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FRIDAY, June 14 — The fourth annual Inclusion Awards recognized politicians, medical professionals and Lansing natives who never stopped caring about their community. The ceremony happened to fall on Lansing’s Diversity Day, as pointed out by Mayor Schor, who came directly from hosting the Ramadan Unity Dinner to emcee the awards show. Several presenters and award recipients mentioned recent victories in Michigan protecting LGBTQ rights as well as forecasting the long road ahead. While the award winners were happy to be acknowledged for their efforts, many pointed out there is still work to be done to advance the treatment for patients with HIV and AIDS, investigating hate crimes and legalizing sex work.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
In her acceptance speech, Nessel said her office is “making up for lost time.” She listed off its accomplishments such as starting a Hate Crimes Division to address the “30% rise in hate crimes in this state over the past few years" among other new projects.
Michigan Civil Rights Commission
Alma Wheeler Smith, Civil Rights Commission chairwoman, accepted the award on behalf of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. The commission was recognized for expanding its interpretation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification.
Having served as a medical case manager for 19 years, Romero Calcarel thanked her co-workers and family for supporting her “crazy ideas.” She added that while her spontaneity has got her into trouble in the past, it is ultimately the force behind her unrelenting hope for clients.
Dr. Peter G. Gulick
Gulick’s speech was simple, all human beings deserve medical care. He has been treating patients living with HIV and AIDS for over 20 years and made it clear to audiences that he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
Kolb had the honor of being the first presenter of the evening. He introduced Attorney General Dana Nessel by listing her accomplishments granting adoption rights to same-sex couples. Additionally, he emphasized her leadership as an example for younger generations.
Zoe Russick Steinfield
Zoe Russick–Steinfield addressed how she views her position as a social worker "as a privilege." She took her time on stage to bring awareness to the issues regarding underserved populations in the LGBTQ community, which she serves daily.
Shawn Finnerty aka Sister Misty Meanor
Sister Misty arrived in a spectacular rendition of a nun's habit and showed nothing but shear vulnerability while onstage. The host of Bad Habits Bingo in Detroit opened up about the less glamorous road to redemption.
Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (left)
As the final presenter, Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. took a moment to thank award winners and activists in the room for their leadership.
A Lansing native, Lorenzo Lopez has served on many boards. This year, he became the first Latino chair of Suits and the City, a Lansing-based LGBTQ networking group. He delivered a short and sweet speech thanking his peers.
Photos by Tom Nakielski, Lights On Studio Photography