Miami’s businesses, community leaders, and the community at large will come together on February 16, 2018 for the third annual Pa’Lante Awards presented by Gay8 Festival. Gay8 (GayOcho!) is the first Latino LGBT art, music and food street festival in Miami’s historic Little Havana. Pa’Lante Awards represent a recognition and celebration of people that have helped move the South Florida community forward. Individuals are selected based on the impact of their effort as well as the length of their service. “Pa’Lante” is Spanish slang, short for “para adelante,” to push or move forward.
“This year’s Pa’Lante Awards recipients represent our community champions on the front lines of immigration activism” said organizer Damian Pardo. “We hope that by highlighting the efforts of these heroes we can add to the power of their voices and celebrate the Gay8 values of diversity and working together”.
This year’s Pa’Lante awards recipients are:
- Carlos J. Martinez – From working at an Exxon on Calle Ocho to becoming the Public Defender for Miami-Dade County, Carlos J. Martinez is a home-grown success story and a champion for immigrant rights.
- Juan Carlos Carabantes – As DACA champion and participant, Juan Carlos Carabantes understands that community knows no borders. His activism stretches from immigration to LGBT rights, and from his home in South Dade to the inside of a jail cell while pressing congress to pass a clean DREAM act.
- Christina Ponthieux – Ronyde Christina Ponthieux isn’t your ordinary 10-year-old – she’s a Miami Shores Elementary student AND a TPS activist fighting for protection for vulnerable communities. She recently took to the stage during a Miami concert of Arcade Fire in front of thousands to advocate for the extension of temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants.
- WeCount! – Defending worker and immigrant rights in the Homestead area, WeCount! has worked to build the power of the immigrant community through leadership development, community education, coalition building and campaigns for social change.
The awards will be presented by other prominent community activists, such as Marleine Bastien, Francesca Menes, and Cheryl Little, Esq. Attendees will enjoy a fun-filled night of live music, light bites, and cocktails. Tickets are $100 and are available on the Gay8 Festival website.
For complete information including the full Gay8 Festival schedule of events and sponsorships, visit the Gay8 Festival website here.
WHO: Local businesses and community leaders
WHAT: Pa’Lante Awards presented by Gay8 Festival (GayOcho Festival)
WHERE: CubaOcho Museum & Performing Arts Center (1465 SW 8th St #106, Miami, FL 33135)
WHEN: Friday, February 16, 2018 from 7 PM to 10 PM
WHY: Pa’Lante Awards represent a recognition and celebration of people that have helped move the South Florida community forward. Individuals are selected based on the impact of their effort as well as the length of their service. “Pa’Lante” is Spanish slang, short for “para adelante,” to push or move forward.
By connecting Miamians, Gay8 Festival ignites opportunities by bringing people together through food, music and fun.
WeCount! was initiated as a program of a social service coalition, WeCare of South Dade, in 2002. In 2006, it became an independent organization with individual memberships.
During the WeCare years, community action teams worked on school and immigration issues. In 2003 and 2004, parent-community teams inspected local schools and won improvements in the physical state of five schools. In 2005, parents organized through WeCount! prevented the principal of West Homestead Elementary School from retaining the test results of one controversial reading test of around 500 students. That year, the immigration action team successfully convinced the Miami-Dade County Commission to pass a resolution supporting driver licenses for undocumented immigrants and organized a community forum with Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart at which he committed to providing leadership in the fight for legalization of undocumented workers and students.
Since 2006, WeCount! has worked to build the power of the immigrant community in the Homestead area through leadership development, community education, coalition building and campaigns for social change. In 2007, it began working with youth from immigrant families. Over the years, it developed a clear focus on defense of immigrant and worker rights.
Ronyde Christina Ponthieux is a 10-year-old Miami Shores Elementary student and young leader in the Haitian Women of Miami and is now a TPS activist fighting for protection for vulnerable communities. She recorded her own video address to a President Donald Trump not to tear her family apart. She recently took to the stage during a Miami concert of Arcade Fire to advocate for the extension of temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants.
Marleine Bastien, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is the Executive Director of FANM, responsible for oversight of the agency. She has championed the cause of women, children and Haitian families through her dedicated advocacy in the areas of immigration and human rights, HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and domestic violence. Ms. Bastien serves as not only the voice of Haitian women, but as the unofficial spokesperson for the Haitian community at large. She is often quoted in local, national and international media such as the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and others.
Juan Carlos Carabantes was born in the central state of Michoacan, Mexico on February of 1995. He came to the United States at just 4 years old through the southern border with his mom and four other siblings. Since then he has lived in Homestead, Florida a town known for its strong immigrant community. He is an undocumented immigrant who benefited from the DACA program that was announced in 2012.
Before that Juan Carlos felt tremendously lonely, without finding other undocumented youth especially those that identify as LGBT, but in 2013 he found he wasn’t alone. Since then Juan Carlos has been organizing to continue awareness about undocumented immigrants, especially those who benefited from the DACA program. For the following 3 years he supported undocumented leadership and organized the community. He participated in a few campaigns to make sure undocumented immigrants and their stories stayed a priority of the national debate; he trained communities on their constitutional rights, raised awareness on undocumented queer youth, disrupted Jeb Bush’s presidential candidate announcement, strategized against the 2016 Trump campaign, took over the New York streets when DACA was repealed on Sept. 5, and participated in a jail strike this December where he spent 6 days in jail on hunger strike to pressure congress to pass a clean DREAM act. Now he is an organizer with The Seed Project, a non-violent organization focused on obtaining dignity, respect, and permanent protection for undocumented youth and paving a path to protect all immigrants in the country. Coming from a family of farmworkers, Juan Carlos’s sacrifice has been rooted in honoring the sacrifice of his parents with the goal of winning permanent protection for his family and his Florida community.
Francesca is from Miami’s Little Haiti community. As part of Florida Immigrant Coalition, she has coordinated the Florida Wage Theft Task Force, coordinated a national network campaigning for Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, successfully led the statewide campaign “We Are Florida’s Future” to pass in-state tuition for undocumented students in 2014, developed and implemented a 2014 Voter Engagement Program in 2 counties and 5 cities knocking on over 45,000 doors. She is the Florida Immigrant Coalition representative to various national organizations, including the Black Immigration Network, she also is the co-coordinator of #Rights4ALLinDR. Francesca has received numerous honors and recognitions, including being name one of the 20 under 40 Emerging Leaders in South Florida by the Miami Herald.
Carlos J. Martinez, a native of Cuba, has dedicated his professional life to public service, using his legal talents in service of the poor.
Arriving to Miami from Cuba on a 1969 Freedom Flight, he learned the meaning of hard work and determination at an early age. At 16, Carlos was hired as a car wash attendant at an Exxon station on Calle Ocho. Within three years, Carlos was simultaneously managing six gas stations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. He worked full-time to pay for his undergraduate college education. He attended Miami-Dade College, the University of Texas-Austin and graduated from Florida International University with a B.A. in Political Science in 1985. In 1990, Carlos received his J.D. from the University of Miami.
He was elected public defender in 2008, and re-elected in 2012 and 2016 without opposition. Carlos is the first Cuban-American Public Defender and the only elected Hispanic Public Defender in the U.S. As Public Defender, Carlos manages an office of approximately 400 employees, handling approximately 75,000 cases each year.
Carlos has often stated that “fighting for individual rights and equal justice, for the downtrodden, the despised, the voiceless and the invisible, has not just given me great professional satisfaction, it has given meaning to my life.” This dedication to his cause has made him a tireless advocate for immigrant rights in Miami-Dade.
Cheryl Little, Esq.
Cheryl Little has been a tireless advocate for immigrant rights for over three decades and has established herself as one of this country’s leading experts in the immigration field. She is the co-founder of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Inc. (FIAC), now Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice), and serves as its Executive Director. She has received numerous honors and awards for her work, and has authored many publications in the area of immigration, including law review articles and reports. She has testified many times before Congress and appears regularly on television. Her appearances include 60 Minutes, Nightline, PBS’s News Hour, Frontline, The Oprah Winfrey Show and CNN.
By Charlotte Libov
Cecilia Gutierrez goes to work each day in Liberty City, Miami’s poorest and toughest neighborhood, which is where she chooses to be. As President and CEO of the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI), Gutierrez is not only the neighborhood’s chief advocate, but she urges others to embrace it as well.
MCI is committed to lifting the neighborhood’s children out of poverty by creating a community-based network that uses many tools, but primarily focuses on education as a way out of poverty.
This is a goal that Gutierrez knows intimately.
“I grew up poor and I got a scholarship to go to Boston College, and then I got a scholarship to get my master’s, so I am someone who fundamentally understands that the one thing that will end generational poverty is education,” says Gutierrez.
This is a goal that Gutierrez has spent her adult career fostering, and it is why she will be honored with the prestigious Pa’Lante Award on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 by the Gay8 Festival, a free Latino art, music and food street festival that celebrates Miami’s diverse communities. The festival takes place on Sunday, Jan. 15 in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.
While Gutierrez is pleased with the honor, she does not like to have such accolades take away from her attention to her work, she says.
“I have the privilege of working for the poor so for me to be even recognized around the effort that I am investing heart, soul, mind and spirit, reminds me to be focused on the work,” she says.
And her task is monumental, when you consider that Liberty City was showcased as one of the three communities– along with Overtown and Little Haiti – where 8,280 individual gunshots rained down within a year– an average of 22 bullets a day in just a four square-mile area, the Miami Herald says.
But, despite the drive-by shootings and other tragedies, Gutierrez finds Liberty City a story of hope and a place in which she can make a difference.
In working her own way out of poverty, Gutierrez earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, then went on to earn a Master’s in Public Administration as a National Urban Fellow from Baruch College, CUNY.
She also carved out a career in senior level leadership, focusing on helping students and families gain access to quality education. She served as Executive Director of an education non-profit organization in Miami-Dade County, Breakthrough Miami and as a Senior Program Officer for the Beaumont Foundation of America, managing grants valued at approximately $11.5 million.
Also, for more than three years, Cecilia served as Special Assistant to a member of the New York City Board of Education crafting policies on instructional technology, improving middle-grade schools and strengthening bilingual education.
In 2011, she joined MCI, initially as the Vice President for Development and a now as its’ President/CEO.
It is a career that has intertwined education, senior leadership, and, most of all, service.
And it all led Gutierrez to Liberty City, because, she says, “I want to go not only in the neighborhood in need but to go into the pocket where people say, don’t go there, because you’ll be shot,” she says.
Because it is here that she finds not only tragedy – but also hope. And love. I can tell you, particularly in Liberty City, I have met the kindest, most loving people that I’ve met anywhere in my life. On a daily basis, I get hugs from kids in the neighborhood,” she says.
And, for Gutierrez, this is reward enough.
By Charlotte Libov
When Steve Adkins got involved with the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the organization had only about 30 members. Now, about a dozen years later, that membership stands at 700.
Thanks to his work, the MDGLCC is now on par with all the other business chambers in Miami-Dade County, and provides a way for the LGBT community to make their influence known in all of South Florida.
For his achievements, Adkins will be honored with the prestigious Pa’Lante Award on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 by Gay8 Festival, a free Latino art, music and food street festival that celebrates Miami’s diverse communities. The festival takes place on Sunday, Jan. 15 in Miami’s Historic Little Havana.
“I feel very honored to be given this award. Gay8 is a young organization but they’ve created these awards to look back over the history of the LGBT community here and reward those who have been working over the years. I’m very proud to be part of this group,” says Adkins.
A San Diego, Calif., native, Adkins was born into a banking family. Following his family’s footsteps, he succeeded, holding several positions in the banking world. In the mid-to-late 90s, he served as vice president of international trade and finance manager for the Union Bank of California, Southern California; handling such major accounts as Aldila, Inc.; Cubic Corporation, Titan, Inc., ASI Aerospace Group; and Jenny Craig.
But he made a huge pivot in 1999, moving to Miami Beach to realize his dream of running a bed and breakfast. He operated Jefferson House, which has been South Beach’s only licensed B&B for years, until he decided it was time for another change.
He needed a bigger arena, and he realized that there was a way to combine his new identity as an openly gay man while taking advantage of his business acumen.
“I had transitioned from a long banking career in California. During that time, I had been pretty closeted, so this was my first foray into being an openly gay business person,” says Adkins.
“I didn’t want to go back into the closet, so I decided to look at what I could do to help my community and at the same time make a living.”
These days, Adkins is busy overseeing all aspects of the MDGLCC, which has grown into a major and influential business organization, but he still finds time to reach out to the community, and make sure that everyone finds their place in this fold.
“My goal was to raise the bar, so our Chamber would be on equal footing with all of the other chambers in Miami-Dade County. And now, whenever there is a discussion on business, tourism, travel, or any other topic that affects our life here, our voice is heard as a legitimate member of the community,” he says.
By Charlotte Libov
Latin Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Desmond Child is esteemed as one of the most successful musicians, songwriters and music producers in history, but his contributions go even beyond his iconic status.
A Florida native of mixed Hungarian and Cuban ancestry, Child credits his passion for songwriting to his mother, Cuban songwriter Elena “Mimi” Casals, who was his first inspiration.
Child will be honored with the prestigious Pa’Lante Award on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 by the Gay8 Festival, a free Latino art, music and food street festival that celebrates Miami’s diverse communities. The festival takes place on Sunday, Jan. 15 in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.
“I am profoundly humbled to be nominated as a recipient of the Pa’Lante Award. In fact, I am very emotional about it as my mother, the late Cuban Bolero composer and poet Elena Casals, and I literally lived up and down Calle 8 in one cuartería or another for many years as she struggled as a single mom to make ends meet and also be recognized for her soulful songs in this new country,” Child said.
“While she smoked, drank cafecitos and talked politics with the crowd of refugiados gathered around the open windows of the café’s, I learned to play dominos with the old men in the guayaberas… some whom had known my grandfather in Cuba. Calle 8 was our only tie to our lost world and survival in the new one. It’s the one place I can really call home,” he added.
Child attended Miami Dade College, forming his first group “Desmond Child and Rouge” in the 70’s and he hasn’t stopped since. He’s won accolades that range from a Latin Grammy to an astounding list of credits, which include over 70 Top 40 singles – including several Billboard chart toppers.
His collaborations run the gamut from Aerosmith to ZEDD, Bon Jovi to Ricky Martin, KISS to Kelly Clarkson, Cher to Katy Perry, Garth Brooks to Carrie Underwood, and from Megadeth to Mickey Mouse and Kermit The Frog.
Child’s reach is astounding. Ricky Martin’s megahit “La Copa de la Vida,” the official theme of the 1998 World Cup, was performed in front of two billion viewers. Even greater success followed a year later when Child co-wrote and co-produced Martin’s first English language smash hit “Livin’ la Vida Loca.”
He is receiving this honor because his accomplishments go far beyond the world of music.
In 2013, he co-founded the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame to educate, preserve, honor and celebrate the legacy of the world’s greatest Latin songwriters.
On a personal note, Child co-wrote and starred in “Two,” a documentary tracing the 12-year journey of he and his husband Curtis Shaw to create their new modern family, which now includes their sons Roman and Nyro.