While accepting the Ally HERO award April 17 from DVLF, Mayor Jim Kenney said he gets a lot of credit for supporting the LGBT community, but he sees backing LGBT rights as a basic issue of fairness.
“I’m willing as a city to continue to shine as an open place for everyone to come and to feel safe,” Kenney said.
In addition to supporting domestic-partnership benefits for city employees in 1997, Kenney, as a city councilman, introduced a comprehensive LGBT-rights bill in 2013 that called for gender-inclusive restrooms in new construction on city buildings and transgender-health tax credits. He also recalled stopping by Philadelphia City Hall the first day the city began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and seeing old and young couples alike hugging and crying.
“If you don’t put a face on people,” he said, “if they’re not your brother, your nephew, your grandson, your daughter, it’s easy to discriminate. When they have a face, when they’re that kid from my club who happened to be a gay man, you protect them because you love them.”
Samantha Giusti, executive director of DVLF, a grantmaking organization for LGBT causes, thanked Kenney for his supportive policy decisions before ushering the crowd to tables for brunch at Hotel Monaco in Old City.
Giusti talked about this year’s rebranding of the philanthropic organization formerly known as the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund. It now goes simply by DVLF.
People “knew the words associated with us and had a feeling we were doing good things, but they couldn’t tell us exactly what we did or how we did it,” Giusti said. She noted the 10th anniversary of the HERO Awards was a good time for the change.
“The generosity of the LGBTQ community has been at the heart of our movement since the beginning,” Giusti said. “Money is vital for political power and cultural influence. It’s also about community and pride.”
The other HERO Award winners included: Deja Lynn Alvarez, director of Divine Light LGBTQ Wellness Center in North Philadelphia, as the Individual HERO; Ibrahim Vicks, a leader at The Attic Youth Center, as the Youth HERO; Table 95 Hospitality, a frequent donor of space and food for LGBT fundraisers, as the Business HERO; Independence Business Alliance, the region’s LGBT chamber of commerce, as the Nonprofit HERO; and Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum, as the Lifetime HERO.
Alvarez also focused on the need of the LGBT community to support resources for its people. Neither she nor Sakina Dean, the CEO of several Divine Light shelters, takes a paycheck for their work with the LGBT center.
“We are working tirelessly to find funding or other sources of revenue,” Alvarez said. “For that, we need your help not only in saving lives, but changing them, and keeping our doors and hearts open to our community.”
C. Richard Horrow, president of the IBA’s board of directors, talked about the Nonprofit HERO Award as a responsibility to the LGBT community. The IBA has partnered with DVLF to grow a scholarship endowment for undergraduate business students. The chamber of commerce also wants to build programs to bolster economic justice in transgender communities with a focus on employment and entrepreneurship.
DVLF invites people to become heroes themselves by signing up to donate $10 a month for 10 years, in honor of the 10th-annual awards. To sign up, visit http://ow.ly/4mRlZD.