Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE) has a new executive director. The Miami-based LGBT organization is welcoming Orlando Gonzales as its new leader. Gonzales is no stranger to the organization; he previously served as board chairman for the SAVE Foundation.
Gonzales is only one week into his new role and has identified three main priorities. The first is working on the state’s anti-discrimination policy.
“We're working hard, both at the state and federal level to encourage laws that help protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations," Gonzales said.
The second priority is candidate endorsement.
“As we gear up for 2020, we are going to be really busy with reviewing candidates, interviewing them, getting the community involved in the process and then issuing a disposition about whether or not we endorse these candidates,” Gonzales said. “As we look at 2020, we are looking at a year that's filled with lots of critical races.”
The third main area of focus is on SAVE’s field work.
“We knock on doors, we communicate with people, we connect and we've done it for a number of things, not just for just canvassing and our get out the vote effort, but also some of our work in projects for job reduction has been critical in terms of being able to connect with people who are unsure,” Gonzales said. “As we gear up for the elections in 2020, we need to get out there, and we need to have a field of volunteers led by the leaders out in the community that can help recruit people to come in. And then we do a lot of voter registration and education.”
Right now, Gonzales is starting his new role by taking in as much information as he can.
“I'm working hard to be in a listening mode to hear the concerns of people in the community, the thoughts and concerns of the board members, and just could be able to rapidly prioritize and set an agenda,” he said. “When we look at the work that we have to do for 2020, it's a big list. The only way we can do it is if we're focused if we had the kind of laser focus that puts the LGBT communities at the center. And so the movement to me is what guides me.”
SAVE’s vision is a community where people who are LGBT have full equality in all facets of life. In the current political climate, equality is under attack, and Gonzales said that is motivating his volunteers and donors.
“Right now, I think people are motivated to prevent and to ensure that every effort is made so that we can reverse any of the injustices that have taken place over the last four years and that we can be able to help secure viability for the LGBT community to thrive.”
SAVE recently honored three community leaders recognized for their work in achieving equality during its annual Luminaries event. This year’s honorees include Physician Assistant Paula Brezavscek, AIDS Healthcare Foundation Legislative Manager Ebonni Chrispin, and SMASH Executive Director Adrian Madriz.
Brezavscek specializes in dermatology and aesthetic treatments. Despite her hectic schedule, Brezavscek is very supportive of the LGBT community, and has made time to support members of the trans community. She has invited trans people to her office for free cosmetic treatments that would otherwise be too costly to afford. Brezavscek leverages her time and professional talent to contribute to the LGBT community.
“Any time someone makes efforts to address issues of access and affordability, I think they’re doing some of the greatest work to address disparities in income and access to level the playing field,” Gonzales said.
As treatments for HIV/AIDS continue to evolve, Ebonni Chrispin is on the front lines at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Her title is Legislative Affairs and Community Engagement Manager; her mission is to educate people about the virus and the disease.
“At the Luminaries Event, Chrispin did a great job of highlighting that all politics are local; that kindness is what needs to guide us and that we need to come together constantly to make sure that we're addressing, the needs of our community," Gonzales said. “So while the foundation's mission is focused on health, it also understands that as a strong player in the community, it can pull people together, to be unified and to be committed to the mission of equality.”
Adrian Madriz is very active in local housing and resilience issues. He is a proud worker-owner of Miami’s first, majority-black cooperative business dedicated to video game events, WORLDS. As the Executive Director of SMASH, he works to help people who are taken advantage of by slumlords.
“Adrian is leaving his mark in the space of a housing rights,” Gonzales said. “He has made tremendous efforts to be able to help people that haven't been able to access housing. It is incredible to see somebody doing this work, doing it so selflessly. I think that Adrian does a wonderful job of being able to participate and enact and mobilize around housing. I'm looking forward to partnering with him, to work on projects that advance the mission that he has already endeavored on.”
Visit SAVE.LGBT for more information about the organization.