Aqua Ally Awards: Recognizing the Vital Support of Allies

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Photo by Carina Mask.

On Thursday, May 10 Aqua Foundation for Women held their 7th annual Ally Awards at the Bacardi building in Coral Gables. 

Aqua Ally Awards is an event to celebrate and honor allies who stand with the LGBT community in the fight for equality. 

Although the term ally is often used in the context of conflict, it is an appropriate action driven noun bestowed upon one who supports the LGBT community in the fight for equality and empowerment. 

Robin Schwartz, the Managing Director of Aqua Foundation, explained “Sometimes it is straight allies whose voices are heard the loudest by non-LGBTQ folks.” 

Schwartz said allies are the largest part of the greater community so having their support in the fight for equality is vital. 

“Our movement's goal is for LBT women to have the same opportunities as everyone else and to have our voices heard as an equal part of the greater community.”  Aqua Foundation is heavily involved in work that empowers LBT women through scholarships/mentorships, programs for the LGBT homeless youth, initiatives for the transgender community and creating spaces for LGBT families. 

Allies contribute to making these Aqua Foundation programs and initiatives possible. This year Aqua Foundation selected LGBT community pioneer allies, Bacardi, Reverend Dr. Laurinda Hafner, and Seth Gadinsky to honor with the Aqua Ally Award.  

On Gadinsky’s recognition, Schwartz explained that in conversations with Gadinsky it is consistently clear that he is completely dedicated to making this world a better place for his daughters and for everyone. 

“The influence that women had in my life was profound, my grandmother was born on a dot on a map somewhere in Russia and met this strapping young U.S. Army Veteran that was from her hometown,” Gadinsky told the audience when he accepted the Aqua Ally Award.  “She got here to America during the Great Depression and could barely make ends meet.” 

Gadinsky paused, and quietly held back tears adding, “Through sheer force of her will, she was able to keep those three meals on that table every day.” 

Gadinsky described his mother as a single woman with three children at the age of forty-one with no college degree who managed to get elected to the State Legislature. 

“Arguably, nobody in the history of this state has affected more social change than my mother,” said Gadinsky on his mother, State Representative Elaine Gordon’s twenty-two-year service in the Florida State Legislature. During Representative Gordon’s tenure she sponsored legislation to create the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, a non-partisan body of twenty-two appointed women who make recommendations to the Governor, Cabinet and Legislature on issues affecting women. 

Although Aqua Foundation is focused on the needs of LBT women in the community, Schwartz said that it is important to the wholeness of the LGBT community. “When women are treated equally and given the opportunities to thrive, we all benefit. When we have more women identified leaders we all benefit. When our LGBTQ youth who find themselves at risk of homelessness or homeless are supported through the programming that Aqua funds, we all benefit.” 

According to Schwartz, the work that Aqua Foundation has been doing for years is in line with the work of the #MeToo Movement. 

“Women's voices must be heard in our personal lives, in the greater community and in the workplace,” said Schwartz.  “We do this work through our scholarship and mentor program as well as our LBT Emerging Leaders Conference and we can do it through getting out the vote.”  

Aqua Foundation has recently partnered with the League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County for a project to get more LBT women out to vote.  Schwartz says that the long-term goal of Aqua Foundation is to no longer be needed. Fortunately, Aqua Foundation enjoys support from allies to support its mission while it is still crucially needed.  It echoes the words of author and activist, Helen Keller, who once said “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”


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