Watermark’s Most Remarkable People of 2019

By : Watermark Staff
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What a remarkable year 2019 has been for the LGBTQ communities in Central Florida and Tampa Bay.

Whether it was in the field of politics, philanthropy, activism, entertainment or pageantry; there was no shortage of remarkable people for us to choose for Watermark’s annual list of the Most Remarkable People in Central Florida and Tampa Bay.

In honor of the year 2019, we choose 19 people across our readership area who were breaking records and blazing trails for the LGBTQ community. Once we selected our 19 Remarkables, we asked members of the community work know, work and admire each of them to write why they thought they were remarkable.

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Billy Looper and Tom Christ, Founders of KindRED Pride Foundation and owners of One Magical Weekend

By : Roxy Santiago, Board President, The LGBT+ Center Orlando/Kissimmee
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I’ve known of Billy Looper and Tom Christ for years as the guys who founded, run and operate One Magical Weekend. I personally met them when they came to The LGBT+ Center in Orlando for the Santa’s Bike Force giveaways.

Now in its 16th year, Santa’s Bike Force was Billy and Tom’s way of helping to give less fortunate kids that feeling of receiving your first bicycle. Through their efforts, dozens upon dozens of bikes have been handed out to kids during the holidays.

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Marc Espeso, LGBTQ Liaison, Orange County

By : Mayor Jerry L. Demings, Orange County
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We strive to make Orange County a place that truly works for everyone.

Marc Espeso wholeheartedly embraces our diverse community because he is proudly a part of it. He works with me, and all Orange County staff members, to ensure everyone has a seat at the table and all residents have a voice in my administration.

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Eric Rollings, Central Florida Realtor, Activist, Environmentalist

By : State Sen. Linda Stewart, District 13
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I want to congratulate Eric Rollings on being selected for Watermark’s “Most Remarkable People”! I have known Eric for almost a decade and I am so proud of all he has accomplished. He is a close friend, and for as long as I have known him he has been fighting for just causes and been dedicated to issues such as climate change and LGBTQ rights. He has been at the forefront of the Central Florida community serving as a representative for our area locally and at the national level.

Eric has served as a delegate of the first ever delegation from Orlando to the United Nations General Assembly this year, advocating for the city’s place on the international stage at the forefront of fighting climate change and progressing the rights of the LGBTQ community. He has been a leader on the team effort to ban the practice of conversion therapy in Orange County with ConvertToLove.org. because of his advocacy, Congressman Darren Soto entered Eric into the Congressional Record as a “Distinguished LGBTQ Leader for Pride Month.”

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Yasmin Flasterstein, Co-founder Executive Director, Peer Support Space

By : Dani Hill, Co-founder and Director of Peer Services, Peer Support Space
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I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to know Yasmin Flasterstein for a little over half a decade now as both colleague and dear friend. After Pulse, we worked collaboratively at the Mental Health Association for the Orlando United Counseling program. Her commitment to ensuring survivors and those impacted had access to free mental health counseling has had a lasting impact on both individual and community well-being. Her passion to challenging mental health stigma that acts to isolate and harm those who are vulnerable is palpable. I can genuinely say, in no hyperbolic way, that she has saved lives with her compassion.

In January 2019, with her vision as a guide, we co-founded Peer Support Space. At Peer Support Space, we strive to uplift and empower communities that too often are stifled and who have limited access to approachable resources. Yasmin will always pass the megaphone to voices that need to be heard and strives personally to ensure that the services provided through Peer Support Space are informed and led by the population served.

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Ashley Figueroa, Project Manager, Bliss CARES

By : Maggie L. King, Director of Development and Community Relations, Bliss CARES
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If you knew Ashley, like I know Ashley you would know that… Ashley Figueroa is an open and proud Latina American transgender woman.

The day that I met Ashley, I knew that she was a force to be reckoned with. Almost instantly, I knew that she was kind, compassionate, and intelligent and had a great sense of humor. Her compassion for others is what really makes her stand out. Because of her displayed strong leadership abilities, she was a natural fit for Bliss Cares.

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Kristian Cosme, AT&T Community Impact Award winner

By : Ayme Rodriguez Smith
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Kristian Cosme is a force of nature. From his time at Colonial High School to his graduation from UCF to his career with AT&T, Kristian has supported his community through volunteerism and political action.

I met Kristian in 2002 working together to elect democrats in Orange County. We bonded over phone banking and door-to-door canvassing. I had the honor of being the first person Kristian came out to. It is a moment I cherish; the moment that made Kristian family.

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MSgt. Grace Peek-Harris, Orlando Police Department

By : Capt. Jim Young, Orlando Police Department
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Master Sergeant Grace Peek-Harris has served the citizens of Orlando for 20 years. During the past three years, in addition to her role as a police supervisor, she has served as the department’s LGBTQ Liaison.

Grace has worked tirelessly to build on the continued relationships between the police department and the LGBTQ community, as well as enhance the partnerships within law enforcement since joining the Orlando Police department (OPD) in 1999. She has been in public service her entire adult life, starting out by serving her country in the U.S. Navy. She has served with the Zebra Coalition as the law enforcement representative, currently serves on the board of The LGBT+ Center and is the founder president of the Gay Officers Action League Central Florida (GOALcfl).

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Barbara Poma, CEO and Executive Director, onePULSE Foundation

By : Mark Cady-Archilla, Corporate Sponsorship Officer, onePULSE Foundation
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I met Barbara nearly 10 years ago when I was in advertising sales at Watermark to discuss advertising Pulse in one of the Pride guides we were publishing.

Though she is of small stature, when she walked into the room, in a dress and heels with her long wavy hair, she commanded attention which I soon came to understand was not because of her appearance, rather because of her confidence, sincerity and warmth.

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Jazell Barbie Royale, Miss International Queen 2019

By : Darcel Stevens, Parliament House Entertainment Director
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2019 has been a remarkable year for a remarkable lady! From finding a meaningful purpose to unexpectedly becoming a trailblazer, I’m honored to talk about Jazell Barbie Royale’s incredible 2019 journey.

No one can predict the future. Often the best intentions are foiled by the daily riggers of life, yet through it all this native of Jacksonville has been blessed thanks in part to generational life lessons instilled in her by three dominate women in her life: her great grandmother, Gladys Kyle; her grandmother, Kathy; and her mother, Petria Chisholm. They all taught her the importance of wisdom, perseverance, humility and, most important, failure.

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Florida advocacy groups, nonprofits file brief urging appeal court to protect HROs

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Two women were denied access to Rachel’s Orlando because they were not accompanied by a man. (Image from Google Maps)

ORLANDO | Equality Florida, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and The Impact Fund led a coalition of statewide civil rights groups and nonprofit organizations in filing an amicus brief Dec. 17 urging Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal to reverse a trial court ruling against Orange County’s Human Rights Ordinance (HRO).

The brief requests the court to reverse the ruling in Yanes v. O C Food and Beverage, LLC. The sex discrimination lawsuit alleged Orlando resident Brittney Smith and friend Anita Yanes were denied access to Rachel’s Orlando, a local business described on its website as a “World Class Men’s Club & Steak House,” in February 2018 because they did not have a male to escort them in. According to the lawsuit, Rachel’s policy requires women to be accompanied by a male companion which the brief says violates Orange County’s HRO.

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Watermark Giveaway: Tickets to Orlando Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ at Dr. Phillips Center

By : Watermark Staff
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Watermark was recently invited to participate in the Orlando Ballet’s upcoming performance of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Watermark Sales Director Danny Garcia will portray the larger-than-life character of Mother Ginger in drag, on Dec. 21 at 3 p.m. and we want to send you and a friend to see it for free.

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