Read our Top 10 stories of 2020 featuring a tribute to the late Mayor Justin Flippen, Pompano Beach residents proclaiming a new gay beach, and more.
Tribute to Mayor Justin Flippen
By Julie Carson
Former Wilton Manors Mayor Justin Flippen died of a brain aneurysm while en route to his City Commission meeting Feb. 25, 2020. He was 41. SFGN asked Julie Carson, his friend and fellow commissioner to write a tribute.
Only 10 months have passed since the death of my friend Justin Flippen, and the pain is still very real. I often ask for the strength to live as Justin lived — authentically, bold and loud, quiet and tender, doing justice, and walking humbly as he did throughout the journey of his life.
Justin was a man of integrity with clear goodness of conscience. He was someone who could just as easily bow his head in prayer in the sanctuary of his Church or under the umbrella of trees in a favorite National Park.
He was a “thumbs up” kinda guy who shared words of encouragement, bear hugs, telephone calls, and a deep love and respect for family and friends. Justin was a consensus builder, a gatherer, and a man of deep faith whose commitment to Tikkun Olam or healing the world through daily acts of kindness, which was an obligation he took seriously. His passion for public service was contagious.
As mayor, Justin could be a bit pedantic. He was fond of all words that end in -ate — articulate, matriculate, subrogate, mitigate, propagate, stipulate, litigate, populate, irrigate. We shared a love for writing, good sentence structure, proper grammar and correct punctuation. From the dais, we had a measure of competition among us — who could find the misspelled word in 400 pages of Commission Agenda Backup? Was there a comma fault on page 10, third line, after the fifth word? Is it effect or affect? His efforts were not to be difficult, but rather, to ensure the record was correct, clear and accurate. Just like he lived his life.
We shared common goals about the importance of including children and their families in the richness of life in Wilton Manors. I am especially grateful for his initiative in creating the Harvey Milk Book Reading which demonstrated his love for children, education and weaving the fabric of equality into the lives of our youngest residents.
Justin took his principal of investment a step further when he initiated the “I Led the Pledge” program so youth could get a first-hand civics lesson by leading the Commission in the Pledge of Allegiance and learning about city government.
Another pillar of his work was his launch of Women’s History Month where the mayor and each commissioner have the opportunity to appoint a woman of significance to honor during the month of March. In 2020, in tribute to Justin, my honoree was his mother, Stephanie Flippen. These are just a few of the ways that Justin worked to welcome all into the fold of the Wilton Manors family.
Over the years, Justin and I had developed a powerful friendship that brought me great joy. As a colleague, I had the pleasure of being by his side and working collaboratively on policies and ordinances that brought stability, structure and fiscal health to the Island City.
I invite you to take a moment to remember that most of our important and meaningful memories, those impactful times in our lives happen in the space, in the pause, in the recess and in the stillness that exist between the fast pace of the world in which we live and the time we spend in the company of those, like Justin, who make our lives richer.
Today, Justin’s memory is flourishing and his legacy is strong. The “Pledge” program continues, artistic sculptures and stunning murals are being installed on Wilton Drive, an ordinance to increase height and density in the Transit Oriented Corridors has passed first reading, plans for a hotel are underway, and soon the Mayor Justin Flippen Park will be dedicated!
May the memory of the People’s Mayor, Justin Flippen, be a blessing.
George Castrataro Arrested - Accused of Stealing $625,000 From Clients
George Castrataro. Photo via the BSO.
By Jason Parsley
When noted attorney, activist and former candidate for the Fort Lauderdale City Commission was arrested in June for allegedly stealing $625,000 from his clients it shocked the local LGBT community.
Castrataro was charged with grand theft and fraud.
The next hearing is set for March 22. He remains out on bond.
Two months prior to his arrest, the Supreme Court of Florida suspended Castrataro from practicing law.
There are no updates to the case.
One of Castrataro’s victims, Donna Nunes, spoke extensively to SFGN. She hired Castrataro in March of 2019 to handle her brother’s estate.
Nunes accused Castrataro of feeding her one excuse after another on why he wasn’t transferring her brother’s money to her.
“That dirty dog,” he said. “He embezzled our money.”
Nunes said Castrataro owes her $93,700.
At one point, she says, he even claimed the post office had lost her check in the mail.
“It is such a shame,” the Fremont, California resident said. “Florida has so many different crooks.”
Pompano Beach Residents Proclaim New Gay Beach in City
A group poses during “Stonewall Beach.” Photo credit: J.R. Davis.
By Jason Parsley
Pompano Beach is fast becoming a new gay hotspot as SFGN reported last year with some members of the community proclaiming a new “gay” beach in the city, even holding a dedication ceremony in June.
“It’s been slowly gaining a nice following. We’ll see in the next couple of months how it goes with snowbirds and the virus,” said Anthony Kulp, the main driver behind the new beach. “With the parking lot at Sabastian being closed shortly for the construction of a high rise, that should greatly increase the number of people who go to Stonewall Beach.”
David Kitchen Dies at 33
David Kitchen. Photo via Facebook.
By Sallie James
Thoughtful, charismatic and charming. A bartender with a passion for politics who possessed a gift for making others feel heard. That’s how those who knew David Kitchen describe the Wilton Manors man who touched so many lives.
Kitchen died Aug. 10 of complications related to liver disease at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. He was 33. He was the communications director for then-candidate Scott Newton, now mayor of Wilton Manors.
“We are just completely devastated,” mother Donna Kempf told SFGN at the time. Kitchen’s death was unexpected.
“He was smart, a joker and he loved life,” his partner Felix Rivera said at the time.
Kitchen most recently worked as a server at Coconuts in Fort Lauderdale, and had previously worked as a bartender at Rosie’s Bar & Grill in Wilton Manors. But he always had his hand in politics.
“Politics was his passion,” Newton said at the time. “I liked his attitude and energy. He was a very kind person who didn’t mind giving up his time.”
Kitchen was born on May 30, 1987, in Mesa, Arizona. He was a preemie who turned out to be the biggest and tallest of his two siblings. He graduated from high school in 11th grade, and attended Arizona State University on a full scholarship, earning a bachelor’s degree in political law, said Donna Kempf.
Queer Black Activist Drops Charges In Wilton Manors Attack
Elijah Manley. Photo via Facebook.
By John McDonald
It was quite a year for Elijah Manley.
Manley campaigned for the Florida House of Representatives, challenging incumbent Rep. Bobby DuBose for the District 94 seat. The 21-year-old eventually lost to DuBose in the Democratic primary, but received nearly 9,000 votes for a 30% showing.
Campaigning during a pandemic is not easy and Manley — who identifies as queer, Black and Jewish — also had to deal with a frightening encounter while canvassing one day in Wilton Manors. Manley was attacked by what police described as a foul-mouthed and inebriated man as they delivered door hangers in an apartment complex.
Manley told SFGN they have decided to drop charges against the man.
“I have decided not to file any charges with the State Attorney’s Office,” Manley said. “I’ll be following up with their office to see if we could get the individual anger management and substance abuse treatment.”
Manley campaigned under the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic party and is practicing the socialist’s ideology when it comes to jail and prison sentences.
“Being behind bars isn’t likely to change his behavior towards others or fix any of his problems,” Manley said.
The Florida House campaign was Manley’s third campaign for public office. His campaign for Broward school board — following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — received 43,009 votes and drew the attention of safety and education advocates.
'Mayor of Sebastian Beach' Roy Rollins Dies of COVID-19
Roy Rollins. Courtesy photo.
By Jason Parsley
Two of Roy Rollins’ favorite past times were the beach and the bars. According to friends he loved the sun, and he loved his drinks. Rollins’ friends also remember his unwavering kindness and generosity.
Rollins died from COVID-19 on April 17. He was 65.
“He lived on the beach,” close friend Jeff Riley said at the time. “The sun and the beach were his life.”
So much so that some people knew him as the “Mayor of Sebastian Beach.”
Rollins was a well-known fixture in the nightlife of Wilton Manors, as well as in the LGBT community of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
“Roy was just one of a kind,” Riley said. “He was probably the kindest and most generous person you would ever come across. He did anything and everything he could for his friends, family, strangers.”
Rollins was born in Poquoson, Virginia. He moved to Fort Lauderdale from the Norfolk, Virginia area where he co-owned Norfolk Florist and Gifts and sponsored a local gay softball team. He started in the floral industry when he was just 16 years old as a delivery driver.
When the leaders of the LGBT community center in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware embarked on an expansion project to purchase and renovate a building downtown they launched the founders' circle to raise the funds. Rollins was a member of that early effort.
“Roy was a part of the Rehoboth Beach community for many years, and yes, he was an early supporter of CAMP Rehoboth,” Murray Archibald said at the time. “Roy was also a longtime supporter of [our] largest fundraising event.”
Log Cabin Repubs Rail Against Muslims, Socialism at Wilton Manors Rally
SFGN file photo.
By Jason Parsley
In January of 2020 the Broward County Log Cabin Republicans held a rally in front of Wilton Manors City Hall with their president Andrew Brett railing against Muslims, then President Trump’s first impeachment, and several U.S. House Representatives.
About 12 people showed up in support of the organization, while three dozen counter-protesters showed up.
“The Democratic Party has become the party of division in America,” Brett said, starting off a speech that was riddled with wild claims, conspiracy theories and inflammatory rhetoric. “Whereas, the Republican Party is the party of inclusion for all Americans.”
Since organizers forgot to charge the battery on the sound system and counter-protesters were shouting and using a bullhorn, most of Brett’s speech was unintelligible. SFGN had to request a written copy of it.
“I think it’s important to be here because generations that follow us will be subject to the horrible laws and punishments from this administration if [Trump] should be reelected,” said protester Michael Rajner at the time. “He’s appointed some terrible judges that are hostile to the LGBT community, and our protections are eroding so quickly. We must stand up, we must register to vote, and we must get the community to mobilize to stand up against this hate.”
COVID-19 Cases Surge in Wilton Manors and Oakland Park
Scott Israel directs traffic at a drive-thru grocery distribution on April 18. Photo credit: J.R. Davis.
The pandemic consumed much of the media, especially in its early months and SFGN was no exception. For months SFGN reported on the pandemic weekly numbers in Wilton Manors and Oakland Park. The number of cases in Wilton Manors has reached 791 and 2,115 in Oakland Park.
Thankfully hope is on the horizon with the rollout of the vaccine, but even so the White House recently warned, according to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida will see “significant fatalities for many weeks” as the state faces a full resurgence of the virus.
South Beach Loses Its Queen to COVID-19
Henrietta Robinson. Courtesy photo.
By Jason Parsley
Henrietta Robinson reigned supreme in Miami Beach for over six decades. She was a known fixture in the nightlife community especially at Twist where she spent many nights.
She died April 3 from COVID-19 at Mount Sinai Medical Center. She was 79.
“She was a bright light for South Beach,” her close friend Joey Alaimo said at the time. “She was beloved by the public.”
Over the years, depending on who you asked, she was known as the Mother, the Queen, the Grand Dame, the Grand Lady, of South Beach and/or Miami Beach.
Robinson was in the hospital for a routine surgery when she contracted the coronavirus.
“It was like a slap in the face. She recovered from so much last year,” Alaimo said.
In 2019, while in the hospital, her heart stopped twice and she had to be revived. She also had hip replacement surgery. But she bounced back and made a full recovery. She even went back to cleaning houses, a job she had done for decades.
There didn’t seem to be anything that could stop her or slow her down — even at 79.
In March she was in the hospital again for routine surgery.
In the following days during her recovery she developed a lung infection and her health rapidly declined.
Robinson was born in Akron, Ohio and grew up in Milton, Massachusetts. In 1959 she moved to Miami Beach where she decided to live her life openly as a woman.
Local Trans Woman Killed by Her Husband in Middle of Transgender Awareness Week
Yunieski Carey Herrera. Photo via Facebook.
By Christiana Lilly
A Miami man was arrested in November for killing his wife, transgender activist and beauty queen Yunieski Carey Herrera. Her murder happened in the middle of Transgender Awareness Week.
According to Local 10, Ygor Arrudasouza said he was under the influence of meth when he stabbed Herrera with a fork and knife.
She allegedly told him that she had a better man, and in a fit of rage, he killed her. After calling the police, he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder with a weapon and aggravated battery.
Arrudasouza pleaded not guilty to the charges. Currently the trial is set for February.