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Human Rights Commission Meeting - Community Service Awards

The City of Palm Springs Human Rights Commission will present it's annual Community Service Awards on Monday, February 10, 2020, at 3:00 p.m.

The public is invited to attend.  The meeting Agenda may be viewed HERE.

The Recipients for 2020 are:

Joy Brown Meredith is recognized for her leadership and civic involvement. She first joined the board of Main Street Palm Springs in 1992 and has served on the board ever since. She believed the City needed an organization to strengthen the downtown business community and through the years she has provided the leadership that established the organization as a pivotal voice in the community. A downtown business owner for 32 years, Joy has operated with a philosophy that it's all about helping yourself, your family, your community, and the world through furthering love and peace. She created Crystal Fantasy as a sort of a community center for kind people where they embrace all religions, races, and sexual orientations. Joy has helped make Palm Springs a city like no place else.

Brothers of the Desert is an organization is recognized for lifting and amplifying the voice of the historically disenfranchised and under-represented black community. Brothers of the Desert builds interpersonal relationships by nurturing, supporting and connecting black gay men in Coachella Valley through philanthropy, volunteerism, mentorship, education, advocacy and social networking. Their work includes supporting a scholarship fund, hosting social gatherings to build community, supporting like-minded local organizations. They are also recognized for engaging the community by organizing a wellness summit called Living Your Best Black Gay Life.

Ginny Foat is recognized for serving the community and the City of Palm Springs through her role as a 14-year councilmember and as executive director of the Mizell Senior Center. While on city council, she was often a staunch voice for residents and neighborhoods and was instrumental in the establishment of ONE-PS as a conduit for grass roots, neighborhood concerns. She has been an advocate for the rights of under-served and/or under-represented people including homelessness in the Coachella Valley. She was also very active in creating the City’s animal shelter.

Her involvement in LGBTQ causes and organizations stretches back to the 1970s. She also was active in the campaigns against the Briggs Initiative and Proposition 8, and she previously served as co-chair of the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV/AIDS Services, executive director of Caring for Children and Families with AIDS and as regional director of the YWCA.

Rabbi David Lazar is recognized for his work to help Palm Springs be a more inclusive and welcoming community that embraces all individuals. He serves as the spiritual leader of Or Hamidbar. As a Jewish educator in a variety of frameworks, he promotes inclusive Jewish practice and interfaith dialogue. Rabbi Lazar was among the earliest international LGBTQ advocates, performing the first gay wedding in Israel in 2001, years before same-sex marriage was legal there. His non-profit service includes the Israel AIDS Task Force, the Jerusalem Open House, and the Rabbinical Assembly.

Lazar is active in the community and has served with the Transgender Community Coalition and the steering committee of the Raina Chessman Fund, which is designed to help support transgender persons facing various life crises that might otherwise result in potentially tragic outcomes. He received the Yakir Hakehila Award for community appreciation by the Agudah: Israel LGBT Task Force in 2005 and was named Heterosexual of the Year by QX, Sweden’s national LGBTW magazine, in 2012.

Katherine V. Forrest is recognized as a seasoned storyteller who has presented lesbian and gay lives with a forthright dignity over a span of more than three decades. She is the groundbreaking author of Curious Wine, the Kate Delafield mystery series and the Daughters science-fiction series. She’s also known as a prolific editor with anthology and non-fiction credits in her own name as well as the editor of hundreds of novels. Dozens of lesbian writers count her among their mentors. Through her prominence at Naiad Press, she has helped carve out plenty of space on the shelves for lesbian fiction, championing coming-out stories and other forms of narrative that increase visibility and make overt the innuendo that marks so much of our literary history.

She is widely credited as a founding mother of lesbian fiction writing. Her numerous awards and honors include five Lambda Literary Awards, the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Trailblazer Award, a Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle, the Pioneer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation, and a profile in USA Today.

Chief Bryan Reyes is recognized for increasing the community presence, visibility and communication from the police department. He appreciates the vital role community trust and partnerships play in policing. He is constantly striving to present the department as a collaborative and supportive partner for all community members. Under his leadership, the department is actively involved in our communities, and they engage and partner with civic groups and individual citizens to achieve a shared goal of creating a safer and better Palm Springs for all. In his three years as chief he is particularly recognized for combating extremism, bigotry and hatred and for his commitment to police training and installing an accepting and welcoming organizational culture for all.

Ron Oden is the first African American and the first openly gay man to hold the office of Mayor of Palm Springs, California. Oden began his career in community and political involvement in 1990 when he moved to Palm Springs and began teaching as an adjunct Sociology instructor at College of the Desert. Oden also worked at Desert Career College, Chapman University and has served as pastoral care consultant at the Betty Ford Center.

Concern about educational and social issues led Oden to enter local politics. In 1995 he was elected to Palm Springs City Council only five years after he arrived in the city. While on the council he advocated for social causes.

In 2003, he was elected Mayor of Palm Springs. His election was significant because of both his race and his sexual orientation. Oden was the first openly gay African American elected to lead a California city. Although blacks comprise only 3% of the city’s population, the gay and lesbian population, an estimated 30 % of the total, is proportionately one of the largest of any California city.

As a City Councilmember and as Mayor Oden worked tirelessly to promote respect for diversity through organizations such as the Palm Springs Human Rights Task Force, the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission, and the Palm Springs branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Oden was also noted for his support of community organizations such as United Way of the Desert, Shelter from the Storm, and Coachella Valley Counseling.

Brian Wanzek, known as Bella da Ball, is the ultimate community volunteer. Brian has served the community for over twenty years by volunteering, entertaining and helping to raise funds for many organizations, groups and charitable events. He’s recognized for helping others and bringing the community together. Bella has a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, has been recognized by Safe Schools Desert Cities as Champion for Youth for LBGT Youth in the Desert and the Herb Lazenby Community Service Award from AIDS Assistance Program. Other awards include being recognized with the Outstanding Community Service Leader award from the Desert Business Association, being named the inaugural Community Sweetheart at the 25th Festival of Lights Parade for the City of Palm Springs, and the P.S. I Love You award from the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce.


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