Cindy Brown is a well-known name in the South Florida LGBT community. Her reputation precedes her; she first became involved in activism and public service work over 25 years ago. She became very well-known to the community in the 1990s, organizing the Miami AIDS Walk and White Party for Care Resource (then known as the Health Crisis Network). Since then she’s worked for many different organizations, having been named the executive director of the MDGLCC Foundation and LGBT Visitor Center as well as the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens. That’s not even mentioning her extensive volunteer work, which has put her on the board of directors of such organizations as SAVE, the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Aqua Foundation for Women. She recently received the Businessperson of the Year Award at the MDGLCC Sapphire Gala on June 13.
There are few people who know the LGBT community in South Florida, specifically the community in Miami-Dade County, as well as Cindy Brown does. Now she will be taking her talents to Equality Florida, joining their development team and serving Miami-Dade County.
“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Stratton Pollitzer, Equality Florida’s deputy director. “Cindy has been building relationships, strengthening connections and advancing good work in this community for more than two decades. We’re delighted she’s now part of our team.”
I spoke with Cindy Brown about her new job and how far we have left to go to fight for our rights in Florida in this exclusive Hotspots interview.
Tell us a little bit about the job you’ve taken at Equality Florida and what it entails.
I’ve taken on the position of the Miami-Dade development officer. I will be working in Miami-Dade County expanding the outreach of Equality Florida and continuing to put Miami in a place to advance the entire state. I’ll be working with many community organizations to bring about those changes.
You’ve worked with quite a few service organizations in South Florida. How will your years of past work help you in your current position?
It makes it easier to reach out to all the groups in the community, for sure. I’m a huge proponent of collaboration and working together and having all of the parts of the community come together for a single mission. If all people in the community come together as one, that’s one of the best hallmarks of a strong community that I can think of, and I think I can help bring everyone together in the hope that we can facilitate change.
How did you first get involved in LGBT causes?
The catalyst for me was the AIDS Quilt, and what AIDS was doing to our community back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Before Hurricane Andrew, I went to the Miami Beach Convention Center to see the AIDS Quilt, and it was so incredibly moving. There were panels on the quilt and they were memorializing friends of mine and I had no idea they were seriously ill, much less dead from AIDS. So for me it was the rise of HIV and AIDS, and I think for many people who were young adults in the 1980s, that’s not an uncommon story.
You were honored with the “businessperson of the year” award by the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. What does this award mean to you, and is there anyone you’d like to thank?
As far as the award itself, I believe that any successes I’ve had in my career have been results of collaboration and teamwork. So, who would I like to thank? I would thank the community for giving me so many opportunities to work for it. If you want to live in an inclusive, supportive community, that doesn’t just magically happen. It’s very seldom that the actions of a singular person makes change. I’m very grateful for the award and for the recognition, but there are so many other people out there like me who assist me in doing the work that I do, and I am grateful to them.
Over the last couple of weeks, the LGBT media has been abuzz with talk about Caitlyn Jenner. I spoke with Gina Duncan recently and she said that while the positive effects of Caitlyn’s disclosure can’t be overstated, LGBT advocates still have a great deal of work to improve the quality of life of transgender people in Florida. Do you agree, and what do you think needs to be done first and foremost?
There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, even in our own community. A lot of “LGB” people still don’t know a lot about the “T” and what it means to be transgender. We’re working on that here at home. One thing I think that needs to be done right away is a healthy dialogue within our own community. “I don’t understand this; can you explain it to me?”
Better education is crucial to understanding and acceptance. While Caitlyn Jenner is coming out and telling her story, it convinces others in Florida and elsewhere to share their stories. Then people will realize that they too know someone who is transgender, and these moments can foster acceptance.
Now with regard to legislation, with every victory that we celebrate for the transgender community, and we are having victories, we can’t rest on our laurels. Every victory can be under attack; you saw that this session with the anti-transgender bathroom bills. So many people are working their hardest to ensure that Florida is a safe space for everyone.
Want to reach out to Cindy directly? You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more about Equality Florida, visit eqfl.org.