MICHAEL ALLER "Mr. Miami Beach"
Tourism and Convention Director/ Chief of Protocol
Michael Aller, Tourism and Convention Director and Chief of Protocol
for The City of Miami Beach, is an expert in tourism, public relations,
conventions and special events. For over two decades- a time of
unprecedented renewal and revitalization for the City- he has served as
Miami Beach's point person for all tourists and convention-related
activities and events.
Michael is affectionately referred to by his colleagues as "Mr. Miami
Beach". Mayor Matti Herrera Bower noted that, "If anything is going to
happen anywhere in Miami Beach, it is Michael Aller who can make it
BILLY BEAN played major league baseball from 1987 through 1995.
He broke into the major leagues with the Detroit Tigers, and tied a
major league record with 4 hits in his first major league game. He went
on to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the San Diego Padres. Born
in Santa Ana, California, he was a multi-sport star at Santa Ana High
School, where he was chosen “athlete of the year” as a senior. He was
also selected Valedictorian of his graduating class, and went on to
become an “All-America” outfielder twice before graduating from
Loyola Marymount University in 1986 with a degree in Business
The former Major Leaguer kept his personal life a secret from the
public and the sports world for many years. Then Billy came out publicly
in 1999. His story was front- page news in the New York Times, and subsequently on the nationally
televised show “20/20” with Diane Sawyer. He is the only living former major league baseball player to
acknowledge his homosexuality. He has been working actively to try and dispel the myth and
stereotypes that follow people of diversity. He was a featured spokesman on behalf of the Democratic
National Committee during campaign 2000 and 2004. He has inspired many, as a motivational
speaker, and a national spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, reaching out to many young
adults who are desperately in need of a role model. In the prime of his career, Billy walked away from
Major League Baseball in 1996, in part, because of a year long struggle dealing with the sudden death
of his former partner, and the frustration of holding onto that secret all alone. His desire not to let that
happen to anyone else pushes him to share his story.
Billy is the author of a book titled, “Going the Other Way: Lessons from a life in and out of Major League
Baseball.” (Avalon Publishing Group, NYC.) The film adaptation of his book, was purchased by Sony
TV/Film, and will be produced by Storyline Entertainment. He is devoted to staying fit and competitive
sports. He often travels around the country playing tennis in organized tournaments in hopes of raising
the visibility of athletes of diversity. Billy has also built a successful real estate career over the past 10
years in Miami Beach. He is the proud owner of two Jack Russell Terriers, named Paco and Beya.
Mayor MATTI BOWER
THE PEOPLE’S MAYOR - The stars aligned on November 20, 2007 when
the voters of Miami Beach elected Matti Herrera Bower to the position
of Mayor. With the support of her predecessor, family and friends, Matti
Herrera Bower, a longtime resident, activist and two-term
Commissioner, rode a strong, grassroots, all-volunteer, resident-first
campaign to a resounding victory. Matti Herrera Bower’s election
altered the political landscape, as she became both the first Woman
and the first Hispanic in the City's history to win the Mayor’s Chair. First
elected to the Miami Beach Commission in November 1999, Mayor
Bower has earned a strong reputation for being dedicated to the issues
face the Miami Beach community. Her enthusiasm for helping others –
with problems big and small – and her independent-minded leadership
have endeared her to both the residential and business community she serves.
XAVIER CORTADA created art at the Earth Poles to
generate environmental at point in between: In 2007, the
artist used the moving ice sheet beneath the South Pole as
an instrument to mark time; the art piece will be completed
in 150,000 years. In 2008, Cortada planted a green flag at
North Pole to encourage reforestation in the world below.
The Miami artist has worked with groups globally to
produce numerous collaborative art projects, including
peace murals in Cyprus and Northern Ireland, child welfare
murals in Bolivia and Panama, AIDS murals in Switzerland and
South Africa, and eco-art projects in Hawaii, Holland and Latvia.
Cortada has also been commissioned to create art for the White House, the World Bank, the Florida
Supreme Court, the Florida Governor's Mansion, Florida Botanical Gardens, Miami City Hall, Miami-
Dade County Hall, the Miami Art Museum, the Miami Science Museum, Museum of Florida History, and
the Frost Art Museum.
Corporations such as General Mills, Nike, Heineken and Hershey's have commissioned his art.
Publishers like McDougal and Random House have featured it in school textbooks and publications. His
work has also been featured in National Geographic TV and the Discovery Channel.
Cortada, who was born in Albany, New York and grew up in Miami, holds degrees from the University of
Miami College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School of Business and School of Law.
MARK ANGELO CUMMINGS was born in Havana Cuba, and
named Maritza. Mark knew that there had been a terrible mistake
made since the tender age of 3. Mark longed to be a boy, although
his mother went out of her way to make him a girl. The dolls quickly
turned into cars, in my mind anyway.
Growing up was very difficult. His heart, soul, and every drop of
blood that moved in him screamed "boy", yet the outer appearance
was deceiving. The world saw a girl. Mark felt out of place and all
It wasn't till he was 38 years old that he discovered a name to his
problem. Mark had gender dysphoria. Shortly after his discovery, he
knew he had to create a change.
Mark set the ball in motion, and started the process. He went to
therapy, then proceeded with hormones and finally, his surgeries. He had a bilateral mastectomy at the
same time as a full hysterectomy. He still needs one more surgery, the creation of a phallus. This will
come in time.
Mark has been blessed to have the most wonderful person in his life that was with him through his
transition, and that is his lovely wife Violet. On January 26, 2006 his wife and he went on the Maury
Povich Show to share their story, in hopes to help others learn of their dysphoria, and to bring them
hope, that they too can be whole as well.
Marks line of business is wellness; He helps people reach their fitness and health goals. He is an
Occupational Therapist by trade, which basically means he helps people regain their lost function due to
illness or injury. He incorporated his medical background into a wellness center where now his wife
and he proudly help construct bodies. Their quest is to help those that come thier way, to feel whole,
whether it be to lose weight, or just feel comfortable in their own skin.
Mark want to become involved in our community to help our young brothers and sisters to transition
smoothly, and let them know that God created us and we are definitely divine creatures. We are here for
a purpose, and that’s to show humanity how lucky they are that they are whole and complete both on the
inside and out.
ROBIN SCHWARTZ is one of the founding members of the Aqua
Foundation for Women and proudly presides as the Foundation’s
Executive Director. Born and raised in Miami, Robin Schwartz is
respected in the community for her extensive involvement in many of
our treasured non-profit organizations. In 1990, Robin joined SAVE
Dade during its fight to win the equal rights ordinance. Since then, her
experience includes being Vice Chair of Miami Beach Gay Pride, Vice
Chair of the City of Miami Beach LGBT Business Enhancement
Committee, and a volunteer for the Task Force, Pridelines, and the
Humane Society assisting these organizations in everything from
fundraising to event planning. Further, she is a Young Founder of Mt.
In addition to Robin’s non-profit work, she has over 20 years of
business success. Her career as a Sales Professional and Manager
includes owning and running a mortgage business and her most recent
position as District Sales Manager for a Xerox company.
Robin’s business and non-profit expertise enables her to continue to propel the Foundation into action
to best serve the LBT community.
MARYLOLY Born in Havana, Cuba, Danilo Dominguez has performed
as Mariloly for over 30 years.
Mariloly began her career on the stage at Pro Arte Grateli in
Miami Soon after she was performing at the Teatro de Bellas Artes as
the lead in the show "MIDNIGHT FOLLIES", which has had an incredible
29 year run!
Known as the Queen of Comedy, Maryloly has had a full &
successful career, always working for the LGBT community.
As one of the founders of TV Channel 41 in the locally produced
program Luna Verde, along with Marcos Miranda, Mariloly has paved
the way for many other female impersonators to follow in her high
Mariloly can be seen regularly throughout the community as a
featured guest on stage, clubs & TV.
MIKE KINERK & DENNIS WILHELM
Michael and Dennis have been partners since November 1975 sharing
a mutual interest in Art Deco, theatre organ, movie palaces, railroads,
German literature and much more. After meeting in Cincinnati they
moved in together in Bloomington, Indiana, while Michael finished his
degree in computer science and journalism at Indiana University. They
moved to Miami in July 1977 where Michael accepted a job as
director of newsroom technology, a position he still holds in 2011.
Dennis was an honors student in German Literature, growing up in the
unique Art Deco world of the Cincinnati Union Terminal and then
working for the B&O railroad in Cincinnati, and managing the Grove
Bookworm bookstore, in Coconut Grove. He was Special Properties
manager for Burdines Department Stores, then collection manager for
Micky Wolfson, transitioning to the position of founding registrar at the Wolfsonian museum. Later he
accepted his present position as archivist for Arquitectonica, the celebrated international architecture
firm, from 1995 to present.
The dynamic Deco duo arrived in Miami in 1977 and immediately encountered Barbara Baer Capitman,
becoming charter members of the Miami Design Preservation League. Michael took on the position of
secretary/treasure and editor of the newsletter and was eventually elected chairman serving on the
board continuously until today. Dennis was a board member and arranged lectures and events for Art
Deco Weekend® as creative director for many years. He is Chairman of the Capitman Archives since
Capitman passed away in 1990. They helped organize the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies
and the World Congress on Art Deco® -- an event held every two years in different cities around the
world. Their volunteer work for MDPL was cited in “Historic Preservation Has a Gay Touch,” an article by
Steve Rothaus that appeared in the Miami Herald Jan. 17, 1997.
On March 12, 1989 Mike and Dennis hosted the first AIDS benefits in Miami Beach in the backyard of
their Pine Tree Drive house. They set up an Indian wedding tent in the yard and an Indian chef prepared
food for what was called – Tea in Kashmir. Admission was $50 per person and all funds were donated
to Body Positive, one of South Florida’s first AIDS agencies, founded in 1986 by Doris Feinberg after her
son, Leonard, died of AIDS.
Their decades-long effort to preserve Art Deco architecture of Miami Beach has been written about in
The Fountain of Age by Betty Friedan of Feminine Mystic fame and Saving South Beach by M. Barron
Stofik, who said many whom she interviewed referred to the duo in a single breath as
Kinerk and Wilhelm have co-authored three books, numerous articles and lectured on Art Deco,
preservation and movie palaces around the world. Quite a few pieces of their Art Deco collection are now
ELAINE LANCASTER Many entertainers today do the required
charity jobs and fundraisers to keep their name out there, but few
perform for a living to support their true passion, the charitable work
and what they can give back to the world. One fine example is actor
James Davis, the creative force that developed and is the ever-
glamorous and larger than life diva, Elaine Lancaster.
Davis was born in Alabama and raised in Georgia, while Elaine was
“born in the lap of luxury, pampered by all, and spoiled rotten. Like the
true diva she became, she managed to spend every dime thrown her
way developing an unquenchable quest for more. Not just more jewels
and designer fashions, luxury brands, but more of everything. Driven by
the need to live life in the spotlight, fame had to be hers so the world
became her stage.” says Davis.
As if she stepped right out of the pages of a Jackie Collins novel, Elaine Lancaster is as glamorous and
beautiful as the characters of Hollywood Wives. Elaine Lancaster was actually named after two
characters from that very novel, Elaine Conti and Karen Lancaster. As befitting a Jackie Collins novel,
Elaine’s life has been filled with glamour, travel, celebrities and a few twisted scenarios- One being the
fact that the gorgeous Elaine Lancaster is in reality a man when not performing.
MIKEY VERDUGO As the first in history openly gay police officer
with the City of Hollywood Florida Police Dept, Mikey Verdugo had a
very productive career in his 10 years serving the community. He was
promoted to the beach patrol unit, SWAT team, and then my working
deep undercover in a special unit where he seized millions of dollars
in money for the city. He always maintained a flawless record free of
any type of discipline and complaints.
In 2008 Verdugo was given permission to appear on an HGTV
reality TV show, "Design Star" in order to pursue his other passion in life.
Since the show, the community learned about a 15 minute "soft
core" video that he did years prior to his law enforcement career. As
a result, he was placed on administrative leave and untimely fired
from the agency for failing to disclose this information on his
employment application as previous employment despite the IRS's
definition of what employment is. Furthermore, there has been past case law in the city wherein
employees have lied and/or omitted information on their application and no discipline resulted. Verdugo
felt that this is a blatant case of discrimination based on the totality of the circumstances, and led a legal
challenge to his termination. On August 12, 2010- The FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement)
ruled in Mikey's favor to allow him to keep his certification to continue to be a police officer in the State of
Florida despite the City of Hollywood's vengeful attempts to prevent this from happening. This is a huge
victory that shows that the state does not agree with Hollywood's decision.
MERLE & DANNY WEISS are two of the best and most supportive
allies the South Florida LGBT Community can have. They attended the
First White party and helped make the food, Merle was an original
Board member of the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, owned Merle’s
Closet which was named "best boutique for drag queens" in the "best
of" issue of the New Times in the early 90s, just for starters.
In her own words… Danny and I have had gay friends since the
early 70s when we met, because I had gay friends in Philadelphia
before I moved here. We have always allied ourselves with gay
causes, maybe because as Jews, we identify with the oppressed
minority. Or maybe because gays are divine! Anyhow, I worked for
the PBS hit Que Pasa, U.S.A. as a writer, was an administrator for Dade County Government, was
manager of provider relations and recruitment for AvMed for 10 years and had the best job of all as
owner operator of Merle's Closet. Danny and I got our Undergraduate Degrees and Masters Degrees
together at FIU. He carried my book. Cute!
Danny was working throughout for Miami Dade Water Dept., moving on to U.M. Law School, after which
he got a job in the County Attorney's Office. He now is a partner in his own firm, Tannebaum Weiss, PA.,
representing tax payers rather than tax assessors.
The greatest regret is not having gay children. We’re thrilled about "don't ask don't tell" being repealed,
but until everyone is treated equally in this country, we will keep on truckin'. We are happy to see our
grandchildren growing up without prejudice. That's a great thing for people like us. We have 3 sons and
5 grandchildren and will celebrate the 39th Year of our relationship in March.
Detective JUAN F. SANCHEZ was born in New York; however,
moved to Florida and was raised on Miami Beach since the age of 5.
In November of 1987, Detective J. Sanchez joined the Miami
Beach Police Department as a civilian call taker working in the
Department’s 911 Center, where he quickly move up the ranks
becoming a Complaint Operator II, a Police Dispatcher and became
the Department’s first crossed trained Police & Fire Dispatcher.
In July 1993, Detective J. Sanchez was hired as a Police Officer.
While in the Patrol Division, he was assigned to Road Patrol, the
Ocean Drive Bicycle Squad, and was a Field Training Officer. In 1996,
he transferred to the Criminal Investigation Division, where he
worked in the Property Crimes Unit, Violent Crimes Unit and Arson
In 2008, Detective J. Sanchez transferred to the Community Affairs
Unit and is the Department’s primary Media Relations Officer. At the request of Chief Carlos Noriega he
became the Department’s liaison to the GLBT Community which includes meeting with the Mayor’s
GLBT Business Owners Committee. This new venture led Detective J. Sanchez to develop a Hate
Crimes Training, which has been taught to all members of the Police Department. The liaison
assignment has led to many accolades such as being selected as one of Wire Magazines 2010
persons of the year, a Certificate of Appreciation from Mayor M. Bower, Commissioners M. Gongora and
Jorge Esposito for his community work, a finalist for Officer of the Year, and received an Outstanding
Service pin He credits the members of the Committee for making him want to be a better and more
involved member of the GLBT Community.
Detective Juan Sanchez is proud to have his partner Michael Hogan, and sister Maria Sanchez as well
as other members of his family, multitude of friends, and colleagues who work as a support network in
his ventures throughout his past, his present and his future.
He is humbled and honored to be receiving this award.
TANIA GISELA It’s hard to believe, even for me, that I was a
hardcore tomboy growing up, I really LOVED Lowriders and classic
Americana cars (pre-1960’s). I started going to car shows where I fell
in love with the “Pin Up” look and adopted it with my own flair, of
course. Since I was 18 I started marching to the beat of my own
vintage drum. I use to have what I now consider a lame 9-5 job
working for an optometry office as the general manager’s assistant.
I remember I use to style the eyewear displays when I was bored. The
owner loved my displays so much he offered me a raise and put me
in charge of eyewear purchases for 44 locations. I guess you could
consider that one of my 1st styling experiences. I soon came to hate
the demanding schedule and hustle and bustle of my new job, so I
quit and promised myself I would only do work I thought was fun! In
the summer of 2005 I met the coolest woman ever when I popped
into her vintage store. I started hanging out at her shop so much she offered me a job! I accepted without
even thinking twice about it. I was in charge of window displays & the store’s look in general. In
November 2005 I decided to start my 1st company called “Pin Up Vixen,” where I handmade vintage
style fascinators with a modern twist, one-of-a-kind rockabilly themed clutches/handbags & rockabilly
themed travel blankets with matching pillows. Shortly after I became friends with the lovely ladies of
Miami’s premier burly-q troupe, Shameless Burlesque, I started making custom pieces for Holly Peno
(the troupe leader.) I still do my Pin Up Vixen line but by custom orders only. Remember that cool lady
with the vintage store I mentioned before, she’s now my best friend and business partner and in June
2010 we paired up to start “Chiquita’s Eclectic Boutique”, your premier online purveyor of vintage,
eclectic and retro fashions and furniture for the discerning and fashion savvy ladies and gents. I am
currently a volunteer for several organizations including the UC|CU (Unity Coalition|Coalicion Unida) an
organization that helps bring awareness and equality to and for the Hispanic/Latino LGBTQ community.
This organization is very important to me because I have a cousin who has recently “come out” and I truly
believe that everyone should able to live how they choose to, as God has given us free will and is the
only one that can judge us!
DALE STINE views the photographic lens through his creative,
academic and professional experiences in the performing arts. A
North Carolina native who obtained a Master’s Degree in Opera from
the world-renowned Juilliard School (NY), Dale enjoyed a 16-year run
in many off-Broadway productions. Never one to pass up an
opportunity to flex various muscle groups, Dale simultaneously pursued
a dual career in personal training and fitness instruction.
A self-taught shutterbug, Dale quickly established himself as one of
those most sought-after photographers in Miami. Since 2001, his
photographs and images have graced countless magazines, cd
covers and websites, including Ocean Drive, Men’s Journal,
Medesthetics, Home, DAYSPA, Wire, Hot Spots and Genre.
Internationally-acclaimed DJ’s, drag personas as well as various
politicos, business people and entertainers are among his favorite
clients., including many who hire him to photograph interiors and exteriors of well-known
restaurants and clubs in the Miami area. When questioned as to what or whom he photographs, Dale is
quick to respond with "people, places and things."
Dale is one of the official photographers for the internationally-acclaimed South Beach Wine and Food
Festival as well as having been involved with Aqua Girl and the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival for
many years. He is also photographer for the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce,
having been involved with that organization for more than seven years now. Dale has given his time and
talent to countless organizations, including The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and South Beach
AIDS Project, not only photographically but also in other community-based volunteer capacities. He is
honored to sit on Mayor Matti Bower's LGBT Business Enhancement Committee, having been appointed
to that position by ground-breaking openly-gay Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora.
Exhibitions have included The Diva Collection: Illusion Series, featured at the historic Royal Palm Hotel
during White Party, The Starlet Series at Miami Beach Cinematheque, Communion
Celebrates Art at the Bakehouse Art Complex, Decline in Civilization for Art Basel 2006
and A Different Angle for Art Basel 2008. Dale was featured in the show Leaders, Legends & Lovelies at
Miami Beach's newly-renovated Deco Center in 2010
and is a part of the same show this year for PRIDE 2011.
Dale shot The DELICIOUS Campaign, an "icon-and-star-studded" happening in conjunction with
DINING OUT FOR LIFE, a national organization whose proceeds benefit
Care Resource in Southeast Florida.
“Whether I am photographing a person, an animal or a building, I do my best to connect with the
essence of the subject. By allowing the “now” to unfold, I trust the intimacy of the moment to flourish for
all to see.”
Michael Góngora is the first openly gay commissioner for the City of
Miami Beach. Commissioner Gongora is a voice for the LGBT community.
Commissioner Góngora is also the only openly gay Hispanic to win elected
office in the State of Florida. By working with local organizations such as the
Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce as well as state and
national groups such as Equality Florida, the National Gay and Lesbian Task
Force and Care Resource, he keeps LGBT issues present in civic discussions
and decisions. Commissioner Góngora regularly hosts or sponsors events
by such community groups such as SOBAP (South Beach AIDS Project),
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Alliance) and the Trevor Project, the nation’s
only 24/7 suicide prevention helpline for LGBT youth.
Commissioner Góngora is an attorney practicing in community association law and commercial
litigation. He earned his juris doctor degree cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law. He is
a long time Miami Beach resident and business owner and has served in numerous civic, charitable,
business and legal communities throughout Miami Dade County. In 2003, Sun Post newspaper named
Michael as one of the “Power 50 of Miami”; and in 2006, South Florida CEO Magazine selected him as a
Next Gen Leader.
|The Leaders, Legends & Lovelies Honorees are allies of the
LGBTQ community, present & past that have made a positive
mark & contribution and celebrate the good,
noble & outstanding within our community.
MICHAEL ALLER | BILLY BEAN | Mayor MATTI BOWER | XAVIER CORTADA
MARK ANGELO CUMMINGS | ROBIN SCHWARTZ | MARILOLY
MICHAEL KINERK & DENNIS WILHELM | ELAINE LANCASTER
MIKEY VERDUGO | MERLE & DANNY WEISS | Det. JUAN F. SANCHEZ
TANIA GISELA | DALE STINE | Comm. MICHAEL GONGORA
WALKER BURTTSCHELL | SANDRA HOLIDAY | MARIA MEJIA
CRAIG STEVENS | ANTHONY CABRERA | EDWARD OBERLE
SEBRINA ALFONSO | RICHARD JAY-ALEXANDER | DAVID CHACÓN PEREZ
PEDRO PABLO PEÑA | JONATHAN PLUTZIK | CARIDAD MORO-GRONLIER
MILAN RODRIGUEZ | LEO LAM HAINES | JOWHARAH SANDERS HERNAN
VALVERDE | Congresswoman ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
JONATHAN PLUTZIK, Community Visionary & Ally Award | As owner of The
BETSY-South Beach, Jonathan and his sister Deborah Briggs-Plutzik have
established a climate of first rate lodging within a creative paradise. From their
successful Writer Room Program to partnerships with UC|CU on Celebrate
ORGULLO, TransArt, ArtNights & more, The BETSY and Jonathan have been a
vital resource for the Arts & LGBT community. “Our partnership with Unity
Coaltion|Coalición Unida is an important part of The Betsy’s programming in the
LGBT space…” said Plutzik.
CARIDAD MORO-GRONLIER, Educational Leader Award | Caridad is a mother,
wife, author, community leader & teacher at G. Holmes Braddock Sr. High School
and also their GSA program director. Her poetry has appeared in numerous
journals, she is the recipient of a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in poetry, and
twice nominated for a Pushcart prize.
MILAN RODRIGUEZ, Unsung Hero Award | Born in Cuba, Milan migrated to
Miami in the 80’s and started a whole new life. Focusing on her talents in graphic
design, photography & promotions, she has built a nightlife promotional empire
(milancita.com), is a devoted wife, mom to her loving dogs, and always tirelessly
working on behalf of her Trangender & Hispanic LGBT community. Milan is an
inspiration to all who meet her.
LEO LAM HAINES, Youth Leadership Award | As a transgender high school
student, support has always been difficult to find. I joined Pridelines half-way
through my freshman year after having been harassed by school staff, teachers,
and students. I felt isolated and anxious, and finding a community at Pridelines
contributed towards a huge improvement in my life experience. . Eventually I
created “Beyond the Binary,” a Trans* and Gender Nonconforming support group
DAVID CHACON PEREZ
PEDRO PABLO PENA
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Outstanding Political & Social Leadership
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1989-- the first Hispanic woman
to serve in Congress.
A former teacher and lifelong educator, she is passionate about many things, including stopping domestic violence
against women, education, fighting Medicare fraud, democracy & freedom in Cuba, and much more.
She is Chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is now Chairman of the Subcommittee on the
Middle East and North Africa.
She is wife to Vietnam veteran Dexter Lehtinen, mother and step-mother to 4 adult children, and grandmother to three
beautiful baby girls. Most recently, the Ros-Lehtinen’s were part of a national campaign in support of transgender rights,
alongside her son Rodrigo.
JOWHARAH SANDERS: Youth & Women’s Empowerment
In October of 2009, Ms. Sanders founded National Voices for Equality Education and Enlightenment (NVEEE),
At a young age, Jowharah Sanders endured bullying, abuse and suicidal ideation stemming from harassment over race
and orientation stigmas. She lived as a victim for many years, until a University of Miami college advisor took notice and
counseled her, saying, “Life is about choices. You can either choose to live as a victim, or you can choose to be a survivor.
No amount of self-pity or self-sabotage will ever change what happened.”
It was at that moment Jowharah truly began living. In turn, she dedicated her life to mentoring children and families
impacted by bullying and suicide. Her message is, “You are not alone – even when you feel the most disempowered.
Together, let’s make a difference.”
Today, she is developing a research-based school-wide bullying prevention program called “Not On My Watch”, whose
innovative model of change has student bystanders take a direct role in reducing bullying at their schools. She also
continues to foster and grow NVEEE’s mentoring and Peace Ambassador programs as Executive Director of the non-
HERNAN VALVERDE: Relentless Leadership & Conviction to our community
As State Sales and Marketing Manager at Hiro Sake since 2003, Hernan has a long and illustrious career in
management, brand development, and field sales execution. Personally, he is the proud father of Tyler & Zackary, and
spends tireless hours giving back to the community, including serving on Miami Beach Gay Pride committee since 2010,
he has helped fund raise and organize an annual event that brings over 100,000 attendees to South Florida to support
equal rights for all, and a member of Unity Coalition| Coalicion Unida's Board of Advisors since 2013.