The fifth annual Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit unites LGBTQ youth

By : Melanie Ararat
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ABOVE: City of Orlando’s Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Senior Specialist Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez gives a speech at the Orlando Youth Summit at Valencia College – West Campus. Photo by Melanie Ararat

ORLANDO | LGBTQ youth, organizations and allies were able to network, engage in interactive workshops and listen to community leaders for the fifth annual Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit (OYES) at Valencia College – West Campus on Nov. 3. A special appearance was made by Orange County Mayor and School Board Chair-Elect Teresa Jacobs.

“It’s important for our youth, our educators and our professionals to all come together and talk about the best ways to help our youth as they discover who they are and how they can make sure that they can live their authentic selves in our community,” Jacobs says.

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PHOTOS: Pride Rally at Lake Eola brought the love

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Come Out With Pride held a Pride Rally at the Walt Disney Amphitheater during Saturday’s celebration at Lake Eola.

The crowd heard from Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and more.

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One Orlando Alliance names Board Chair Jennifer Foster as new Executive Director

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Jennifer Foster, who served as board chair for the One Orlando Alliance since formation, was named the organization’s founding executive director Oct. 11.

Foster’s appointment as the Alliance’s director comes on National Coming Out Day and during Orlando’s Pride Week — a weeklong celebration led by Alliance member Come Out With Pride.

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08.09.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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“Guys in Orlando suck!” “The gay community in Orlando is so transient.” I heard these phrases way too often in the early 2000s, but I never bought into that way of thinking.

I moved to Central Florida in 1986. This was back in the days when the 408 was just two lanes each way, The Winter Park Village was an enclosed Mall and Ronnie’s was serving the Mogambo Extravaganza (a sixth grade ice cream lover’s dream dessert). I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on track to meet some amazing people with incredible stories to tell, and who would disprove the notion that Orlando was not a strong LGBTQ community.

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Two years later many groups, individuals will honor and remember those affected by the Pulse tragedy

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE:  The Pulse memorial will be one of several locations with events June 12.

ORLANDO | It’s been nearly two years since our community woke to the news that a gunman entered one of our LGBTQ nightclubs in downtown Orlando on Latin Night with a semi-automatic rifle and handgun. 49 patrons were killed and another 53 injured while they danced, drank and celebrated with friends and family.

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One Orlando Alliance retracts ED offer after Patricia Todd suggests Alabama Gov. is lesbian

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The One Orlando Alliance has retracted the offer of employment made to former Alabama Rep. Patricia Todd to serve as the organization’s executive director after Todd suggested on Twitter May 15 that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is a lesbian.

“The Board affirms that Ms. Todd’s recent comments are not aligned with the values of One Orlando Alliance. We strongly believe that coming out is a personal choice and we do not support involuntarily outing,” said Jennifer Foster, Chair of the Board of Directors and one of the original co-conveners of the Alliance, in a press release. “This has been a challenging situation. While Ms. Todd has a well-established record of outstanding service to the community, her lapse in judgment has led us to end our relationship with her. We admire her many decades of exemplary service and believe that, with the right opportunity, Ms. Todd will continue to use her many talents to make significant progress advocating for justice and equality.”

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One Orlando Alliance names former Alabama Representative as new executive director

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The Board of Directors of One Orlando Alliance announced the selection of former Alabama Rep. Patricia Todd as the organization’s executive director in a press release May 1. The selection follows an extensive nationwide search that began in August 2017.

Todd becomes the first executive director for the One Orlando Alliance, a non-profit group of more than 30 LGBTQ organizations formed in the days after the Pulse shooting on June 12, 2016.

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Central Florida attorney elected chair of HRC board of directors

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Central Florida attorney John Ruffier was elected as the vice-chair of the Human Rights Campaign board of directors and will become the chair of the organization next year.

The announcement was made by the law firm Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A.— where Ruffier is a practicing attorney—in a press release Jan. 12.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People of 2017

By : Watermark Staff
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In a year filled with many setbacks and obstacles, the LGBTQ communities in Central Florida and Tampa Bay have met those challenges with amazing resilience and resisted all forms of discrimination.

The individuals selected as Watermark’s Most Remarkable People of 2017 come from many walks of life but all share one thing in common, they all were truly exceptional this year.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Jennifer Foster, Owner of Foster Productions, Inc.

By : Robin Maynard, Founder of Libby’s Legacy
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Robin Maynard

It’s interesting that the very definition of remarkable is “worthy of attention” because it’s the one thing Jennifer Foster doesn’t seek. She simply puts her head down and focuses on the important work to be done and she does so with compassion and true leadership.

Allow me to back up: I’ve been friends with Jennifer for more than a decade. Jennifer owns Foster Productions; however, she has volunteered with Florida little dog rescue, Big Brother/Big Sisters, HRC, Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation and more over the years. We hung out in friendship while our nonprofit work would occasionally meet (our two rescue dogs were brought to us by Jennifer and her wife to ‘foster’ and Jennifer would rally with a team to fundraiser for Libby’s Legacy once a year as well). Other than that, it was porch talks and football , birthday gatherings and the occasional dinner.

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Award-Winning Community: MBA celebrates 25 years at annual Pride Gala Business Awards

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The Metropolitan Business Association celebrated 25 years, as well as the recognition of being named the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber of the Year, at their annual Pride Gala Business Awards for 2017 at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando Nov. 4.

The community was dressed to the nines as they honored the best in LGBTQ business in Central Florida.

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MBA celebrates 25 years at annual Pride Gala Business Awards

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The Metropolitan Business Association celebrated 25 years, as well as the recognition of Chamber of the Year, at their annual Pride Gala Business Awards for 2017 at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando Nov. 4.

Hosting again this year was the dynamic duo of Jorge Estevez and Miss Sammy who brought plenty of laughs and charm (and not to mention some pretty good dance moves).

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