2015 Cincinnati Pride Community Awards
Colleen Ernst (Community Pioneer): Before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it was the era of coffee houses, women’s bookstores, community spaces, and consciousness raising. Colleen Ernst is honored for her role in building community ranging from Women Helping Women, to her ten year tenure of managing Crazyladies Bookstore in Northside. Colleen was married, and has six children and ten grandchildren. She met her life partner, Brenda Huffines, in 1997. Before it was fashionable, Colleen was out and proud, a key resource for the community.
M. Freeman Durham (Business): With a background in tax law, many non-profit organizations know of Freeman. Yes, he does work for a living at Great American Insurance Group, but he has served on numerous boards, including Caracole, Equality Cincinnati, and the old Stonewall Cincinnati. He was the treasurer of the campaign to repeal Article XII, the 2013 Seelbach council campaign, and a number of other campaigns. He volunteered legal services to PFLAG Cincinnati, Cincinnati Pride, Queen City Rainbow Band, and Ohio Lesbian Archives. Freeman has two grown children, and lives in East Walnut Hills with his partner of 18 years, Dean Clevenger. They married three years ago in Massachusetts.
Shawn Baker (Business): He’s a well-known community activist and leader. Shawn is part of the greater Cincinnati community with involvement in the Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati, CincyPAC, Cincinnati Pride, Visions Community Services, Jewish Family Services, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, and three community councils. He is also a realtor with Comey & Shepherd Realtors and is recognized as an annual awards winner with this agency. He knows his way around politics, having served as a consultant to a number of council campaigns. In 2014, he was awarded the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Forty Under 40 by his peers.
JAC Stringer (Education): JAC is a MSW, LSW, radical activist, educator, and performance artist from Cincinnati. JAC is internationally known for his work in building trans community, trans/queer artistry, and LGBTQPIA youth empowerment. JAC founded the state’s first trans focused health and wellness organization, Heartland Trans Wellness Group, which serves all 12 Midwestern states and Northern Kentucky. In this role, he founded and leads the largest trans community group in the Midwest, Cincinnati Trans Community Group. An organizer on both local and national levels, JAC is dedicated to establishing socially just and empowering community resources for trans and gender non-conforming communities.
Paula Ison (Education): Paula is a MSW that worked with City Council in 2014 to make Cincinnati the first Midwest city in the country to add trans health benefits to its city group health plan. She has also worked closely with several local businesses to add trans health benefits to their group plans. Paula is an active member of GLSEN focusing her efforts on fundraising. She is currently on the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, have been appointed by the mayor in 2014. She has been a co-chair of HRC Diversity Committee, a member of the HRC Workplace Equality Committee, and a current member of Equality Cincinnati PAC.
Sister Catherine Maria (Keri McDonnell) (Faith): Sister Catherine Maria is a Novice with the Community of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal women’s religious Order in Cincinnati. Prior to answering the call, Sister Catherine Maria was a Severe Weather Specialist with the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center. She retired from federal service in September 2013 and became the first transgender woman to enter a convent of a mainline order in the world. Sister Catherine has many passions from helping the homeless, drug addicts, and street workers, to speaking up for transgender equality. She has worked on the GLBTQ Homeless Youth Initiative in Cincinnati. Passionate about embracing the GLBTQ community, she hopes to bring the good news that we are all children of God, loved by Her, created in Her image and that we are not a mistake.
Joseph L. Poynter (Faith): Joe’s commitment to youth is demonstrated by his twenty-five years of service as an employee of the Hamilton County Jobs & Family Services – Children Division. He specializes in this area often serving as the “go to” person for GLBTQ foster parents who are seeking help in becoming adoptive parents. Joseph was ordained in the American Baptist Church in 1973. For 22 years, he has been active with the New Spirit Metropolitan Community Church. There he has instructed courses on “Homosexuality and The Bible: How it affirms Us” and serves as current vice moderator of the Board .Many old timers remember Joseph debating the religious “right” who came in large numbers in the mid-1980s to protest gay pride at Fountain Square. He is a teacher and advocate for an open and accepting Christian Bible for all.
Megan Green (Community Service): Megan Green is thrilled to be part of Cincinnati’s GLBTQ Community. She’s a graduate of Xavier University. Her first job was with AmeriCorps in West Town, Chicago, where she served on the Project YES! This program focuses on youth, education, and service. She joined Caracole in 2013, serving as Community Investment Coordinator. Megan has been part of the planning for Dining Out for Life and Caracole 5K for AIDS. At the most recent annual “Miss Northside Drag Competition” Megan was crowned “Miss Northside” having helped raise hundreds of dollars for Caracole in just a few hours. She has an active partnership with the Court (Imperial Sovereign Court of the Buckeye Empire) to support their charitable fundraising for Caracole and the HIV+ community.