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Five Questions: Cindy Brown from Equality Florida

Cindy Brown from Equality Florida talks to Hotspots in advance of the Miami Gala

Cindy Brown is the Miami Development officer for Equality Florida. She is a Miami native who has been instrumental in practically every single LGBT organization in the region at one point or another. She is an tireless advocate for our community and she has committed herself to helping stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Florida’s gay community.
Equality Florida’s Miami Gala takes place on Sunday, March 12 at 6 p.m. at Nobu Hotel Eden Rock (4525 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach). It was a pleasure to chat with Cindy in advance of the gala.

1. Tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got involved with Equality Florida.
I have been involved in the community for decades and have been familiar with Equality Florida since its inception in the late 90s. After my service at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, I was ready to do something in the LGBT community again. The opportunity to work with the amazing and brilliant team at equality Florida presented itself and of course, I jumped at it!
2. We have come a long way in Miami since the days of Anita Bryant, what do you remember about that time and her role in uniting the community in South Florida?
I was actually in high school in Miami during the Anita Bryant days. My coming-out was made much more stressful because during that very vulnerable time I heard all of the horrible things she was saying, and I knew I was not one of “those people”. Essentially, this was a galvanizing point for the community. But more than Anita Bryant, it was AIDS that really united the community and made a huge difference in the movement and how we are perceived today.

One of the things that I am the most proud of in the work that I have done over the many, many years, is that my niece was able to come out at 14 with the full love and support of her family and community. That was something that I was not able to do but it is clear that the work that is happened since the 70s made it possible.
3. Who in the community do you look to as a role model?

If I were to only choose one, it would have to be Ruth Shack. I have always said when I grow up I want to be Ruth Shack. She was the one who first got the Human Rights Ordinance passed in Miami in 1977. Even though it was not popular at the time she pursued it because it was the right thing to do. It was in response to this that Anita Bryant began her campaign. Ruth continues to be my role model as she has made our community a better place to live for so many reasons.
4. What are some of the platforms that Equality Florida is working on to continue to work towards full equality for all LGBT Floridians?

Equality Florida has five priorities for 2017. Here is just a little more about what we are working on.
1- Stop the passage of anti-LGBT legislation. The 2016 election has emboldened our opposition and stopping bad things from happening is our #1 priority this year.  Since we formed in 1997 we have blocked or neutralized every piece of anti-LGBT legislation we’ve faced but this year will test our record.  One of the worst bills we’ve ever seen has just been filed – HB17.  If passed this bill would block the passage of all future local LGBT non-discrimination protections and repeal every single existing LGBT non-discrimination protection in the state by 2020.
2- Push forward anti-discrimination legislation. In spite of these threats we continue to make progress towards banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression statewide.  The recent victory in passing the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance is HUGE and protects 1 million more Floridians bringing us to over 60% of the state now protected.  Equality Florida has had full time staff in Jacksonville since 2012 when the ordinance was defeated 2-17.  This week it passed 12-6 with over 200 faith leaders and 700 businesses standing shoulder to shoulder with us.
3- Invest deeply in building our base of supporters and volunteers in preparation for the 2018 Governor’s race and midterms and expand the PAC to be a well-resourced, even more influential political player by 2018.There is a very different electoral mood in our state and country following the November elections. This gives us hope that Democrats can overcome their challenge of low turnout in the 2018 midterm elections.
4- Expand our safe schools work, made all the more urgent by the post-election spike in campus-based harassment.We consider the work we are doing to create safe and welcoming schools for LGBT youth to be our most important program with the greatest long range impact. Florida has 2.9 million public school students. In just her first 4 months at Equality Florida our new Safe Schools Director, De Palazzo, has already provided intensive LGBT sensitivity training to nearly 2,000 school principals and district leaders.
5- Link arms in these dangerous times even more intentionally with coalition partners. If the 2016 elections taught us anything it is that we are all in this together. Our work has always been intersectional – because LGBT people include every constituency:  women, people of color, people with disabilities, etc.
5. What can we expect from this year’s Equality Florida Miami Gala?
The event will take place at Nobu Hotel Eden Rock, beautiful event space in Miami Beach. The event will feature sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and live music. One of the highlights of the evening is the State of the State Address presented by Nadine Smith, in which she will present the landmark achievements of the past year and outline the work that is yet to be done. Another highlight will be when Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, presents LGBT Youth Advocate Lisa La Monica with Equality Florida’s Voice for Equality Award.
For more information about the event, visit EQFL.org

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