Balloons from Balloons Galore & More filled the room, people were dancing in the aisles, and the good cheer—and determination—were palpable. That was the scene at the Venue in Wilton Manors last Wednesday evening—we were never prouder of our business community. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we assert our values and honor the event’s attendees—leaders like Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and our June cover star, Stacy Ritter, who has told SFBW in no uncertain terms: “I think we should all be supportive of people’s basic rights to live their lives, regardless of who they are, how they identify, and who they love. I don’t understand people who don’t think that way.”
With South Florida assuming its place as one of the country’s most multicultural regions—where race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender and gender expression are not barriers to success, but rather enhance it—we have business leaders like our event’s attendees to thank for their commitment to a society of belonging. South Florida’s vibrancy and unique identity would be inconceivable without our honorees and everyone who showed up in force to cheer them on in a festive atmosphere emceed by the super-talented Miss Bouvee. Did I say “festive”? Actually, it was joyous! It’s hard to be noticed when you’re standing beside a 7-foot-tall drag queen with cotton candy hair, but I did wear my (hastily-purchased-from-Amazon) “Love Is Love” Pride T-shirt, which could not compete with the resplendently colorful shoes on co-presenters Kim Sarni (managing director, SFBW) and Michelle Simon (president of Lifestyle).
Lifestyle Media Group and SFBW are especially invested in these awards, because—like the honorees to be represented in the pages of our upcoming July issue—we have taken a proactive approach to nurturing the careers and talents of everyone, and have benefited from their skills, vision and positions in leadership. Our message of inclusiveness follows from the design of the original 1978 Pride flag and its more recent iteration. These symbols represent the LGBTQ+ community in particular, and the rainbow of humanity in general—people who insisted on their civil rights at Stonewall, at Selma, at Seneca Falls, and in places that the history books didn’t record but are no less important to anyone who is, or ever has been, oppressed, ostracized and other-ized based on their essential selves.
Every time we recommit to our values in this way, we continue to chip away at both the overt and subtle barriers to advancement that many people in marginalized communities still endure, no matter how capable, brilliant and talented. No one should be in the shadows. Quite the opposite. With a nod to the great gay American Stephen Sondheim, our event epitomized his lyrics, Curtain Up, Light the Lights! You can’t underestimate visibility: It is the lifeblood of compassion and understanding, belonging and celebration.
The business leaders we honored represented a diverse group, from entrepreneurs and C-suite executives to rising stars, to leaders of professional associations and the nonprofit world. Each has made an indelible contribution to their organization and the community at large. We entertained nominees from all over South Florida, with honorees selected by our executive board.
We’d like to thank all our sponsors for supporting this essential event and making known their allyship and commitment to equality. We’d also like to praise the absolutely delicious cupcakes from Misha’s Cupcakes, a women-owned business in Miami, that delivered on their promise to provide gourmet treats every attendee enjoyed.
—Editor-in-Chief Drew Limsky & the team at South Florida Business & Wealth