SFBW Makes a Strong Stand at the Diversity & Inclusion Awards

At a critical time, SFBW and its partners and sponsors came out in force for the magazine’s first Diversity and Inclusion Awards in what is planned to be an annual event. Held, appropriately enough, in Wilton Manors at the Venue, the awards were announced by Jennifer Starkey, vice president of diversity and inclusion at TD Bank, the presenting sponsor, and SFBW managing director Kim Sarni, while former LMG chairman Gary Press made a stirring statement about the need for love and acceptance.

Press movingly recounted the ways in which his brother faced discrimination and ostracism for being gay and his struggles as he endured the debilitating effects of AIDS and suffered an untimely, tragic death. He spoke of how heartlessness can become casual and automatic and how dreams get dashed when society refuses to see the value in every one of us. In his program letter, he described his “wakeup call to how cruel and prejudiced people can be, my wakeup call to the callousness of those who consider themselves ‘good people’ when they dismiss the value and humanity of others. Words and actions matter, and so does being seen.”

During his remarks, he described his experiences with his brother as “a brick in the face” and “an incredible awakening” to “the horrors of prejudice” based not only on sexual orientation, but also on race and religion. And he made it plain that SFBW and Lifestyle Media Group brook no intolerance: “I don’t tolerate any sort of prejudice in my life,” he said, to robust applause. “In the companies I’ve built over the last 25, 30 years, there is no place for anybody who is not tolerant.” He recalled turning away job applicants when their professional masks slipped, and their prejudices were revealed. “There is no path to success in our organizations for intolerant people,” he said. “That’s the way we do business.”

Sponsors represented a range of sectors, from health care to banking to education to tourism to professional services to businesses large and small, and included Florida Blue (gold); Minuteman Press (silver); Memorial Hospital, physician Shimo Bay, Visit Lauderdale and the World AIDS Museum (diamond); and AutoNation, Broward College, Culture Accelerators and Marsh McLennan Agency (sapphire).

The fact that such a vibrant sampling of South Florida industries and entities nominated their personnel and signed on to make the event happen proved a powerful statement. “To culminate in something like this makes me feel so honored.” Press said. “So many people here tonight receiving these awards shines a very bright light on diversity and inclusion in South Florida.”

Photo by Eduardo Schneider

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