R.I. Politicians, GLBTs Turn Out for Spotlight Awards

by Tanya Rogers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday November 8, 2006

A well dressed crowd gathered outside the large glass doors of the Atrium at the Peerless Lofts in downtown Providence Nov.3 as they awaited entrance to the 2006 Rhode Island Pride Spotlight Awards, an annual tribute to the state's GLBTs and their friends.

Among those attending were GLBT community leaders and a slew of political candidates in the Nov. 7 election.

Prizes for the silent auction, including baskets of goodies and baseball cards, lined the tables at the entrance. Singer-song writer Josh Zuckerman, dressed in jeans and a mint green T-shirt, prepared the stage for his featured performance next to the large screen that played his music video. Illuminating the bricks along the back wall of the atrium was RI Pride's logo in lights.

2006 Pyramid of Pride honoree Alex Gorriaran greeted guests and received praise for all he has done to help the GLBT community. He served for more than nine years as Rhode Island Pride co-chair, and was a GLBT community liaison for former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci and a candidate for State Senate in District 5, Providence, in the September Democratic primary.

"This is an amazing honor to be recognized for the work I've done," Gorriaran told EDGE. "This event is a great opportunity to recognize unsung heroes in the community and those volunteers that do contribute endless hours."

Delicacies from dining establishments throughout Providence were available for guests to nibble on. Among the offerings were tasty treats from Tazza, McCormick & Shmick's, Geppetto's, Reflections Caf? and Catering, Gourmet Deli on the Square, Mediterraneo, Guy Abelson Events and Feast or Famine. Joseph Pietrzak, executive chief at Tazza, was there sharing in the celebration. "I try to get more and more involved in the community," Pietrzak explained in a conversation with EDGE. "Tazza has a diverse customer base and I'll try and support anyone that does well for the community."

RI Pride Co-Chair Rodney Davis began the festivities on stage by recognizing all the organization's volunteers. "In addition to raising money, we raise people," Davis announced to a praising crowd. Davis also thanked RI Pride sponsors and donors to the Spotlight Awards event.

Activist Lauren Nocera joined Davis on stage to introduce Marti Rosenberg, 2006 Spirit of Pride recipient. "I am proud to call her my friend," Nocera said. Rosenberg received the award for her work at Ocean State Action, including her many years of service on behalf of the GLBT community and for serving as an advocate, organizer, mentor and fighter for those who do not have a voice. Rosenberg encouraged the crowd. "I think some of us think we are done," she remarked. "But we are not done. We have to come out when we can. You gotta vote on Tuesday."

Davis told Rosenberg, "If we were to define a grassroots organizer, your picture would be there."

"The work of Rhode Island Pride is important because it ensures that we stop becoming invisible."

Providence Mayor David Cicilline congratulated Rosenberg and Gorriaran on their leadership. "The work of Rhode Island Pride is important because it ensures that we stop becoming invisible," the mayor emphasized. Cicilline urged that the community vote Democratic. "Tuesday you can change the direction of our country." As it turned out, he was right.

The event also recognized 2006 RI Pride parade prize winners. Photos of the floats were displayed on a large screen behind the stage as each award was announced. Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps of NYC received the Best Walking Unit prize. The Best Illuminated was presented to Pulse nightclub. Mirabar nightclub was awarded Most Original Float. Dark Lady/Alley Cat got the Best Interpretation of Theme prize. Davis presented the President's Award to [email protected] and the Committee Award was presented to Mantalk from Project Empower.

Watching was a large showing of political candidates in the race for R.I. public office. Sheldon Whitehouse, now U.S. senator-elect, arrived early and sifted through the crowd. In an interview with EDGE, Whitehouse explained that he came to the event because "Alex [Gorriaran] invited me, so I thought it was important to be here. I'm trying to be at as many important community events as I can."

In speaking with EDGE, House Majority Leader Gordon Fox shared that he is a historic supporter of RI Pride and is pleased for the award recipients. "Alex [Gorriaran] is fabulous and I often look to Marti [Rosenberg] for advice," he pointed out. In addition, Fox said he hopes the same-sex marriage bill "gets a vote in committee [in 2007]."

Charles Fogarty, the Democratic candidate for governor, arrived midway through the festivities and told EDGE, "I came to this event because it is an important place to be. It is important to be in all aspects of the community." He narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri on Election Day.

The only Republican candidate in attendance was Bill Harsch, campaigning for attorney general. Incumbent Patrick Lynch was not there, although he is a known supporter of the GLBT community. Lynch was re-elected Nov. 7.

Also there to celebrate was former Miss Gay Rhode Island Sabrina Blaze, 2003 recipient of RI Pride's Best Illuminated Float award, dressed in a flurry of silver sparkles. "It's a great event," Blaze told EDGE. "I have to be here." Miss Haley Starr, pretty in pink, and Miss Gingerale, blushing in blue, also fluttered through the crowd.

The famous Miss Kitty Litter, shimmering and glimmering in gold, raised money for RI Pride by leading the live auction. She received a positive response from attendees of the event, after initially announcing that RI pride is in need of funds.

Rocky Graziano, Mr. Gay RI, who recently returned from the Mr. Gay USA competition in Palm Springs, Calif., was there, too. He told EDGE, "I'm still want to do more community service the GLBT community in Rhode Island."

The gala concluded soon after the premiere of the RI Pride Video Retrospect, which highlighted its members and volunteers whose actions have a significant impact on the state's GLBT community.

Tanya C. Rogers, a native Rhode Islander, is co-founder of Creating Organized Awareness and teaches Writing and Literature at Johnson & Wales University's Providence, RI campus.