Orange County Mayor names new LGBTQ+ Community Liaison

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Chief of Staff to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Roseann Harrington announced Marc Espeso as Special Assistant to Demings during the One Orlando Alliance quarterly meeting held on Aug. 14. Espeso will act as the LGBTQ+ Community Liaison for Demings.

Espeso, who is currently Orange County’s Digital Communications Editor, will expand his responsibilities to include the new position.

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‘Sweet Dreams’ raises $71K for Bliss CARES

By : Jeremy Williams
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Bliss CARES had a successful night at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Orlando on July 13 with its inaugural “Sweet Dreams: Dancing for TRANSitional Housing” fundraiser.

The event — which partnered 11 amateur dancers, all LGBTQ community leaders in Central Florida, with professional dancers for a night of fast-paced, fancy footwork — raised $71,344, which will go towards creating semi-permanent housing for the transgender and gender nonconforming communities where they can have access to health services, life skills and career counseling to prepare them to live on their own in their own safe space.

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Central Florida LGBTQ pioneer Joel Strack passes away at age 59

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Joel Strack at his celebration of life at Leu Gardens in Orlando June 23. (Photo by J.D. Casto)

ORLANDO | Joel Strack—an LGBTQ leader, activist and pioneer in Central Florida’s fight for equality— passed away in the early morning hours of July 15. He was 59.

Strack was instrumental in launching what would become known as Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom, helped create Orlando’s first Pride parade and assisted in founding both the Orlando Gay Chorus and the Gay and Lesbian History Museum.

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PHOTOS: Central Florida LGBTQ trailblazer Joel Strack honored with proclamation from City of Orlando

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Joel Strack has been an out and proud leader, activist and trailblazer in the Central Florida LGBTQ community for over 40 years.

Strack was instrumental in launching what would become known as Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom, helped create Orlando’s first Pride parade and assisted in founding both the Orlando Gay Chorus and the Gay and Lesbian History Museum.

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Orlando bans single-use plastics, foam on city properties

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Former Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor and environmental activist Eric Rollings says he was beside himself with joy when the Orlando City Commission voted unanimously to ban plastic straws, plastic bags and polystyrene single-use containers in the city of Orlando on all its properties.

“I was just one giant goosebump seeing it actually happen,” Rollings says with a smile.

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PHOTOS: The 49 Fund announces scholarship winners at Orlando City Hall

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The 49 Fund at Central Florida Foundation announced its four scholarship recipients at a ceremony held at Orlando City Hall’s Rotunda on June 8.

Created in 2017 as a partnership between Central Florida attorney and LGBTQ activist Barry Miller and The LGBT+ Center Orlando, The 49 Fund awards scholarships of $4,900 to students who self-identify as an out member of the LGBTQ community, attend an accredited two- or four-year institution of higher learning on a full-time basis, earn a 3.0 GPA or higher and demonstrate a commitment to making Central Florida a better place.

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Orlando remembers 3-year mark of Pulse tragedy this June

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | June 12, 2019 will mark three years since a gunman walked into the Pulse nightclub, killing 49 people and injuring dozens more.

Several organizations will hold vigils, memorials and events in and around Central Florida to honor the victims leading up to and on June 12. We have gathered information on a few and provided it below. Watermark will continue to update this list over the next two weeks with more events as information becomes available.

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AIDS Walk Orlando raises over $52K for Hope & Help

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | More than 400 walkers gathered at the Walt Disney Amphitheatre at Lake Eola Park in Orlando April 27, helping raise over $52,000 for Hope & Help’s 29th annual AIDS Walk.

AIDS Walk Orlando was moved back to the morning hours after two years as an evening walk around Lake Eola, kicking off at 7:30 a.m. with registration and guest speakers at the amphitheater. Speakers included City Commissioner Patty Sheehan and Hope & Help’s community developmental director Joshua Myers, also the AIDS Walk Orlando event director.

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PHOTOS: Orlando recognizes Jazell Barbie Royale with city proclamation

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Mayor Buddy Dyer recognized the current Miss International Queen Jazell Barbie Royale with a proclamation to the city declaring it “Jazell Barbie Royale Day” in the city of Orlando on April 11.

Dyer and Royale were joined on the steps of City Hall by City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, Parliament House Entertainment Director Darcel Stevens, Orlando Police Captain Jim Young, Bliss CARES Medical Director Dr. Roberto Ortiz and many of Royale’s family, friends, fans and supporters.

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Orlando becomes first Florida city to recognize LGBTQ-certified businesses

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Mayor Buddy Dyer, City Commissioner Patty Sheehan and members from both the Metropolitan Business Association (MBA Orlando) and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) gathered at Se7enBites in Orlando to announce a new LGBTQ business initiative April 2.

The LGBTQ+ Business Inclusion Resolution allows the city to develop a database and registry of LGBTQ-certified businesses with the NGLCC that will track city contracts and spending with LGBTQ-owned businesses and ensure the inclusion of LGBTQ-owned businesses in Central Florida.

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Miss International Queen Jazell Barbie Royale to be recognized by City of Orlando

By : Lauren Lee
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ORLANDO | The City of Orlando will recognize Parliament House entertainer Jazell Barbie Royale, who made history as the first black transgender woman to be crowned Miss International Queen in Thailand, with a ceremony at City Hall on April 11.

“We always see trans rights in such a hostile way,” says Darcel Stevens, Parliament House’s entertainment director. “There’s so much brutality in the community, so it is wonderful to see trans issues in such a positive light.”

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2019 WAVE Awards Spotlight: Patty Sheehan

By : Jeremy Williams
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Central Florida’s Favorite Local Activist, Favorite Local Artist, WHO SHOULD BE THE CENTERFOLD OF WATERMARK’S WAVE ISSUE

Patty Sheehan has a couple of things she is particularly passionate about: her community and her art. So it is rather fitting that Watermark readers recognized her for being their Favorite Local Activist and Favorite Local Artist in Central Florida.

There is one other recognition the Central Florida readers of Watermark bestowed upon Orlando’s first openly gay city commissioner: The person who should be the centerfold of Watermark’s WAVE issue.

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