It’s almost impossible to peruse any Orlando media without catching a glance of the Human Rights Campaign’s (seemingly) chief networker Carlos Carbonell. Carbonell also serves on the Contigo Fund Grant Committee, an affiliate of the Our Fund Foundation, that was developed in Orlando in the wake of the Pulse massacre. He’s also a key figure in the newly formed LGBTQ alliance which seeks to pull resources together from throughout the community to achieve equality and fairness.
“I have a huge love for everything Orlando,” he says. “I graduated college from the University of Florida. I came to Orlando and had odd jobs, like working for Disney. I ended up working for a marketing firm. For 10 years, I helped build up the marketing side of that. But, it was through my friend [Orlando LGBTQ advocate] Jennifer Foster and a few others that I got involved in HRC, because there wasn’t an HRC here. So there were about four or five others that got that going. I was also somewhat involved in the Democratic Party, just helping out here and there. That gave a little bit of a compassion for advocacy.”
“I think that was my introduction to tokenism,” he adds. “HRC is a very lily white organization, so I was on the national diversity subcommittee, and I learned a lot about what diversity means. Even in a gay organization, diversity means anyone who is not a gay white male.
That compassion, that eye on diversity, led to really big things for Carbonell. He is presently the chief executive officer of Echo Interaction Group and the president of the Orlando Tech Association. In short, he knows his way around a computer. He also knows his way around the power players of the Orlando business matrix. If there’s a party, he’s there. If there’s a divide, he’s bridging it.
“Being Hispanic-Latino-immigrant is a big driver,” he says. “As much as being gay for the things that I do for the people in the community. Post-Pulse, it sort of helped me bring those two worlds together, because the first calls I got were from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Jennifer Foster. It was like, ‘my two families.’ It’s kind of what I’m know as: a connector.”
He’s also there for his Hispanic community. Carbonell immigrated from Panama and has been a strong voice for the QLATINX community, especially post-Pulse.
“I didn’t become a U.S. citizen until I was 23. I was in limbo for a long time. That is a huge source of shame, uncertainty and fear. And as a gay person, you have this added layer,” he says.
Gallery photos by Jake Stevens.