INSPIRE Awards Recipients & Nominees for 2018
Click the “+” button before each name to read the bio for the nominees and recipients.
Lifetime Achievement Awards
Mykel Hall aka DJ BlackCat
This funky dread” got his start working right here at El Convento Rico & has been a DJ/Promoter, entertaining the LGBTQ2S+ masses for more than 25 years. He has been on TV, radio, and in magazines and newspapers like The Globe & Mail & The Toronto Star. Along with Toronto and Montreal he has also DJed PRIDES in Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Jamaica and New York City & is looking forward to Guyana & UK Black Pride. You want it he can play it. This Toronto Canada native is of Jamaican descent & knows his way around all kinds of Music such as Dancehall, hip hop, R&B, dance, soca & his 1st love House music. Along with spinning for College Night Wednesdays, Big Primpin, Birthday Sex, & Yes Yes Y`all, he also has his own regular monthly party in Toronto called “GO HARD” n is started a new night this past Friday called “OVAH” (a night dedicated to the House music) both event takes place @ Club 120. He is also Co-Owner of the Highly Anticipated annual Miss Opulence Drag Pageant that is in its 3rd year & will take place in November 2018. This Black Cat never sleeps, and neither will you if you’re at one of his functions & dare to cross his path.
Savoy “Kapow!” Howe is the head coach and owner of Toronto Newsgirls, Canada’s first female and Trans* positive boxing club. Savoy started boxing in 1992 at the Toronto Newsboys Boxing Club and went on to fight one of Toronto’s first sanctioned boxing bouts for women in 1993. In 1996 the Toronto Newsgirls Club was born. Savoy is originally from New Brunswick and holds a theatre degree from McMaster University. She has spent over 30 years pounding the pavement as a performer. Her most recent show, “Newsgirl”, a one woman developed at Soulotheatre, recounted the herstory of the Toronto Newsgirls and of one woman’s journey into the male dominated sport of boxing. In 1994 Savoy rollerbladed 1600 kms around central Ontario as part of “Blade for AIDS”, an AIDS awareness campaign. She has been involved in numerous campaigns as a citizen activist including having Roosh V, an American pick up artist, cancel his Toronto ‘Return of Kings’ workshops after women in boxing gloves were preparing to show up. The Newsgirls have also had a travelling boxing ring in the Dyke March for over 10 years. Aside from a recreational boxing program and an amateur program, Savoy runs ‘Outside the Ring’, a free boxing program for the LGBTQ2S+ and the Indigenous communities, new Canadians and people with mobility issues.
For over 30 years Dave has advocated for people with intellectual disabilities to have the right to experience intimacy, relationships and sexuality. The history of people with disabilities includes brutal treatment for being sexual – sterilization, contingent electric shock – Dave was one of the voices that called for change. Dave has fought against the idea that people with intellectual disabilities did not experience adulthood and that their sexuality needed to be controlled or eliminated. In an era where service providers typically had policies forbidding people with disabilities from relationships, intimacy and sexuality, Dave advocated for people with disabilities to be seen as fully human with fully human needs. He wrote one of the first articles ever published regarding the rights of people with intellectual disabilities to have and express an LGBTQ2S+ identity and spoke at conferences, often facing fierce opposition, regarding the legitimacy of the sexuality of LGBTQ2S+ people with disabilities. He wrote and produced video sex education programs such as ‘Hand Made Love: A guide to teaching men with intellectual disabilities about masturbation” and “Finger Tips” a similar book and video set for women. His work is now seen as groundbreaking and has often been honoured by the human service sector.
International Icon Award
Darnell L. Moore
Amongst a very long list of accomplishments, Darnell L. Moore is Editor-at-Large at CASSIUS (an iOne digital platform) and formerly a senior editor and correspondent at Mic. He is co-managing editor at The Feminist Wire and an editor of The Feminist Wire Books (a series of University of Arizona Press). Along with NFL player Wade Davis II, he co-founded YOU Belong, a social good company focused on the development of diversity initiatives.
Darnell’s advocacy centers on marginal identity, youth development and other social justice issues in the U.S. and abroad. He has led and participated in several critical dialogues including the 58th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington National Panel on Race, Discrimination and Poverty, the 2012 Seminar on Debates on Religion and Sexuality at Harvard Divinity School, and as a member of the first U.S. delegation of LGBTQ2S+ leaders to Palestine in 2012.
A prolific writer, Darnell has been published in various media outlets including MSNBC, The Guardian, Huffington Post, EBONY, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Gawker, VICE, and others, as well as numerous academic journals. Darnell has held positions of Visiting Fellow and Visiting Scholar at Yale Divinity School, the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University and the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University.
Darnell received the 2012 Humanitarian Award from the American Conference on Diversity for his advocacy in the City of Newark, where he served as Chair of the LGBTQ2S+ Concerns Advisory Commission. He is the recipient of the 2012 Outstanding Academic Leadership Award from Rutgers University LGBTQ2S+ and Diversity Resource Center for his contributions to developing the Queer Newark Oral History Project. He received the 2013 Angel Award from Gay Men of African Descent and the 2014 Gentleman of the Year Award from the Gentlemen’s Foundation. He was listed as a one of Planned Parenthood’s Top 99 Dream Keepers in 2015, was featured in USA Today’s #InTheirOwnWords multimedia feature on contemporary civil rights activists, was named among EBONY Magazines’s 2015 Power 100, Time Out New York’s Eight LGBT Influencers, Be Modern Man 100, and The Root 100 2016.
He assisted in organizing the Black Lives Matters Ride to Ferguson in the wake of Mike Brown’s tragic murder and along with Alicia Garza, Patrisee Cullors, and Opal Tometti (#BlackLivesMatter Co-Founders) developed the infrastructure for the BLM Network. He is presently represented by Chartwell Worldwide Speaker Agency and is soon to complete his first book, No Ashes in the Fire (Nation Books).And this is just the short list.
Charles Roy Award for Activism in HIV/AIDS
Keith is very excited to be back working with a dynamic organization such as Fred Victor. Fred Victor is one of the largest not-for profit, multi service organizations in Toronto. They have been helping homeless women, men and families and those living on low incomes in the city for nearly 125 years and we also advocate for effective public policy. As Vice President, Programs and Services, Keith oversees an array of programs addressing, Housing and Housing Access, Health, Case Management and Community Supports and Employment Training. Every day more than 2000 people use Fred Victors programs and services, located at 19 different sites across Toronto. Prior to returning to Fred Victor, Keith held the role of Executive Director of Fife House, the leading housing and support services agency in Toronto serving HIV+ women, men and families. In his 11 years at Fife, Keith and his leadership team expanded housing options by 40% to include homeless HIV+ individuals with mental health and active substance use and those who are aging with complex needs. Further, Fife is providing comprehensive personal support services to HIV+ men at Seaton House and will be opening a new high support transition support program on Huntley Street. In 2016, Keith was a guest lecturer at the International AIDS Conference in Durban South Africa as Fife was recognized for its housing and HIV research work with the Robert Carr Research Award. Keith currently is a board member of the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and member of the Toronto Central LHIN Mid East Health Link. He has served on various local, provincial and national housing and HIV committees including being past President of the Ontario Non Profit Housing Association. Keith is a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal recognizing his work within the non-profit housing sector.
TELUS Innovator of the Year Award
Scott is the Founder and CEO of Venture for Canada (VFC), a not-for-profit that recruits, trains, and supports youth to work at Canadian startups, with the mission of fostering entrepreneurship. In four years, he and his team have built VFC into an organization that supports hundreds of youth and has raised over $5 million in funding. Previously, Scott worked on a cross-product client experience team at Goldman Sachs & Co. in New York City. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. At Georgetown, he was a weekly columnist for The Hoya, Georgetown’s newspaper of record, and interned at The Council on Foreign Relations. Scott has contributed to or been featured in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), The Washington Post, Forbes, and The Chronicle Herald.
LUX Award for the Arts
Drawing was one of Steve Walker’s earliest childhood memories. He remembered drawing pictures from about the age of three or four years old. Drawing came naturally to the Toronto artist, and his love of the art form continued into his adulthood. As a self-taught artist, Walker only began painting after a trip to Europe when he was 25 years old. During the trip, he spent much of his time in Europe touring the great galleries and museums. In his words it was the first time he was exposed to great painting, and the first time he recognized the potential power of the art form. “I was moved by something that I was capable of doing,” he said. His first paintings were done in a somewhat secretive way, as he had no intention of exhibiting or selling, and had no aspirations of becoming a professional artist. Producing art about his life and the lives of those around him became as natural to Walker as his first childhood drawings. As a gay man, Walker was acutely aware that he was living during a period of history that was both the best of times and the worst of times. There was more freedom and acceptance for gay men and women, while at the same time AIDS has devastated the gay population. He described his art as being about love, hate, pain, joy, touch, communication, beauty, loneliness, attraction, hope, despair, life and death. His art included universal themes regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic class, culture or sexual orientation. However, his work is unique because he conveys these themes through the subjects in his paintings, young gay men. As an internationally renowned Canadian artist, Steve Walker died unexpectedly at his home in Costa Rica on January 4, 2012.
Person of the Year
Jill Andrew ⭐️ Recipient
Jill Andrew, award-winning writer, columnist, speaker, equity advisor and inclusive fashion educator. She is also the co-founder of Body Confidence Canada, Body Confidence Canada Awards, the national campaign #SizeismSUCKS with over 40K allies advocating to end size and appearance-based discrimination through amendments to Canada’s human rights legislation and Body Confidence Awareness Week recognized by two of Canada’s largest school boards serving over 275K students in support of anti-bullying prevention particular to body, race and gender-based violence awareness.
Jill is a frequently called upon by the media and her appearances include Xtra, IN Magazine, CTV, Global, CP24, MTV, CBC, BBC, THIS Magazine (“This Abject Body”), Metro News (“Ask Jill” lifestyle, career and education column), Toronto Star, tonight newspaper (“Jills Last Word”), NOW Magazine, FLARE, She Does the City and other publication. Andrew’s community distinctions include: Premier of Ontario and JS Woodsworth Woman of Distinction nominations and being named one of University of Toronto Scarborough’s “150 Neighbours” in recognition of outstanding contributions to the Scarborough community; two Canadian Ethnic Media Association awards, the Michele Landsberg Media Award, being named one of OptiMYze magazine’s Top 100 Health Influencers and receiving the African Canadian Women’s Achievement Award among others.
Her academic acknowledgements include CERLAC, Soroptimist Foundation of Canada, Patrick Solomon Urban Diversity awards, and being named Humber College’s School of Social & Community Services Alumna of Distinction. Andrew’s doctoral research includes women & girls body image and leadership, race & representation politics, appearance-based discrimination, body-based harassment, and fashion politics.
Andrew is a community co-owner of Glad Day Bookshop – the world’s oldest LGBT bookstore. She is an avid volunteer and donor to many community organizations/initiatives in the GTA especially those supporting Black and racialized communities, youth, women, chronic health and queer advocacy through community service, education, employment, affordable housing, healthcare and the arts. Jill is also a fanatic cat lover.
James Forrester – Nominee
With a few dollars and a dream, Scotland native James Forrester relocated to Toronto in 2010 to pursue that dream. Having an interest in cinematography, music, and creating videos for friends, shortly became a gratifying career in videography production. Developing a strong presence in Toronto’s Gay Village has provided James the opportunity to work on numerous projects with several of Toronto’s well-known drag performers. Forrester’s big break came in June 2016 in the making of Toronto’s prominent drag performer Sofonda Cox’s “Lemonade” video. With over 150,000 views in just a few days and numerous acknowledgements there was no slowing down for this Toronto videographer.
As an advocate for the LGBT community, Forrester has placed tremendous efforts in exhibiting Toronto’s concealed talents and accentuating the community’s resilient uniformity, particularly in today’s political climate. “To be able to produce material conveying acceptance, self-love and LGBT rights is an empowering feeling” says Forrester. The community has not only played a significant role in James career and but as well as his personal life. James intends to continue his work in videography potentially expanding his productions and to inspire others in pursuing their dreams. In the interim, Forrester intends to enjoy a glass of wine.
Alan Kunkel – Nominee
Alan Kunkel is an engaged volunteer and donor who cares deeply about issues affecting vulnerable and marginalized peoples in the LGBTQ2S+ communities, as well as Indigenous, racialized, and differently abled people in Toronto. Many acts of kindness in quiet ways may go unnoticed. Alan’s close friends, as well as his colleagues at work and in the community, know him to be dedicated, reliable and generous with many organizations such as ACT, Fife House, Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA), The Toronto AIDS Candlelight Vigil, the Pride and Remembrance Run, and the INSPIRE Awards. He has helped secure grants from the RBC Foundation for organizations such as Fife House, CLGA and the Triangle Program. He’s individually sponsored community events such as the POZ TO Awards, Daddy Issues and Mingle. Alan isn’t the lead, nor is he the activist on stage. By serving agency clients and playing a supportive role at fundraisers, Alan appreciates the small gestures and rewards: breaking isolation, addressing stigma, fighting homo/bi/transphobia, promoting safety, helping clients gain insight during a conversation over a meal, or someone ill being afforded the time and space to heal.
Leonard Benoit – Nominee
Leonard is Qalipu Mi’Kmag First Nations from the territory of Newfoundland and Labrador. His spirit name is Circling Wolf and he is Wolf Clan. He has been practicing as a nurse for the last 17 years. On food bank days he operates a blood pressure clinic at The Toronto People with Aids Foundation. Leonard facilitated leadership workshops with the Ontario Aids Network: he would help HIV+ individuals develop and finesse leadership skills allowing them to work/volunteer in the ASO sector. He worked as the client care coordinator at 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations, in which he would access and coordinate services for Indigenous people that are HIV+. In June 2017, he co-hosted the 33rd Annual Aids Candlelight Vigil at Barbara Hall Park His response to the number of deaths by the opioid crisis is: he volunteered at Moss Park Overdose Prevention Site to ensure that drug usage could be done in a safe and non-judgemental environment in which people do not have to die! And he organized Healing Circles so the community to come together to talk about the lives that have been lost, how we go forward and how support each other. Leonard is a volunteer facilitator with the Toronto Collective Writer’s group: he helps marginalized communities find their voice and tell their story through writing but more importantly, being heard.
Dakarayi Chigugudhlo – Nominee
Dakarayi graduated with Honours Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of Toronto and completed M.A. in Critical Disability Studies at York University and Non Profit Management in the Non-Profit Sector Certificate at Seneca College, (graduation June 2018). Working hard and bringing her educational training experience to her work, Dakarayi is result-oriented development professional with a passion to make transformative change in people’s lives.
She is an inspirational Community Leader who is committed to her community. This is seen in her community involvement and volunteer engagement in the community. In her capacity as Founder of Women Empowering Positive Women, a peer led social enterprise; she has transformed the lives of HIV Positive women. Dakarayi brings many years of leadership and management experience as the President / Owner of Combined Private Investigation Security Company. It is in this capacity that Dakarayi was recognized as the first woman to run a security company in Zimbabwe. Dakarayi sailed through and achieved her goals in a primarily White male dominated industry. She is running Biltong Toronto business.
Dakarayi has been involved in HIV work since 2002, when she first volunteered at APAA as Office Assistant, Intake Worker Volunteer and Peer Support Worker at PWA, Community Health Ambassador at WHIWH and Fife House Housing Drop In. Dakarayi served in several Advisory committees, THN, PWA’ 30th Anniversary, NOT art Therapy and Picturing Participation projects. Her strident selfless outstanding leadership qualities reflective with her work has influenced many lives in a positive way in the community. Dakarayi received Recognition Award from Inspector of Toronto Police, Nick Memme. She has shared a platform with UN women President Almas Juwani and honoured with the Leadership Award at the Immigrant Talk Show Awards, and received the Education Award from the Black Women Moving Forward.
Youth of the Year
Bri Gardner ⭐️ Recipient
Bri Gardner is a 17-year-old trans person from Mimico, in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. Bri is biracial and uses they/them pronouns and has been involved at the community level through organizations including LAMP Community Health Centre in the youth department and community development office. Throughout their time at LAMP, Bri has contributed to initiatives promoting healthy lifestyles and mental health, affordable housing and the lack of such investments in South Etobicoke and the city at large and co-produced an activism-focused fashion show featuring youth voices in the community.
On a larger scale, Bri has been involved with the Toronto Youth Cabinet, the official youth advisory body for the city of Toronto, as the lead transit advocate and later the Director of Stakeholder Engagement, as well as the Office of former MPP Cheri DiNovo, contributing to the passing of pro-LGBTQ2S+ legislation including the All Families Are Equal Act, gender-reflective budgeting including trans persons, and official recognition of Trans Day of Remembrance in the Ontario Legislature. Bri is devoted to activism for LGBTQ2S+ rights, homelessness issues and affordable housing, income inequality and economic justice, and will continue their dedication to such causes as a student at York University in the Fall.
Adam Lake – Nominee
Adam turns negative experiences into positive accomplishments, becoming an advocate for social justice within reform movements. The love and passion that he has for being a role model and ensuring that young LGBTQ2S+ African Canadians can achieve their goals is his reasoning for passionately fighting for the rights and inclusion of LGBTQ2S+ youth of colour. He has made the decision to use his voice as power when it comes to voicing the various forms of discrimination that intersect. Adam is an African Canadian male who is at a disadvantage due to his Blackness, and sexual identity as a homosexual man. It is also important to discuss changes within policies that are being created surrounding the Black and LGBTQ2S+ community within Canada. He continues to discuss policies and policy change within the Canadian institutions, which allow the general public to gain a better perspective of one’s identity. His personal commitment to the Black and LGBTQ2S+ community, he believes, is what sets him apart from others, as he wants to be an individual that educates and leads. Adam wants to dismantle the perpetuation of racism, which allows inequalities to flourish against LGBTQ2S+ individuals and LGBTQ2S+ individuals of colour.
Tai Hope – Nominee
Tai Hope is an 18 year-old agender POC. After coming out in Grade 8, Tai started to see how they could use their knowledge to help people within the community. They became part of O’Neill CVI’s GSA after graduating into Grade 9. They helped with organizing events and doing fundraisers, while working with students to help get them to a place where they can be comfortable with themselves. In Grade 11 they moved to Woodstock, Ontario to continue their endeavors. While in Woodstock, Tai ran and organized a school walkout to raise awareness for suicide prevention, and an ‘Amazing Race’ type event which provided information on where to go to obtain assistance for youth needing support. They then moved back to Oshawa in 2017 to better their chances of acceptance into a college. In the time they have been back, they have participated in many LGBTQ2S+ events, including PFLAG’s Camp Rainbow Phoenix, and Pride Toronto. They also started volunteering at The Living Room Art Studio, and at PFLAG’s Coffee Nights in Oshawa. They continue to volunteer and attend events to this day.
Sylvan Tang – Nominee
Sylvan is a transmasculine newcomer youth of color with a background in accounting. They currently work in the tax accounting field and they dream of making accounting more accessible to the QT community. They are passionate about social equity and making a difference, especially towards supporting fellow queer and trans migrants, whom often struggle to find resources. One of the ways they are doing it is by working part-time as a peer leader at Asian Community AIDS Services under their Queer Asian Youth program. They recently delivered a tax workshop in March that focused on tax returns for queer Asian small business owners and freelancers. In the past years, Sylvan has been a member of the LGBTQ2S+ Youth Initiative at Planned Parenthood and was involved in various community programming and “send the right message” campaign. Sylvan is also a board member of LGBT Youth Line and is sitting on their Policy and Finance committee.
Meha Patel – Nominee
Meha Patel is a 23-year-old social service worker. They are passionate about working with LGBTQ2S+ Youth in Toronto and in the Greater Toronto Area with a focus on working with BIPOC youth. They have worked as a program co-facilitator at RexPride, an LGBTQ2S+ service for youth in the Rexdale area. While working at Rexpride, Meha and their co-facilitator ran the QMAP (queer media arts program), a program for youth aged 12-24. The program is focused on creating a safe space for LGBTQ2S+ Youth to explore their sexuality and identities through artistic mediums. Meha has previously worked as the summer placement student for LGBT youthline, where they helped support the Youth awards committee. Meha has also received the Anti-Oppression Practice Student Award from the student association at George Brown College. In the future, Meha aims to combine their passion for working with LGBTQ2S+ youth, and their love for computer programming. Their goal is to create a safe, enriching and inclusive space for LGBTQ2S+ Youth who are interested in entering computer programming, coding and technology, as they recognize that spaces that provide this service for youth are not always accessible.
Positive Business of the Year
DJ Dallas ⭐️ Recipient
Dallas has been keeping our community connected for over 30 years now. She creates fun fabulous safe and affordable events for the entire LGBTQISQQIS community (and our supporters). From pubs, huge venues, day and night events, basements, campgounds and even on the water…always trying to keep us entertained and provide fresh options. She has hosted and contributed to many fundraisers and Pride events all over Ontario by donating time and services. ALWAYS there when asked, is very generous with her time and solid on commitment. She says, “today maybe we didn’t make any money, but we sure made a lot of people happy”! “It all works out in the end”. She has introduced new performers to her stage and helped them get started in their careers; she has been keeping doors open and encouraging our aging LGBTQ2S+ community to “get out’ and dance, ‘come out’ and play so that we continue to remain relevant, involved and informed.
Dallas also invites comediennes, activists and entertainers to share the stage to bring awareness of our ever growing and thriving talent LGBTQ2S+ base. She encourages new DJs to spin alongside her, keeps growing and changing with the times and music to ensure that her events are a place that young and old, all nationalities and cultures can share and engage. DJ DALLAS and friends gives to Humane Society in that name and keeps animal cages operational year round. She offers reduced rates for LGBTQ2S+ fundraising ventures.
She is involved with Aboriginal Women’s Society on a professional and volunteer basis to help raise funds for support projects and awareness. She has been a proud Lesbian since a child and speaks at schools when she can get an invite, has donated LGBTQ2S+ reading material to schools and actually chose to read to children some of this material. She communicates directly with the school boards in her area to keep pushing for more visibility of the changing face of ‘family’ the family to include ALL families. She is raising a young gentleman that is also a fierce supporter in his school for LGB and Trans Boys and Girls. It’s because of Dallas’s persistence that her son’s junior school started the dialogue and changing the “posters’ to include LGBTQ2S+ families on their wall (after being told by the principal that there were no ‘people like that in our community’). All done quietly and respectfully but repeatedly and diligently.
Corporate Specialty Services – Nominee
Steve is the owner and President of Corporate Specialty Services Inc., a commercial cleaning company which he founded in 1995, or 23 years ago. An early entrepreneur, Steve started his sales career in Ste.-Anne-de-Madawaska selling chestnuts by the side of the road when he was 5. Steve is a great businessman because he is ambitious, hard working, honest, and willing to take risks. He genuinely likes people and finds satisfaction in providing a quality service at a competitive price that satisfies the clients’ needs. Steve believes in institution building, and has supported many LBTQ2 causes both personally and through the business, including The Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives, and The AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT). Sometimes this support is financial and sometimes it is simply showing up and being counted. Corporate Specialty is a member of the Ontario Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (OGLCC) and the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC). Steve was the CGLCC’s inaugural entrepreneur of the year in 2014 and he has been nominated for Ernst & Young’s entrepreneur of the year. He has been happily married to his husband, Peter Rex for 12 years.
Dudley’s Hardware Paint & Décor – Nominee
Dudley’s Hardware Paint & Décor was established in 1934. They are the oldest business on Church Street, proudly serving the community. They have been the cornerstone of the village providing quality products with exceptional customer service and has been committed to providing a one-of-a-kind retail experience. This small hardware store has been a big part of the community for almost a century. They strive to help their customers feel like a part of their extended family. Whether it be by providing quality products, services or friendly advice to new or long-time customers they are always there to help with your projects or beautify your home. They often participate behind the scenes for charity events and promotions for local service organizations and businesses. They thrive to be a positive member of the diverse community they serve.
Bulldog Coffee – Nominee
Stuart Ross, owner of Bulldog Coffee graduated from McGill University with a degree in economics, and started his career as a stockbroker. After being fired from a job for being gay, he wanted to work in the community that was a safe place for him when he came out. Becoming a barista and a baker was a path he felt he was led to; a path where he can express his creativity. His biggest dream came true when he opened Bulldog Coffee in 2003 with the desire and passion to create a place where everyone felt comfortable., gay, lesbian, Trans, queer, and everyone else, including himself personally where can be who he is. The coffeeshop was a place where people could meet and a place where you could have your first date, hang out with friends, or just enjoy a relaxing few moments of your day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year.
Stuart has always made sure to hire his team from the community, help support community media, support sponsorship initiatives, and to hold community events in the shop, from gay engagement parties, to community fundraisers, Christmas events for those who had no place to go, and a gay Passover dinner. It was important to Stuart to have the BEST coffee shop, that would make the community proud. In 2005, Stuart was crowned the first ever Champion Barista for Central Region Canada. In 2017 Bulldog Coffee was invited to become one of the chefs to have space at the much-touted Assembly Chef’s Hall, where some of the best chef’s in town cater to a diverse group of clienteles. Stuart’s signature “rainbow” latte has been mentioned in many dining and lifestyle magazines.
Inspiring Community Organization of the Year
Rainbow Railroad ⭐️ Recipient
Rainbow Railroad is a one of a kind, international organization, based in Toronto, that provides support to LGBTQI individuals seeking a safe haven from state-sponsored or enabled violence. This includes airfare and financial support for travel related costs, including costs immediately before and after travel. Beyond direct financial assistance, Rainbow Railroad provides information and resources on how to make an asylum claim in safer countries or through the UNHCR resettlement process. Rainbow Railroad has funded travel for over 300 individuals – with a record 200 people traveling to safety in 2017 alone. The majority of the cases funded have been from Jamaica, Nigeria and Uganda, and recently Chechnya, but requests for help are increasingly coming from other regions of the world. In response to the confirmed reports of abductions, detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and deaths targeting LGBTQI individuals in Chechnya in April 2017, Rainbow Railroad immediately went to action to assist those in danger. Working closely with the Russian LGBT Network, Rainbow Railroad was successful in finding a pathway to safety for 57 individuals from Chechnya. Rainbow Railroad is the only organization in the world providing this type of direct assistance and has the unique capacity to respond similar crises.
Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) – Nominees
The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) provides HIV/AIDS, sexual health and support services for South Asian and Middle Eastern communities in the Greater Toronto Area. Our programs and services are delivered in culturally appropriate ways while simultaneously challenging the discomfort many have in talking about sexuality and sexual health. We acknowledge the many social determinants of health and our work often overlaps with issues of racism, gender equity, housing, violence, mental health and employment. We are always learning, growing and building stronger partnerships with organizations and people.
YMCA Sprott House – Nominees
On any given night, there are thousands of youth sleeping on the streets of Toronto and many of them from the LGBTQ2S community with recent studies suggesting up to 40%. The YMCA Sprott House is a 25 bed LGBTQ2S transitional housing program for youth between the ages of 16 and 24. It provides one year of supported residential living, working from a harm reduction framework and employs a holistic approach in working with youth. Once youth have stable housing, many can focus on other aspects of their lives such as their mental health, employment, education and of course exploring their identities and expanding their social supports. We look to foster a sense of community and belonging at Sprott which is why many youth reach out to us from across Ontario. The youth are supported by a team of case managers and youth workers to achieve their goals and to gain the skills and resources needed to live independently. We provide a safer and affirming place for many LGBTQ2S youth to live as their true and authentic selves. For many, Sprott House is the first place they begin to do that.
2-Spirited People of the First Nations – Nominees
2-Spirits provides prevention education and support for Indigenous two-spirit people (First Nations, Métis and Inuit people) living with or at risk for HIV and related co-infections in the GTA. They base their work on Indigenous philosophies of wholistic health and wellness. “Two-spirit” refers to an ancient teaching. Their Elders tell them of people who were gifted among all beings because they carried two spirits: those of male and female. It is told that their women engaged in tribal warfare and married other women, as there were men who married other men. These individuals were looked upon as a third gender in many cases and, in nearly all of their cultures, they were honoured and revered.
Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers and the medicine people, respected as fundamental components of their ancient culture and societies. This is their guiding star as well as their source of strength. This is the heart of 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations. They are committed to the concept of Cultural Safety. Cultural Safety was introduced by Irihapeti Ramsden, a Maori (Indigenous) nurse living in Aotearoa, New Zealand, in 1990. Her definition of the term explains that Cultural Safety moves beyond cultural sensitivity and cultural competence (having knowledge about the culture of “the other”) toward an analysis of power imbalances in society, as well as political ideals of self-determination and de-colonization.
Red Dress Productions – Nominees
RED DRESS PRODUCTIONS (RDP) is a Toronto-based, not-for-profit, professional arts company that creates and disseminates interdisciplinary art and performance projects and works with/in communities on community-engaged public artworks. Red Dress Productions works to: 1) Produce original artwork that strives for innovation, technical excellence and that elicits dialogue and creative exchange across difference. 2) Transform public spaces with public art that reflects and engages the communities that live there. 3) Support self-presentation by providing artistic leadership, resources, tools, and mentorship toward collaborative artistic practices, particularly where the effects of oppression and inequity impede the well-being of individuals and communities. 4) Increase civic engagement through public art. 5) Provide accessible art making opportunities by working with people of diverse abilities, skills, ages, identities, and experiences. Everyone is welcome and every contribution is valued. 6) Cultivate equity-seeking emerging artists by making mentorship, learning, and experimentation a central component of our work. Red Dress Productions has: Directly engaged 3500+ contributors in the creation of 15+ community engaged public artwork projects; produced 5 original interdisciplinary stage performances; toured to more than 10 urban and rural Canadian communities; and created 30+ paid apprenticeship positions for youth under the age of 25, most of them on the LGBTQQ spectrum.