In 2013, D’Ontace Keyes was working full-time at Philadelphia FIGHT, an AIDS-service organization, and serving as the youth chair for Philadelphia Black Pride.
Despite his busy schedule, he also started working weekends at the DSW shoe store because it had a philanthropy project. Keyes received $1,000 to put toward a cause of his choice.
“I decided to do an awards ceremony,” he said. “You never really saw people of color being recognized for their contributions” to the LGBT community.
Keyes shared the history of the Society Lights awards at the fourth-annual event that took place April 30 at Ms. Tootsie’s Soul Food Café in Bella Vista. He was feeling nostalgic as he announced it would be his last year with Philadelphia Black Pride. Keyes is graduating this month from his master’s program for marketing and looking ahead to the next stage of his life.
Philadelphia Black Pride’s president, Le Thomas, commended the six honorees for their impact on the community.
“These are individual people doing individual things, but collectively their work is amazing,” he said.
The Society Lights winners included:
• Deborah Johnson, visitor services manager at the African American Museum of Philadelphia and a former board member of Philadelphia Black Pride.
“Miss Deborah has been there for me for so long,” Keyes said. “She’s a supportive force in the community.”
• Suzi Nash, contributor to Philadelphia Gay News and community advocate.
“Suzi has been a staple not only to the paper, but also to the narratives of black LGBT people,” Keyes said.
• Malcolm Kenyatta, an LGBT political consultant and advocate.
“He’s one of those young people who shakes the scene,” Keyes said.
• Richard Laboy, a clinical research assistant at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who is active in the HIV/AIDS care community.
“He’s humbly shifted the paradigm in programming and research for HIV prevention in black and Latino communities,” Keyes said. “He’s not afraid to call out organizations and say, ‘Shape up or ship out.’”
• Ja’Nae Tyler, an activist for trans women of color.
“She speaks up for the lives of black trans women,” Keyes said, pointing out the inscription on the Society Lights award plaque, which says, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.”
• Dior Cartel, a DJ and mentor for young girls, was unable to attend the ceremony.
Kenyatta and Nash also honored Nash’s mother, Toni, with a proclamation from Philadelphia City Council recognizing her many contributions to the city as a longstanding supporter of the LGBT community. The proclamation recognized her nine-year run hosting “Profiles” on WGBS-TV57, which is similar to Nash’s “Family Portrait” feature in PGN.