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Diversity Honors Returns Friday

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas GSA. Photo by Carina Mask.

This year’s annual Diversity Honors will showcase individuals working on behalf of the LGBT community and beyond. The annual event will be held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood on Friday, April 27 from 7 to 11 p.m.

“This collaborative effort between the Harvey Milk Foundation, The Pride Center at Equality Park and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is an ongoing celebration of those who exemplify authenticity, leadership and courage,” wrote organizers in a press release.

This year’s honorees are Mayor Dean Trantalis, Stoneman Douglas activist Emma Gonzalez, Rep. David Richardson, labor activist Dolores Huerta, WSVN 7 anchor Craig Stevens, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Gay-Straight Alliance. Tickets are $200 each and can be purchased at DiversityHonors.goodmanpr.com.

 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ Gay-Straight Alliance 

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ Gay-Straight Alliance [GSA] weren’t prepared for the loss of their friends and teachers during the Feb. 14 mass shooting at their school. But they were prepared to take action in the aftermath.

Since Stoneman Douglas became the site of a mass shooting that took the lives of 17 individuals, members of the GSA have become some the nation’s most well-known gun control advocates. It’s why the group was chosen to be honored by the Diversity Awards. 

“GSA prepared us by giving us a voice. But it also gave us a reason to fight,” said Leonor Munoz, GSA’s vice president.

Behind that voice, said Munoz, is the support system fostered by GSA.

Emma Gonzalez, GSA president, has become the most prominently outspoken Stoneman Douglas student. “And that really says something [about GSA],” Munoz said.  “There are so many others [in GSA]. Even if they haven’t gone to meetings, there are a lot of people who are a part of it. Everyone in the gay community, they’re not seen as normal in most places. Having our GSA, we are able to say, ‘No, we’re okay. We’re okay with being who we are.’ That builds our self-confidence and sense of unity. Even in the most accepting of places, we learn to be ourselves.”

That experience “fighting to be alive” is the right kind of experience to fight for other issues, such as gun control, she said. “In order to be an activist, you have to have a good support system.”

That support system, said Munoz, is really what GSA is all about.

“I know that Valentine’s Day kind of got overrun. But that day our GSA had an event outside where we ate lunch and we had proclamations of love [100 to 200 people proclaimed their love for one another]. Our GSA has a history of spreading love and unity.”

Now, GSA is spreading love for the people they wish were still alive. “Because we were there, and we tried to share love that day, we’re fighting for love.”

 

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Emma Gonzalez

Photo by Carina Mask.

Ever since she became part of the national conversation about guns and gun control, it seems that Emma Gonzalez has been the recipient of equal parts support and criticism, depending on which side of the issue the person talking about her is. But the Diversity Honors has chosen to give her praise by naming her the recipient of the 2018 Milk Foundation Milan Rozsa Youth Award.

Diversity Honors organizers stated that she was chosen for being “a youth activist and advocate for LGBT rights, gun control, and has become an international leader for the current generation of American students. She survived the shooting at 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School, where she still serves as the president of the Gay Straight Alliance. Emma is the co-founder of the gun-control advocacy group 'Never Again MSD.’” They also lauded her multiple appearances on U.S. and international television as well as her appearance on the cover of Time magazine.

“Gonzalez continues to inspire as an openly LGBT media superstar, speaking up for student safety and an end to violence.”

In a rally in Fort Lauderdale shortly after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, Gonzalez said students understand that if they don’t study, if they do nothing to prepare for their tests, they will fail. She said it’s the same with gun violence. “If you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead. So, it’s time to start doing something.” 

SFGN was not able to reach González for comment.

 

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Dean Trantalis

Photo by Carina Mask.

Dean Trantalis is no stranger to making history. He became Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay commissioner in 2003. In March of this year, he became the city’s first openly-gay mayor in a landslide victory. He was also an inaugural honoree for the Diversity Honors.

For his work advancing the cause of the LGBT community, which includes his successful advocacy for the Broward Human Rights Ordinance in 1990, Trantalis will be awarded the Pride Center’s Alan Schubert Award of Excellence. “The former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner has been a passionate public servant and outspoken leader of civil rights and equality for many years,” said Diversity Honors organizers.

On election night in March, Trantalis, who did not respond for an interview request in time for publication, called his mayoral win a victory for the entire community. “It was our time,” Trantalis told his supporters.

 

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Rep. David Richardson

Photo via Facebook.

As the first openly gay state legislator in Florida’s history, Rep. David Richardson was chosen by Diversity Honors, in part, for his work on behalf of the LGBT community. But it was only one of the reasons. Also cited was his work “on criminal justice and prison reform, support for sensible gun violence prevention measures, promotion of traditional public schools and a steadfast commitment to civil liberties.”

That’s also how Richardson, a Democrat who represents the 113th District in Miami Beach, also views his time in office.

“I got elected to represent everybody in my district, not just the gay community. I didn’t want to be a gay legislator. I wanted to be a legislator who just happened to be gay.” That attitude, he said, has allowed him to build relationships with his colleagues, which have helped him when it came time to “accomplish things for the gay community.”

In particular, he points to the removal of the ban on gay adoption from the books. It was a symbolic victory because the court had struck down the ban years before. But even symbolic victories on LGBT issues, said Richardson, are important. 

“It’s the first time in the history of Florida anything has ever passed out of the legislature that was pro-gay. I think that’s remarkable.”

 

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Craig Stevens

Photo via WSVN-TV, Facebook.

WSVN 7 NEWS anchor Craig Stevens has covered many historic events, including Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 2000 presidential election, and the 2016 death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Along the way, he’s won many honors, including an Emmy Award.

When he’s not anchoring the nightly news in South Florida, Stevens gives much of his time to local LGBT organizations and causes, including Care Resource, the National LGBTQ Task Force Recognition Dinner, PRIDE Fort Lauderdale, AIDS Walk Miami, grand marshal of the Stonewall Parade, and past special guest host of the Diversity Honors.

It’s that past work for the LGBT community that led him to be chosen as one of this year’s recipients for the Diversity Honors. But just as Stevens has been supportive of his fellow members of the LGBT community, he said he feels fortunate to have worked in a newsroom at WSVN 7 which has been accepting of his sexual orientation as a gay man and has been supportive of the work he does as a journalist. It’s a pro-LGBT atmosphere he knows not everyone is fortunate enough to have. Local ownership of the station, he said, is one of the reason he believes that’s been the case.

 

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Dolores Huerta 

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Dolores Huerta is a proponent of LGBT rights. She’s spoken and written in favor of LGBT marriage long before the Supreme Court legalized it in 2015, and she’s repeatedly stated that LGBT rights are human rights. But her outspoken support of LGBT rights is only the latest in a long line of battles she’s fought.

Huerta, who is the president and founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America with Cesar Chavez, has fought for over 50 years. Near the start of her activism, the fight for the rights of migrant farm workers took her to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June of 1968. That night, Kennedy thanked Huerta for her work with the union. Fast forward 50 years later and she’s still fighting. For her lifetime of work, she’s been chosen by Diversity Honors to receive the Harvey Milk Foundation Honors Medal.

In a 2013 op-ed for NBCLatino.com, Huerta compared LGBT individuals to family members.

“When we see our Latino hermanos y hermanas harassed and held back simply for being who they are; when we can’t come together to celebrate a wedding for our gay friends; and when we know they don’t have the same opportunities we take for granted, it affects us personally.” 

SFGN was unable to reach Huerta for comment.


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