Deborah Cox, Rand Hoch, Jazz Jennings, Elaine Lancaster, Judy Shepard, Lillian Tamayo, William Thomas and Dean Trantalis to be honored for leadership in diversity
The inaugural Diversity Honors, co-presented by the Harvey Milk Foundation and The Pride Center at Equality Park, will be hosted by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 9. This milestone event will recognize national honoree Judy Shepard, founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, plus several South Florida leaders who have made a significant impact on improving the quality of life for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community. Special host presenter will be Stuart Milk, co-founder and president of the Harvey Milk Foundation.
Emceed by WSVN-TV's Craig Stevens, the gala will celebrate South Florida forces for change, including international recording artist Deborah Cox, President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Rand Hoch, nationally recognized teen activist and honorary co-founder of the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation Jazz Jennings, celebrity entertainer Elaine Lancaster (James Davis), CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Florida Lillian Tamayo, 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida Miami Judge William Thomas and Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis.
"The Harvey Milk Foundation is proud to make history along with the Pride Center at Equality Park to debut this event, which will celebrate the power and resolve of adversity," said Milk.
"There has been a tremendous amount of progress for more equal rights and acceptance around the world, but we have a lot more work to do. This event will allow us to showcase our achievements and celebrate those who have and continue to advocate for equality."
The main event of the evening will be the presentation of the premier Diversity Honors awards to the following champions:
Judy Shepard will accept the coveted Harvey Milk Honors Medal. In October 1998, Judy and Dennis Shepard lost their 21 year-old son, Matthew, to a murder motivated by anti-gay hate. Matthew's death moved many thousands of people around the world to attend vigils and rallies in his memory. Determined to prevent others from suffering their son's fate, Judy and Dennis decided to turn their grief into action and established the Matthew Shepard Foundation to carry on Matthew's legacy. The Foundation is dedicated to working toward the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice, diversity awareness & education, and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Judy Shepard is the founding president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors, and served as its first executive director from 1999 to 2009. In her continuing role as board
president, she travels across the nation speaking to audiences about what they can do as individuals and communities to make this world a more accepting place for everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity and expression or sexual orientation. Speaking from a mother's perspective, Judy also authored a 2009 memoir, "The Meaning of Matthew," exploring the family's journey through the prosecution of Matthew's assailants, the ensuing
media coverage, and their continuing work to advance civil rights. She and Dennis continue to make their home in Casper, Wyoming.
Deborah Cox is a Grammy-nominated R&B singer-songwriter with 12 number one hits on Billboard's dance music charts. Cox became an icon in the gay community with her soulful dance anthems, including the 1998 song "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here." Cox made her Broadway debut in the lead role of Elton John's and Tim Rice's Broadway musical, AIDA, and recently received rave reviews for her critically acclaimed vocal performance in Lifetime's biopic, Whitney. Cox has been recognized for her longstanding commitment to various social issues in the LGBT community. She received the Out Music Pillar Award in January 2015, the California State Senate Award in 2014 and The Civil Rights Award from the New York Senate for her efforts in the fight for Human Rights and Equality in 2007. She will also be honored for her contributions as an HIV/AIDS awareness activist.
Rand Hoch founded the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) in 1988 and has twice served as the organization's President. The Council was successful in having Palm Beach County extend protected status to gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in housing, public accommodation and county employment and in having the City of West Palm Beach extend basic domestic partnership benefits to city employees. Through his long-time commitment to the PBCHRC and community leadership, Hoch has been responsible for the enactment of more than 85 laws and policies extending equal rights and benefits to LGBT Floridians. Hoch also served as Florida's first openly gay judge.
Jazz Jennings is a 14-year-old transgender girl, activist, and honorary co-founder of the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation. Jennings will soon star in her own reality television show on TLC. She has been featured on a variety of news and talk show programs and has been interviewed by news media including Katie Couric, Barbara Walters, Meredith Vieira, Dr. Drew, 60 Minutes, MSNBC, Teen Vogue, People magazine and The Rosie Show. She was also the subject of an Oprah Winfrey Network documentary, "I am Jazz: A Family in Transition." Jennings was recognized at the 2013 GLAAD Awards where she met former President Bill Clinton and was on TIME magazine's list of "Top 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014."
Elaine Lancaster (James Davis), internationally acclaimed entertainer/socialite, has helped raise more than $20 million for numerous charitable organizations since 1996. She became the first female impersonator to have a re-occurring role on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Miami" for three seasons and has recently launched Elaine Lancaster Cosmetics, featuring a signature line of lip lacquers. In addition to her efforts in raising awareness for the LGBT community, she is a human rights and political activist, philanthropist and highly sought after hostess for high caliber special events. She was just named as the global celebrity spokesperson for Multimedia Platforms Worldwide, Inc..
Lillian Tamayo is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. Under her leadership, Planned Parenthood broadened its clinical and educational service to reach the diverse and fast-growing demographics of its communities. She has also served on the boards of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation's Community Advisory Board. Tamayo is a past recipient of the Compass Leadership Award, the ACLU Foundation of Florida's Nelson Poynter Award, the Woman of Valor Award from the National Council of Jewish Women and the Ruth Green Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Affiliate Chief Executives Council.
Judge William Thomas is a long-time advocate for public injustice. He worked as an assistant public defender at the Dade County Public Defender's Office, before accepting a position as an assistant federal public defender with the Federal Public Defender's Office for the Southern District of Florida. In 2004, he was elected to the Circuit Court for the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County. Since his election, he has served in the juvenile (one year), criminal (six years) and civil (four years) divisions of the circuit court the latter of which where he currently presides.
Dean Trantalis is a long-time legal activist and Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner in District 2. For more than 30 years, Trantalis has served as a community activist and citizen advocate. He is one of the Broward County LGBT's community's most respected spokesmen and led the county to be the first in the state to extend protection from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations to the LGBT community.
"We couldn't be prouder to co-present an event that brings together the leaders of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties and showcases leadership in diversity and equality in South Florida and beyond," said Robert Boo, chief executive officer at The Pride Center at Equality Park. "The Pride Center at Equality Park has a long history of being at the forefront of promoting positive gay role models and this event symbolizes our strong commitment to all those we serve and our generous supporters who stand behind our mission."
In addition to a cocktail reception, seated three-course dinner and musical entertainment, Diversity Honors will offer a front and center opportunity to hear a compelling speech about the need for more education, greater acceptance and advocacy for equal rights from Stuart Milk.
Stuart Milk is the co-founder and president of the Harvey Milk Foundation and nephew of the late civil rights icon, Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States who was assassinated shortly after winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Stuart has spearheaded or played a vital role in award winning programing in 47 countries in support of the LGBT community and human rights. For more than a decade, he has been recognized with numerous global awards for his tireless volunteer leadership in some of the most challenging human rights environments on five continents.
Tickets for Diversity Honors are $150 per person
and corporate tables of 10 are $1,500.
For reservations or for more information, visit www.diversityhonors.com.
About The Harvey Milk Foundation
The Harvey Milk Foundation is a global non-profit NGO that promotes Harvey Milk's inspiring legacy through human rights education and global outreach. In 1977, Harvey Milk (1930-1978) became the first openly LGBT elected official to a major office in the United States. He was assassinated in San Francisco's City Hall 11 months later. The all-volunteer run foundation was founded by Harvey's nephew, Stuart Milk, and Anne Kronenberg, Harvey's campaign manager and political aide. Today, the Harvey Milk Foundation provides on-the-ground support and award-winning programing to struggling and emerging LGBT communities on 5 continents with over four dozen dedicated volunteer leaders and long term partnerships in 31 nations.
For more information, please visit www.milkfoundation.org.
About The Pride Center at Equality Park
For more than 20 years, The Pride Center has provided a welcoming, safe space - an inclusive home - that celebrates, nurtures and empowers the LGBT communities and our friends and neighbors in South Florida. The Pride Center's programs and services meet the distinct socio- economic, health, spiritual, and safety needs of the LGBT community. It hosts more than 60 regular meeting groups each month and more than 35,000 adults and youth attend activities at
the Center, each year. Outreach activities over the past year directly impacted 50,000 residents and visitors to South Florida. The Pride Center is a major site for HIV testing and prevention, education and counseling and offers holistic and comprehensive support programs for persons living with HIV/AIDS, including the nationally acclaimed PALS Project.
For more information, visit www.pridecenterflorida.org.