On June 8, 2018 the Florida Diversity Council held the 7th Annual LGBT Allies Diversity Summit in Orlando, FL.  The event, held at The University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, had over 200 allies in attendance and a powerful keynote speaker, Barbara Poma, owner of the Pulse Nightclub.

The event began with a panel of voices from the LGBT community: George Wallace, Executive Director at LGBT+ Center Orlando, Jennifer Walls, Senior Vice President / Area Sales Director at Lee Hecht Harrison and Marco Antonio Quiroga, Program Director at Contigo Fund.  These allies shared stories of how they have helped build relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability in their respective communities and workplaces. Participants who were interested in improving their own influence were given the opportunity to ask questions and advice of the panelists. The panelists’ stories helped participants gain insight into how to practice impactful allyship by sharing the types of work and effort that are appropriate when connecting with those we are seeking to show solidarity with.    

After the panel session, the breakout sessions began.  Two breakout sessions were offered: LGBT Equality and Civil Right – Legal Analysis on the Issues lead by Carrington Mead, Owner & Attorney at Carrington Madison Mead P.A and Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace lead by Dr. Michael Denton, Faculty Higher Education and College Student Affairs degree program at the University of South Florida and Dr. Leia Cain, Faculty Educational Measurement & Research Program, Women & Gender Studies program at the University of South Florida.

In the LGBT Equality and Civil Right – Legal Analysis on the Issues session, participants learned about the legal struggles faced by the LGBT community.  Mead explained the negative impact that current legislature, or lack thereof, have on civil rights. He spoke about how this affects access to military & veteran benefits and compensation, estate planning, probate and guardianship.

He also shared that members of the LGBT community are fighting for access to healthcare, financial ownership and other rights that a heterosexual married couple are entitled to.

In the Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace session, Drs. Denton and Cain challenged the notion of binary gender identity.  Dr.Cain shared her research on everyday experiences of LBGTQIA individuals, specifically addressing the difficulties a transgender individual faces before, during and after transition.  She shared how companies can change some of their practices to be more inclusive, starting at the job application process.

Keynote speaker Barbara Poma, owner of the Pulse Nightclub, shared her story and powerful testimony of how the community came together after the devastating massacre that occurred at the nightclub in June 2016. Participants were moved to tears by her story and recollection of the events that took place.  Poma started with a touching story about the struggles her gay brother faced growing up and how this influenced her decision to open the Pulse Nightclub. She described the nightclub as a place that the LGBT community could be proud to bring their moms, and it was. Poma then described the graphic events of that tragic night at the Pulse Nightclub when a mass shooting left 49 victims dead and 53 people injured.

Poma described the shock and unimaginable loss and hardship experienced by the LGBT community. She then described the outpouring of support by the LGBT community and allies after the tragedy.  

Since the shooting, she has shifted her focus on preserving the memory of those who lost their lives, survivors and their loved ones. Poma now serves as executive director of OnePulse Foundation, Inc. which has been established to oversee a community initiative to create a permanent memorial that will stand at the Pulse Nightclub. The memorial will serve as a reminder to all those who stop or drive by of the innocent people who lost their lives in the tragedy. Today, a temporary memorial stands at the nightclub until a permanent one is built to honor the memory of those who perished.


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