasurer of the board of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

From 1982 to 1987, Katherine served as the associate director of the North Star Fund in New York, overseeing its grants programs and managing a donor portfolio. She helped create the Women’s Funding Network in the mid 1980s, serving as its first board chair. She is a past board chair of the Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues and has been a board or advisory member of Women in the Arts, the Center for Anti-Violence Education, New York Women Against Rape, MADRE, Women Make Movies, and the International Network of Women’s Funds (Prospera).

Katherine is past chair of the National Executive Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, and was a core member of the Arab Women’s Gathering Organizing Committee. She has also served on the Human Rights Watch LGBT Program Advisory Committee.

Katherine has been honored with the Changing the Face of Philanthropy Award of the Women’s Funding Network, and her work has also been acknowledged by the Cross Cultural Black Women’s Studies Institute, the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, Lambda Legal, and SAGE. She was profiled in the 2017 book “200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World.”

Katherine holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Daemen College and a master’s from the Columbia University School of Social Work.



José Albino.

Executive Director, GRIOT Circle

José Albino is executive director of GRIOT Circle, the nation’s only non-profit focused on the needs of LGBTQ elders of color. Established 25 years ago, GRIOT takes its name from a West African word for storyteller but is also an acronym for Gay Reunion in Our Time. Its mission is to challenge oppression such as ageism, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, poverty, and xenophobia.

Funded largely by private donors and some small spurts of city money, the group, with tight financial constraints, has grown during the past six years under José’s leadership into a “comprehensive, one-stop shop service for seniors,” he explained. Since joining GRIOT Circle, he has created support groups for men, women, transgender folks, and HIV-positive individuals.

“Fifty percent of individuals who are HIV-positive in this country are over the age of 50,” José pointed out.

Tai Chi, knitting, wood carving, and financial literacy workshops are among options available to members, and GRIOT Circle has a peer-to-peer program so folks can go to movies, shop, and enjoy other activities together. It has also found a way to reach homebound seniors who can’t make the trek to its downtown Brooklyn space through a visiting program.

“We refuse to do bingo,” Albino said, smiling. “Our members deserve a more elevated approach to living in their truth.”

José, a therapist and respected authority in gerontology, has worked in the aging field for more than 20 years. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University at Albany and a master’s in education and human development from the George Washington University, he has built a career based in intersectional justice for disenfranchised older adults.

Many GRIOT members experienced homophobia and transphobia in their families or places of worship, so mental health services have emerged as an important piece of the group’s work.

“This is where we have to realize that this is a population that has not basked in the civil liberties that we have now,” José explained. “These are people who came from a place of trauma in the ‘80s and ‘70s when being gay was [viewed as] a psychological disorder.”

Many clients remain closeted at home, so they travel long distances — some commute more 90 minutes from the Bronx — to the friendlier confines of GRIOT Circle.

José also serves on the board of Stonewall Community Development Corporation, which works to create affordable housing for New York’s LGBTQ elders.


Jared Arader.

President, Lambda Independent Democrat

Jared Arader, a Hudson Valley native, is a Brooklyn-based attorney and advocate and president of the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn (LID), the borough’s only LGBTQ political organization.

When Jared joined LID in 2015, he observed that, at 30, he was one of the youngest members of Brooklyn’s LGBTQ community active in local politics. Since his election as president last year, Jared, with the support of LID’s leadership team, has rebranded the club’s image, drawing from his own rolodex of younger, diverse, and well-connected LGBTQ Brooklynites.

The result: the club’s membership has ballooned, particularly among young Democrats. This year, the club organized heavily around out LGBTQ district leader candidates Jesse Pierce and Samy Nemir Olivares, helping elect both of them.

In 2019, during a LID panel, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez publicly supported the decriminalization of sex work, becoming the first of the city’s five district attorneys to do so. Jared is also an advocate for the inclusion of non-binary people on the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s County Committee, where they are currently excluded due to the requirement that candidates run for either a male position or a female position. He is an appointee to a panel formed to examine how to reform the rules to cure the exclusion of non-binary Brooklynites.

Last year, he was honored by City and State magazine as a “40 under 40” rising star, and has been named to City and State’s LGBTQ Power 100 list in 2019 and 2020.

Jared is noted for a risk-averse approach to politics, but his personal style has helped him build strategic relationships across Brooklyn’s diverse political community. Being risk-averse does not mean he isn’t persistently pressuring politicians, policymakers, and other Democratic clubs to be more inclusive of LGBTQ people and their concerns.

Jared is also a member of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.

Jared first got involved in political issues as an intern reporter for the Legislative Gazette, Albany’s in-house newspaper, in 2007. He also covered politics for the Purchase College Dispatch.

Jared has practiced as a litigator and worked for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, UJA-Federation of New York, and the New York Office of Management and Budget. He is currently an in-house attorney for the city’s Department of Education.

Jared lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant with his partner David and their cat Gracie.



Kate Barnhart.

Executive Director, New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth

Kate Barnhart, executive director of New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth, has a long history of activism, arrested multiple times for civil disobedience — as part of ACT UP/ NY and on healthcare issues generally, police brutality, immigration rights, and as a member of the anti-Trump resistance.

Kate has worked with at-risk youth since 1994 — for six years with young felons at CASES, an alternative-to-incarceration program that serves vulnerable populations. Since 2001, Kate has devoted her career to working with LGBTQ youth, for five years directing Sylvia’s Place, an emergency shelter for homeless queer youth based out of the Metropolitan Community Church of New York.

In 2008, she helped found New Alternatives. The group works to increase LGBTQ homeless youth’s self-sufficiency by helping them transition out of the shelter system and build stable adult lives. The group provides long-term support through weekly case management, education services, life skills training, recreation and opportunities for self-expression, and programs tailored for those who are HIV-positive.

New Alternatives’ staff is small, but the group is nimble. When the COVID-19 crisis shuttered many meals providers across the city, New Alternatives stepped up — increasing its hot meals program from one weekday plus Sunday to a daily effort. Kate worked to put out other fires brought on by the pandemic. In addition to providing masks and hygiene supplies to the group’s clients, she was pressing the city’s Department of Homeless Services, which typically does not serve non-adults, to get six New Alternatives clients with coronavirus symptoms into isolation beds.

In 2017, New Alternatives was recognized as one of five organizations out of 500 applicants selected for a “Renewal Award” for social innovation from The Atlantic magazine and Allstate.

“Twenty-thousand dollars makes a tremendous difference to us as we operate on a modest budget and are mostly driven by volunteers committed to the under-served LGBT homeless youth of New York,” Kate told The Atlantic at the time.

As she explained, most case management of homeless youth is tied to the housing non-profit groups provide their clients. With many homeless youth — often with histories of trauma — experiencing short-term stays, Kate said, they suffer a “lack of consistent long-term case-management services.”

“Well, I can do something here,” she said about the importance of the ongoing case management New Alternatives provides it vulnerable clients.

In her free time, Kate rescues and rehabilitates stray cats.




Dr. Mark Baehser.

Clinical Director, Judson Health Care Center/ NYC Health + Hospitals/ Gotham Health

Dr. Mark Baehser, a pediatrician, is the clinical director of Judson Health Care Center, a Gotham Health site located on Spring Street in Lower Manhattan that is part of NYC Health + Hospitals, the nation’s largest municipal healthcare system.

Judson’s Pride Health Center is a primary care facility focused on the needs of LGBTQ community members, providing culturally informed and fully integrated care for both their physical and their behavioral health needs. The Center’s aim is to provide easy access to robust mental health and wellness services. The nine-member team has fluency in both Spanish and Chinese.

Among the primary care services offered are routine medical visits, immunization and health screenings for school enrollment and employment, and same-day sick visits.

Sexual health services include STD and HIV testing and treatment, as well as prevention tools, including PrEP, PEP, and condoms; pregnancy testing and options counseling; birth control and emergency contraception; and pap smears for cervical cancer screening.

The Pride Health Center’s gender affirming medical treatment options include hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery referrals.

At Judson Health Care Center, Mark initiated and directly oversees The Bridge Program, a primary care service for adolescents and young adults, ages 12 to 34, with a specific focus on youth growing into adulthood, particularly those from the LGBTQ community. The Bridge aims to empower its clients to take charge of their health by providing specialized services focused on prevention, relationship-building, and ease of accessing needed services.

When the COVID crisis this past spring shuttered many facilities providing healthcare to New Yorkers, Judson Health Care Center scrambled to keep its offerings easily available, temporarily relocating to Gotham Health, Gouverneur on Madison Street on the Lower East Side.

“As New Yorkers experience a reduction of some healthcare services due to the Coronavirus pandemic, NYC Health + Hospitals understands the importance of continuing to reach LGBTQ communities,” Michelle Lewis, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/ Gotham Health, said at the time.

As with other NYC Health + Hospitals facilities, Judson Health Care Center offers care regardless of the ability to pay, of immigration status, and, of course, of gender identity and sexual orientation. Cost for services varies depending on a patient’s health insurance.

Mark is a graduate of Fordham University and completed his medical training at SUNY Downstate in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.


Kristen Browde.

Attorney, Browde Law, & Board President, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York

Kristen Browde is an attorney by day, but her work in that capacity represents only a glimpse into the life of a change-maker who has made a difference on numerous fronts.

Still, Kristen’s career as a lawyer is no small feat: She successfully launched her own law firm, Browde Law, which helps corporations as well as individuals seeking legal assistance regarding divorces, as a second career.

Kristen’s legal career represents a major shift from her previous work in journalism. She spent 17 years as a correspondent and anchor at CBS News, covering the Pentagon, the Supreme Court, and overseas wars in a career that brought her multiple Emmy Awards. Kristen was still at CBS when she completed law school.

At the 2016 Inner Circle Dinner, an annual gathering of New York journalists, Kristen came out as transgender, setting up a new chapter in both her life and her career. She went on to assist Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and to fight against North Carolina’s transphobic HB2 bathroom bill.

Kristen is also an important player in the local political world. She narrowly lost her 2020 Democratic primary bid in the State Assembly’s 93rd District in Westchester County, falling short by less than 200 votes.

During her campaign, Kristen told Gay City News that one of the key reasons why she ran for office was to fight the ongoing rash of gun violence across the US, especially at a time when her son is in high school.

“It occurred to me that these kids are growing up in an era in which they’re worrying about whether they would be next,” Kristen said. “It is still easier in the State of New York to get a high-powered weapon than it is to buy a pack of Sudafed — and that’s just wrong.”

Kristen has been highly visible in other New York political efforts. She sat next to Governor Andrew Cuomo last year at an event where the governor highlighted his support for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and for reform of New York’s gestational surrogacy laws. GENDA was enacted shortly after that event, and the surrogacy measure was approved this year as part of the April 1 budget package.

Among other posts, Kristen is the board president of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and co-chair of the National Trans Bar Association.

A resident of Chappaqua, Kristen has two children.



Robert Hammond and Joshua David.Liz Ligon

Co-Founder, Friends of the High Line

Joshua David, co-founder of Friends of the High Line, teamed up with Robert Hammond in 1999 to save an historic 1.45-mile elevated railway — formerly a spur of the New York Central Railroad — on Manhattan’s West Side.

Together, Josh and Robert successfully advocated for the preservation and reuse of the High Line as a public park, transformed and opened the High Line structure to the public in three phases, turned Friends of the High Line into a licensed partner of the City of New York, and raised significant private and public funds for the park’s construction, endowment, and annual operations.

The High Line runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meat Market District north to West 34th Street west of 11th Avenue. The final portion of the park was opened in 2019.

In 2015, Josh became president and CEO of World Monuments Fund, a global non-profit dedicated to protecting cultural heritage sites, where he shifted the organizational focus from a site-based, bricks-and-mortar conservation approach to a community-based, social impact-driven model. Since its founding in 1965, the non-profit has orchestrated more than 600 projects in 90 countries.

Josh currently provides programmatic, communications, and funding counsel to mission-driven non-profit organizations. He serves on the Advisory Council of Transportation Alternatives, which seeks to reclaim New York City from the automobile by advocating for better bicycling, walking, and public transit opportunities, and he is a founding board member of Friends of + POOL, which is working to build the world’s first floating, self-filtering swimming pool, to be sited in Manhattan’s East River.

In 2017, as a board member of the Greenacre Foundation, Josh joined the effort to ensure that the Midtown East rezoning plan would protect Greenacre Park, a public-access vest pocket private space on East 51st Street — which boasts a 25-foot waterfall and an average of 700 visitors daily — from the construction of tall buildings nearby that would throw the space into shadows for most of the day.

In 2010, Josh and Robert received the Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism, and in 2013, they received the National Building Museum’s Vincent Scully Prize, which recognizes exemplary practice, scholarship, or criticism in architecture, historic preservation, and urban design.

Josh is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and earned a master’s of Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College. He lives in Chelsea with his partner, Stephen, and his Cairn Terrier, Desi.



Co-Founder of Friends of the High Line; Executive Director, The High Line

In 1999, Robert Hammond and Joshua David led efforts to turn an abandoned elevated railway line on Manhattan’s West Side into one of the world’s most celebrated parks: the High Line.

They envisioned a park, which runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meat Market district north to West 34th Street west of 11th Avenue, that would preserve the structure’s wild, natural beauty and incorporate parts of the historic elevated railroad.

After seven years of planning, gathering community input, engaging donors and volunteers, and persuading city officials, construction finally began. The High Line opened in June 2009 to immediate acclaim. This public space became a continuous 1.45-mile-long greenway featuring more than 500 species of plants and trees where visitors can view art, walk through gardens, or experience a performance, all while enjoying a unique perspective on the city.

The High Line, the final phase of which opened in 2019, now serves as a model internationally for other reuse projects and for community activism. Most recently, the organization established the High Line Network, a group of infrastructure reuse projects and the people who are helping them come to life.

Robert continues his involvement today as the executive director of the High Line, overseeing daily operations, art, cultural, and family programming, events, finances, and fundraising, of which nearly 100 percent is raised privately.

Before his work with the High Line, Robert supported the launch of online businesses in the public health and travel commerce industries, and worked as a consultant for an array of organizations, including the Times Square Alliance and Alliance for the Arts.

Robert has been awarded the Vincent Scully Prize (2013), the Rome Prize by the American Academy in Rome (2010), the Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal, along with David (2010), and an honorary doctorate from The New School (2012). Robert is also a self-taught artist and served as an ex-officio member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees.

Additionally, Robert is a co-producer of the film “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City,” the story of the iconic urban preservationist who wrote the seminal book “The Death and Life of Great Americans Cities.” Released via IFC in April 2017, the film chronicles the clash between mid-20th-century urban planning methods and how they relate to today’s urban renaissance.

Robert has been a meditation teacher since 2014.

He is a graduate of Princeton University.


Emilia Decaudin.

Democratic District Leader, 37th Assembly District in Queens

Emilia Decaudin is a 21-year-old transgender rights activist, Democratic Party official, and recent graduate of the City College of New York.

Emilia first entered the world of politics at age 16, when she volunteered on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. Since then, she has been involved in numerous campaigns for federal, state, and local office.

She is also a founding member of Zoomers Caucus and of the New York Progressive Action Network.

In September 2018, Emilia was elected as the youngest-ever and first out transgender member of the New York State Democratic Committee, representing the 94th Assembly District in Westchester County.

The following October, she spearheaded a successful effort to amend the rules of the State Committee to remove unnecessary references to the gender binary and to accommodate the election of non-binary members. She is continuing her efforts to foster inclusion of transgender and non-binary New Yorkers through her project Binary-Free NYC.

In June of this year, Emilia was elected as one of the first two openly transgender Democratic district leaders in New York City, representing Queens’ 37th Assembly District.

Even as she sought election to a party position in Queens, Emilia was willing to speak out against a consultant to a powerful city councilmember from the borough, Donovan Richards — who went on to win the June Democratic primary for borough president — when that consultant posted a series of inflammatory comments about transgender and non-binary individuals.

“Using the term womxn allows those non-binary people to be included in spaces that they ‘obviously’ deserve to be in without invalidating their gender or forcing them to identify as something they are not,” Emilia wrote in response to the consultant’s social media posts.

In an interview with Gay City News, Emilia argued that the inflammatory rhetoric she challenged falls into the same category as homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, and racism because although the consultant said she does not hate, the language was voiced in a way that could be deemed dehumanizing and invalidating of peoples’ identities. She argued that candidates for borough president should be mindful of the inclusive policies and practices expected of them should they be elected.

In her spare time, she is a freelance web and graphic designer.

Emilia was born and raised in Westchester County in a family of French immigrants. She currently resides in Sunnyside, Queens.



Desmond Is Amazing.

Iconic Drag Kid from Brooklyn

Desmond Napoles, whose stage name is Desmond is Amazing, is a 13-year-old drag kid, award-winning LGBTQ advocate and outspoken gay youth, model, public speaker, performer, fashion designer, author, founder of his own drag house and a member of the original pioneering voguing house, the House of UltraOmni, and a Brooklyn icon.

Most importantly, he is an inspiration to many and a symbol of hope for the future.

Desmond first developed an interest in drag when he was a toddler. When his mother was watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” he would stop playing with his toys to join her. He thought the queens were amazing and beautiful. He made his professional drag debut at age seven in “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 5 winner Jinkx Monsoon’s video for “The Bacon Shake.”

Desmond’s philosophy as an advocate is always be yourself and pay haters no mind because they “will never be as fierce as you and I.” He has earned the Marsha P. Johnson Don’t Be Outraged, Be Outrageous Award from Heritage of Pride and a Queeroes Award from Conde Nast Them. Desmond was listed on the 2018 Dazed100 and among the Out100 top influencers. He is also the founder of the first-ever drag house for drag kids, the Haus of Amazing.

Desmond has slayed the runways at New York Fashion Week, including for Gypsy Sport, The Blonds x Disney Villains, and Nicopanda’s MAC Cosmetics collaboration with Macy’s. He has appeared in Vogue magazine four times, breaking the age and gender boundaries of the fashion industry.

Desmond has designed his own line of fans with Daftboy, T-shirts with Drag Queen Merch, and a line of lashes with Chimera Lashes.

For Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Desmond wrote “Be Amazing: A History of Pride” to teach young children how to have self-confidence and express themselves, and his first inspirational music single, “We Are All Amazing,” is releasing this year.

In his spare time, Desmond enjoys collecting miniature trains, playing with Hot Wheels, drawing maps, playing video games, visiting parks and zoos, and building virtual roller coasters. He would like to study ornithology or engineering in the future.

What inspires Desmond most is the feedback he receives from other drag and LGBTQ kids. Oftentimes they describe how he helped them discover the importance of self-expression and gave them the courage to come out. With his “Amazies,” he emphasizes, “Be yourself, always.”




Cody Dolly.

Managing Director & LGBTQ+ Field Advisory Group Member, Northwestern Mutual

Having joined Northwestern Mutual in 2002, Cody Dolly is a managing director in the Milwaukee-based financial services company’s White Plains office. There, he leads of group of veteran financial advisors while also overseeing the recruitment and development of early career professionals.

The financial advisory team Cody manages develop enduring relationships with clients by providing expert guidance for a lifetime of financial security. They work with clients to identify their own specific definition of financial security and then focus on the solutions that can help make those financial goals a reality.

Cody and his team typically work with business owners and successful professionals, helping them find the time to make smart decisions about money. That work involves assisting clients in identifying and prioritizing the values that each individual brings to the table and comparing what those values suggest with the financial decisions they have made to date.

Cody takes pride in creating for his clients an atmosphere in which they focus their time and energy on their families and businesses without fear that their financial future may be in doubt. The result is that his clients employ financial solutions that allow them to accomplish the things that are truly important to them.

Cody has been an instrumental leader on the professional concerns of LGBTQ community members who work at Northwestern Mutual. He serves on the LGBTQ+ Field Advisory Group and has been a critical voice in challenging the group to push the boundaries and create greater impact.

This year, for the first time in its 163-year history, Northwestern Mutual honored a local network office with the Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award, and Cody was a member of the judging panel that decided on that award. Given the depth of his experience with the company and his level of professional credibility, he proved a tremendous asset to that panel. Cody remains committed to and active in the effort to create a truly inclusive culture across his company’s wide network of workplaces.

Cody was born and raised in the Adirondack region of New York State and now lives in Stamford, Connecticut. As an Ironman triathlete and a marathon runner, he stays active and fit physically, and he also enjoys travel, volunteering, checking out new restaurants, and spending time with friends and family.


Wes Enos.

Executive Director, The Generations Project

Wes Enos was raised by a history teacher father and an English teacher mother on the Oregon Coast, so it may not seem surprising that in 2015 he founded The Generations Project, a non-profit that connects LGBTQ people of different ages in life storytelling events where the community shares and celebrates its collective history.

But, as Wes told Gay City News last year, there was a time in his life when history became a painful topic. His father’s 10th grade history class was famous in his high school — other students told him his Dad made “history come alive” for them. But when Wes himself reached 10th grade, he lost his father to pancreatic cancer.

“I grew to hate history,” he recalled.

In time he came around, earning his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in history. Working as a waiter in the Castro, Wes noticed older gay men who were regular customers, and from a fellow waiter heard stories of how those men had lost so many friends to AIDS in the 1980s and ‘90s. While in San Francisco, Wes volunteered at the city’s GLBT Historical Society.

Wes arrived in New York a few years later armed with his appreciation for LGBTQ history. Many of his peers, meanwhile, seemed clueless about it. Overhearing a 21-year-old gay man at a party say that anyone over 40 should be banned from the bars, Wes vowed to find a way to educate young folks about the community’s history while bringing people of different ages together.

“History has a history of being forgotten,” Wes said, adding, “There’s so much rich history in the LGBTQ community. As a young gay person new to the scene, where do you start?”

After conversations with older people about queer life it struck him — intergenerational storytelling. The Generations Project was born.

“The best way to build our community is to share our history and make sure our stories are passed to the next generation,” Wes explained.

The Generations Project consists of workshops and shows, where stories are recorded in front of a live audience.

“Now we have an archive of experienced storytellers,” Wes said. “When we create themed shows we can pull storytellers from past workshops, mix them with others in our network, and build an eager community to support them… Some of the participants never thought they would share their story in front of an audience.”



Ethel A. Felix.

Co-Founder, President, Caribbean American Pride

Ethel A. Felix, a co-founder and the president of Caribbean American Pride who works professionally for the nonprofit community health plan Amida Care, was born in Belize City into a politically active family. At the age of three, she accompanied her mother Florine to her first protest march against the Guatemalan presence in Belize.

In 1978, her family relocated to New York, settling in Brooklyn. There, a junior high school teacher reinforced Ethel’s interest in politics by teaching her about Shirley Chisholm, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and other Black political activists who had Caribbean roots.

Ethel’s family later moved to the Bronx’s Fordham section, and in high school there she was active in groups like the Model City Council and her school’s chapter of Arista, the National Honor Society. At Binghamton University, she majored in Literature and Rhetoric and minored in Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies. She was also active in the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s.

After college, Ethel volunteered in advocacy organizations both in the Bronx and in her Belize homeland, traveling there to work on her cousin’s campaign for the Belizean Parliament. Back home, she became a member of the St. James Episcopal Church board and joined the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. With that group, she lobbied elected officials in Washington on issues including HIV/ AIDS, housing, and immigration reform.

In 2000, Ethel attended a meeting of S.I.S.T.A.H. (Sisters in Search of Truth, Alliance, and Harmony), where she met a group of Black women who remain among her closest friends. Through S.I.S.T.A.H., she met the late Candace Boyce, a co-founder of AALUSC (African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change). Ethel soon became an active member there.

It was when she went to work for Amida Care that Ethel met her spiritual life partner, Chantal Bonhomme, whom she married at St. James Episcopal Church in Fordham.

While marching with her wife in Brooklyn’s Labor Day West Indian Day Parade in the early 2010s, Ethel saw one of her friends attacked. It was then that she and others recognized the need to raise the visibility of LGBTQ people of Caribbean descent. Ethel, along with Chantal and friends Bajan Sandy King, Cluny Levanche, Eda Francois, Omar Ifill, Naquan Ross, and Jason Weeks co-founded Caribbean American Pride.

Ethel and Chantal and their children now live in Jackson Heights, Queens.



Tracie M. Gardner.

Vice President of Policy Advocacy, The Legal Action Center

Tracie M. Gardner, vice president of policy advocacy at the Legal Action Center, has worked nearly 30 years in the health and social services policy arena — in both non-profit and government settings — as a policy advocate, trainer, and lobbyist.

The Legal Action Center (LAC) employs legal and policy strategies to fight discrimination, build health equity, and restore opportunity for people with criminal records, substance use disorders, and HIV. The group aims to dismantle the persistent impact of systemic racism that fuels mass incarceration and disparate community health outcomes.

As vice president of policy advocacy, Tracie spearheads major initiatives and fosters strategic partnerships that support LAC’s mission. She has led advocacy campaigns that won substantial increases in funding for substance use, for HIV, and for alternatives to incarceration and for reentry services. Her work has led to the passage of landmark HIV confidentiality legislation and criminal justice reforms.

Tracie serves as a lead spokesperson for LAC and oversees the group’s racial justice and equity work.

From 2015 to 2017, Tracie served in two posts in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. As assistant secretary of mental hygiene in the State Health Department, she oversaw the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, the Office of Mental Health, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, and the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs.

As a criminal justice specialist within the Health Department, Tracie focused on special projects to promote Medicaid enrollment and healthcare access for justice-involved individuals. She also coordinated the governor’s 2016 Heroin Opiate Legislative Initiative.

Prior to her work in the Cuomo administration, Tracie served as LAC’s co-director of policy for more than 14 years. In that role, she coordinated LAC’s New York State public policy advocacy on budget and legislative matters related to criminal justice, addiction, and HIV/ AIDS.

Earlier in her career, Tracie carried out healthcare management training, HIV/ AIDS policy advocacy, and policy analysis with the Hudson Planning Group, the Harlem Directors Group, and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies.

Tracie, who received her BA from Mount Holyoke College, is a board member at the Advocacy Institute, which supports social justice and movement-building organizations in New York, and at NEXT Distro, an online harm reduction platform aimed at reducing drug overdose deaths and drug-related health problems in rural and suburban areas.


Richard Grossman.

President, Halstead Real Estate

With more than three decades of real estate experience in New York, Richard Grossman is well-known as an innovative, effective, and strategic leader for both residential and commercial properties. As president of Halstead Real Estate, Richard works closely together with Chief Executive Officer Diane M. Ramirez to form the company’s Executive Committee. He handles the day to day operations of running Halstead’s Greenwich Village and Soho offices.

Under his careful direction, a network of top producing agents has emerged in Halstead’s Downtown Offices. Richard combines strong leadership skills with invaluable knowledge of the real estate industry’s ins and outs for the benefit of his agents and their clients. Fully familiar with the inner workings and requirements of cooperatives and condominiums, Richard is consistently able to provide agents and clients with valuable insights on complex transactions — always with a calm, logical, and patient demeanor.

During his career, Richard has been involved with the conversion of more than 30 rental buildings to cooperative or condominium ownership. He has been directly involved in each step of the process, including initial analysis of the viability of conversion, preparation and certification of the offering plan, handling the sales and marketing of vacant units as well as the negotiations with existing tenants.

Prior to joining Halstead, Richard was senior vice president and director of sales for Heron Properties, where he was responsible for the creation of the sales division — that he quickly grew to 25 agents — of one of New York’s most prestigious management firms. While at Heron, he also served as a commercial mortgage broker, specializing in underlying mortgages for cooperative buildings. Richard also brokered numerous retail and commercial transactions including art galleries on 57th Street and in the Chelsea art district. Before Heron, Richard was the director of sales for Hahn & Mann Realty, Inc., and he started his career at J.H. Taylor Real Estate.

In his personal time, Richard is a board member of the NYC AIDS Memorial in the West Village, for which he raised funds.

An avid traveler, fitness enthusiast, and contemporary and modern art collector, he is the past president of the Brevoort East, a 330-unit coop in Greenwich Village, where he and another shareholder were responsible for a $3.6 million tax refund to the building.

Richard is a graduate of Syracuse University and received a Diploma in Real Estate Analysis from New York University.



Mickey Heller.

Co-chair, Brooklyn Pride

Mickey Heller may have been raised in the Marble Hill Projects and Co-op City in the Bronx, but it has been in Brooklyn where he has made his indelible mark.

Among his many contributions to Brooklyn’s LGBTQ community and its civic life generally, Mickey is proudest of his work with Brooklyn Pride (, the group that stages the borough’s annual Pride Festival and its truly awesome Twilight Parade.

He got his start with Brooklyn Pride in 2007 and 2008 driving the float that carried the irrepressible borough president at that time, Marty Markowitz, who in that post and earlier as a state senator had contributed enormously to the launch and growth of the annual Pride celebration.

In 2009, Mickey volunteered to help out with the 5k run through Prospect Park on the morning of the Pride festivities and with the evening parade. By 2010, he had become the parade coordinator, a role he has maintained ever since.

Beyond the heavy lifting involved in coordinating the parade, Mickey has also served as co-chair or chair of the overall Pride Weekend every year since 2013.

Just as Brooklyn Pride has transformed the face and visibility of the borough’s LGBTQ community over the past several decades, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center ( represents a profound commitment to serving its needs, particularly among members of the community too long overlooked. Mickey is proud to have been a founding board member of the Pride Center.

Among Mickey’s other civic contributions to Brooklyn is his role on the board of the Piper Theatre Company (, which, founded 20 years ago, produces innovative and dynamic productions by and for the borough’s young people. The company’s offerings have been challenging, including two pieces by Stephen Sondheim — “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd” — as well as Charles Busch’s “Psycho Beach Party,” “Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical,” and “Peter Pan.”

Mickey, however, might be most visible — if least recognized — as the “official” Santa Claus for the past seven years for the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District’s Christmas celebration.

Mickey is a graduate of the city’s High School of Music & Art, Hunter College, and Brooklyn Law School. He has practiced law for almost 30 years, and for the past seven years has served as an administrative law judge in the New York State Court System.



Barton L. Jackson II.

Vice President, Relationship Manager, TD Bank

Barton L. Jackson II, a vice president and relationship manager at TD Bank, is a banking professional of 12 years. He feels very fortunate to have fallen in love with a career that puts him at the intersection of finance and serving his community.

In October, Barton will celebrate his eighth year at TD Bank. Representing the Regional Commercial Bank, his responsibilities are in supporting small business owner clients to navigate their capital needs and financing options. Through in-depth discussions regarding their cash cycle, scaling, and other financial milestones, Barton and his clients can best determine how TD Bank business solutions can support their endeavors. As a relationship manager, he oversees lending decisions for clients with total credit exposure ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.

As TD Bank’s Metro New York LGBTA Business Resource Group Community Marketplace Lead, Barton maintains an active presence in the community through volunteerism, professional networking and partnerships, and business development in line with the TD brand. He is also a TD Bank volunteer ambassador to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, an advocacy organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities for the LGBT business community whose certification of LGBT Business Enterprises is recognized by more than one-third of Fortune 500 companies. With NGLCC, he has chaired monthly events, brought new members on board, and facilitated meaningful networking introductions among participants.

For the Office of the New York State Comptroller, Barton sits on the Consumer Protection and Empowerment Focus Group.

He has taught consumer financial literacy and small business financial seminars for numerous community groups and non-profits across the New York City area.

In 2019, Barton was recognized as one of the Business Equality Network’s 40 LGBT Leaders Under 40, and last year he was also named one of TD’s WOW! Stars for his work in community development.

Prior to his work with TD Bank, Barton worked for Verify Credit Union and Wells Fargo.

Barton is a graduate of Boise State University.


Ken Kidd.

Co-Founder & Steering Committee Member, Gays Against Guns

Ken Kidd, director of special projects and events at NYU’s College of Arts and Science, has been a proud rabble-rouser in the LGBTQ and HIV/ AIDS communities for more than 30 years.

At NYU, Ken conceived and spearheaded the university’s Stonewall#50, with more than 100 special events at the school’s sites across the globe — including three art exhibits and the publication of three books marking the anniversary and the roles played by NYU community members in the movement since.

Ken’s activism has spanned the leading LGBTQ civil rights and health advocacy efforts of recent decades. He helped organize major protest actions of ACT UP, Queer Nation, the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, Gays Against Guns (GAG) — launched in the immediate aftermath of the Pulse nightclub massacre in June 2016 — and Rise and Resist, which emerged in response to Donald Trump’s Russian-backed overthrow of our country’s democracy.

In 1991, Ken helped organize ACT UP’s “Day of Desperation” that shut down Grand Central and 42nd Street during a weeknight rush hour, and he was an original member of Queer Nation from its first meeting through its actions against Vladimir Putin’s Anti-Gay Propaganda Laws in 2013 and 2014 and its successful 2015 efforts to kill the fatally flawed Employment Nondiscrimination Act. He assisted in crafting the wording for ENDA’s stronger and more comprehensive successor, the Equality Act, currently languishing due to GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s intransigence.

As a GAG member since its inception, Ken has worked with the group’s Human Beings (silent veiled figures cloaked in white who represent those whose voices were lost to gun violence), helped spearhead successful Gays Against Guns strategies against gun stock investments via BlackRock holdings, and led the successful battle against the National Rifle Association’s Business Alliance, a group of more than 100 national and international corporations that had lavished huge discounts to NRA members but have since broken ties.

Ken created an ad/ zap/ action campaign to focus on NRA-sponsored bills introduced in Congress to legalize Nationwide Concealed Carry Reciprocity and most recently began a campaign of action and education about Wells Fargo, the NRA’s principal bank that has offered the gun lobby and assault weapons manufacturers at least $470 million in loans and bond financings since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.

Of GAG’s efforts, Ken says, “Stay tuned because we’re not done yet!”


Jeffrey Cole LeFrancois.Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media

Executive Director, Meatpacking District Management Association

Jeffrey Cole LeFrancois, who has served as executive director of the Meatpacking District Management Association, also known as the Meatpacking BID, since early 2019, has a long history of civic and political engagement.

Raised in rural Connecticut, Jeffrey earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Pace University and immediately immersed himself in local LGBTQ politics, joining the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats and the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, where he serves on the Executive Board.

His experience in working on political campaigns is extensive. Though he supported Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primary, during the fall campaign he was a get-out-the-vote volunteer for Barack Obama in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, an important swing area outside Philadelphia. Four years later, he was a regional field director for Obama’s reelection campaign in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, another populous swing district that includes Pittsburgh and many suburbs. In 2013, Jeffrey served as outreach coordinator for Gale Brewer’s successful primary campaign to become Manhattan borough president.

For five years beginning in 2008, Jeffrey worked for Manhattan State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, serving as deputy chief of staff for the final three years. In 2014, he joined incoming City Councilmember Corey Johnson as his chief of staff during his first year in office.

Jeffrey joined the Meatpacking BID in early 2015, first serving as director of operations and community affairs. In that capacity, he oversaw capital construction projects along 14th Street and also lobbied the city to re-cobblestone streets, saving the BID $7 million. As executive director of the BID for the past 18 months, Jeffrey has managed budgets totaling almost $3 million per year and overseen all operations, including a future public art program on the organization’s plazas.

Jeffrey has also undertaken a wide range of volunteer community activities. A member since 2016 of Manhattan Community 4, which represents neighborhoods from the Meatpacking District north to Hell’s Kitchen where he lives, Jeffrey has served as first vice chair since last year. He is also co-chair of the Waterfront and Parks Committee.

Jeffrey has also served on the board of Housing Conservation Coordinators — a non-profit that advances social and economic justice for low-income and working class families in Hell’s Kitchen — since 2017.

Jeffrey has contributed op-eds to Gay City News and the newspaper’s sister publications The Villager and Chelsea Now, as well an essay for Pace University’s literary magazine.



Jomil Luna.

Pharmacy Specialist, AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Jomil Luna, who earned his master’s degree in Public Health from Rutgers University, is a pharmacy specialist at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and also secretary of the New York City HIV Planning Council, which is responsible for making decisions about the allocation of prevention funds from the federal CDC.

As an out HIV-positive Puerto Rican gay man, Jomil is a passionate public health and LGBTQ advocate. At the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Jomil is responsible for the delivery of outpatient medical services and client education for HIV-positive New Yorkers, addressing barriers to engagement in outpatient care, creating outreach plans targeting specific areas or populations, and providing input into the development of national linkage-to-care policies.

Prior to joining AHF in 2016, Jomil was the site director of the Hispanic AIDS Forum’s (HAF) Latino Pride Center. There, he developed new programs, built strategic partnerships to advance HAF’s mission, assisted the group’s executive director in formulating sexual health-related policy positions, and was as a member of HAF’s speakers bureau.

At BOOM!Health in the Bronx, beginning in 2013, Jomil served as assistant director of prevention programs.

Jomil was raised in Camden, New Jersey, by his mother and grandmother. The first in his family to graduate from college, he earned his master’s degree in 2013.

Several years ago, Jomil was profiled in the “Other Boys NYC” series of He talked about growing up in a poor neigbhorhood where young men faced peer pressure to conform to prevailing norms of masculinity. He would often head into nearby Philadelphia to check out the gay scene, and on one ocassion ran into a family friend he was sure would “rat me out.” Several weeks later, his grandmother asked him directly if he was gay. Jomil now realizes, he said, that her concern was due to the fact that “she was scared for me,” given what she had heard about violence facing the LGBTQ community.

His grandmother, who he said “took it upon herself” to tell the rest of his family, told him, “At least you’re not the type to dress up.” It would be years later, as the age of social media bloomed, he said, that his family began to see how when with his friends, “I tend to have fun. I become loca.” One solution to catching flak on that score, he said with a laugh, was having two Facebook pages.



Jevon Martin.

Founder & Executive Director, Princess Janae Place

In 2015, Jevon Martin embarked on a quest to make a difference in the lives of local trans youth when he founded Princess Janae Place, a Bronx-based LGBTQ social services organization that works to stabilize housing for trans people.

That quest has been an impactful one: Jevon, a trans man, has a staff of three full-time and two part-time employees, including several tasked with connecting clients to housing options, primarily in the Bronx. Approximately 60 percent of Princess Janae Place’s clients are transgender in addition to many non-binary, gay, lesbian, and bisexual folks who utilize the non-profit’s offerings, which extend beyond housing to encompass legal, medical, mental health, and recreational services. Almost 80 percent of clients are Black.

Jevon’s dedication to his clients’ needs was evident when he took on extra duties during the turbulent emergence of the coronavirus. Speaking to Gay City News in late March, he was in the midst of hustling to connect clients in need to housing even as his organization had to temporarily close. In one instance, he visited a youth getting by in the stairwell of an apartment building and got him placed in a motel.

Jevon’s journey toward leadership of Princess Janae Place involved years of work as a mentor, an educator, an advocate, and an influential house father in the ballroom community. He has played an active role in political circles, standing up for marriage equality and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act.

As an advocate, Jevon wears many hats: He is a motivational speaker, grandparent, co-producer, peer, and model, while also fitting in time to spearhead workshops. He also juggles other positions, such as his role serving on the Advisory Council of Equality New York. Jevon is also involved in Theta Beta Chi, a fraternity he said is the first in the nation for trans men and has fostered important kinships among Black transgender men in New York.

Jevon’s work has garnered notable recognition over the years. Among his awards include a 2019 Certificate of Excellence from Governor Andrew Cuomo, the 2016 Octavia St. Laurent Trans Activist Award, and the Mr. Trans USA New York title in 2020.

Jevon is inspired by a simple motto: If not now, then when? If not me, then who? He reminds folks to be the change the world needs today to make for a better tomorrow.



Aaron C. Morris.

Executive Director, Immigration Equality

Aaron C. Morris is the executive director of Immigration Equality, the nation’s premier immigrant rights group serving LGBTQ people as well as those living with HIV.

Immigration Equality’s work includes direct legal services to immigrants, especially those from the more than 80 countries where it is either a crime or gravely unsafe to be LGBTQ or HIV-positive. Between the dangers of immigration detention facilities and the complexity of the nation’s asylum process, asylum seekers are unlikely to be successful without representation by knowledgeable counsel.

Immigration Equality advances a policy agenda in coalition with other immigrant rights advocates, focusing on educating lawmakers and other policy decision makers on the specific dangers facing LGBTQ and HIV-positive people who have come to the US from their homeland. The organization’s clients can often be the most effective spokespeople in making the case for reform.

Immigration Equality also engages in impact litigation on behalf of clients, seeking to challenge discriminatory practices in a manner that can benefit other asylum seekers in similar situations.

Prior to becoming Immigration Equality’s executive director, Aaron led its law and policy programs, where he oversaw the group’s legal services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, and lobbying efforts. He joined Immigration Equality as a staff attorney in 2008.

In 2015, Aaron made oral arguments as amicus counsel before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Godoy-Ramirez v. Holder. In that case, he argued that the immigration judge hearing a transgender Mexican woman’s asylum case fundamentally misunderstood the dangers she faced because the judge concluded that the ability of same-sex couples to marry in Mexico City meant that trans people did not face persecution. The Ninth Circuit ordered the Board of Immigration Appeals to reconsider the asylum application.

Aaron is a graduate of American University’s Washington College of Law and earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Oklahoma.

Before joining Immigration Equality, he was an immigration staff attorney in the Office of Legal Affairs of the New York-based United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Aaron is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the LGBT Bar Association. In 2014, the LGBT Bar Association named him as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40.

In 2017, Aaron was honored with the Peter M. Cicchinio Award from American University’s Washington College of Law for Outstanding Advocacy in the Public Interest.



Joann Prinzivalli.

Pioneering Transgender Rights Advocate, New York Transgender Rights Organization

Joann Prinzivalli is an attorney and activist with a long record of transgender advocacy and civil rights work — in Westchester County, New York City, and across the state.

Immediately after the State Legislature approved the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in late 2002 without providing protections for transgender New Yorkers, Joann wrote the first draft of the Gender Equality Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) to cure that omission.

The fight for GENDA was a long tough slog. During those years, Joann was an early member of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA) working group. She later organized the New York Transgender Rights Organization (NYTRO), which was dedicated to grassroots transgender activism statewide and in local communities centered on advocacy for GENDA and other trans-inclusive legislation.

It was not until Democrats captured control of the State Senate in 2018 that GENDA finally won passage — in the early days of the 2019 legislative session.

In Westchester County, Joann was the co-founder of the transgender support group at The LOFT, the LGBTQ community center in White Plains where she has served on the board. She has been a member of the Westchester County Executive’s LGBT Advisory Board since its inception in 2002, and wrote the trans-inclusive language adopted for the county’s Human Rights and Fair Housing Laws.

Joann has also served as a board member, secretary, and chair of the New York Civil Liberties Union Hudson Valley regional chapter. In White Plains, she is a Democratic Party district leader.

In 2009, Joann initiated a lawsuit to compel the New York City Board of Health to revise its rules for city-born transgender people to amend their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity. That looming suit was instrumental in helping transgender activists negotiate with the state in 2014 and the city in 2015 to dramatically reduce the burden of the requirements facing trans people wishing to correct their birth certificate.

Professionally, Joann Prinzivalli is the chief counsel for Insignia National Title Agency, a title insurance agency located in Manhattan. She previously worked as vice president and chief underwriting counsel for Stewart Title Insurance Company and has more than 37 years of experience with title insurance underwriters and agents.

Joann received her bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame College of Staten Island and, in 1978, her J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law, where she was editor of The Forum.



Dr. Asa Radix.

Senior Director of Research and Education, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center

Dr. Asa Radix is the senior director of research and education at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, which provides healthcare services targeted to the LGBTQ community regardless of ability to pay at locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

In that capacity, Asa directs a number of studies investigating factors that promote the health and well-being of LGBTQ communities.

Asa is also clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine.

Raised in the West Indies, Asa trained in internal medicine and infectious disease at the University of Connecticut and earned postgraduate degrees in epidemiology and public health at Columbia University and at Cambridge University in the UK.

Working in the Caribbean earlier in his career, Asa headed up a public health department where he expanded treatment to people living with HIV.

He has more than 20 years of experience providing primary care to LGBTQ people and is a recognized expert in transgender medicine.

Asa has been a member of teams developing guidelines for transgender care in multiple national and international settings, including the Caribbean and Asia and the Pacific region. He currently co-chairs a working group reviewing and updating the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care, the gold standard for that field of practice.

Among the most recent professional articles Asa has published are an investigation of the use of HIV antiretrovirals and PrEP among transgender people, a study of situations where children and parents disagree on whether to go forward with medically assisted gender affirmation, and a look at how gender dysphoria affects mental health and sleep patterns among transgender New Yorkers.

In line with his commitment to improving HIV and sexual healthcare services for LGBTQ people and other populations, Asa serves on advisory and oversight groups including the New York State AIDS Institute Medical Clinical Care Committee, the federal Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents, the Pan American Health Organization HIV/ STI Technical Advisory Committee, the American Sexual Health Association, and the medical advisory board of the Center of Excellence in Transgender Health at the University of California at San Francisco.

Asa is an associate editor of the peer-reviewed journal Transgender Health and serves on the editorial board for the International Journal of Transgender Health, a peer-reviewed quarterly.


PJ Ryan.

Creator & Producer, “The Dear You Project” Podcast

PJ Ryan, born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the eldest of 12 children, was given the name Phillip James, by which his dear grandmother always called him. But in the creative world, Phillip James Ryan is known as PJ Ryan.

PJ is an actor, educator, mental health and wellness advocate, writer, and the Brooklyn nominee for Most Valuable Producer, or MVP. His artistic journey began on Juneteenth of 2017, when he took a scary leap of faith — deciding after 15 years to leave the corporate finance world to pursue his passion for being a voice for those who go unheard. One of the first alumni of Stella Adler’s Black Arts Insitute led by his mentor, Phylicia Rashaad, PJ has been cast in network and cable shows such as “Ray Donovan,” “Power,” “Murphy Brown,” “Blue Bloods,” and “New Amsterdam.” He has also appeared in several Off-Broadway productions. Still, PJ knows that there is more to be done than simply being “seen.”

As an educator, PJ is a teaching artist for the BRIC Arts Media Youth Education Program. He has had residencies in several Brooklyn schools, where he teaches youth about digital photography and audio and video production.

As a digital content creator, PJ is focused on creating safe spaces for Black and Brown faces to be authentic, vulnerable, and love their melanated skin. He is co-host — with Ushi, Blair Tate, and Chris Red — of the “Highly Melanated Podcast,” which was nominated for a 2019 BSpoke Award. Episodes range from financial literacy to mental health and wellness and women’s reproductive justice.

PJ co-produces another podcast, Willing and Waiting.” There he and co-host JBT-Dub talk about dating and the journey of celibacy or sexual abstinence from a male and female’s perspective with guests sharing their stories.

PJ also created “The Dear You Project,” a podcast centered around vulnerability with guests sharing their stories in a “Dear You” letter intended to encourage listeners from communities of color to recongnize they aren’t alone. The writer chooses whomever they wish to write to on whatever subject they choose, but the letter must chronicle their growth and overcoming of adversity.

In the podcast’s second season, PJ decided to dig deeper and bravely told his story of being a survivor of sexual assault, which led to his HIV-status.

All his podcasts are available on multiple platforms as well as his website,


Michael Serao.

Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, First Central Savings Bank

Michael Serao, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at First Central Savings Bank, headquartered in Glen Cove, Long Island, has 21 years of banking experience. He previously served as a vice president at JPMorgan Chase and also worked at Commerce Bank and Quontic Bank, both located in Astoria.

As chief administrative officer, Michael has brought First Central Savings Bank, or FCSB, into the 21st century. Through his advocacy in the non-profit sector and the LGBTQ community, Michael has ignited change for clients who are looking for the full range of personal banking services they can access anywhere, anytime at a brick-and-mortar institution. He has inspired FCSB professionals to deliver “banking the way it used to be, only better.”

The Business Development Officers Michael brought on board have joined local non-profit organizations to acquire new customers and capitalize on new business opportunities. That mission reflects FCSB’s commitment to enriching communities, learning first-hand about the credit needs of non-profit organizations, driving local economic growth, and cultivating lasting relationships by putting the best interests of clients first.

Michael understands that many customers prefer physical interaction with local bankers so he renovated the branch network with a complete facelift. The benefits were immediate: stronger community partnerships and, for employees, a sense of ownership of their branch. FCSB communicates one basic idea — personal service — to all its employees.

Michael leads FCSB’s philanthropic mission by securing funding for non-profits including the Long Island Crisis Center, the New York City Children’s Theater, the Metro Boys & Girls Club, the Long Island Library Resources Council, the Freeport Educational Foundation, and the American-Italian Cancer Foundation.

In 2018, Michael personally donated more than $100,000 in charitable contributions to non-profit organizations, including $10,000 to the Long Island Crisis Center. He has worked actively in the LGBTQ community as a former president of the Western Queens LGBT Democratic Club and a member of OUT Astoria.

In 2018, Michael’s activism in banking was recognized by the Long Island Press Power List as a Rainmaker and he was named Person of the Year by the Long Island Crisis Center. In 2014, the Huffington Post named him The Banker Everyone Loves.

Michael and his husband, Dr. Fidel Abreu, also oversee a multi-million dollar real estate business.

A graduate of Queensborough Community College and New York University, Michael and his husband live in with their three dogs, Bernie, CoCo, and Martin.


Brian Silva.

Founder and Executive Director, National Equality Action Team

Brian Silva is the founder and executive director of the National Equality Action Team (NEAT). NEAT builds collaborative actions and partnerships so anyone, anywhere, can fight for LGBTQ justice everywhere. The group’s work is based in education and advocacy that is grassroots, intersectional, locally driven, and accessible.

Brian’s efforts on NEAT grew directly out of his work as executive director of Marriage Equality New York and later Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA), two grassroots groups.

From that experience, Brian built a track record of executive leadership, organizational development, coalition building, organizing, and empowering volunteers.

In 2012, Brian created NEAT as part of MEUSA as a remote phone bank program to allow volunteers everywhere to support marriage equality efforts. That program brought together 20 local, regional, and national organizations to support successful marriage campaigns in Maryland, Washington, Maine, and Minnesota.

Based on the victories in those states at the polls in November 2012 and in the Minnesota Legislature early the following year, NEAT continued to host phone banks — in person and remote — and canvass weekends in other states. By 2014, the group had contributed to 13 marriage equality victories across the US.

NEAT embarked on its first non-marriage campaign in 2015, pitching in on the effort to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. As MEUSA was wound down, NEAT was transferred to Freedom for All Americans as part of the campaign to win comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections nationwide. By 2017, Brian transitioned those efforts into an independent organization dedicated to harnessing the unique power of everyday people and partners anywhere.

To date, NEAT has supported more than 25 campaigns nationwide, including four successful nondiscrimination efforts — in Georgia, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Florida — and built a grassroots network of 1,000 organizers who have supported national and global initiatives and hosted more than 1,500 local actions. In a compact with 30 organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, the Equality Federation, and Freedom for All Americans, NEAT builds its volunteer base for actions.

NEAT’s work is informed by the ethos of Big J justice. Given the intersectional identities of LGBTQ people, the group views an attack on any of these identities as an attack on all LGBTQ people. The group fights not only for issues that only affect LGBTQ people, but as well for issues that also affect them — often disproportionately.



Krishna Stone.Zephyr Ann

Director of Community Relations, Gay Men’s Health Crisis

Krishna Stone is the director of community relations in the Communications Department at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), where she has been involved for 34 years. Krishna originally connected with GMHC in 1986 when she walked in the first annual AIDS Walk New York. She soon began volunteering.

In 1993, Krishna joined GMHC as a staff member. Her responsibilities include coordinating staff interviews with media outlets and developing public service campaigns and promotional materials. She is also engaged in an endless round of organizing community events — rallies, candlelight vigils, press conferences, dance parties and other fundraisers, and site visits to GMHC for people from all over the world.

Krishna was one of the heroes of AIDS activism profiled in Victoria Noe’s 2017 book “Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community.” In a guest post on Noe’s blog this year, Krishna recalled the commitment and grief that spurred her work with GMHC.

“During the 1980s and 90s, when I was volunteering and then becoming an employee at Gay Men Health Crisis, visiting with friends who were living with AIDS and then attending memorial services for those who had died of AIDS, dancing was a substantial coping skill,” she wrote.
She then memorably set a scene that will resonate with many.

“I would go to the clubs, largely for gay men, and dance to extraordinary Disco Classics music, played by immensely gifted DJs,” Krishna continued. “Before I would start on the dance-floor, I would ask myself who was I dancing for that had died of AIDS. Then I would dance for hours, while crying for my friends, singing out loud and screaming when the DJ would play a specific song — ‘Oh my Goddess! That’s my song!’ Pure rapture and joy mixed with sorrow.”

Krishna’s ubiquitous presence in the battle against AIDS battle has earned her widespread recognition.

For the past 21 years she’s been a volunteer announcer along the route of Manhattan’s LGBTQ Pride March. In 2017, Krishna was among the event’s four grand marshals, and Governor Andrew Cuomo honored her for “dedicated service and continuing contributions to our great State.”

In 2014, the city’s health department honored her on World AIDS Day with an award in recognition of “her outstanding dedication to combatting the spread of HIV.”

An ordained non-denominational minister, Krishna is the proud mother of a 25-year-old daughter, Parade.



Rod Townsend.

Former President, Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City; Member, Queens Community Board 1

Rod Townsend, who was president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City from 2018 until early this year and is a member of Queens Community Board 1, looks at his civic engagement as a way to bring people together to make change.

Raised in a working class family in Indiana, he has lived in New York for 30 years and worked as a production manager in the home furnishing industry. His life and work experience have given him insight into the barriers of inequality and affordability faced by too many New Yorkers.

An activist in the successful marriage equality fight, Rod learned the power of organizing, joined progressive LGBTQ groups, and created a national directory of LGBTQ Democratic clubs like Stonewall.

His two years leading Stonewall were a period of striking change both in the LGBTQ community’s agenda and in the local power structure. The election of a Democratic State Senate in 2018 allowed the club to realize a number of longtime goals, including the enactment of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a ban on conversion therapy practiced on minors, and the prohibition on use of the panic defense in murder cases involving LGBTQ victims.

The Democrats’ State Senate victories in 2018 did not come in a vacuum. Stonewall was among the progressive groups that mounted a grassroots campaign challenging members of the Independent Democratic Conference, which had aligned itself with the Republicans, giving the GOP control of the Senate leading up to 2018.

As chair of the Community and Economic Development Committee on Astoria’s Community Board 1, Rod looks out for working class residents, voting against housing developments falsely labeled “affordable,” actively advocating for high paying jobs in the community’s manufacturing areas, and promoting the neighborhood’s many small businesses.

Until this year, his activism on marriage equality, with Stonewall, and on Community Board 1 was fior him “a time-consuming hobby.” That may be about to change. In February, Rod announced that he is seeking the City Council seat in Westerrn Queens’ District 22, in a race that may be a crowded affiar.

Rod — the proud parent of a rescued cat and dog and an avid hiker — says he welcomes the competition.

“The more the merrier,” he told Gay City News. “I’ve been working for years now to encourage people to run for office. I’m not willing to go back on that now because I’m a candidate.”



Dubbs Weinblatt.

Founder and Executive Producer, “Thank You For Coming Out”

Dubbs Weinblatt is the founder, executive producer, and host of “Thank You For Coming Out,” an improv and storytelling show series that is now also a Gay City News podcast celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community by showcasing queer stories.

Dubbs is trans, genderqueer, queer, and gay. Each of those words means something different to them and is an important part of their identity.

On the “Thank You For Coming Out” podcast, Dubbs talks to lesbian, gay, trans, bi, non-binary, and other members of the queer community about their coming out stories. Recent guests have included Sara Bareilles, a community ally who is a Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and the composer of the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical “Waitress”; Glennon Doyle, the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Untamed” who founded Together Rising, an all-women led nonprofit organization that has raised more than $25 million for women, families, and children in crisis; Joey Soloway, a non-binary activist who is a two-time Emmy Award-winning television auteur, a founding member of the #TimesUp and #5050by2020 campaigns, and the author of “She Wants It”; and Ez Menas, a star of Alanis Morrisette’s Broadway musical “Jagged Little Pill.”

Dubbs is also the co-founder and executive producer of Craft Your Truth, an organization that encourages LGBTQIA+ folks to use any kind of performance art as a way to express their stories and connect with the community around them. They believe that everyone can find a golden thread in their unique personal story and, with the help of a professional performing artist, can spin their story into a form of creative expression.

In their professional life, Dubbs is associate director of education and training at Keshet, a national organization that works for the full equality of all LGBTQ Jews and their families in Jewish life. In that role, they travel the country using their strong facilitation skills and humor to inspire and help create institutional change. Among Keshet’s unique offerings are LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton Retreats that offer youth the opportunity to learn, grow, and celebrate who they are in a warm and vibrant community.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Dubbs struggled to figure out and embrace their trans and queer identities and has dedicated their life to make it easier for those who may be struggling as they did



David Zink.

Key Volunteer, AIDS Walk New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco

David Zink, an advertising professional by day, is a “key volunteer” with AIDS Walk New York, the annual GMHC fundraiser that has, in its 35 years, raised over $150 million and engaged more than 900,000 participants.

David’s history with AIDS Walk New York goes back to 1989, when he first walked. Two years later, he proved that all those boxes on the registration card really do work — he checked the box reading, “Contact me for volunteer opportunities.”

Soon enough, David was volunteering for the September 1990 AIDS Dance-A-Thon. The following spring, he was part of the team steering the 1991 AIDS Walk.

Asked what motivated him to dive in to work behind the scenes, he cited several reasons.

“First, I was brought up with a family ethic of helping out the community,” David said. “Second, I didn’t want my job to define me, and, third, I had just moved into the city and wanted to work with a group of people with the same values.”

Thirty-two years later, David is considered a “key volunteer” with AIDS Walk. His prominent role in the event came from being a “conehead” — a term undoubtedly borrowed from “Saturday Night Live” (Google it) used to describe the tall orange conical posts attached with yellow caution tape to delineate the walking lanes. The protected walking lanes are critical to shielding walkers from oncoming vehicular traffic.

David now oversees all of the coneheads, which can be a challenging job with sudden changes in the route, not to mention the fact that the volunteer conehead crew generally changes from year to year.

The changes in his volunteer team are something David takes in stride, explaining, “It’s great to see the new faces getting involved.”

MZA Inc. is the organization that produces AIDS Walk New York, and it also stages AIDS Walk Los Angeles and AIDS Walk San Francisco, which benefit leading HIV/ AIDS services in those cities. That connection has brought David into volunteer work in the two West Coast cities, as well.

Three decades is a long stretch of volunteering by any measure. What keeps him going?

“What drives me to come back, besides seeing lifelong friends at every walk, is being inspired by the walkers who show up – literally rain or shine,” David said.

David has worked in advertising since 1987. Since 1997, he has been a senior print production manager in that field.




Todd Canning, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, has more than two decades of experience in providing HIV services. An educator, a role model, a member advocate, and a change agent, Todd serves as the Director of Clinical Services for the Partnership in Care Program at MetroPlus Health Plan, the Impact Awards’ presenting sponsor.



Patrick McGovern spent 11 years building Harlem United Community AIDS Center into one of the nation’s leading HIV/ AIDS prevention, care, and supportive housing organizations, before leading the Government Affairs effort at Gilead Sciences, a biopharmaceutical company that has revolutionized HIV care and prevention as well hepatitis treatment. Patrick joined Amida Care, another of the awards’ sponsors,  this year as the Chief Business Development and Policy Officer.



Cathy Marino-Thomas led Marriage Equality New York — later Marriage Equality USA — where she played a pivotal role in spurring grassroots support for our right to marry. Since the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016, Cathy has been a leader with Gays Against Guns, staging all manner of creative direct action protests, and she also serves on the board of Equality New York.