The Rev. Dan Rodriguez-Schlorff is an activist and ordained minister. As an activist, he crusades for marriage equality, ballot fairness, media democracy and single-payer universal healthcare. He has broken several glass ceilings in Illinois politics, as the youngest person to run for Illinois State Treasurer; the first openly gay candidate to run for any statewide office in Illinois; the first person of Asian descent to run for a statewide executive office in Illinois; and, by gaining well over 150,000 votes in the general election, helping the Illinois Green Party become a constitutionally 'established' party in spite of the state's fear-based election laws.
From 2003-2006, Dan co-chaired the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry Chicago. As a political activist and financial resource, Schlorff has appeared on radio and television programs, including News at Noon ( WGN-9 ) ; Chicago Tonight and Candidate Free Time ( WTTW-11 ) ; and Chicago Public Radio.
As a minister, Dan marries same-sex couples, preaches across the Midwest and serves Broadway United Methodist Church as a candidate for authorized ministry. While already recognized by the Congregationalist movement as an ordained minister, Dan also seeks fellowship with both the Unitarian Universalist Association and Metropolitan Community Church.
Dan holds degrees from Meadville Lombard Theological School and Olivet Nazarene University. He is a certified senior advisor and is soon to complete his training towards becoming certified also as a financial planner. Dan sings with the Windy City Gay Chorus and resides in Lakeview. He works with Bradford Community Church ( Unitarian Universalist ) as Director of Religious Education and with Adair Associates as Director of Resource Development.
DID YOU KNOW? Dan once felt called by God to marry outside his gender and travel across the country with his wife and seven children, preaching the 'purifying' gospel of Jesus Christ.
Justin Hill's interest in HIV/AIDS and its impact on marginal communities stems from his work with AIDS activist/academician Dr. Cathy J. Cohen, the Black AIDS Institute and the Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago ( U. of C. ) .
After graduating from the U. of C. with a degree in law, letters and society, Justin worked as the psychosocial coordinator for Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ) . There, he tracked and monitored clients who utilized the psychosocial support and, from this data, drafted Ryan White Title 1 reports. In addition, his work with HIV-positive clients with a history of substance abuse emboldened his belief in the need for responsive activism, policy and advocacy. He now works for AIDSCare, helping the agency analyze the link between homelessness, HIV/AIDS and poverty-stricken communities.
Justin, 23, has facilitated or been a part of several HIV/AIDS conferences, projects and events. He is an executive board member of Leaders in the Fight to Eradicate AIDS ( LIFEAIDS ) . As a part of the board, he helped host the 3rd Annual Teach-In and Town Hall meeting for students at Tuskegee University. At the 2006 Toronto International AIDS Conference, Justin served as both a community rapporteur and a youth delegate. He has also served on the International AIDS Conference's Scholarship Working Group as well as their Youth Advisory Committee.
Most recently, Justin helped found 4 Brothers Chicago, a networking group for young gay Black men in Chicago. In addition, he is also working with academician Yvonne Welbon, along with U. of C. graduate students, on a Black Queer Media Maker project.
DID YOU KNOW? Justin secretly aspires to be the lead protagonist voice in a Disney animated feature.
24, AIDS ACTIVIST
Figueroa, 24, is a dedicated community activist who has worked in the HIV/AIDS field for 10 years. At the tender age of 14, she began engaging and educating the Belmont youth community around sexual health issues. She also took her experience of being a child of HIV-positive parents to local elementary and high schools to educate youth and adults around HIV/AIDS, proudly becoming known as the 'condom girl.' Through her volunteer work at Children's Place and Chicago House, working with children and families impacted by HIV, she was inspired to pursue a life of work in social activism. While in college, Natalie continued her work with Chicago House through the National AIDS Fund Americorps team. She had the opportunity of working with mothers and children who lived at Chicago House, helping with daily activities, conducting sex education classes with their children and holding seminars specific to the needs of the mothers.
Figueroa spends a few weeks during her summer with the families at Camp Getaway, providing social and emotional support to children impacted by the virus. She also has begun to volunteer with the Leftist Lounge-Chicago to promote awareness around the interconnected social justice issues, and makes it a point to integrate and speak out for HIV/AIDS issues, as well as queer and women's rights.
Last year, she ran the Chicago Marathon and raised $4,000 for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Professionally, Figueroa is working at Howard Brown Health Center as a youth case manager with the PATH program, which serves the needs of HIV-positive youth ages 13 to 24. She provides case management to HIV-positive youth ages 16 to 24. She is currently working on a BA in social work from Loyola University Chicago.
DID YOU KNOW? Natalie's guilty pleasure is singing along to R. Kelly songs!
26, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Gasch hails from Cleveland, Ohio, where he studied choreography and sociology at Case Western Reserve University. As a contracted teacher, he designed and taught literacy through fine arts in low-income neighborhoods as part of an initiative to bridge the socioeconomic gap between surrounding residential areas. He also has seven years experience teaching competition and exhibition choirs and drill teams at several area high schools.
Upon moving to Chicago, Ken taught basic gymnastics and movement,;worked as a puppeteer and interpreter at the Shedd Aquarium; and danced with the Boofont Sisters cabaret. In 2004, he choreographed 'Africa & Plumbridge: The Musical,' premiering at the New York Fringe Festival, and served as dance captain for an independent musical film by SpeakProductions tht has played at over 40 festivals around the world and has won awards at festivals such as OutFest 2004 and the Sydney Mardi Gras Film Festival.
Ken is the artistic director for HouseHold Arts Collective, a multidisciplinary non-profit that produces dance concerts, art galleries and other public events to benefit local charities such as the Center on Halsted, one if its first beneficiaries in 2004.
He is also currently helping to develop a youth dance program for Horizons GLBT Youth Group; assisting the Association of Latino Men for Action in managing production of special events; choreographing the opening entertainment at Human Rights Campaign's annual gala; and has volunteered for two years at International Mr. Leather. Additionally, he plays on the only gay team in a co-ed recreational soccer league and plans on returning to the Chicago Riptide water polo team in the fall.
DID YOU KNOW? As a kid, Ken liked to see how many times he could jump rope off the back of his parents' couch; his favorite K-Tel record was Goofy Greats; and his nickname was 'Fudgebucket' ( for reasons we won't go into ) .
26, TRANS-RIGHTS ACTIVIST
Vea Cleary is a feisty and passionate young woman who currently works at the Broadway Youth Center ( BYC ) as a project coordinator for the new Life Skills Program, which works with young transgender women, where she helped developed the curriculum and works as an intervention specialist. While at BYC, she has also worked on the re-invention of the Transwomen Informing Sister Transwomen about AIDS ( TWISTA ) curriculum. At BYC, Vea has also been responsible for coordinating a federally-funded HIV prevention grant targeting trans youth of color.
Prior to her work at BYC, she worked with the Poor People's Economic Human Right Campaign, as well as with Project Safe. Vea received her B.A. in socioeconomics and gender studies from Sarah Lawrence College.
DID YOU KNOW? This spicy Cancerian is looking for her husband, so if you've met him, please introduce her!
Jeremy Gottschalk is a graduate of Marquette University and Loyola University Chicago School of Law. At Loyola, Jeremy focused on pediatric law, which is the representation of abused children and victims of domestic violence, and intellectual property law. Currently, Jeremy practices intellectual property and corporate law at one of Chicago's top law firms, Bell, Boyd & Lloyd LLP.
Aside from his law firm practice, Jeremy focuses on bridging the gap between the legal community and the LGBT and HIV/AIDS community. Specifically, as the coordinator of legal programs for Howard Brown Health Center, he has established a network of law firms that provide pro bono legal representation for clients of Howard Brown's Ryan White Case Management Program. Jeremy also designs and executes various direct-service legal programs, including legal seminars and workshops for the community.
Under his leadership of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, various scholarships will be awarded to law students interning at Lambda Legal. The scholarship funding comes from Lawyers for Diversity, which is a fundraising program Jeremy created to channel money from Chicago's largest law firms to local LGBT organizations, including the Center on Halsted, PFLAG and Equality Illinois. Later this year, he will lead a team introducing the ABA-endorsed, nationally-recognized HIV Legal Check-Up Project, which will offer legal needs assessments to individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
In addition to his involvement in the legal community, Jeremy is active in expanding LGBT civil rights in Illinois as a board member of Equality Illinois ( EI ) and its education project. For the last two years, Jhe has chaired the organization's annual gala and has been instrumental in various fundraising efforts to raise money for EI in support of its mission to secure, protect and defend equal rights for LGBT people in Illinois.
DID YOU KNOW? Jeremy took tap dance for a few years at Marquette. Also, as a kid, Donny Osmond was the only famous person he ever wanted to meet ( and eventually met him ) .
23, OPALGA LEADER
Andrew Walensa has been working with Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association ( OPALGA ) since he stumbled into their youth group at the age of 16. With the help of Susan Abbott ( Youth Program Director ) and OPALGA, Andrew has grown from a shy, closeted drop-in group participant to a strong, gay leader. He is an intricate part of the OPALGA Youth and Young Adult Network. Currently, Andrew is the weekly facilitator of Spectrum, OPALGA's 18 and up drop-in group.
Andrew is also one of the founders and leader of OPALGA's OUTspoken, a creative art group where youth and young adults use art to show the world from a LGBTQ perspective. The OUTspoken workshop experiments with different mediums of art ( poetry, creative writing, visual art and acting ) to share their stories and make social comments on society. The OUTspoken workshop prides itself in creating a community of LGBTQ artists that inspire each other to create and share their artistic work. Since its creation in 2004, OUTspoken has performed at numerous events, established a quaterly underground magazine called the OUTspoken ZINE and has held several showcases.
In 2005, Andrew was honored with a leadership award form National Youth Advocacy Coalition for the work he has done with OPALGA and the GLBTQ community. Additionally, he is a senior at Columbia College Chicago, where he is majoring in advertising art direction, and is ready to dive into the exciting world of the visual communication industry. His goal is to impact the world through art and advocacy.
DID YOU KNOW? Andrew is afraid of needles and blood, and once passed out at a piercing parlor.
LETICIA 'LETTY' MARTINEZ
25, HEALTH EDUCATOR
Leticia Martinez, a.k.a. Letty, works as a health educator at the Broadway Youth Center. Her duties include health dducation and testing for HIV and STDs.
In the early '90s, she began working in prevention at the age of 13 as a volunteer peer educator at Stop AIDS Chicago and Teen Living Programs. Letty then began working at Howard Brown as an outreach worker and case finder, and continues to work at the Broadway Youth Center as lead health educator. She has a fierce dedication to educating all young people about HIV, prevention, education, resources and community. She hopes to one day become a medical provider so that she can help better serve young LGBTQ people and promote sex-positive messages and healthier decision making.
Letty has worked on and off with Howard Brown for over 10 years, wandering off to pursue other interests, such as cosmotology school, the U.S. Navy, retail and phlebotomy, but she always returns to the work she loves—education. She has always considered Howard Brown her home away from home.
DID YOU KNOW? Letty is a marksman with an M-16 rifle.
Ebonii Warren-Watts, a South Side native, is a fierce female illusionist by night and a Howard Brown Health Center employee by day. Currently, she supports the Broadway Youth Center's drop-in program for homeless, runaway and LGBTQ young people as a program assistant. She is also a facilitator for BYC's TWISTA group, an HIV prevention program for trans women of color.
Recently, Ebonii—otherwise known as 'Ms. Mercedes Bonet'—finished first runner-up at the Miss Windy City Continental 2007, and will be competing for the Miss Continental 2007 title this fall. She was named K.C. Production's Best Female Illusionist Newcomer in 2006 and Best Dressed Female Illusionist in 2007. She began her transition at the age of 16 and was featured in Blacklines about her transition and trans activism in high school. She was later featured in a Human Rights Campaign documentary about her life and experiences with an adopted LGBT family.
DID YOU KNOW? Ebonii can be found talking on her cell phone and working the neighborhood with her 30-inch ball python, Boe-Boe.
24, SPECIAL-EVENTS MANAGER
Jeff Souva grew up in rural northern Michigan, learning the importance of community involvement from his active and hardworking parents. In college, he took those lessons to heart and was extremely active in student organizing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. For two years, Jeff co-chaired the LGBT Commission of the Michigan Student Assembly, organizing annual new student welcome picnics, National Coming Out Week and Queer Visibility Week festivities.
After studying abroad in London, Jeff returned to campus and co-facilitated a semester-long intergoup dialogue course between LGB and heterosexual students; volunteered for the HIV/AIDS Resource Center ( HARC ) doing safer sex outreach with the MSM population; and traveled during spring break to New York City to volunteer for God's Love We Deliver, preparing and delivering meals to PWAs and other homebound clients.
In June 2005, after graduating with a degree in sociology and sub-concentration in social inequality, he moved to Chicago to work with Center on Halsted. During his time at the Center, Jeff has been a member of the development team, organizing fundraising events and managing agency volunteers. Now that the Center is open, Souva looks forward to his newest role as Manager of Volunteer Programs and spending more time working with our diverse and talented community in Chicago.
DID YOU KNOW? A city dweller now, Jeff grew up a country boy, raising prize-winning sheep.
20, IMMIGRATION/AIDS ACTIVIST
Nadia Carrasco was born in Mexico, and her family came to the United States in 1994. Brought up in a politically active family, she organized at school and helped to form the group Students for Immigrant Rights at University of Illinois at Chicago, which organized for both the May 1 march and the March 10 Rally for Immigrant Rights, bringing people out through banner drop-offs, forums and speak-outs on campus. Through this work she became involved in La Coalicion 10 de Marzo and the International Socialist Organization.
Nadia believes in the importance of connecting struggles and exploring the intersections of oppressions like those based on ability, gender, class, race, sexual orientation, economic status and immigration status. A student of Gender and Woman's Studies at UIC, she got involved in an HIV prevention peer-education program with CALOR, organizing workshops to talk and share knowledge with other youth about HIV, STIs and sex. She is currently conducting interviews with different members of her community to further explore the particular realities youth face in relation to sex.
A volunteer for Homofrecuencia, she is head of the GSA Public High School Outreach Committee. She also worked on communication outreach for Queer Prom, and is currently a part of Arte y Realidad, an artist collective in Little Village.
DID YOU KNOW? Carrasco is currently learning Kendo, and twirling other things soon to be lit on fire.
28, DANCER/EVENT MANAGER
Brent Caburnay is a former professional dancer. He continues to participate in numerous benefit dance performances including Dance for Life, which raised over $2 million for HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs. In addition, he was in the cast of 'Dance Divas' and 'Who's That Girl?,' and has performed in events for Center on Halsted, Chicago House, Howard Brown Health Center and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, all benefiting programs that support Chicago's LGBT community.
After retiring from professional dance, Brent co-created and co-chaired Center on Halsted's First Bloom, a champagne brunch and French market, raising over $30,000 for Center on Halsted's community and cultural programs. He served on Center on Halsted's Human First Gala committee and worked as the Lakeview Citizens' Council's Community Development Director and as a volunteer for both the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce and Central Lakeview Merchants Association. Currently, Brent is an event manager for the Resurrection Development Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Resurrection Health Care.
DID YOU KNOW? Brent danced with the prestigious Joffrey Ballet of Chicago for four years, and later went on to dance independently with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Dance Chicago.
Philip Dawkins is a playwright and educator from Phoenix, Ariz. A graduate of Loyola University Chicago, Philip's play, Not Even the Children, was produced as part of their 2001/2002 season. Other productions include Ugly Baby; A Still Life in Color; The Man With A Shattered World; Jacks: A Beanstalk Blockbuster; and the forthcoming Perfect at the Side Project. Philip is a fellow of the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers in Scotland, and was the proud recipient of a 2006 CAAP Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council. He was the only self-identified gay male in Esquire magazine's 2006 profile of 51 25-year-old men across the country.
His writing has been published in The Stranger, and his short plays and readings have been featured at Around the Coyote, Chicago Dramatists, Collaboraction, Estrogen Fest, HealthWorks, The Metropolis Centre for the Performing Arts, The Side Project, Straw Dog and Victory Gardens. He is currently working on the libretto for an opera with composer Eric C. Reda. Dawkins is the ARTS program director for Pegasus Players, through which he places Artists in Residence in Chicago Public Schools. As an associate artist of Chicago Dramatists, he also teaches playwriting in multiple Chicago schools.
DID YOU KNOW? Dawkins was literally born in the closet—a supply closet!
A native Southerner—from Huntsville, Ala.—Toby Eveland moved to Chicago in 2000 expecting to be here for only nine months while he served as spokesperson and consultant for his undergraduate fraternity, Sigma Chi. Seven years later, after having fallen in love with the city's diversity, warmth and neighborhood feel, he calls it home.
A graduate of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Toby is an attorney with the law firm of Arnstein & Lehr LLP. His practice focuses on complex insurance coverage and contractual disputes, products liability defense and commercial litigation. Eveland also counsels a number of non-profit organizations in the city. He serves as chair of the Chicago Bar Association's Committee on Legal Rights for Lesbians and Gay Men, and he was recently appointed to the Illinois State Bar Association's Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Toby is also the founding president of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's Junior Board, a group of 40 young professionals committed to increasing awareness and advocacy for HIV/AIDS-related issues. He serves on the Gala Committee for Equality Illinois and is also an instructor for Loyola University's Moot Court program.
In his spare time, Toby enjoys running. He participated in the 2003 AIDS Marathon Training Program and ran the 2005 Chicago Marathon for Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
DID YOU KNOW? Eveland is a self-described NASCAR?fanatic, and raced stock cars professionally through 2000. He was also a test driver and sports marketing director for a NASCAR?team.