LGBT Tech hosted the 2022 PowerOn Awards Ceremony at Hogan Lovells in Washington, DC on Friday, October 28th. After two years in a virtual setting, this Awards Ceremony brought together program supporters, advocates, and members of the community to celebrate the accomplishments of the PowerOn program, recognizing those who have contributed to and benefited from the program. PowerOn is designed to empower homeless and vulnerable LGBTQ individuals through access to technology and the resources and opportunities it provides. To date, PowerOn has distributed nearly $250,000 worth of technology across the globe.
“When we work in the space of civil and human rights, we are allies. We sit together at the table, and we talk about ways to make sure we can get this done together. There is no black or white or gay or straight when it comes to civil rights and technology and social justice,” PowerOn’s 2020 Change Agent Award winner Dr. Nicol Turner Lee said, of what it takes to bring about real change in the world today.
This year’s Change Agent Award recipient was Justin Hilton, the founder of Safe Place International, a holistic leadership development organization for displaced LGBTQIA+ individuals. In 2022, PowerOn has contributed $9600 worth of technology to the first two sessions of Safe Place International's Dream Academy program, a structured course for LGBTQIA+ displaced persons to reach their full potential through leadership development, socio-emotional learning, and employability skills training.
“We may all have complicated relationships with technology, but for a marginalized person living in a refugee camp with no plumbing or no electricity, using an external battery to participate in the course and find the outside world, it’s not a complicated relationship. It’s a lifesaving relationship. It’s the difference between survival and hope to annihilation,” Hilton said as he accepted the award.
T-Mobile's Director of Public Affairs Tim O’Regan accepted PowerOn’s Visionary Award and spoke of his company’s ongoing relationship with PowerOn, “It is the community organizations that are out there doing the hard work that should be saluted.”
Connecting via Zoom from Seattle to accept the Trailblazer Award was Amari Leach. “When I decided to love and choose myself and choose my life and believe that I am worth it and love myself, I created a space to talk and give the voices to the unheard,” said Leach, the owner and founder of Tea with T ©LLC, where he is a trans youth advocate and educator through his service and products.
Connecting via Zoom, Domenico Ruggerio accepted the Superstar Center Award on behalf of his organization. We Are Family, an LGBTQ+ youth-specific non-profit in South Carolina, focuses on uplifting voices and shifting culture for a more just and equitable society. Ruggerio highlighted the Queer Youth Prom his center was able to host thanks to contributions from PowerOn.
The final award of the night, the Role Model Award, recognized Aaliyah Roberson-Jenkins of Our Spot KC in Kansas City, KS. “Since being in the program, I have found my voice in the community. I’ve been able to help others in my position.”
“I can’t say enough about centers that support individuals like Liyah. This is what it’s about. We’re only able to tell a few stories through this, but I can’t tell you how many of these stories we hear; how many stories we really listen to, and they inform every single piece of our work,” LGBT Tech’s Executive Director Chris Wood said. Acknowledging the LGBT Centers across the country, which come in varying iterations, Wood added,“These centers are working tirelessly to make sure that they are connected, and they are reaching everybody. And, most importantly, [they are reaching] those people in the most vulnerable places.”
For more information about this year’s winners, click here.
The full gallery of the 2022 PowerOn Awards Ceremony can be found here.