Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
WARREN – The 20th annual Pride Banquet drew almost 500 people to the Ukranian Cultural Center to celebrate LGBT pride and honor some of the LGBT community’s best and brightest.
The banquet, the longest running event of its kind in Michigan, was sponsored by Midwest AIDS Prevention Project, Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center, Detroit Black Gay Pride, The Triangle Foundation and Ruth Ellis Center. The event honors individuals and groups for their work in and dedication to the LGBT community.
Dee Roland of Detroit, who has been coming to the banquet for three years, said she attends the event “for the positivity.”
“There’s not a lot around these days,” she said. “I’m all for it. One person can make a difference.”
This year’s event was the first banquet Gregory Wright and his partner Daniel Rivera attended. Wright is the president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Michigan. Both men said that they have friends who were receiving awards that evening and they were there to support them.
“I’m very impressed,” said Wright. “It’s very beautiful here.”
Craig Covey, MAPP’s CEO, underscored the importance of the community building event during his welcoming remarks. Twenty years ago, he said, we had an anti-gay president that didn’t care about AIDS. “Twenty years later we’ve got the same thing again,” he said.
One of the individuals who received an award at the banquet was Christiano Ramazzotti of Hazel Park. Ramazzotti received the Rising Star award for his work bridging the gay and Arab communities. Ramazzotti has been involved in HIV prevention education for gay and bisexual Arab men, and is one of the founders of the Association of Lesbian and Gay Middle Eastern Americans (ALGAMEA).
“I’ve done a lot but it’s still not enough,” Ramazzotti said, adding that his goal was to “make the Arab community more accepting of GLBT people and help the GLBT Arabs come out of the shadows and be proud.”
Jaye Spiro, (who was incorrectly identified in last week’s BTL as receiving a different award), was the recipient of the Sports Award. Spiro, a fifth degree black belt, is the owner of Mejishi Martial Arts in Ferndale. “At the age of 57, I love getting the sports award,” she said.
Ferndale Mayor Robert Porter gave out the Spirit of Detroit Awards as no one from the Detroit City government came to the event. Detroit Council President Maryann Mahaffey has given out the awards in the past but has not attended the event for the past two years. Porter wore a bright red tie. “Red to me is a couple of things,” he said. “It’s energy and it’s love. Whether it’s at Motor City Pride or in this room, there’s no place that I feel more energy and love. That’s why I wear this red tie.”
The recipients of the Spirit of Detroit Awards this year were Michelle Brown, Crystal Witt and Sean Rhaesa.
Brown serves on the Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign, co-chaired the anti-Proposal 2 group Coalition for a Fair Michigan, is an active member of Detroit Black Gay Pride, serves on the Affirmations Board of Directors, and spoke at this year’s Michigan Pride rally in Lansing.
Rhaesa is a coordinator for the Motor City Pride Planning Committee and was the man behind this year’s theme, “Dive Into Pride.” He has also designed marketing materials for Triangle events such as Reel Pride Michigan and the Michigan Lesbian and Gay Comedy Fest.
Witt, a former corrections officer, is the victim advocate at Triangle. A single mother and poet, Witt serves on the boards of Karibu House, Hotter Than July and The Michigan Democratic Justice Caucus.
This year’s Business Award went to the lesbian-owned Avalon International Breads. Partners in life and in business, Jackie Victor and Ann Perrault founded their bakery in Detroit’s Cass Corridor in 1997. Avalon serves as a reminder that a business can “do good and do well” at the same time.
Todd Ballou, the leader of One Voice Chorus, received the Cultural Award. Ballou began as the group’s accompanist and has been the musical director of One Voice, Metro Detroit’s only LGBT chorus, since 1995.
Recipient of the MAPP Award was Don Calamia. The MAPP Award is given each year by to an individual who has gone above and beyond in support of the organization’s HIV/AIDS prevention education mission. Calamia has worked with MAPP for 16 years. Last year, he threw a huge 50th birthday party and instructed guests to give all gifts to MAPP and the event raised over $3,100 for the organization.
BTL contributing writer Jason Michael was awarded the Media Award. Michael has covered the LGBT community for the past six years and contributes to BTL as both a writer and photographer. His work has also appeared in national anthologies and other LGBT publications such as Kick, Cruise, and OutPost.
Founder and current program director of Detroit Black Gay Pride Johnny Jenkins received the Political Award. Jenkins has been an active member of the LGBT community in Detroit and beyond for the past 10 years. In addition to serving as a steering committee member for the Coalition for a Fair Michigan, Jenkins helped organize the historic town hall series on Homophobia in Detroit, has been an organizer of Hotter Than July for the past 10 years, serves as the Midwest Vice-President of the International Federation of Black Prides in Washington D.C. and is the co-host of the PicNap Poetry Series in Detroit.
Two Volunteer Awards were given out. Mark Clark received the recognition for his service to AIDS Partnership Michigan manning their Affirmations HIV test site location, and volunteer work with HRC, Ford GLOBE, and the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Ypsilanti. Jennifer Jeannero also received an award for her work with Triangle and Affirmations. Jeannero is most often seen with a camera in front of her face and has been taking pictures and documenting every major community event.
TransGender Michigan Executive Director Rachel Crandall received this year’s Unity Award, a special award created in memory of George M. Fadiga to recognize those who unite all aspects of the LGBT community. Crandall has earned a reputation for making sure the “T” is included in the LGBT community and vice versa.
Each year an individual is singled out for special recognition with the Lifetime Achievement Award. This year’s winner, Gary Murphy, has been active in the LGBT community for over 40 years, most often behind the scenes. (For more on Gary Murphy see BTL’s profile in last week’s issue.)
While many of the evening’s awards went to one individual, one award this year was shared among 34. The entire 34 member Motor City Pride Planning Committee came up on stage to accept the Pride Award. The team works a full year together, all volunteer, to put on the annual Motor City Pride event, the largest LGBT event in Michigan. The committee is made up of the following volunteers:
Co-Chairs Jackie Anding and Fred Huebener, Producer Stephanie Newman, Director Kevin McAlpine, Dance Pavilion Coordinator Jacob Willard, Commitment Ceremony Coordinator Rev. Mark Bidwell, Stage Security Supervisor Tih Penfil, Stage Manager Denise Watch, Pride Guide Author and Security Coordinator Sean Rhaesa, Security Manager Linda Houtos, Production Assistants Sean Moore and Chad Grandy, Dollar Drive Co-Coordinators Michael Lupo and Veronica Machak, Videography Coordinator Kim Harris, Family Fun Area and Picnic Coordinator Shannon Cuttle, Decorations Coordinator Laura Walker, Logistics Co-Coordinators Lucy Meyo an David Light, Womyn’s World Coordinator Latrice Jackson, Exhibitor Relations Coordinator Bill Korsak, Youth Zone Coordinator Cass Varner, Photographer David Watson, Volunteer Relations Coordinator Jerry Sima, Historian Jennifer Jeannero, Beer Garden Coordinator Matt Crawford, Triangle Booths Coordinator Ron Coates, Security EMS Supervisor Garrett Schafer, Sponsorships Coordinator Adriel Thornton, Dunk Tank Supervisor Joe Tosch and Media Relations Coordinator Scott Booth.
In addition, 13 individuals received Community Service Awards. They were Craig Anderson, Pam Chastain, Ben Cho, Robert Clark, Shannon Cuttle, Bev Davidson, Antonio David Garcia, Chad Grandy, Stephanie Newman, Mark Oumedian, Murray Vaughan, Tiffany Vorhies, and Wayne Wolfson.
Elected officials in attendance, according to Jeffrey Montgomery, Triangle’s executive director, included Sen. Gilda Jacobs (D-District 14), Rep. Alexander Lipsey (D-District 60), Rep. Aldo Vagnozzi (D-District 37), Judge Rudy Serra, and Ferndale City Council member Helen Weber.