Transvestigator: Record Breaking "Broward Gala" Success
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 10:51
This years Annual Broward Gala featured an overwhelming crowd which included community leaders, political hopefuls, and dozens of key elected officials gathered together and helped raise a record breaking $260,000 plus for LGBT rights. The event took place Nov. 13, at the Museum Of Art in Ft Lauderdale.
The evening was a fundraiser for Equality Florida Institute and a night to honor Teri Williams and Michael Rajner for their work ending bullying and securing equal rights for LGBT Floridians. The evening comes on the heels of a tremendous victory for equality in Broward- passage of an Equal Benefits Ordinance that requires companies doing business in with Broward to provide the same benefits to domestic partners that are given to married couples.
Deputy Director for Equality Florida, Stratton Pollitzer took to the stage as the award ceremony got underway and as he glanced out over the audience of on-lookers he was taken back and said, "Wow, I wish you could see this from up here on the stage, this is a huge crowd tonight. It’s so big that we had to flow out onto the balcony tonight."
Indeed it was a record breaking crowd and you could just feel the energy in the room. After the audience's thunderous applause settled down Stratton commented, “We have a lot to celebrate tonight as what a great year this has been.. another year where we've seen tremendous progress."
Presenting the first award of the evening was De Palazzo, Chair of Equality Florida, who spoke vibrantly when referring to the first recipient of the "Voice Of Equality Award” Teri Williams.
She described Williams as a "walking - talking" model of leadership, compassion, fire, and energy who has a special place in her heart for the LGBTQ youth.
Williams’ role in the Broward School District is coordinator and specialist of the office of diversity and cultural outreach and prevention. In that department she spends much dedicated time insuring that the needs of LGBT human youth are met fairly and consistently.
Palazzo said to Williams as she gave the award to her, "For your unwavering commitment for safety and respect for diversity in our schools. With you as an ally no student facing bullying is ever alone."
Stated Williams: “This is so humbling and it is so critical that we are systemic with the actions that we take, and that's where Equality Florida comes in on a state and national level."
Williams spoke about the vision she had to create peaceful and safe schools that not long ago seemed impossible, but today they are successful and growing.
New Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, Robert W. Runcie was in attendance said "As new Superintendent I want it understood to parents, teachers, faculty, staff and our students that bullying is something that is not going to be tolerated within our district. We need to better teach our students tolerance, proper behavior, and to appreciate diversity to make them better individuals for a better world and it’s a topic I plan to stay on top of."
Executive Director of Equality Florida, Nadine Smith, presented the second Voice of Equality Award to Michael Rajner.
"For your fearless advocacy on behalf of our students, our health, and our families by always speaking out for full equality you have made Florida a more just place for us all,” she said.
Smith described Rajner as an advocate who is driven by his work which is built on passion and a person of encouragement.
Stated Rajner: “When people ask me what I do I sometimes have to scratch my head and think, and then say I suppose what I do best is agitate. There are so many people suffering needlessly and for that reason we need to be there voice. As gay individuals many of us create our own families, we struggle sometimes to find that acceptance within our own families and we come up with these extended families to celebrate much like we have here tonight. One of the things we still need to do is fight, and fight as a family. We are all a voice of equality in this room and abroad. We need to use that voice both not only to advocate for one another when we see an injustice, but we also need to make certain that we get up to Tallahassee. What I do is nothing special, what I do we can all do."
In so many ways I was motivated and inspired by the energy that I received from listening to these individuals and their desire to make a change. I know it's fair to say that I don't know where I will be next week, yet I can honestly say I now know where I will be in February... I'm packing for Tallahassee!
Victoria Michaels is the reigning Miss Florida 2011 F.I. and serves as an advocate for the LGBT community. She is transgender (male to female), and before her transition in 1999 she was a student at the College Of Philadelphia and worked as a show producer at WDEL AM News radio in Delaware. She is currently a premiere emcee at Boardwalk Bar in Fort Lauderdale. Visit Missfla.com or Myspace.com/missvictoriamichaels for more information. Email her at [email protected] .