Al Dia: Award Highlights Latino LGBT Leaders

Jose de Marco said he didn't expect to receive the award but is honored that Galaei is recognizing his work.

The David Acosta Revolutionary Leadership Award is presented to a member of the Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who displays the same revolutionary leadership as the founder of the award, David A. Acosta.

This year, Galaei, an organization that raises awareness about Latino LGBT issues, especially HIV/AIDS, will honor Jose de Marco.

Elicia Gonzales, the executive director of Galaei, said the organization decided to present the first award in 2010 because the group wanted to showcase different leaders in the community.

Gonzales said, “In working in the field of HIV and LGBT issues, we always think of work that is yet to be done and it’s such a grueling and difficult job.”

The award was created in honor of Acosta, the founder of Galaei.

Gonzales said, “I think another indirect benefit is people see that they have a chance. It inspires others to make changes in community and to step up.”

Of the 14 nominations, a panel of three people from Galaei chose Marco as the recipient based on his passionate leadership in the community, which aligns with Galaei’s mission to increase awareness.

Gonzales said: “[Marco] just really stood out. He’s been fighting in the HIV world for decades since the beginning. He has been outspoken and open about his status. He is an individual who is just really willing to go above and beyond to advocate on behalf of people living with AIDS and HIV.”

Marco has been involved with ACT UP, a nonpartisan group aiming to end the AIDS crisis through direct action, since 1996. He is an organizer for demonstrations to raise awareness about HIV issues. He said he really got involved after his partner died of the disease.

“I got to see the injustice that comes along living with HIV/AIDS,” Marco said. “It’s a disease not a disgrace.”

Gonzales said Marco is an advocate who has been helping to raise money and awareness in the community for years and hasn’t been recognized for his accomplishments in the past.

Marco said, “I’m really happy that I’m being recognized by my peers for work that I do but we have a long way to go.”

Gonzales said when she called Marco to tell him he had been selected he was speechless.

Gonzales said: “I thought the phone got disconnected. I was like ‘Jose, Jose?’ and he was so quiet and completely astonished and e couldn’t believe he was selected.”

Gonzales is anticipating that last year’s recipient, Biancah Melanie Ortiz, 19, a transgender who fought marginalization while in the juvenile justice system, will help present the award.

Gonzales said she expects about 100 people at the ceremony on April 13 at 5 p.m. It is open to the public and will be held at City Hall.

“I think it’s going to be an every year thing,” Gonzales said. “There’s plenty of people who need to be recognized.”

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