As midnight approached on Saturday, June 24, some 2,000 waving arms were lowered along with DJ One Twelve’s music and Bruce Sutka’s lights.
Thus ended the 16th annual Stonewall Black and White Ball (with a “pop” of emerald just for a change) marking almost 50 years of the modern LGBT civil rights movement and significantly calmer than the honored night in June 1969 when LGBT victims of police harassment fought back.
“Stonewall represents so much in so many ways to our community,” said Compass’ Chief Development Officer Julia Murphy. “We are so honored to live in a county where elected officials and community heroes strive for equality each and everyday.”
The revelry was reduced to a scuffle of hundreds of feet headed for the exits and voices trailing good byes as they approached the sidewalk staircases of the iconic Harriet Himmel Theatre in City Place, West Palm Beach.
Raising over $30,000, tickets for the ball were $35-40. A private reception and award ceremony were $75 for events that began at 7:30 p.m.
Several hundred people took advantage of the extra time to study the 150 plus silent auction items that included a range of offerings from restaurant gift certificates to original artworks, to travel opportunities and more.
Toward the end of the reception Julie Seaver, Julia Murphy and Ryanmarie Rice did duty as co-masters of ceremonies and introduced the winners of this year’s awards. Andy Amoroso received The Compass Leadership Award and Theo Smith was honored with the Michael Brown Memorial Faces of the Community.
The Leadership Award is granted to an elected or appointed official who has demonstrated a commitment to social justice; the Michael Brown Award is given to a member of the community who has done community work, programs and organized events for the LGBT Community in Palm Beach County.
As proprietor of the only LGBT emporium in Palm Beach County, as a founding board member in 1992 when Compass became a community center, and as a Lake Worth city commissioner, Amoroso has had a huge impact on LGBT lives in South Florida.
“I was looking back over my experiences as a gay man in the county,” said Amoroso. “I was lucky. No one has ever bothered me and I was very open greeting people with a ‘Hi. I’m Andy. I’m gay.”
“Andy has been a major force for equality for a long time,’ said Lake Worth Mayor, Pam Triolo leading a contingent of Lake Worth board and staff in support. “He’s put us leagues ahead of most communities in the county.”
Theo Smith, also known as “The Gay Mayor of West Palm Beach” is an architect by trade and a volunteer by practice. He raises money for all sorts of charities. Including Compass, The SMART Ride and more. He was instrumental in helping Roosters become the lead fund raiser for breast cancer awareness.
“I was close to Michael Brown,” Smith said. “He was a great listener and gave good advice. I still miss him a lot. This award is so important to me.”
Compass’ staff and board awarded CEO Tony Plakas for his 20th year anniversary with Compass and Julie Seaver, Compass’ Chief Operations Officer for her ten-year anniversary with the organization. Plakas is responsible for leading the agency through a significant period of growth over the last two decades, while Seaver has led the agency since hired in accreditation for Excellence in Nonprofit Management by Nonprofits First.
Some of this year’s major sponsors included Viiv Healthcare, South Florida Gay News, Florida Sugar Cane League and Art Hive Magazine. Performances included local saxophonist and jazz artist Bismarck, and female impersonator Velvet Lenore.