City of Dallas Announces 2023 Pride in Excellence Awards

The awards reception recognized LGBTQ+ leaders in Dallas in the fields of business, civic engagement, public service, arts & culture, and philanthropy.

The Dallas Mayor and City Council recently hosted the 2023 Pride in Excellence Awards Reception celebrating pride month in June.

The awards reception included remarks by Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Omar Narvaez, Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold, the city’s DPD LGBTQ Liaison, the city’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group, recognized LGBTQ+ leaders in Dallas in the fields of business, civic engagement, public service, arts & culture, and philanthropy.

Since the first Pride March in New York City held on June 28, 1970, the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, LGBTQ+ people have gathered together in June to celebrate pride and advocate for equal rights.

Awards were given to the following community leaders:

Adam Medrano Excellence in Leadership Award – Ben Leal

Leal is the president at The Addy Foundation, which assists in the funding of agencies in the North Texas region to meet critical needs in civics, culture, education, health, and social services.

Leal ensures that the organization provides timely, meaningful support to organizations fostering innovative and proven solutions that best serve those in need.

Leal joined The Addy Foundation in 2020 with the shared vision of inspired communities rich in opportunity and has years of experience in the not-for-profit field.

He began his career working for The State of Texas in the Governor’s Office and later served as a legislative director for The Texas House of Representatives.

The city said that over the past years, Leal has expanded his experience in fund development, program management, and operational supervision.

Kirk Myers-Hill Pioneer in PRIDE Award – Venton Jones

Texas State Rep. Venton Jones is a native of House District 100 representing parts of Dallas County, which includes areas of South Dallas, West Dallas, East Dallas, Buckner Terrace, Victory Park, and Oak Cliff.

The city said that with his election, Jones made history by becoming one of the first Black gay lawmakers elected to the Texas House of Representatives, and the first Black State Legislator openly living with HIV in the United States.

Jones serves as a member of the House Committee on Public Health and the House Committee on Corrections.

Along with his committee appointments, Jones serves as the Legislative Chair of the Aggie Caucus and is a member of the Texas House Democratic Caucus Rules Committee, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, and the Texas LGBTQ Caucus.

Professionally, Jones is a nonprofit CEO and a Realtor.

He is the founder and CEO of the Southern Black Policy and Advocacy Network (SBPAN), where the mission of the organization is to improve health, social, and economic conditions impacting Black communities in the southern United States. He serves as a federal appointee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Health Resources and Services Administration Advisory Committee on HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and STD Prevention and Treatment.

The city said that Jones is part of a new generation of leaders committed to advancing equity and justice through two decades of experience leading organizations, impacting public policy, and organizing diverse communities nationally, throughout the State of Texas, and in his hometown of Dallas.

Jones has been a tireless advocate working to improve healthcare access, fighting for marginalized communities and middle-class families, and protecting voting rights, the city said.

In 2011, Jones was recognized at the White House by President Barack Obama for his public health and HIV advocacy work.

Outstanding Leadership in Business Award – Brandon Call

Call is the executive editor for D CEO magazine and is an award-winning business and data journalist,

Call previously served as data editor for the Dallas Business Journal and research director for Albuquerque Business First. Prior to that, he held various editorial posts at Albuquerque The Magazine and New Mexico Magazine.

Outstanding Leadership in Civic Engagement Award – Candace Thompson

As a community philanthropy officer for Communities Foundation of Texas, Thompson networks with, supports and amplifies the work of nonprofit organizations making a difference in the quality of life in all areas that make communities thrive, the city said.

Before CFT, she was the community outreach manager for Baylor Scott & White with a focus on community engagement efforts, special community events, promoting health and well-being for community organizations and houses of worship in South Dallas and Southern Dallas.

Thompson also was community outreach director for Jubilee Park and Community Center, a case manager with Housing Crisis Center for families experiencing homelessness, and director of program and operations for Catholic Volunteers in Florida, a statewide AmeriCorps program, the city said.

Outstanding Leadership in Public Service Award – George Castro

A 1973 graduate of L.G. Pinkston High School in Dallas, Castro studied at Bishop College and retired from AT&T.

The city said that Castro is a strong activist and supporter of keeping West Dallas community intact. He attends numerous DISD school board and City Council meetings and is devoted to bringing positive changes to L.G. Pinkston High School and West Dallas.

Castro helped with the food distributing for students at L.G. Pinkston and at New Morning Star Baptist Church and has promoted numerous efforts in support of L.G. Pinkston students on all platforms, especially creating inclusivity and diversity to assure no student is left behind.

The city said that Castro played a key role in acquiring uniforms for the Almighty L.G Pinkston Band after being selected from thousands of bands across America to participate in the 2017 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C.

Outstanding Leadership in Arts and Culture Award – DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

The DFW Sisters are a modern, communal order of 21st century nuns dedicated to community service, fundraising, outreach, advocacy, education for safer sex awareness, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment.

The city said that the organization believes all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and uses humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency, and guilt that chain the human spirit.

The DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence has more than 20 active nuns devoted to raising money for community service, ministry to those in need, and promoting human rights, diversity, and spiritual enlightenment.

Outstanding Leadership in Philanthropy Award – Lucilo Peña

Peña is one of those people whose body of work as an architect and developer easily fits into the category of “Dallas and Beyond,” the city said.

While at Billingsley Co. today, his early career included working as a project designer at WZMH Inc. and landing roles of increasing responsibility at Trammell Crow Design and Construction and the Dallas Market Center Co. From 1989 to 1996, he worked with the Travelstead Group in Spain, becoming president in 1993. The keynote project for him during that time was the Parc de Mar Project (Hotel Arts) in the Olympic Village in Barcelona.

That project consisted of designing, building, and leasing a mixed-use complex of roughly 1.18 million square feet, which included a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 30 luxury duplex apartments, an office building, and a retail center.

The project is considered a cornerstone among the Olympic projects in Barcelona and is the result of a collaborative effort between Bruce Graham (SOM Chicago), Frank Gehry, and GCA.

Peña is the president of development at Billingsley, a role he has had since 1996.

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