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About The Event

Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ Heritage Day takes place during the month of October in honor of LGBTQ+ History Month. This year, the event will take place on Thursday, October 19th, 2023. It is a day for the community to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the vitality and betterment of Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ community in the areas of Advocacy & Activism, Health & Wellness, Public Service, Arts & Culture, LGBTQ+ Legacy, Rising Leader, and Workplace Inclusion.

Nominations will be reviewed by a committee of Cleveland's LGBTQ+ community members and previous Heritage Day award recipients.

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ADVOCACY AND ACTIVISM AWARD

KAMERON & LENNON PEPERA

Lennon and Kameron are kind, compassionate, brave humans who work tirelessly to ensure a future for gender and sexually diverse youth amidst great adversity and despair. They fearlessly navigate political and societal threats on a daily basis in order to serve as a voice and hero for LGBTQ+ youth across the nation.

The work they do supports LGBTQ+ youth, their parents and friends and allies; the breadth of impact is profound across the entire community. Their efforts strive to secure a future for the LGBTQ+ community through advocacy for youth, supporting policy and protections at a national federal level. Their work impacts people across the U.S.

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ARTS AND CULTURE AWARD

ALEX FRAZIER

Alex Frazier is a Black, queer, Trans, artist, community organizer, educator and harm reductionist from northeast Ohio. Their work strives towards the liberation of Black queer, Trans, and intersex people from all walks –of- life. Alex is sometimes known as Shay, from the dynamic sexual health duo Shay & TK, and Rev. Juanita Bind’Em, drag educator extraordinaire.

Alex is a fierce advocate for equitable working environments through the incorporation of transformative justice and liberation policies and practices. They use their platforms to educate others on anti-oppression techniques, advocate fiercely for the marginalized, and consistently disrupt the status quo. Alex has an intrinsic gift for creating affirming spaces where all folks can experience joy and jubilation. Alex challenges others to move beyond the role of allies and transform into co-conspirators and accomplices.

Alex works in central Ohio, but they live in Cleveland, their work impacts employees, patients, and community members alike all over the state of Ohio. Listed below, is a snapshot of some of their work from the past 8 years, but is in no way comprehensive. Alex Frazier has worked as a community organizer and a fierce advocate for folks living with HIV. During their tenure at Equitas Health, they spearheaded projects like The Liberation Health Model Trainings, Whip Smart: An Inclusive Exploration of Consent Culture, Kink, BDSM, and The Ohio Youth Leadership Summit: 2020-2022, as well as participated in community support programming like the Equitas Health’s Racial Justice Funding Grant.

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HEALTH AND WELLNESS AWARD

AKEEM ROLLINS

Akeem brings his whole self to his work to prevent HIV within the Black LGBTQ+ community. His lived experience is at the core of his dedication and knowledge to the barriers and facilitators that impact HIV prevention. He expresses these experiences through the art of spoken word, and organizes outreach and actions to be as effective and actually reach the intended communities who are greatly impacted by HIV, racism, and stigma due to various social and political disparities. Akeem is a fighter and pushes through negativity and obstacles both for himself and for his community.

Akeem has been active in Cleveland since he was 14 and began to perform slam poetry, an artistic outlet that allowed him to express and process the challenges he had experienced in life, a form of expression and processing that he continues to this day. Akeem got connected to the LGBTQ youth programs and eventually would begin working at the LGBT Community Center in their YOYA (youth and young adult) programming. Akeem would lead the youth to be engaged around important queer topics, while also creating space for youth to socialize and meet others. Akeem led programs that were geared at safer-sex and HIV prevention. Building on this knowledge and incorporating his own experience Akeem has carved an important niche in their efforts to effect change and work to reduce new HIV infections in Greater Cleveland. He has been working as an HIV Early Intervention Specialist with MetroHealth for the past 5 years.

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PUBLIC SERVICE AWARD

JEFF BIXBY

Educator, activist, and humanitarian: Jeff Bixby has spent his life dedicated to being authentically himself while working to make schools safer for all students in Ohio and throughout the country.

As an activist, Jeff’s positive spirit and dedication started while on the campus of Kent State University, and he still remains committed to his early ideals of justice for all, learning through the arts, and connecting with people.

Jeff retired from teaching in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2008 after teaching for 30 years. Through the 1980s, Jeff apologetically lived his truth as a teacher and gay man. In a time before Internet, Jeff was reaching folks across the country with informative reports on LGBTQ+ history by appearing as the host of the public access TV show, “This Week in Gay History,” on the Gay Cable Network.

Additionally, at both a national and state level, Jeff has worked tirelessly to improve the conditions for LGBTQ+ teachers as part of the earliest Caucuses on LGBT issues for the American Federation of Teachers’ Union and subsequent committees as a Ohio representative. Jeff’s commitment to education did not stop with just teachers but also extended to students as a founding member of GLSEN Cincinnati in the early 1990s, followed by continued work in Northeast Ohio until present day.

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RISING LEADER AWARD

RILEY ROLIFF

Riley is one of the most important LGBTQ+ journalists in Ohio and her words have inspired real and true change across the state. With reporting that focuses on trans issues and the role of money in politics, in the last few months alone, she has had articles in The Nation ("How Solitary Confinement Is Used as a Weapon Against Trans People"), The Ohio Capital Journal ("Sponsor of Ohio trans youth health care ban claims no religious motive. Sermon suggests otherwise"), and The Buckeye Flame (10 pieces). Her work has been cited nationally, including in The Advocate, the gold standard for *any* LGBTQ+ journalist, much less a college student.

Her investigative work into how solitary confinement has been used against trans people has sparked *vital* dialogue around incarceration. Her research into the past sermons of Ohio Representative Gary Click have helped the nation understand how one individual's anti-LGBTQ+ views can help shape the introduction of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. And the her work to amplify the efforts of an Ohio-based LGBTQ+ library helped them reach their funding goals to open this much-needed resource.

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LGBTQ+ LEGACY AWARD

BRYNNA FISH

Brynna Fish is a Cleveland lesbian icon. She is very well known in the Boomer and Gen X lesbian community as an out-and-proud lesbian feminist and activist. In addition, she is also well known nationally as a supportive contact in Cleveland for women when they visit here. She is kind, direct, engaged, and willing to show up.

Brynna grew up in Youngstown and studied social work at Yeshiva University before moving to Cleveland Heights in 1979. She holds and represents the intersectional identities of being Jewish and lesbian. She is well known for coordinating the annual Womyn's Variety Show and music festivals with Oven Productions and her founding of Chevrei Tikvah, a gay and lesbian synagogue, in 1983. She is also known for organizing Cleveland's annual Cleveland Pride Parade and Festival for many years.

Brynna is a living testament to the power of unrelenting commitment to social equity and justice. For over 30 years, her unwavering dedication to advancing the cause of equality has left an indelible mark on the communities she has served. Brynna's legacy is defined by her tireless efforts to promote inclusivity, challenge discrimination, and fight for the rights of those who have been marginalized by society. Her pioneering work spans a wide range of fields, from education and advocacy to policy development and community building. As a trailblazer and change agent, Brynna Fish has demonstrated her capacity to inspire individuals and organizations to embrace the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, making a lasting impact on the lives of many Cleveland lesbians.

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LGBTQ+ LEGACY AWARD

JEROME LITTLEJOHN

Jerome Littlejohn carried a strong presence in the LGBT community and was a warm beacon of hope and resillience in the AIDS/HIV community. As a tester, Jerome helped countless people learn of their status. As a counselor Jerome was both comforting and informative. As a Black Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, Jerome continued to break down institutional barries that furtherd their work in the AIDS/HIV community.

Jerome passed this year, yet their legacy certainly lives on. When the history of Cleveland's LGBTQ+ community is written, it would be incomplete without a mention of Jerome Littlejohn.

The breadth and diverse nature of Jermoe’s work left a mark on Cleveland’s queer community forever. As a Black tester and Sister, Jerome blazed trails and made room for others to follow in his footsteps. Across genders and sexualities, through Jerome's work with B. Riley House he reached more communities and was so beloved there that his memorial was held on the property. Jerome regularly supported the kink community by being a fixture at leather bars in the Greater Cleveland region and regularly volunteered for CLAW.

award categories

Advocacy and Activism:

This award is to honor an individual for their outstanding commitment to advocating for positive change in the areas of social equity, inclusion, and support of marginalized populations. An honoree is a member of the LGBTQ+ community whose selfless acts have directly made an impact in making Cleveland a more socially just, diverse, and equitable community for folks of every background to thrive. They recognize that making Cleveland a better place for LGBTQ+ people benefits everyone. This person role models bold action, whether working at the grass-roots level, the policy level, or somewhere between. (Community organizers, advocates, policy-makers, etc.)

Arts & Culture:

The award for Arts & Culture honors an individual who has contributed significantly to the creation and or preservation of LGBTQ+ culture and heritage. An honoree is a member of the LGBTQ+ community who uses their talents to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ people while demonstrating the impact of creative contributions. The recipient of this award should demonstrate a love of culture and art, as well as a devotion to sharing this love with their community. (Musicians, sculptors, writers, painters, etc.)

Health & Wellness:

The award for Health & Wellness honors an individual for impactful accomplishments in the fields of health care, health care education, and social services. An honoree may be an LGBTQ+ health care professional, care coordinator, or counselor whose work displays a commitment to the community by tackling disparity in service delivery to LGBTQ+ consumers. Through their exceptional skills and expertise, this honoree addresses the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the realms of health and wellness. (Doctors, helping professionals, non-traditional wellness providers, therapists, etc.)

Public Service:

The award for Public Service honors an individual who has made significant contributions to the livelihood and vitality of Cleveland and its LGBTQ+ community. An honoree is a member of the LGBTQ+ community who might be the quintessential good neighbor, team member, representative, or volunteer. This person gives their time, guidance and assistance to improve the community through the promotion of LGBTQ+ visibility and issues. (Teachers, faith leaders, volunteers, public officials, etc.)

Rising Leader:

The award for Rising Leader honors an individual who is 24 years or younger who has shown initiative, promise, drive, and/or creativity in promoting LGBTQ+ equality. An honoree is a member of the LGBTQ+ community who uses their energy to spread awareness of LGBTQ+ issues, to support their LGBTQ+ peers, to volunteer for LGBTQ+ causes, to create safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community, or otherwise embodies the spirit and ideals of LGBTQ+ activism at an early age. The recipient of this award should be active in their community, whether it is their civic community, their school community, their work community, or an online community. (GSA leaders, school leaders, community activists, online content creators, event planners, etc.)

NOTE: Rising Leaders will be eligible to be nominated for future Heritage Day awards five years after receiving this award.

Workplace Inclusion:

The award for Workplace Inclusion honors an individual who has committed to creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals in their workplaces. An honoree is a member of the LGBTQ+ community who uses their position to advocate for more inclusive policies, recognition of LGBTQ+ employees, and visibility for their community. The recipient of this award should demonstrate a commitment to advancing the movement for LGBTQ+ equality in professional settings. (Establishing Employee Resource Groups, Policy Advocacy, Diversity Committees, etc.)

LGBTQ+ Legacy

The award for LGBTQ+ Legacy honors an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the Northeast Ohio LGBTQ+ community for over 10 years. Their commitment to the well-being of our community covers a wide range of public service, making it easy for them to have been nominated for multiple Heritage Day categories. They have worked in many different areas of advocacy and inclusion and have held leadership positions where they helped make significant strides to support and advance the quality of life for all in their community.

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