This is the first year GALAEI will present three DARLA awards. During the May 9 event at William Way LGBT Community Center, the organization will honor former GALAEI youth program coordinator Louis Ortiz with the DARLA, University of Pennsylvania student Diana Estefania Estrada Alamo with the Youth DARLA and The Philadelphia Foundation with the Organization DARLA.
GALAEI executive director Elicia Gonzales said the decision to honor three recipients seemed natural, to coincide with the organization’s 25th-anniversary year.
“We felt that, since it was a big year for us, giving away three was in order,” she said.
The DARLA honors those who have shown leadership in conjunction with GALEI’s mission. Ortiz is someone who fit that bill, Gonzales said.
“He is a prime example of a revolutionary leader in all aspects of his life,” she said. “As an advocate, poet, public-health service provider and also a parent, he is able to be a revolutionary leader and visionary and makes things happen.”
Ortiz was 17 when he started at GALAEI, then under Acosta’s leadership, and stayed with the organization for seven years.
“He dropped out of school and, when he applied to the job at GALAEI, David Acosta said he would hire him if he would get his GED. Louie went on to do that and now cut to him being a remarkable force within our community doing remarkable things that go way beyond,” Gonzales said.
Ortiz currently works as Mazzoni Center’s education director and will celebrate three years with the organization in July.
Gonzales said Ortiz was responsible for breathing life into the organization’s RAVE program (Reaching Adolescents Via Education) and helped educate youth on HIV prevention, leadership and self-esteem through hip-hop music and poetry.
“He basically took what he saw in himself and put it into paper,” she said.
Ortiz said he was humbled by the award.
“I started my career because of David Acosta. He gave me my first job and guided my development and it means a lot that the award is in his honor,” he said.
Ortiz added that GALAEI helped him develop into the person he is today.
“It was a constant learning and development environment,” he said. “It saved my life as a young person. It was there that I became comfortable with my voice and understood how to use my voice.”
Gonzales said through Ortiz’s work, GALAEI has continued to grow its youth programming. She said recognizing youth such as Alamo was important to GALAEI.
Alamo, 21, is a mentor for GALAEI’s B Seen! B Heard Mentorship Program. The University of Pennsylvania anthropology and health and sciences major is also a member of Queer People of Color at Penn.
Gonzales met Alamo at a Penn queer Latinos event that Alamo helped organize.
“I immediately was impressed by her,” Gonzales said. “She is a force to be reckoned with. It is in her blood.”
Gonzales said funding for youth programming has been hard to come by, but organizations like The Philadelphia Foundation understand the need for such backing.
“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have youth programming anymore,” she said. “All of the shifts in HIV funding resulted in programs being cut. They helped sustain youth programming at GALAEI. And we are the only organization who is supporting queer Latino youth.”
Foundation president R. Andrew Swinney said the organization values the honor.
“The Latin LGBT community contributes significantly to our region,” he said. “Going back to 1986 — when we were the area’s primary funder of AIDS programs — to today, when we have more than 20 component funds whose purpose is to support the LGBT community, we’ve been committed to serving the LGBT population.”
Since 1996, The Philadelphia Foundation has provided GALAEI with almost $285,000.
The awards will be presented at GALAEI’s 25th-anniversary celebration, 6-9 p.m. May 9 at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St. Tickets are $75 for general admission and $25 for students or those under 25. For more information, visit www.galaei.org.