Tuesday, August 3, 2021

PBCHRC Welcomes New Board Member Gemma Torcivia


The Board of Directors of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council is pleased to announce the election of  Gemma Torcivia to our board.

Gemma Torcivia is a Palm Beach County native and a graduate of the Communications Department at the A.W. Dreyfoos, Jr., School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.  Gemma attended the University of Florida where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Women's Studies. She also holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and Juris Doctor (JD) from Florida International University.   

After college, Gemma served in Teach For America, teaching special education at a Title I high school in inner-city Miami. There she served as the sponsor of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance. She also provided operational support for charter and private schools. Gemma then led the City of Homestead's economic development program, developed public-private partnerships, and provided direct support to startup companies and small businesses. She went on to serve as the Executive Director of the Homestead Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) where she managed a $2.5 million budget and helped lead a transformative downtown redevelopment. While working in government, Gemma was involved in the development of over $200 million of construction projects and in a $65 million public private partnership for a transit oriented development. 
Moving back to Palm Beach County in 2018, Gemma worked for the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County and as an associate attorney with Roberts, Reynolds, Bedard and Tuzzio in West Palm Beach. She is currently the Managing Partner of TG Law, a West Palm Beach based law firm that focuses on personal injury, business and commercial litigation, land use, and administrative law. 

Gemma is devoted to public service and has served for many years as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem, advocating for youth in the foster care system. She is active in the Florida Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Governmental and Public Policy Advocacy Committee. In 2021, she was named as a Fellow in the Florida Bar Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Leadership Academy. Gemma is the 2021/2022 Chair of the Solo and Small Firm Committee for the Palm Beach County Bar, a Treasurer for the Craig S. Barnard American Inn of Court, and a Co-Chair for Constitution Day with the Palm Beach County chapter of Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL). She is committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, and she has worked on a number of initiatives with the organizations that she is involved with to ensure that the legal profession reflects the community it serves.

As a native Floridian, Gemma Torcivia is dedicated to ensuring her home state provides equal protections, rights and benefits for the LGBTQ community, women, and minorities.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Sean Conklin Elected To PBCHRC Charitable Foundation Board of Directors


July 7, 2021
At the 2021 annual meeting of the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation, Sean Conklin was elected to a four-year term on the organization's Board of Directors. Sean replaces Carly E. Cass, whose term expired in June.

Sean works for Palm Beach County as a Program Evaluator for the Ending the HIV Epidemic Program. He holds a master's degree in Nonprofit Management from Florida Atlantic University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Administration there. An active member of the American Society for Public Administration, Sean also does nonprofit consulting. 
In addition, Sean serves as a member of the Imperial Sun Court of All Florida, an organization that raises money for local nonprofits through the art of drag.

Current Directors Meredith Ockman and Rae Franks were re-elected to four-year terms.

The PBCHRC Charitable Foundation is organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code exclusively  for educational and charitable purposes.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) is Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

PBCHRC Charitable Foundation
Post Office Box 267
West Palm Beach, Florida 33402
(561) 358-0105


PBCHRC Charitable Foundation's Registration Number is  N19000006727. To obtain registration information, you may consult the website or call 800-435-7352.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

oin PBCHRC for Pride Lights West Palm Beach on June 28

Please join PBCHRC, Compass, and our allies on June 28 at 8:00 p.m. at Nancy Graham Centennial Square for Pride Lights West Palm Beach to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising and the Pulse Massacre.

For Pride Lights West Palm Beach, Hierromat Development, a local gay owned and operated company, and Creative Arts Enterprises, will light up the Centennial Fountain and surrounding palm trees with Pride colors.

Centennial Square is located at the intersection of Clematis Street and Narcissus Avenue.

Parking is available at the Banyan Garage, which is located at 200 Banyan Boulevard..
The square is named after longtime LGBTQ ally Nancy Graham, who served as the Mayor of West Palm Beach from 1991 to 1999.

Under Graham's leadership, West Palm Beach became the first public employer in Florida to enact an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public employment. The city also adopted a policy prohibiting the use of any public funds for organizations or facilities which discriminate on the basis of several protected classes, including sexual orientation. West Palm Beach also became the first public employer in Florida to provide domestic partnership benefits for municipal employees.

In 1994, West Palm Beach enacted an Equal Opportunity Ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in private and public employment, housing and public accommodation. When the Christian Coalition gathered enough signature to force Special Election to repeal the law, Graham headed the campaign to oppose their efforts. When the votes were counted, 56% of the voters cast ballots which ensured the law would remain in effect and West Palm Beach became the first jurisdiction in Florida to withstand a repeal effort by popular vote.
Aetna Realty, owners of the Citizen's Building at 105 Narcissus Avenue is changing the building's uplighting along Narcissus Avenue to feature the LGBTQ Pride colors. The Citizen's Building is managed by US Realty Management Company, In addition, the marquee at Palm Beach Dramaworks will also be illuminated with the LGBTQ Pride colors..
Pistache French Bistro, which is located adjacent to Nancy Graham Centennial Square, will offer Pride Happy Hour drinks from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Additional supporters of Pride Lights West Palm Beach include Discover The Palm Beaches, the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority, The Eric Freidheim Tourism Institute at the University of Florida and Edith Hall Friedheim
If you plan to attend, please let us know by clicking here.


Calls for Florida 'anti-riot' law to be used in Delray Beach pride case

By Jay O’Brien, WPEC CBS12

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Prosecutors in Palm Beach County are facing calls to charge the man accused of vandalizing a pride intersection in Delray Beach under the state’s new “anti-riot” law.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has requested that the State Attorney’s Office consider charging Alexander Jerich under the state’s controversial Combating Public Disorder law.

The law, strongly opposed by Democrats and championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Republican allies, heightens the penalties for violent acts committed during a protest. But it also has a provision enhancing criminal penalties for people who damage “historic property” or a “memorial.”

Jerich was arrested last week, accused of vandalizing the pride intersection by using his truck to create tire marks across the paint. Police say the incident occurred after Jerich attended a birthday rally for former President Donald Trump.

He's pled not guilty.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council believes the pride intersection in Delray Beach meets the legal criteria to be a memorial, thus Jerich should face charges under the new law.

“It seems obvious to me the elements of the crime were met one by one,” said Rand Hoch, president and Founder Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

Hoch points out that the intersection is a painting, is dedicated to a specific person, and is a permanent display -- all elements of the definition of a “memorial” that the law lays out.

"It shocked me. I mean really this is not something we expected at all,” Hoch added, referring to the alleged vandalism. "He was doing it to make a statement that he thought he could drive all over the LGBTQ community."

"It doesn’t look like a stretch. It really depends on the facts,” West Palm Beach Defense Attorney Ian Goldstein said when asked about the potential for charges under the "anti-riot" law. “Assuming that this was meant to be a permanent display I think there’s a very strong argument to be made that it does meet the threshold."

The public disorder law, often called the “anti-riot” or “anti-protest” law, was a legislative priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis who argued the bill would crack down on violent protests in the state.

Opponents of the law say it will discourage people from protesting at all, negatively impacting First Amendment rights. Civil rights groups, including the NAACP and ACLU, have already sued to block the law in federal court.

The law does not appear to have been used so far in a Palm Beach County case or in any case across the state.

The State Attorney's Office told CBS12 News that “any statutes applicable to the facts of the case would be considered for filing of formal charges” in this case.

Jerich’s lawyer declined a request for comment.

Will Florida's antifa-aimed public disorder bill snag a Trump supporter?

by Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach PostJune 22, 2021
Oops, this isn’t working to plan.

Remember the rush by Florida lawmakers to craft an “anti-rioting” bill designed to enhance penalties against mostly nonviolent protests stemming from Black Lives Matter demonstrations?

A law with unintended consequences

It was all about stopping the looting by antifa, a nonexistent organization, and protecting our Southern heritage – aka the Confederate monuments that venerated our slave-owning secessionist past. 

This legislation was the first order of business, House Bill No. 1, and was promoted with great fanfare by Gov. Ron DeSantis and a phalanx of Florida lawmakers at a signing ceremony in April.

Preserving the calm in Florida?

Standing next to DeSantis, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd took the extraordinary step telling potential new residents of Florida that supporting this bill was the way to keep the violent and disorderly protests that were happening in other states out of Florida.  

“Welcome to Florida, but don’t register to vote and vote the stupid way they do up North, or you’ll get what they got,” Judd said.

OK, so this was about “voting the right way,” too? 

That explains the photos of Black looters that Judd held up at the signing event. We can’t let the Black people get out of control here in Florida, I guess was the not-so-subliminal message.

Brief historical note: As long as we’re preserving our past, it’s worth noting that Polk County was named when Florida seceded from the Union in 1861 in honor of James Polk, the 11th president of the United States. 

When Polk died in 1827, he willed his 8,000-acre plantation in Tennessee and the 53 slaves he owned to his wife and children.

“In addition to using enslaved labor at the White House, Polk secretly purchased
enslaved people and separated children aged 10 through 17 from their families while in office,” the White House Historical Association wrote. “President Polk projected the persona of a benevolent and paternalistic slave owner who kept enslaved people because they were inherited from family members.

“In actuality, Polk was a profit-hungry slave owner, ripping apart families for his own personal gain.” 

So to have the modern-day sheriff of Polk County essentially talk about keeping the Black folk in line, well, “bless his heart.”

Reality deals a blow to the narrative

And this knuckling down on out-of-state antifa agitators with Florida's new Combating Public Disorder law isn’t going according to script, either.  

Last week, Alexander Jerich, 20, of suburban Lake Worth Beach took a brief detour in his pickup from the route of a vehicle parade celebrating former President Donald Trump’s 75th birthday.

Jerich was driving a truck with one of those big Vanilla ISIS Trump flags flapping in the back. It read: “All Aboard the Trump Train.”  

His Trump train drove off its track in downtown Delray Beach and to a nearby intersection and crosswalk that had two days earlier been unveiled as a $16,000 street art project commissioned by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

The street mural turned that intersection of Northeast First Street and Northeast Second Avenue into familiar rainbow stripes of gay, lesbian and bisexual pride, as well as pink, white and blue for transgender people and black and brown stripes for people of color.

A video from another vehicle captured Jerich driving over the painted intersection while putting his truck into a “burnout” skid, which involves revving the engine at high speeds while applying the emergency brake, thereby sending the vehicle slowly snaking forward while burning rubber from the tires, leaving black tracks to deface the street mural.

After the video of the vandalism appeared, Jerich turned himself in to Delray Beach Police, which charged him with criminal mischief and reckless driving, with a felony enhancement based on prejudice.

But Rand Hoch, the president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, asked that Florida’s new Combating Public Disorder law be applied.

"PBCHRC has requested the charges include defacing a memorial – a recently enacted law which would require this crime to be treated as a felony,” Hoch wrote in a prepared statement. “If convicted of this offense, the perpetrator would be responsible for reimbursing the City of Delray Beach for the cost of repairing the damages in addition to the severe penalties for committing a felony."

It wasn't clear Monday whether the State Attorney's Office will take Hoch up on his request,but the street installation does seem to fall under a provision of the new law that creates new second-degree felony penalties for defacing a “memorial.”

The law loosely defines a memorial as “a plaque, statue, marker, flag, banner, cenotaph, religious symbol, painting, seal, tombstone, structure name, or display that is constructed and located with the intent of being permanently displayed or perpetually maintained.”

This was supposed to stop people from defacing remnants of the Confederacy, not protecting gay people and people of color, who tend to vote “the stupid way," as Judd might say.

Florida made its mark at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot

In other off-message news, an analysis of the nearly 500 arrests made so far of those people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 showed that Florida lawmakers should be less concerned with violent protestors from Minneapolis, Portland, and Seattle, and more concerned with their own Florida voters, especially the ones who vote “the right way.”

About 1 in 10 of the people charged in that violent insurrection to overturn the results of a certified election, an insurrection that injured 140 officers and sent members of Congress scurrying for their lives, were from Florida, according to a USA Today analysis.

Florida is tied with Texas for the state with the highest number of citizens arrested in that violent insurrection, and Florida leads all states in those arrested who are members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, both violent, right-wing extremist groups.

It looks like the real threats to public order in Florida are already here. And they’re not Black looters.

“Pay attention, we got a new law, and we’re going to use it if you make us,” Judd said at the law's signing ceremony.

OK, well, this is going to be awkward: because it looks like the first guy is one of your smart-voter Trumpers.


Alexander Jerich Arrested for Defacing Delray Beach Pride Intersection


By Christiana Lilly, South Florida Gay News

June 17, 2021
The Delray Beach Police have arrested a suspect believed to have defaced the Pride mural at a downtown intersection just two days after it was dedicated.

Alexander Jerich, 20, was charged with criminal mischief over $1,000, reckless driving and evidence of prejudice (felony enhancement), according to police.

“On Monday, Jerich was seen by witnesses, doing what appeared to be an intentional ‘burnout’ with his vehicle over the LGBTQ pride crosswalk,” Ted White, the public information manager for the Delray Beach Police Department, said in an email to SFGN. “Another witness provided a smartphone video of the crime. This afternoon, Jerich turned himself in at the Delray Beach Police Department. He did not wish to give a statement. Jerich was taken to the Palm Beach County jail.”

The arrest was after a video circulated on Facebook of a white truck flying a Trump flag purposefully leaving behind skid marks over the rainbow intersection at Northeast Second Avenue and Northeast First Street in downtown Delray Beach.
“It’s amazing how many people in Delray Beach were outraged about this,” said Rand Hoch, the founder and president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

Hoch received tips from the public, including those who had found the video evidence posted on Facebook. In the video, a car behind the white truck flying what appears to be flying a Trump flag slows down in the intersection, slowly driving over the mural and leaving behind black skid marks before driving away.

“It shows intent,” Hoch said. “It shows a license plate.”
Earlier this week, Hoch had emailed Chief Javaro Sims to cite the new Florida Criminal Mischief Statute, or “anti-riot law,” passed by Gov. Ron DeSantis which would create harsher punishments for those who vandalize a historic property or memorial. The PBCHRC has also been in touch with the state attorney’s office.

“The Pride Streetscape is a ‘memorial’ as defined at Section 806.135(1)(b) as it is both a ‘painting’ and a ‘display’ which was ‘constructed and located with the intent of being permanently displayed’ and ‘perpetually maintained,’” Hoch wrote, highlighting that speakers at the ribbon-cutting specifically mentioned that the streetscape is “dedicated” to events such as the Stonewall Riots that kicked off the Equality Movement and the murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando five years ago.

Should the vandal’s crime fall under this expanded statute, it would be considered a third-degree felony.

“It’s deliberate. I really hope justice works and they really apply this law,” Hoch said.
Delray Beach’s Pride intersection is one of many cropping up throughout Florida. Boynton Beach recently celebrated the unveiling of its own rainbow intersection, and in April, West Palm Beach presented its own to the public. Key West's permanent Pride crosswalk was unveiled in 2015 and Sarasota installed their own last year. In a May letter to the editor from Wilton Manors Commission Chris Caputo, he called for a rainbow crosswalk in the Island City.
For a clear video of the crime, click here. (The person who posted this on Facebbok is NOT involved. He just reposted) it on Facebook.).

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Delray Beach LGBTQIA+ Pride Streetscape Ribbon Cutting on June 12 at 10:00 a.m.


On Saturday, June 12 at 10:00 a.m., Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia and City Commissioners will dedicate the city's newest memorial -- the LGBTQ Pride Streetscape.

“The Pride Streetscape is about solidarity, inclusion, and visibility; a proud celebration of our city’s diversity," said Mayor Shelly Petrolia.
Image courtesy of Maxwell Zengage
The streetscape, based on the Progress Pride Flag, is located at the intersection of NE 2nd Avenue and NE 1st Street in Pineapple Grove Arts District in Delray Beach

The Progress Pride Flag adds five colors to the iconic six-color Rainbow Pride Flag .The additional colors -- black, brown, light blue, pink, and white -- emphasizes inclusion and progression, representing people of color, trans and non-binary individuals, and those living with HIV/AIDS.
Last fall, City Commissioner Ryan Boylston opened discussions about bringing significant LGBTQ public art to the city with resident Nicholas Coppola and Rand Hoch, President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC).

"The LGBTQ community in Delray Beach is incredibly diverse, as is the population of the city itself," said Boynston. "With this streetscape, we recognize and honor all of our residents and visitors."
Coppola serves on the Board of Trustees of Compass, Palm Beach County's LGBTQ community center.The organization's mission is to engage, empower, and enrich the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and those impacted by HIV and AIDS.

"When the the City of St. Petersburg completed their Pride streetscape last year, Commissioner Boylston reached out to us," said Coppola. "Ryan has been -- and continues to be -- an incredible ally to the LGBTQ community. His leadership on our streetscape is just one more way he shows his support."
Planning for the streetscape involved staff from various city departments, Compass and other stakeholders from the LGBTQ community, and the support of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and PBCHRC -- the project's sponsors..
PBCHRC is Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. 
"We thank Delray Beach's elected officials and staff, for creating this amazing monument to the city's LGBTQ community." said Hoch.

"Over the past thirty years, the LGBTQ community in Delray Beach has gone from being nearly invisible, to being tolerated, to being acknowledged, to being granted equal rights and benefits, to having our families recognized, and now, to having the diversity of the LGBTQIA+community publically celebrated," said Hoch. "That is quite an achievement.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Boynton Beach LGBTQ Progress Pride Intersection Ribbon Cutting on June 7


On Monday, June 7 at 5:30 p.m., Boynton Beach Mayor Steven Grant and City Commissioners will cut the ribbon to dedicate the city's newest memorial -- the Pride Intersection.
Image courtesy of the City of Boynton Beach
The street art, based on the Progress Pride Flag, is located at the intersection of East Ocean Avenue and 1st Street SE at the end of the city's Town Square.

The Progress Pride Flag adds a five-colored chevron to the iconic six-color Rainbow Pride Flag .The chevron emphasizes inclusion and progression, as the additional colors -- black, brown, light blue, pink, and white -- represent people of color, trans and non-binary individuals, and those living with HIV/AIDS.
Last fall, at the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) ,City Commissioner Ty Penserga asked his colleagues to consider a public art installation to honor the city's LGBTQ community.

PBCHRC is Florida’s oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The organization's second president, Norman Aaron, was a resident of Boynton Beach
Following a review of several designs created by city staff, the City Commission approved the Progress Pride design which will be dedicated on Monday.
"By highlighting the LGBTQ streetscape at the entrance to Town Square and downtown Boynton Beach, city officials are proudly letting LGBTQ people know that we recognize you, we stand with you, and we are all part of the fabric that strengthens Boynton Beach," said Penserga, who is Boynton Beach's first openly gay elected official. "We are sending a clear the message -- especially to our younger LGBTQ residents -- that everyone is welcome in Boynton Beach and that our community supports you."
"We thank Mayor Grant and the City Commissioners, as well as city staff, for creating this amazing monument to the city's LGBTQ community." said PBCHRC President and Founder Rand Hoch.

"Over the past thirty years, the LGBTQ community in Boynton Beach has gone from being nearly invisible, to being tolerated, to being acknowledged, to being granted equal rights and benefits, to having our families recognized, and now, to having the diversity of the LGBTQ community publically celebrated," said Hoch. "That is quite an achievement."

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

West Palm Beach LGBTQ Pride Crosswalk Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on June 3

On Thursday, June 3 at 9:30 a.m., West Palm Beach City Commissioners will cut the ribbon to dedicate the city's newest memorial -- the LGBTQ Pride Crosswalks. .
Photo courtesy of  joewilliams.dronepilot
The crosswalks are located at the intersection of Northwood Road and Spruce Avenue in Northwood Village, the traditional heart of the city’s LGBTQ business district. They feature red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet stripes, displaying the colors in the iconic Pride Flag.
In 2018, a request for Pride crossworks was made by Rand Hoch, who served on the West Palm Beach Art in Public Places (now ArtLife WPB). Hoch is also President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC),

PBCHRC is Florida’s oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
After then-Mayor Jeri Muoio embraced the idea, PBCHRC reached out to LGBTQ residents and business owners throughout West Palm Beach, seeking suggestions for the location of the crosswalks.

"Since the late-1980s, there have been more LGBTQ residents and businesses in the Northwood communities than anywhere else in the city," said Hoch. "It was no surprise the consensus was to install the Pride crosswalks in Northwood Village."

“Business owners are thrilled with the crosswalks,” said Will Davis, President of the Northwood Village Merchants Association. “They are beautiful — and definitely worth the wait.”

Funding for the Pride Crosswalks was provided by the City of West Palm Beach and the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency. Hierromat, a locally gay owned and operated business, will provide funding to maintain the crosswalks.
"Over the past several decades, the LGBTQ community in West Palm Beach has gone from being nearly invisible, to being tolerated, to being acknowledged, to being granted equal rights and benefits, to having our families recognized, and now, to having the diversity of the LGBTQ community publicly celebrated," said Hoch.. "That is quite an achievement."

While the Northwood Village Pride crosswalks are the first public artworks dedicated to the LGBTQ community in Palm Beach County, LGBTQ Pride streetscapes in Boynton Beach and Delray Beach will be installed and dedicated in June.